Technology Pursuit

Blending Technology Into the Language Arts Classroom

My 9 Top Apps for this School Year

9

I love finding new apps. Some might call me an app-aholic. There are just so many pretty, shiny, really neat apps out there! Every time I find a snazzy one, I immediately start lusting and believing I must use this next year!  I must find a way!

The truth is, I can’t use them all.  Trying to integrate dozens of apps and websites and programs into a classroom can be unwieldy to say the least.

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Schoology: It looks as if our school will be adopting Schoology as the official LMS (goodbye ancient old Angel!!!). I’ve used it the past year and a half in conjunction with Google Classroom. This year, I’ll focus even more on Schoology.  This should work well with my gamification & blended classroom plans, especially with the control Schoology gives the teacher for allowing students to work through lessons.  For example, does a student need a grade of 80% on an assessment to move on? You can program that in Schoology. If they don’t reach 80%, they don’t move on. You can keep the quiz open for them to study on their own and retry when they’re ready, or you can spend one-on-one time with them.

 Expository Writing Pic

Google Classroom: Yes, I already have an LMS in Schoology, but Google Classroom isn’t really an LMS (yet.) How I plan to use Classroom is as a Google Doc creator for student.  I love the control of ownership that Classroom provides me over student documents, and I can easily embed Google Drive assignment links into Schoology assignments. Students can also copy/paste URLs into their assignment submissions. The Doctopus script can also do the same thing I’m aiming for, but Classroom is much faster and efficient.

 

Padlet: This virtual bulletin board is such a great go-to tool!  I’ll keep my daily agendas posted here, as well as announcements. Padlet embeds easily into Schoology, so students can access it without ever leaving Schoology–another huge bonus. I can use this for exit slips, for student “blogs” (think 20Time weekly reflections), or collaboration assignments where students need to submit ideas.

 Hstry for Education

Hstry: This great timeline site is phenomenal--and useful far beyond the history classroom. I use it myself for recording short reflections and thoughts that I want to remember about books I’m reading. This year, I want students to create Hstry timelines of books they’re reading to track their thinking progression through the books.  The cool thing is they can upload videos and images, too, so if they’d rather write out their thoughts longhand or record thoughts as a vlog, that works just as well. This could be done using Padlet, too, but I just love the timeline format that Hstry provides–you can see a lot of information in order at a glance.

 

I’m also planning to use Hstry for some of my blended lessons. In addition to embedding videos, Hstry also provides short quizzes for students to take as formative assessments. (Imagine the possibility for PD, too)

 

www.easybibscholar.com

www.easybibscholar.com

Imagine Easy’s Scholar: If you teach online research (and who doesn’t?), check this out. Along with its extension, Scholar allows students to highlight information in articles and automatically creates a “notecard” out of it with an MLA citation. Students can add their own thoughts and paraphrases to the notecard.  When their research is done, students go to the Scholar website, peruse all their notecards, and move them around into main points. This also creates an outline for students who like outlines.

 Actively Learn

Actively Learn: If Scholar is the go to place for teaching research, Actively Learn is the go to app for teaching reading. Actively Learn allows you to upload PDFs or paste URLs, and then add questions for students to answer. Other apps do this, but what AL also offers is the chance for students to make their own notes–and the ability to share those notes with other students when other students read the text. Think of it like “Comments in Google Docs comes to reading!” Reading becomes more of a team effort, where those who go before can leave thoughts to share with those who follow. In addition, students can also see how they performed on polls and MC questions compared to the rest of the class, and even better: they can read other students’ answers to open-ended questions AFTER they’ve completed their own answers. Immediately, students can compare their answers to others and assess how they did.

 

NoRedInk  TeacherNoRedInk: While the above apps are for anyone, this one is likely just for the ELA folks. I’ve always struggled with finding time to teach grammar on top of vocabulary, reading, and writing. Once students hit high school, the two different periods of reading and writing (at least in my district) become one 50 minute period. To add to the struggle, students are all over the grammar spectrum; some need to review punctuating compound sentences, while others can move into the advanced uses of the dash. With NoRedInk, students take diagnostic test which tells students their grammar weaknesses. After this, teachers can assign units to students based on their weaknesses.

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PearDeck: Regardless of education trends, direct instruction will never be completely gone. While I don’t think it’s beneficial to use direct instruction all period every day, it’s important to bring the class together for key lessons that everyone can benefit from. That’s where PearDeck and it’s interactivity comes in. Essentially an interactive slideshow, PearDeck allows me to create text slides, embed images and videos, ask students questions and polls, and invite students to draw and drag, too.

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Smore: I love the ease of this site. I can make a snazzy-looking page about anything. I’ve used Smores often for complex assignments, such as research projects. A Smore can provide an easy to read, step-by-step sheet complete with videos and even Google Forms. My students have used Smore for creating assignments, too, because it’s so easy to learn, complete, and publish to the world.


This list certainly isn’t exhaustive. After all, there’s Kahoot and Memrise and ExitTix and Quiz Bean and Pathbrite and WeVideo and PowToon and Curriculet and Spoken and Blendspace and…well, there’s no way to list all the amazingness out there. Some of these I’ll definitely be using. Others I won’t use for now, but they’re on my backburner for possible future use. I invite you to check out any/all of them. But these eight are the ones that I know or believe will make me the most effective teacher for this school year.

6 Comments

  1. Thank you for the APPs I am going to try them tonight. Technology is a good way to incorporate my many assignments with my students. Thumbs up!

  2. mpilakowski

    July 16, 2015 at 2:19 am

    Thanks so much! Have fun exploring!

  3. I must say that I have downloaded the APPs to my tablet and just like how you described them is exactly how they work. In my kindergarten class, I feel that technology is quite important for all students. Not all students learn the same way of sitting and listening to the teacher. That old way went out the window along time ago. Keeping students engage is the ways to go.
    I have noticed that as the years roll on technology is out weighting textbooks. This is so nice. Rather than having students walking around with those heavy books they can use them on their tablets. They can use them on their tablets anywhere they may go with their parents.
    Is there any other place that I can learn about other easy to use APPs? Please let me know, I would like to share with my colleagues as well.

  4. Melissa Pilakowski

    July 20, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    This year I’m going textbook-less, too. It got to the point where I checked out books to the students, but almost all our resources were online. Where I find apps is on Twitter; then I just explore and see what works for me.

    Tony Vincent is a great resource for apps, especially for elementary classrooms. He’s an amazing presenter, but as a former elementary teacher himself, he knows what works really well at that level. http://learninginhand.com/blog/

  5. Hi Melissa,
    I feel as though that my Kindergarten class is already a class without textbooks. I am at that foundation level where the students are coming to my class not being able to write. So, I is all about penmanship. However, I found and ABC App that assists with the proper formation of the letters. Hopefully, this year we will be able to obtain a class set of tablets.
    Thanks for giving me the name of the person that I can obtain some more awesome Apps.
    Thank you so much for the communication.
    Latoyia

  6. Thomas Ketchell

    August 28, 2016 at 9:12 pm

    Hi Melissa!

    It’s Thomas here – one of the founders of HSTRY. I hope this message finds you well and thanks again for writing about HSTRY last year.

    I’m delighted to write this comment to say that we’ve released real-time timeline collaboration to HSTRY. It was our most requested feature and we’re happy it is now up and running!

    Please go ahead and give it a go when you have time. We’ve put a lot of work into making it as simple and intuitive as possible for users from multiple accounts and devices to work on one same timeline.

    I hope you’re enjoying the start of the new school year and do let me know if you have any questions on collaboration or if you update this blog post with our new feature 🙂

    Thanks,

    Thomas

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