10 inexpensive apps for educators
Back-to-school shopping used to mean a trip to the neighborhood's office supply store to purchase notebooks, pens, pencils, calculators and backpacks. Today, savvy students and teachers rely more on technology than on physical tools to get them through the school year.
Education apps have enabled schools to collaborate, helped teachers with their lessons in the classroom, and resulted in students becoming increasingly interested in learning. Apps have also been observed to help students and teachers with organization in and out of the classroom. As more schools incorporate tablets into the classroom, educators are realizing the necessity of apps.
We've compiled a list of ten important and inexpensive apps for schools that help administrators, teachers and students excel.
Perhaps the most "fun" of the educational iOS apps, EpicWin users customize an avatar, such as a warrior or princess, and complete learning quests in order to score loot. The more quests successfully completed, the higher your level. EpicWin includes time-critical exercises, repetition tasks, reminders for overdue quests and planning for future goals and quest completion. This is an especially great app for students to use as enrichment at home or even as a classroom activity with a substitute teacher. Parents also can use EpicWin to encourage successful completion of otherwise dreaded chores.
Price: $2.99 (about £1.75, AU$3.19)
Group projects used to require careful coordination with students' schedules to ensure successful completion. With Google Drive, students can take digital notes, collaborate with their peers on joint documents, charts and presentations, and interact in real time with their teachers. Teachers also use Google Drive to create lesson plans with fellow faculty members, create paperless classroom handouts, assignments and assessments, and backup files without taking up precious hard drive space. Google Drive is compatible with Microsoft Office products, so all documents and presentations can easily be downloaded in a variety of formats.
Price: Free (accounts come with 5 GB of storage)
Grammar Jammers is an iOS app that provides primary, elementary and middle school students with entertaining and catchy songs to teach lessons and encourage studying. To ensure understanding, students complete a short quiz about the material at the end of each song. Made by leading learning company Pearson, Grammar Jammers takes the dread out of otherwise boring language lessons. Old, dusty grammar textbooks are a thing of the past with this creative app. Grammar Jammers teach grammar concepts including parts of speech, sentences, punctuation and capitalization.
Price: Primary level is free. $2.99 (about £1.75, AU$3.19) for Elementary and Middle editions.
Teachers can create courses and easily manage virtual classrooms with Apple's iTunes U. In turn, students receive a customized learning experience from their iPads with easy access to classmates and teachers. The app allows teachers and students to track assignments, organize notes and access materials at any time. By enrolling as an institution, K-12 school districts, colleges and universities can distribute courses and education content by signing up with the public site manager.
Designed for students in grades four and up, the NASA App provides access to NASA news, more than 13,000 images, on-demand videos, live streaming of NASA TV, ISS and Earth orbiting trackers, and mission information. This is a great app for students working on school projects and for teachers creating lesson plans about the solar system. The best part? The app is free, which provides schools with quality and engaging teaching material for students without breaking the bank.
Nearpod, Skype, Socrative, TeacherKit, Yammer
Nearpod is an iOS app that allows teachers to deliver customized presentations directly to students' devices, and allows them to interact with their classes through customized assessments. The multimedia content will capture the attention of students of all ages, keeping them focused and eliminating off-task behavior. In fact, teachers can actually control students' devices when delivering a presentation through Nearpod. The reporting tool enables teachers to monitor individual results and analyze student progress. Absences also become less problematic since students can join in a Nearpod session from anywhere.
In today's age of being constantly connected, Skype is an essential app for the classroom. Parents unable to attend a crucial teacher conference? Skype makes virtual conferences simple with its easy-to-use interface. Other uses for Skype include incorporating a pen pal program with students from around the world or using the app to coordinate with guest speakers to offer virtual class visits.
Socrative is a smart student response system that allows teachers to engage with the classroom through a series of educational exercises and games via smartphones, laptops, and tablets. One version is downloaded on a student's device while another is downloaded on a teacher's. Students can respond to multiple-choice, true/false and essay questions, and teachers control the flow and selection of the questions. Teachers have the option to view results in real time, or download and assess the results upon completion with the app's detailed reporting tools.
Having a teacher's assistant in the classroom can be quite useful, but not every school has the budget for the expense. TeacherKit is a school-wide tool that keeps teachers, students and even administrators organized. It is also a virtual organizer that can be used to take attendance, enter grades and manage and analyze student progress and behavior. Administrators can also use the tool to track all student and teacher performance.
Yammer isn't just for the enterprise. The popular business social network provides administrators, teachers and students with the full cloud suite of Microsoft Office productivity, email, file sharing, communication and IT management tools. Discussion and assignments can extend out of the classroom with Yammer's collaboration tools, encouraging more communication among peers and teachers. Yammer's specially priced solutions for academic institutions also make it a value for educators and students.
Price: Range from free to $3 student/month (about £1.75, AU$3.19); $6 teacher/month (about £3.50, AU$6.50)