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Education - iPads in the classroom

What makes a good app?

With thousands and thousands of apps available how do you decide which ones to download?

All apps can potentially be reviewed on the iTunes apps store website. Unfortunately, people will try an app and it won’t work. Or it does not present the way they anticipated. Their first response, of course, is to jump on and give the app a 1 or 2 star review. Like a review on Amazon, this type of review often says more about the reviewer than the app. Instead, there are any number of independent websites that will review and rate apps that you may be looking to download. 

Before suggesting or promoting an app, look for the following features:

Goal – What do you want to achieve with the app? Are you looking for creativity? Practice skill learning? Something to read? Something to keep you organized? Know what you want before going in – it is really easy to get distracted.

Stability – Does the app shut down randomly? Does it freeze? These issues will just be frustrating - at least until a bug is resolved and an update provided.

Intuitive – Is it easy for an adult to use? Does it require some “leaps of faith” to understand? Often a “digital native” will have an easy time using an app intuitively. With adults, it is not always so easy to understand. As the teacher or instructor, however, you are the one to give the initial instruction. Make sure you can move easily through it and are comfortable with all the steps/options available.

Flexible - Is the app flexible in its uses? In other words, can you do more than one thing with the app? If an app is downloaded that has only one goal, then as soon as the goal is achieved, the app will become redundant. Does the app present different challenges and/or different levels to complete? Does it appeal to a range of ages? The more flexible an app can be the better use the student, and the class, will get out of it.

Free vs. Paid – There are excellent free apps – there are paid apps that are not so good. It is important not to get a free app simply because it is free – ensure you can find a use for it and it fits the criteria you have identified.

Kid-friendly – If you have the chance to test the app with a number of children, do so. Often the app (or a part of it) is also available on a website. Give them the web address and let them go play with it. They will tell you quickly and honestly if it is useful, useless or boring. Better to know before you put it on a set of classroom iPads.

 

 

Examples of poor apps

 

 

Apps review sites

 Center for Digital Education - This is a general digital educaiton site. The site includes general information for integrating technology into classrooms, including this helpful article - 12 keys to finding quality educational apps.

Apps in education  –  Good general knowledge about technology and education, including classroom use and reviews. Also has a list of recommended apps by subject area.

Richard Byrne writes an Ed Tech blog for teachers (Free Technology for Teachers), in which there is a list of apps for i-Pads

Edshelf allows users (you must have an account) to create collections of apps and post them for others to see and use. 

School Library Journal  This link takes you to the online version of the apps reviews. 

App organization

Collecting apps (especially for a classroom set of iPads) requires a rigour around their organization, especially as the numbers of them start to grow. Apps can be organized into specific folders directly on the device, but if you want to share your learnings or pass along useful apps,(without handing over than iPad) you can do so via several organizational sites that exist on the web.

pinterest - Although originally intended as a site for things of interest found on the web, creating a "board" of apps you find interesting and useful, might be a way to at least start your organizaitonal process. 

LiveBinders - This site allows the organization of apps into a binder-like format. Tabs can be created, so that apps can be organized under similiar aresa of content. There is an app for it as well. Unfortunately, the web-site often "hangs" and makes it difficult to use in all browsers - and the app does not appear to completely display all the information created on the website.

Edshelf - Another on-line collection source for apps.

All these sites require log-ins in order to use them fully.

Apps for Students with Diverse Learning Needs - Resources