Tonight's Homework: Get These Apps

The other day in my Computer Tech 7 class, I was walking around monitoring students as they were working on their final assignments and making up missed work. I spied one students doing the tell tale signs of hiding something. When I asked what he was hiding he said nothing, usual first response. When I pressed him further, he said it was a lollipop which he knew was a big no-no in my class. When he went to throw away the offending item I noticed nothing went into the trash can which is another student trick. When I pressed him about not noticing anything resembling the item he was trying to hide go into the trash can he finally and sheepishly gave up the offending item. It was an iPod Touch. He took a moment to look at his device as if he was saying goodbye to good friend which I am sure is what he thought was going on. In most cases saying goodbye would be the appropriate sentiment. However, I wanted him to started thinking of his iPod as a tool as well as a toy.

When he surrendered the iPod Touch, I took a look at the apps he had on the device. Not surprisingly it was full of games. To this student, and I am sure he is not the only one, this was a toy. I went back to my desk and pulled out my iPhone and started jotting down the name of some apps that would be beneficial in any class and made sure they were free ones. When I finished the list I called the student over. I told him that I had a homework assignment for him. He was to download all the apps that I had on my list, which I gave him. I further told him that I would check his iPod Touch the next time he came to class and better have the apps on the list on his device. I explained what the apps would do and even showed him a demo of a couple of them. The class had fun with Action Movie by Bad Robot Interactive. This is one where you can create a movie clip with a special effect added in. Then you can insert the action clip into a larger video project. The students loved being blown up by incoming missiles or blown to Oz by a tornado. I am sure this app got downloaded many times because I saw students writing down the name of the app. Years ago, I read in the book "So Where's My Apple" that sometimes you have just watch the dump trucks. So I guess you have to take time out to launch virtual air strikes on students so they can have fun. I must admit it can be therapeutic for the teacher too.

Here is a copy of the list I gave to the student with the iPod Touch. They are all iOS and can be found on the iTunes App Store. I will note down apps that I know are also on Android but search if I don't.

Edmodo: new updates allow students to do homework on mobile devices. There is an Android version too.
EasyBib: This site and app makes creating bibliographies a snap. Just scan a barcode or type in the title of a book for a citation. They just created an Android version too.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Free Version) or Who does not need a handy dictionary? Also on Android. Tell those kids to look that word up themselves.
Blogger, Tumblr, and Posterous: All are blogging apps and all have Android apps too.
Genius Scan: Okay, I know that it is not cool to create copies of tests but classroom management will have to take care of that one. However, being able to scan documents can be helpful to students too as well as saving paper costs. There are similar apps for Android.
Splice (free version): A decent video editor that some say is better than iMovie for iOS.
PS Express: A nice photo editor. There are many other good ones for both iOS and Android too.
Red Laser: If you or your school does anything with QR Codes then this is a must have app. There are similar apps for Android.

If you know of any other good apps to share with students please share them in the comments.

Educational Good and Evil: Apple's New iPods

With the September 5th iPod announcements Apple may have, or should have, started a discussion on how their products should be received in the classroom. Schools across the country are coming up with policies regarding electronic devices such as mobile phones and music players. These policies range from zero tolerance and confiscation on site to students may have the device as long as it is turned off and kept out of site.

Tne Apple products that should have schools rethinking their stance on electronic devices: the iPod Touch and is brother the iPhone. Let's put aside the phone and music players functions for a moment and focus on the Internet feature and its value to the classroom. The iPod Touch and iPhone have the ability to receive Wi-Fi which allows the devices to connect to the Internet wirelessly. The Sony Play Station Portable also has the capability to connect to the Internet wirelessly. This means another portable device that can be used to conduct Internet searches and use online apps such as Google Docs. Unlike the PSP, the Apple devices do have keyboards for easier input.

The problems with the iPhone and the iPod Touch are being a phone and a music/video player. This means administrators will have to weigh the benefits of Apple's devices and eventual clones against the devices seen as disruptions in the classroom. All-in-one devices which have Internet, phones, music players, etc... are only multiplying. Another thing, while the cost of both the iPhone and iPod Touch are still prohibitive for the average student they are cheaper than previous devices with similar features. It is just a matter of time before students will have devices that have educational benefits (Internet, writing tools, book readers) in the same package with educational taboos (phones, music players, texting) stuffed in their book bags. Now should be a time to start thinking about they will be received when they come to school.

ARS Technica article

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