Wednesday, 25 November 2015

The ultimate 'device' tool chest

from Edutopia

You've got every device under the sun in front of you. Now what apps are you going to use? Here are the apps or app categories that I recommend you test for your school. There are lots of apps, and these are just my opinion based on what I've used with my students or successfully tested.

Formative Assessment

  • Socrative: My all-time favorite app for formative assessment runs on everything. It cut my time teaching binary numbers from five to three days just because I didn't move forward until everyone "got it."
  • Google Forms: Yes, you can create self-grading Google Forms for this.
  • Kaizena: This tool integrates with just about any platform and was listed on my 15 Best Google Add-Ons. It really helps you provide rock-solid, multisensory feedback on student work.

Screencasting and Capturing What Happens in Class

If you're going to share and interact with your students in the electronic and physical spaces (as you should), you must learn how to screencast.

  • Screencastomatic: This is my go-to app. It's free, but I pay a few dollars for the pro service because I love it, it gives advanced editing features, and I can download to Dropbox. You can see that my YouTube tutorials are recorded with this.
  • Camtasia: This app is high quality, and the price shows it. But I highly recommend Camtasia if you can afford it.
  • Explain Everything: This app, available from iTunes and Google Play, remains a top tablet app in the U.S. It's perfect for math screencasting.
  • Swivl: It's a robotic stand for your iPad, iPhone, or Droid. When you use the iOS app, Swivl will film and capture everything. It can also follow you without an app, so you could set another device on record and then just put it in the stand. Swivl lets you record speeches, or helps you evaluate your own teaching. Having a Swivl in your classroom changes everything. You just put the controller in your pocket or around your neck, and it follows and records you (mic in controller). I've been demoing this for two weeks and can focus on teaching rather than recording.

Content-Sharing Platforms

Your school is bricks and clicks. You have a physical presence in your classroom and a digital podium through your content-sharing platform. You need a way to share your digital instruction, and kids need to know where to look.

  • Sophia: Nudged along by my friend Todd Nesloney, I use Sophia for my computer applications instruction and am very pleased with the results.
  • Haiku Learning: This is the full content management system that I'm trying to get our school to adopt. It's multiplatform and robust, which makes it a great fit for our BYOD environment.

There are many other apps like MoodleCanvas, and Coursesites. The point is that you should have one in a BYOD environment.

Assessment Aids

If you absolutely must do multiple choice (and if multiple choice is all you do, be warned that you're missing out), spend as little time as possible grading. These apps literally make it a snap. You create the quiz, students bubble in the answer, and you snap a picture on your mobile device, which is your own personal Scantron. If you're going to do multiple choice, at least give them immediate feedback. There's no excuse.

All three of these apps -- Quick KeyGrade Ninja, and WISE -- are available on iTunes and Google Play, but there are more.

Electronic Note Taking

There are two frontrunners in this category, in my opinion. No one else comes even close:

  • Evernote: With a school subscription, you can share notes school-wide. It also does well recognizing handwritten and scanned notes.
  • One Note: If you're a Microsoft shop and have admins supporting you, they can configure some very cool sharing abilities in this robust note-taking app -- the only synchronous note-taking app that works.


Students need multiple ways to share and express themselves, particularly verbally and with pictures. This is part of transliteracy.

  • Voicethread: This incredible tool helps younger students build their eportfolios.
  • I love Brad Wilson's Write About This and Tell About This iOS apps for kids of all ages.
  • Thinglink: Educators who work with special needs kids swear by what a great tool this is. It's web-based, but they also have apps. A must-use! 

Cloud Syncing

  • Dropbox: If you shoot video on devices and need to get it onto your computers, Dropbox is exsential. I use it to make my classroom as paperless as possible.
  • One Drive: This is the tool that goes with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. I require my students to sign up for it over the summer. It's so great because they can open their documents in free versions of those Microsoft programs when they're away from home.
  • Google Drive: This sync tool, underlying all of the Google suite, is a must for the collaborative classroom. We also use this as we edit our wevideoswith partners in Iowa.

Graphic Design and Infographics

Color Selection

  • Color Schemer: You may not have time to go into color wheels and such, but students need to know that certain colors go well together. I cut out all the time it takes to pick colors by teaching them to use this handy online app, and then teaching them to find and enter the hex number for colors in any app they use.


I rarely assign one specific software program for presentations. These are my top six that I recommend to students. I expect them to know how to move their presentation slides between these programs. When they are doing a massive online presentation like they recently did for Gamifi-ed, some may create slides in Keynote and others in Haiku Deck, but they all have to export and insert their slides into the group Google Presentation file the day before we present.

  • Haiku Deck: This is one of my favorite presentation programs for kids because of its tight integration with Creative Commons photos. They're easy to share and run -- wow! And there's a new version for the web.
  • PowerPoint: Integrate with One Drive, and it's perfect for those kids who will edit on multiple devices. This tool is a plus in a PC-heavy environment.
  • Keynote: Works with iCloud and picked by students who use Mac and iOS devices.
  • Prezi: This online presentation tool also has apps to create very interesting presentations that really start off as a mind map.
  • Google Presentations: If we're presenting online as a class, this is our go-to app. It's the easiest way to edit together. Just know that once you're in presentation mode, students can't change slides.
  • Slideshare: An excellent platform for sharing presentations and embedding them in the class website or wiki.


A student without a personal blog is a student without a voice. Blogging is an essential form of 21st century communication that lets them interact with audience and peers. While I presently use Ning with my eighth graders, I've used all of these powerful blogging tools at one time or another.

  • Edmodo: This gives you blogging, sharing, and assessment, plus the extensive libraries of assignments that you can join and share with other educators. Even if you don't use Edmodo with students, it's worth joining just to be part of the massively useful educator communities. If you're collaborating between classrooms, Edmodo is one of the easiest ways to do it.
  • Kidblogs: This platform lies on top of the familiar, easy-to-use Blogger platform and is set up especially for schools.
  • Edublogs: This blogging platform uses Wordpress in a powerful way, with each student linked to the teacher's blog and to each other. You have lots of privacy settings, and you get a very professional look.
  • Ning: Ning looks like a social media site because it is. I have a private Ning network that I use to teach my students blogging just because it's so easy and flexible, and feels like Facebook.
  • Wordpress: Many schools are setting up their own self-hosted Wordpress. It's easier than ever and gives you lots of flexibility for sharing.

Written Expression

  • Dragon: They have an app on every platform, and some are free. I teach my students to dictate to Dragon and paste into their other apps.
  • Microsoft Word: Microsoft's recent addition to the iPad has bumped Word back up on my list for collaborative writing. While you'll need a school-wide subscription to edit on the iPad, you can always use One Drive Online for iPad editing if necessary. Students will have to sign up for the free account at home, as Microsoft only lets three people per day sign up at one location.
  • Google Docs/Drive: Students should know how to collaboratively edit. Make sure they understand the difference between commenting and chatting, though other collaborators won't see the chat, and it isn't saved.
  • Wikispaces: Wikis are a fundamentally new, vitally important tool for knowledge collection as a group. My favorite is Wikispaces, although there are those who love PBwiki. (To see what I mean, go to Gamifi-ed for a project that my students did with teachers in Alaska.) 

Link Sharing

  • MentorMob: Think of educational playlists. Lots of Tech Coaches use MentorMob to share with staff.
  • Symbaloo: I see this used heavily with elementary teachers who set it as the start screen for kids. It has large buttons that will take kids to websites.
  • LiveBinders: When my son was in fourth grade, I used this to create a study platform for sharing material with other parents.
  • Google Spreadsheets: See Annie Cushing's Must-Have Tools for the power of sharing links in this way.
  • Diigo: Diigo is my must-use social bookmarking tool (I even use it to post to my blog). Students share research in groups (you don't need an email to sign up), and you can link it to blogs and other sources that automatically pull from this.
  • Flipboard: While just on the iPad (for now), this platform is a great way to create a digital magazine of resources for your staff.

These are just some of the many tools available for a BYOD Environment. As you're implementing BYOD, learn more about the SAMR model so that you an get past substitution into true redefinition of what you're doing in your classroom.

What did I leave out? Share your must-have BYOD tools in the comments so that we can learn together.