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Core Apps; Taking Another Bite

A concern shared by students and teachers is a phenomenon I have heard called "app inebriation", or "techno-lust". This typically involves a continual, uninhibited shopping spree at the app store. There are thousands, and likely millions, of apps for our consumption, but who really has time for this? Like many districts across the country, our school district has gone 1:1 with iPads. We are in our third year of program implementation. Surveys of our teachers, students, and their parents indicate a preference for consistency with the integration of programs used at school. Although I am a proponent letting the learner decide on the best tools to complete a project, there are several benefits to limiting the number of apps introduced to the classroom.

  • First, time for learning skills, content, and curriculum is better preserved when the introduction of mobile apps is handled economically. Time for student productivity and creativity is prioritized over learning apps that may see little use benefit to the learner.
  • Second, confidence and mastery can be developed when adhering to the essential core apps.
  • Third, when learner outcomes and performance standards are prioritized, self-imposed limitations from "techno-lust" are easier to maintain.

"Gilligan's Island" was one of my favorite shows during my formative years of television viewing. Let's play a game. You are stranded on a deserted island with only your mobile device, a solar charger, and wi-fi card. You are charged with the formation and cultivation of a learning system on your island. Due to inexplicable server and memory limitations, you are restricted to five essential apps to support student learning. 

What are the five essential apps that will constitute your app core?

Based upon student and teacher feedback, here are the essential apps that make up the app core at our school.

Google Apps for Education (Free) - This is like using one of your three wishes from the genie to ask for more wishes! So much here to support student creation, communication, and collaboration. Not to mention, the understanding of storing, organizing and sharing your digital learning. Docs, Sheets, Slides, YouTube, Blogger, Sites, Google+, and the list goes on and on.
Schoology (Free) - This full-featured LMS provides a platform for blended, connected, and mobile learning. Schoology provides a virtual meeting space, a place for conversation, along with a collection of classroom organizational tools. It's open API practice means integration of third party apps into the learning zone! Schoology helps bring teachers, students, and parents together in the name of learning.
Notability ($4.99) - If worksheets remain a viable piece of the curricular puzzle, then Notability is an essential app. Annotate or add voice comments to digitized documents. Notability is a key piece supporting digital workflow in many of our classrooms.
Explain Everything ($2.99) - Students love demonstrating their learning with this versatile, do-it-all app. Screencast, annotate, narrate, create and edit video. Explain Everything lets students share their work to YouTube, cloud storage, and most importantly, the iPad photo roll.
Subtext (Free) - This app is changing the way that students learn from reading. Subtext supports close reading, digital reading, collaborative reading, classroom assessment, differentiation, and classroom workflow capabilities. Subtext also supports subscriptions to collections of current content.

I agree that it's very challenging to limit the app core to five. Here are a few more of my favorite apps that could make their way into my own app core later this year; ThingLink, Voxer, TouchCast, Evernote, iMovie, and Flipboard.

Am I missing any apps that are part of your core? Please turn this post into a conversation by sharing in the comment section. Thanks for reading and sharing in the learning!

Related Reading

The Epic BYOD Toolchest - Edutopia, Vicki Davis

My 24 Most-Used Education Apps - Edudemic, Jeff Dunn

photo credit: Jude Doyland via photopin cc


Nick G said…
Curious as to why/how Voxer made the list?

My list...
Google Apps
Thanks Nick, there are a growing number of educators that prefer voice chat over the flat tone of either texting or Tweeting. Also, students, particularly those engaged in flipped learning courses prefer hearing their instructor's voice when announcements are shared. I use Twitter & Remind quite a bit, but I can see Voxer cutting into their use. Thanks for reading and commenting. I hope others will join in this conversation. Bob
Mr Biornstad said…
Hard to narrow it down to 5. Also from the context of the post I am limiting myself to those apps I use the most on the iPad.

1) Evernote- capture and classify just about anything;easily share for portfolios; the Swiss Army knife

2) Edmodo- communicate with students

3) Twitter- communicate with my PLN

4) Kindle- personal and professional reading

5) Google Drive - the kitchen sink

Also suggest using to expand outside of core.

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