One of the most popular parts of any meeting between educators who are pursuing iPads in the classroom is the chance to share favourite apps. Monday’s visit to ACS Cobham of six teachers and administrators from the American School of London, Channing School for Girls and Hazelwood School was no exception and the lunchtime talking shop was dominated by discussions about deployment models and best apps in practice.
One question teachers consistently ask is how do I know where to find the best apps for my subject? Obviously, the iTunes Store has made some strides in the direction of categorising its apps, but it remains true that most of the time teachers are not actually looking for an “educational” app. Often apps designed to assist people in business-oriented skills such as time management or organisation are equally applicable to the learning environment. The exception would be apps designed to do single-function tasks such as practise maths facts, but these are now a minority interest among teachers at ACS Cobham and other schools that have long since decided that content creation is the best way to use iPads.
I do recommend three magazines to teachers. MacFormat, iCreate and Tap have occasional features on iPads (and other iOS and Apple products) in the education setting.
Moreover, Tap recently published an educational supplement that carried some of the lessons learned (and generously shared) by Fraser Speirs and his colleagues at Cedars School of Excellence in Greenock. This was the school that Apple acknowledges was the first in the world to implement a one-to-one iPads programme for all students. However, not everyone has the time or money to buy magazines and trawl through them to find the latest apps, and Tap in particular seems to be maddeningly difficult to find in stores.
So if buying iPad-themed magazines (or downloading the screen versions to one’s eReader of choice) is not the complete answer, what is? Predictably, there’s an app for that. Recently, there has been a proliferation of apps that find other apps for you and sort them into convenient categories. Although I use several, I have to admit Chomp is the one I tend to turn to first. Occasionally, app developers announce days or time periods when certain apps are free. These offers are generally made for a limited time but they can be useful. For example, last summer McGraw Hill, the publishers of the University of Chicago’s popular Everyday Mathematics course, made all the apps that accompany their maths games free for one day (they normally cost £1.49). It was part of a drive to encourage American schoolchildren to continue practising maths throughout the summer holidays.
Of course, one had to know that this was going to happen in order to be ready to download the ten apps on offer. This is where alert apps like Chomp can come in handy. They can flag offers on a daily basis leaving the browser to select the ones he or she thinks might be useful. Chomp also indicates trending apps in both free and paid for categories.
Chomp was one of the apps recommended in the round table discussion on apps last Monday. Others were
iBrainstorm – hosts a virtual corkboard onto which students can flick virtual Post It notes from their own iPads, iPhones or iPod Touches.
iBrainstorm Companion – the client app for students to use when the teacher is using iBrainstorm.
ImagetoText Free (iPad version) – take a photo of any iamge that contains text (e.g. a road sign, a pdf document etc.) and it renders it in an editable format and sends to you via e-mail or Evernote.
Image to Text (iPhone version) – does the same thing as ImagetoText Free but designed for iPhones
iTranslate Voice – Translates between an impressive choice of languages. You say “Mia hamburguesa es desmasiado grande” and it says “My hamburger is too big” back to you. It also gives you the printed text (including the traditional or simplified Chinese characters for the Mandarin option)
MyScript Memo – you write something by hand on your iPad screen and it converts it to printed text.