[I’ll be posting in the future about how smartphones are changing what it means to teach and learn, and in particular, assess, in this day and age – but for now, I’m taking a purely selfish standpoint and posting on apps that have made my life as a teacher easier, more organised and streamlined.]
There are a whole bunch of resources floating around on the internets reviewing and suggesting various apps for smartphones and tablets – but, most of these a geared towards the students. Spelling apps, times-tables apps, cartoon creation apps etcetc.
What about us poor old teachers ay? Where is our app-love?
Do not fear, ye rabble of educators. Salvation is but a finger swipe away.
Here are a couple of apps I’ve personally found to have been helpful; to keep me organised, connected, up-to-date, and sane.
I’m coming from the perspective of an Android user, but I’m sure there are exactly the same, if not comprable app choices on other platforms. Another disclaimer – this is just a couple I’ve found handy, not the be-all-and-end-all list of TOP TEN APPS FOR EDUCATION which I see so often. Please leave a comment if you have any others we could add to the list!
Here is the tl;dr:
Llama, Google Drive, Google Calendar, Google Reader, Google Tasks, Google Translate, Google Currents, Maps, Gmail, Blogger, Chrome, Dropbox, Evernote, Vimeo, Flickr, Soundcloud, Socrative, MaharaDroid, Where’s My Droid, Redditsync, Backgrounds HD Wallpapers.
EDIT: From @phpnz, who suggested a few more in the comments (thanks Pascale!):
Hi-Q MP3 (audio recorder), Audioboo (audio recorder), Skitch (picture annotation), Hika lite (Te Reo / English translation), Pocket (save and view articles to read – “all interesting URLs in one place)
Below is a more in-depth look into some of these apps – how they can be useful for teachers, save us time, keep us organised, and help us do our job better.
I’ll start with my favourite, then Googley ones, then the rest:
This little app has been so, so handy. It allows you to set phone profiles based on different parameters – the two I use are location and time parameters. I have mine set up so that when I get to school, it automatically changes the ringtones for my email, text, and calls. When I leave school, it ups the volume and changes them back to my regular ones (The Flight of the Conchords series theme song!). At 10:00 at night, it mutes my phone completely (with the exception of people in my “family” list). At 7:00am, it reverts to normal. When I get to school, it goes back to “school-mode”. It does it’s job – saves me time, and makes life easier. Fantastically fantastic app.
Google Drive (+widget)
|Google Drive widget for Android
The widget for this app is particularly epic (see screenshot). Instant access to anything uploaded or created within your Google Drive suite of apps (docs, draw, presentations, forms, spreadsheets etc). Most useful for accessing starred docs, especially planning or student lists etc. Can access photo upload and doc creation from the widget too – good for snapping evidence of learning and note-taking on the fly.
This is the official app, just released a few months ago. Before that, we had to make do with less-optimised calendar alternatives, none of which I found particularly intuitive. This app helped me finally ditch my last bastion of physical writing – my mighty Moleskine diary, which is now sitting alone and derelict in a drawer somewhere. I’ve got my personal gmail account set up in this, as well as my school one – and it displays both together. I make sure I create school-based meetings and events using my school account, and personal appointments on my personal account. That way, other teachers at school can see when I’m meeting with a parent, or have a PRT day, but not when I’m getting my hair permed. Like the web-based version, you can add other people’s calendars – so I’ve done that with all my fellow teachers at school. This really helps to flesh out all the extra stuff going on around school and to keep me up to date with comings and goings.
I talked a bit about the awesomeness of an RSS feed in this here Ignite talk. This is the app I use to access mine on the go. It could be a little more user friendly, but it works pretty well. Google Reader is only as strong as the blogs you’ve subscribed to though, so get out there and start exploring the edu-blogosphere.
|Google Tasks To-Do List
I was on the hunt for a decent to-do list which synced between devices and browsers, and this was it. I can add an item from any device / browser and have it sync across all others. I use the Google Tasks Chrome extension on my laptops too, and to add an item, click a little button at the top and voilà! – it appears on my smartphone. Vise-versa with smartphone to Chrome. Actually I lied when I said my Moleskine was my last bastion of writing – it was actually the humble supermarket shopping list. This app sent that packing as well. Fare thee well, handwriting.
This app is great because it supports voice input and output. Say a word in English and it can play the word out loud in the language you are translating to. Excellent for use with ESOL students who either don’t know a word, or don’t know the English version of a word they know in their native tongue. Has saved my life multiple times with my Taiwanese better half (and her Mum and Dad).
This app is a little like an RSS feed-reader, except a lot smoother and more magazine-like. You can access popular sites such as Forbes, Lifehacker, Engaget, CNet, Huffington Post, The Verge, etc. Good for staying up with the play / procrastinating starting the day on a Sunday morning.
This is pretty self-explanatory – it helps you to not get lost. The navigation aspect of this is very functional and works like a charm when you’re in the car. You can save routes for accessing them offline if you’re near to reaching your data cap.
Again, self-explanatory. What I find particularly great about this though is (like Google Calendar), it handles multiple Google accounts with aplomb. I’ve set each account as a different notification tone, so I know when I can safely ignore an email if I’m having some Matt-time.
This app has just been updated, and would not have made it onto this list if it hadn’t been. It got a major UI overhaul and hugely increased functionality. You can now easily view posts and blogs, create a new post, and tweak settings. Great for the mobile blogger, and people with multiple blogs – although I still use the web-based version for the majority of my bloggings.
I am dissapoint. There is no such app, only terrible “third party” Picasa apps. I hope Google gets onto this.
The first thing I download when setting up a new system, on any operating system, on any device. My web browser of choice.
My Samsung Galaxy S3 came with 50gb free Dropbox storage. Images and videos I snap upload directly to the cloud. Be careful with this, as it can wreck a fragile broadband limit, especially if uploading chunky HD photos and video. I love this app though, and it makes sharing between teachers nice and streamlined.
I don’t use this terribly much – I tend to use Google Docs when at school, but when I’m out and about at P.D or observations at other schools, Evernote is useful. It tags your note with geographical data so you can pinpoint where in the world you were when you created the note. Add text, audio, pictures, images, all kinds of stuff – label it, it syncs to your Evernote account, and available across all devices. On Android, the widget provides quick access to some of the central functions.
|Soundcloud record widget
Vimeo, Flickr, Soundcloud
I’m lumping these guys together because they all fundamentally have the same core functions – the capture, uploading, sorting, storing, and sharing of media (images, video, audio). I love Vimeo, and after getting a pro-account for school, love it even more. Auto HD embedding really makes your videos pop when on a blog. I like Flickr more than Picasa for sharing photo slideshows, as Flickr’s slideshow aesthetic is much more cleaner and leaner. Soundcloud for audio; recording a student explaining a maths strategy, me reading a chapter of a book, or one of our hit songs – and sharing with the world. The Soundcloud record widget is nice and big for quickly recording kids when they say the darndest things.
Down with clickers! This is a student response system for things like quizzes, feedback, surveys and the like. There is a teacher version and a student version. I’ve chucked this app on all our tablets, and use it when the need arises. The cool part is you can also gain access via web-browser, so computers and netbooks can be used to gather responses too.
Upload photos directly to MyPortfolio. To be honest, I haven’t used it this much this year, but we’re getting much more into e-portfolios next year, so it will no doubt prove it’s worth then. In saying that, I often use it to snap and upload evidence of my own learning to my PRT portfolio.
Where’s My Droid
Helps find your lost phone. Have not needed it yet *touch wood* but will certainly need it when I inevitably do. Damn you back seat of taxis with your ability to suck everything out of pockets!
Because, Twitter. Build your PLN, learn, share, grow.
Because, Reddit. Laugh, cry, WTF, gifs.
Backgrounds HD Wallpapers
To make your device purdy.
So there we go! Reasonably straightforward; nothing too crazy.
Have you guys found any genuinely epic apps that help you in your everyday teacher-ish lives? I’d be interested to hear about them in the comments!