Innovative Apps for Schools

by Victoria Zelvin. Is your school tech savvy?  Do you have a lead technology teacher?  How are technologies found and promoted?  Is there a regular ‘technology fair’ at your school?  In this technological age where many students already own and operate various (and often multiple) mobile devices of their own, it makes sense for educators and innovators to incorporate innovative apps and other technologies in their classrooms. Here are a few (free) technological resources for teachers to consider for their classrooms.

Doodle Numbers Quiz Screenshot -- courtesy of iTunes

Doodle Numbers Quiz Screenshot — courtesy of iTunes

Science and Math. There are already a great many science apps on the market for the iPad and other tablets, many facilitate exploration and engaging students’ natural curiosities. VideoScience offers 80+ hands-on science lessons for use in the classroom, videos hosted by Dan Menelly, a Science Teacher at the UN International School and a 2010 Einstein Fellow with the National Science Foundation in the Office of Cyberinfrastructure. For math, apps like Doodle Numbers Quiz offer a cartoonish themed game in which students are prompted to solve a series of problems to complete a pattern. It is similar to other casual iPad and tablet games on the market, except this one uses basic problem solving math skills as opposed to matching colored balls or shapes. There is also Math Drills Lite, which encourages students to solve problems quickly as they learn to remove blocks or use their fingers for problems they don’t understand.

Electronic Storybooks. A different type of app to use in the classroom might be StoryKit, which comes with a simple premise: create an electronic storybook. However, there are more possibilities inherent in those four words than are immediately apparent. In the app description some of those possibilities are hinted at: “Take The Three Bears and make them four. Rewrite The Three Little Pigs with the wolf as the victim.” Teachers could assign their students ideas, perhaps focusing on compassion or integrity, and ask them to create a story that explores those ideas An app like this is great for the classroom, because it allows educators the chance to craft their own lesson plans around this tool, rather than having to adhere to the apps programming as a limiting factor.

Simulations. One potential resource for the computer worth mentioning is PhET Interactive Simulations, which uses interactive simulations to engage students and to help students visually comprehend concepts. “PhET simulations animate what is invisible to the eye through the use of graphics and intuitive controls such as click-and-drag manipulation, sliders and radio buttons,” explains the website.  PhET simulations, a service from the University of Colorado Boulder, are freely available online and can be run in a standard web browser as long as Flash and Java are installed. As of writing, however, this particular resource cannot be used on a tablet or iPad.

Weighing Merits.  Many more resources are available for educators to use in their schools and classrooms, incorporating technology into their lesson plans. However, moving forward, educators should be aware of how they’re using technology in the classroom. “There is a massive difference between ‘˜art of the possible’ innovation in education and mere content or lesson plan digitization,” writes Jessie Woolley-Wilson, of Dreambox Learning. The mere ability to digitize something or to have it accessible via computer does not necessarily mean that it is a good technologic resource. Educators should use their own discretion before using these types of resources in their classroom, weighing both the merit and engagement of the program prior to use.

These tech tools can be a great assist  for engaging students of all ages by helping them find ways to use the their own hand-helds and other devices to further their learning, problem solving, and knowledge..

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