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.
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.
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: 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)
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: 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: 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.
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.
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.