11+ Top Smartphone Apps to Improve Teaching, Research, and Your Life

I love finding articles entitled, 6 Top Smartphone Apps to Improve Teaching, Research, and Your Life written in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The article written by Jeffery R. Young discusses the ways smartphones have revolutionized the classroom, particularly in higher education. The article mentions some interesting ways smartphones have begun to change the college environment such as by taking attendance, collecting data, researching, taking notes, using textbook tools, and mind mapping to plan a lecture.

How could this technology be brought into the secondary school environment?

I just discovered Android Academics, which has 4 free apps that will make your life as a teacher easier: Grade-book, Attendance, Grade Rubric, and Grade Ticker.Android Apps for Academics has some pretty nice apps and features. The following information is directly from the Android Academics website. I have personally used the grade ticker and I can’t wait to try the following academic apps.

Grade Book for Professors (with Google Docs Sync)

Edit your grade book directly from your phone!

  • No need to sync two separate grade books! Use one primary grade that is stored in the cloud on Google Spreadsheets.
  • Email a student their grades with the click of a button!
  • Pin-number to protect your grade books in case your phone is lost.
  • NEW: Email ALL students grade report with one click
  • NEW: Grade session feature and Assignment View allows for quick and easy grading of a single assignment.
  • Direct Market Linknote this link only works when browsing from an Android Phone
  • NEW FREE VERSION – does everything paid version does – it’s just ad supported

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Attendance (with Google Docs Sync)

A simple and efficient way to take attendance with your Android device! All attendance results are saved to a Google Spreadsheet.

  • No need to enter student names into phone. Just get the student names into a Google Spreadsheet and the app handles the rest.
  • NEWCheck out our demo video
  • Direct Market Linknote this link only works when browsing from an Android Phone

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Grade Ticker

Simple tool to help professors and teachers make grade tallying more efficient

  • Integrates with Gradebook for Professors for easy grade entry
  • Direct Market Linknote this link only works when browsing from an Android Phone

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Grade Rubric

Simple tool grading tool for professors and teachers who use a grading rubric for assignments. Option to auto-generate an email with detailed grade report for student.

  • Custom rubric labels.
  • Choose letter rubrics and numbers rubrics
  • Integrates with Gradebook for Professors for easy grade entry
  • Direct Market Linknote this link only works when browsing from an Android Phone

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I checked my Android Market for some useful apps mentioned in this article that could be brought into the secondary classroom. I found an app called Teacher Aide Lite. This app allows teachers to use the Android phone to take attendance and send texts to parents to notify about tardy/absent students. I think this will help organize my classroom and bring it into the 21st century.

Current Features
* supports 45 students/class, 8 periods/day
* supports 3 Marking Periods/semester and 2 semesters/year
* default values set to Present for fast attendance taking
* import student names via CSV file
* export data via CSV generated file and send via email
* 1-click text to students/parents for tardy/absent students
* 1-click Random student generator (no more Popsicle sticks)

Upcoming Features

* Simple Grading interface to allow recording of assignments turned in
* Texting and emailing feature to notify students/parents of missing work
*Additional Grading options – using points and categories

Other uses for Cell Phones in the Classroom: Please see a previous post.

Flip Snack- Make PDF Files Flip

I am organizing some of my AP government readings  and uploading them to my website. Rather than uploading to word for my students to download, I am uploading them to an amazing program called FlipSnack. This program takes PDF files and makes them into easy to read and embeddable into any blog, wiki, or website.

According to the website, “FlipSnack is an online flipping book software that allows you to convert PDF documents into Flash page flip digital publications. It’s the ideal solution for those who wish to embed a book, magazine, catalog, newspaper, portfolio or any other kind of document into a website or blog. Once created, you can embed your flipping book collection, download them or share them on social networking websites such as Facebook.”


Help your students study for finals with Quizlet

This weekend I started looking for ways to help my students on their final exams when I came across Quizlet.  Quizlet is a wonderful resource to help students study and review vocabulary.

I found vocab words for every unit of US history and AP Government, already organized and created on Quizlet. Rather than recreating the wheel, I used flash cards already on the the site and modified them to fit my students needs.

Another wonderful feature is that the flash cards can be sent to students digital devices, vocabulary games played on the computer, and even quizzes can be adapted for teachers. The website has a new feature of adding images to the vocabulary cards to all types of learners. The flashcards can be embedded into a blog, website, or wiki. The best part is that it is FREE.

According to Quizlet’s website, “Quizlet is a free flash cards and study games website. It was created by high school sophomore Andrew Sutherland in 2005 and now contains over 170 million flashcards. All of the material is user-generated.”

Flashcards

Make your own flashcards or search the millions already created. You can even share your flashcards with friends and classmates.

Study Modes

Next study your material study and track your progress.

Flashcard Mode—This mode is similar to traditional paper flash cards. Quickly review your material, make it full screen, shuffle/randomize, or listen with audio.

Learn Mode—A powerful study mode that tracks your correct/incorrect answers and retests you on what you’ve missed.

Test Mode—Generate a test based on your flashcards and pick the type of questions: write-in, multiple choice, matching, or true/false.

Game Modes

Have a little fun while you study and track your high scores.

Scatter—A matching game where you race against the clock. Your terms and definitions are randomly scattered on the page and you must drag and drop them.

Space Race—Terms scroll across the screen and you must enter in the correct definition before they reach the other side. The speed of the terms increases over time.

Audio

Quizlet’s advanced text-to-speech software lets you hear your flashcard content. We currently support English, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. More languages are coming soon.

Mobile

Study your material anywhere. There are over 40 Quizlet-powered mobile apps available on iOS (iPhone, iPad), Android, Windows Phone, and HP webOS.

Teachers

Make your classroom interactive! Create and share Quizlets with your students and host a group just for your class so students can study, share, and discuss their material.

“Steal, Modify, and Share” Lessons with Better Lesson

I just discovered a collaborative website called Better Lesson that allows teachers to share lessons plans and activities. My first year I spent countless hours designing lessons and grading often in  isolation from other teachers. My second year, I  co-planed with another teacher in my department and my job became a lot more fun and interactive. I had someone to bounce ideas off of and collaborate with. It was a wonderful year teaching. If only I discovered Better Lesson earlier in my career, my life would of been a whole lot easier. As soon as I got on to the website,  I found myself downloading a number of lessons that I could use  next year and sent links to teachers I work with. Better lesson offers 25,000 lesson plans  to teachers for FREE. It’s time to Steal, Modify, and Share a lesson with Better Lesson Today

According to New Schools Venture Fund, ” Creative teachers across the country develop outstanding lesson plans—often in isolation. Teachers lack ways to share ideas and create more effective, inspiring lessons based on their collective knowledge and experience, rather than start from scratch each time.”

New School goes on to discuss the benefits of Better Lesson. They say teachers are “frustrated by constantly “reinventing the wheel”, former teacher Alex Grodd founded BetterLesson to provide all teachers access to the best instructional content available. Through its file sharing and social networking application, BetterLesson helps teachers connect and share lessons, best practices, and ideas within communities of practice. BetterLesson differentiates itself through a unique content management system that allows educators to organize and share lessons, units, and courses in an intuitive, sequenced structure. It also provides teachers with recognition for their creative achievements and facilitates collaboration both within and across real-world learning.”

It was founded by Alex Grodd (Founder & CEO)  who is a “Teach For America alum who taught 6th grade English at Roxbury Preparatory Charter School. He founded Better Lesson to address the challenges he faced in the classroom.”

Google Form is a WONDERFUL resource that is under utilized in education

I have been using Google Forms  for a little over a year now. I originally used it in some basic ways like making a websearch assignments, but this semester I “fell in love” and slightly became obsessed with Google Form.

I have used Google forms in multiple ways this year: from creating rubrics for projects, to student information logs, to contact with parents, and even grading homework assignments. Google Form is a WONDERFUL  resource that is under utilized in education.

Next year I plan on creating a getting to know you form with all my students information on the  first day of school  including parents names, phone numbers, emails. textbook numbers. Having all this information on one Google form spreadsheet can save me time and frustration. Another advantage to using forms is that it will be available electronically from any computer.

Here are some links to some useful forms I created. Feel free to share and modify.

Interesting ways to use Google Docs from my previous post.

Great post from the Pursuit of Technology Integration written by Michael Zimmer on how administrators could use Google Forms in classroom informal walkthroughs. Here is his sample form: ” Here is one already created that you could use as an example to start with.”  Nice idea and I bet it makes walkthroughs a lot easier for administrators

Are we preparing our students for the 21st century?

Our school’s need to adapt the most effective educational methodologies to produce literate, technologically superior, and democratic citizens for the 21st century.

“Kids spend much of the day as their great-grandparents once did: sitting in rows, listening to teachers traditional classrooms lecture, scribbling notes by hand, reading from textbooks that are out of date by the time they are printed” written by Claudia Wallus from Time Magazine author of How to Bring Our Schools Out of the 20th century.

The new 21st century school should be a true student-centered approach within the classroom. Students need to learn to think and apply information from a plethora of disciplines and new technology. Students need to be taught what’s reliable and what is not in this digital age of endless technology and information.

Technology graphic

Check out this great article from the Huffington Post  written by Lisa Nielsen from her blog called The Innovative Educator or find her @InnovativeEdu

According to Lisa Nielsen from Innovative Educator: our school’s must catch up to the 21st century by encouraging teaches and students to create:

1. Personal Learning Networks
Perhaps the core of passion driven, self-directed learning is the development of personal learning networks which can be developed through blogs, social networks like Facebook, Ning, or Group.ly, Twitter, and discussion boards. Read “5 Things You Can Do to Begin Developing Your Personal Learning Network,” “The PLN Matures. The Progression of the 21st Century Personal Learning Network” and “5 Ways to Build Your 1.0 and 2.0 Personal Learning Network to learn how to get started.”

2. Skype an Expert
You can make your classroom a global communication center for free with Skype by connecting with anyone around the world about topics of interests. These experts may be people you have conversations with or perhaps they are people you learn from. Author, blogevangelist, teacher, thought leader and father, Will Richarson uses Skype to supplement his children’s learning. Paul Bogush, an 8th grade social studies teacher not only supports his students in doing this, they take it up a notch with a program they produce called Lunchtime Leaders. Students interview leaders from around the world on their opinions about what they should do to be prepared for the future. Paul and his students do most of their interviews using Skype and they turn the interviews into Podcast. You can listen to their podcasts at http://lunchtimeleaders.podbean.com where students choose to interview experts in topics they are interested in and then turn their interview into a podcast.

3. Authentic Publishing
In the 21st century, irrelevant hand-it-in teaching should be a thing of the past. If a student’s work has no authentic audience beyond the teacher, it shouldn’t be assigned. A student who is self-motivated to do something, counts, btw. A teacher directing him/her to do it does not. Most 21st century kids love to share with real audiences and are doing it outside school already. Inside school, work should not sit lifeless on a computer, or even just the school website. Support students in finding real audiences for their work in their Global Community. If you’re not sure how find out by reading, “21st Century Educators Don’t Say, ‘Hand It In.’ They say, “Publish It!”

4. Use YouTube and iTunes to Learn Anything
It’s rather outrageous that many schools still block one of the most powerful tools for learning available for students today: YouTube. While iTunes is a powerful option for learners on the go, YouTube adds the visual element, making learning even more powerful and FREE! With YouTube Education and iTunes University, more and more colleges, universities, and their professors are sharing content for free. While some schools are paying for pre-packaged online learning options, they’re really all already out there for free. Empower teachers and/or students to design their own learning and learn about whatever they want with these free resources. Not only are these good resources to go to learn from others, they’re also a smart place to ask for help like this student did who needed help with his bowdrill set.

5. Develop Authentic Learning Portfolios
When done right ePortfolios can be a powerful tool that not only helps remind students of all their accomplishments, but it also enables them to share these with the world. In the 21st century, creating an ePortfolio is free and easy. Student simply select a container (blog, wiki, website, Google site), decide how they’d like to organize it, and then post their work. I strongly advise against using any paid for portfolio site. It is important that students have ownership of their own work and that it can travel with them wherever they are. When it comes to ePortfolios, Helen Barrett is the go-to person. To learn more, visit her blog where she shares fantastic ideas.

In our globally connected world, it is no longer acceptable for teachers to teach the way they were taught nor is it okay for administrators to allow it. It is also no longer acceptable for administrators to take the easy way out and require connected kids to learn in a disconnected environment where they are banned from accessing sites or bringing to school the tools and technologies they love and need to succeed in the world. In the 21st century, if we truly care about student success we will lift the bans, unblock the filters and connect our students to the world so they can learn effectively.

For more information visit:

Lisa Nielsen’s blog:  The Innovative Educator or find her @InnovativeEdu

Huffington Post article: Is your child’s school leaving him/her behind? by Lisa Nielsen

Time Magazine: How to bring our nation’s schools out of the 20th century? by Claudia Wallis

Wunderlist- No more paper to do lists

Wunderlist is probably my new favorite tech tool. I was looking for a way to eliminate endless to do “paper” lists as well as post it’s on my desk. Wunderlist is a wonderful and FREE tool that allows you to create a plethora of to do lists from food shopping to school work. The application can be downloaded to any computer or smart phone.

The wonderful benefit of this tool is that it syncs between all your computers and hand held devices. You can even share tasks or lists with friends, colleagues, or family members.

How I use it? I created a different tab for each day of the week. I write my tasks for each day whether it’s a staff meeting or a paper to grade. I delete my tasks as I complete them and if I don’t complete them on a particular day I simply drag them to a different day.

Benefits:

  • No more post it notes
  • Syncs between all your tech devices
  • Collaboration of projects and lists
  • You’ll never misplace a list again
  • ORGANIZATION

Check out wunderlist: www.6wunderkinder.com

Do More with Google Docs- 70+ ideas

Google Docs is a great tool that has been around for a few years. I have been using Google Docs with friends, colleagues, and students for a little over two years now.

The benefits of Google Docs and apps are endless. Google Docs enables multiple people in different locations to collaborate simultaneously on the same document from any computer with Internet access. For example with my graduate class, I had a project on the 1930′s with a partner who lives in Colorado. Rather than wasting hours on the phone with my partner, we used Google Docs and communicated through the chat feature and we simultaneously created our project together in “real time.”

In the classroom, it is also beneficial. This is the first semester where a huge majority of my students are familiar with Google docs and it’s benefits from other classes. I have had students who were sick  at home collaborating with their group. Today, I had a student placed in the in school suspension room. He worked on his project with his partner using Google Documents.  Google Documents increases learning because it encourages collaboration, project based learning, and it is efficient.

I have used Google documents for PowerPoint, word, excel, and forms.I learned about some interesting ideas and ways to use Google Docs in the classroom from a blog called EdTe-CH written by Thomas Barrett. This blog has 70 + ways to creatively use Google Forms in the classroom.

I read through the following 70 + ideas in the slide-show and found myself going right to my Google Doc and creating forms. This is one form I made based after reading the edte.ch blog. I designed the form to have students “rate” other student’s documentary projects and give them positive as well as constructive feedback. Another form I created is for recording specific behaviors within my classroom.

Thanks Edte.ch for the great ideas!

For more information:  Google Docs

Organization–> even on a cart

Organization is a must have in education. I see students everyday who are disorganized. Unfortunately, I am a traveling teacher; which means I travel every period of the day (5 periods) to different classrooms. I consider myself a highly organized person (possibility due to my mother).  These are a few tricks of the trade that I learned teaching and most of all helpful when traveling.

1.”I don’t have a pencil”

Problem: Students don’t bring pencils or pens and it is so frustrating. I lent out pencils and pens that NEVER got returned.

Solution: I tied a pen to a clipboard.

Reasoning: That way students can not walk off with the pen without me noticing my bright orange and green clipboard. Another latent function of the clipboard is that it is so awkward and bright that they are embarrassed and usually bring a pencil or pen the next day.

2. “I lost the handout. You know the one with the _____ topic on top.

Problem: Handouts can pile up and become a mess in students lockers, cubicles, trapper-keepers, and backpacks.

Solution: Help them and yourself with a helpful unit numbering system. Everyone of my units starts with a number 1-10. Each handout is also assigned a number 1-25. Each and every handout I give out has the unit dash handout number. For example Unit 1 and handout 4 is 1-4.

Reasoning: This system is so beneficial in that many teachers  have started to adopt my system. I do notebook checks with the handouts to make sure they are organized. After each unit, I have my students put them into a folder so they are at no time carrying/packing more than 25 handouts. Usually a unit is less than 10. Another latent affect of this handout numbering system it helps ME with storage and reference. I often say take out 1-4 or homework is 1-4. I also have a file system in a cabinet where students can go and get a number they missed (from the current unit). I know this system is genius.

3. “I turned my handout in…. you must have lost it”

Problem: Students claim they turned in work and it “disappears.”

Solution: I have 1 turn in bin for my whole day located on the top of my cart…. After each period I take the handouts from the bin and put them into a specific folder for each period. One side of the folder is for work that needs to be graded and the other side is graded school work.

Reasoning: This system keeps me organized. Helps me monitor late work and it allows me to focus on teaching and not searching for papers.

Dropbox is wonderful!

Five reasons I started to use Dropbox for storage at school!

  1. Worry Free Backup.  Because Dropbox is continually running on my computer, I know that any files that I save into it are instantly backed up securely to Dropbox’s servers.  If my hard drive were to crash today, I would be able to easily retrieve my files, even those I worked on this morning.
  2. Restoring Previous Versions.  Anything in the Dropbox folder can be restored to a previous version, even if you deleted the file.  While I don’t use this feature very often, the times that I have used it have saved hours of rework.
  3. Public File Sharing. Whenever I have to send a large attachment in an email, instead of worrying if the receiver’s email server will reject it due to attachment size (some do), I upload the file to Dropbox and use the built-in public link tool to simply send a link to the recipient, where they can download the file at their convenience.  This has also been nice when I want to share photos with people after an event.
  4. Collaborating with Others.  When working with another teacher, it helps to have access to the same files, so we can share a folder just between us via Dropbox.  You can create a permanent folder with other teachers in your department.  This also is useful between family members, as I can just drop a file into the folder that I share with my husband.
  5. Instant Mobile Viewing. There is a lot a mobile device can do, and storing a massive amount of files is not one of them.  I can store all of my documents within Dropbox, and whenever I need to view them on the go, I can use the Dropbox App to download them only when I need to view them. You can also instantly take a file and share it with a student.

Check our Dropbox today!