Apps That Teachers Should Use
A Guide to Online Resources That Are Easily Available to Teachers
IT can be expensive. It is important to make sure that any strategies taken are supported by infrastructure capabilities. However, there are a lot of different online apps available to teachers and schools, some of which are free and all of which are worth investigating on a trial basis. These can aid teaching methods, classroom management and communication. The security risks of using any outside applications should be considered within the specifics of your network and the types of interactions with the app.
- Intune for Education (free trial with Office 365)
- PowerSchool Learning (variable subscription)
Intune for Education is a cloud-based tool offered as a paid feature of Office 365. It is specifically designed to help teachers with classroom management. It simplifies the creation, distribution and grading of paperless assignments. It works great in combination with other Office 365 features and allows teachers to create a customised online workspace for students on an individual basis.
PowerSchool Learning is a classroom management tool that focuses on multimedia templates and detailed analytics. It is designed to engage students and streamline administration. For teachers, it comes with a 5 class, 2GB trial version that scales up in pricing the more it is used.
Word Processing Apps:
- Word 365 (standard part of an Office 365 subscription)
Word 365 is a cloud-updated version of Microsoft Word. It delivers all of the word processing features of standard Word, but brings a more collaborative experience. Documents can be accessed across multiple devices — allowing students to work on something in the classroom and then access their files on a home computer. Documents can also be shared for collaborative editing. Students can easily submit work digitally and teachers are able to quickly provide feedback through ‘commenting’ features.
Writing Prompt Apps:
These apps focus on engaging students in writing exercises by providing prompts. They can be geared towards fiction or nonfiction writing and will give word, character and storyline ideas on in interjected basis. ‘Writing Prompts’ and ‘Writing Challenge App’ are focused on older students, while ‘Story Builder’ particularly is for kids just learning how to write.
- Grammarly (free, with premium option)
- Quill (variable subscription)
- WriteLab (free trial, variable subscription)
These apps help students improve their writing. Grammarly and WriteLab are both online hosted word processors that provide advanced spelling and grammatical corrections. Grammarly has a free version while WriteLab provides a free trial. For a subscription, both will give in-depth word choice analysis and analytic feedback about sentence length and readability.
Quill is a simpler paid service that focuses on taking younger students from writing fragmented and run-on sentences, to polished ones. It also provides teaching aids and a number of other learning tools.
- GetUnderlined (free)
GetUnderlined is a wider community resource. For this reason, it needs to be approached with particular caution from a safety standpoint. But, for older students, it offers a good opportunity to receive professional feedback about writing assignments.
These apps enable students to create storybooks — a fun way for younger children to engage with information. Little Bird Tales is a solely digital resource. StoryJumper allows for the printing of physical books as a premium service.
- Science Journal (free): Can be used dynamically in a lab setting. Repurposes the sensors on a smartphone for data recording. Enables students to measure sound levels, light levels and motion.
- The Elements (£8.99): An interactive periodic table that familiarises students with the elements, their relationships and the history of chemistry.
- GCSE Physics (free revision questions, paid upgrades): Revision tool for GCSEs.
- Rosetta Stone (£179): Is an expensive by highly regarded immersive language programme. One of the oldest successful digital resources, it aims to teach students a new language using visual associations — mimicking how we learn language as children.
- Duolingo (£2.99-£43.99): is a paired down version of Rosetta Stone built for mobile devices. It is designed to deliver short language lessons that can be done regularly.
- Memrise (free, in-app purchases): is a vocabulary focused language app that follows a more traditional ‘grammar-translation’ approach to language learning.
- Kahoot: a fast-paced collection of multi-choice games that provide quizzes on a number of subjects. It gives instant feedback to the teacher on how individual students answer.
- Grammar Jammers (free trial): a grammar teaching aid that engages students through puzzles and activities.
- Animoto (monthly subscription): is a multimedia app that allows students to make short videos.
- Seesaw (free, with premium options): Allows for the creation of digital portfolios that can be shared with teachers, students and parents.
Social Media Communication:
Chatzy mimics an online chatroom, while WhatsApp is a widely used internet-based text/media messaging platform. Both enable group chats that can be used by students for project collaboration. They are also a valuable resource for teacher communication with students, parents and other teachers.
Online Courses and Seminars
There are a huge number of online learning resources available to the public and teachers. These can be approached as an in-classroom aid, homework assignments or extra credit. They are differently focused on age groups and subjects. As teachers, you can even use these platforms yourself to learn about digital technology, teaching methodologies, or your subject of expertise. They are a great resource for children and adults alike.
- MOOCs: University-sponsored online courses. Includes lectures and interactive course material. Free for students
- Khan Academy: non-profit that produces short video lessons and review material on a large range of subjects. Free for everyone
- Peer to Peer University (P2PU): Offers similar material to MOOCs and Khan Academy, but is focused on peer-to-peer sharing of knowledge, taking a wiki-type approach to education
- Udemy: is aimed at adults, but is a valuable resource for specific course material. Most courses are developed by Udemy users, like P2PU, but are not free. They are often highly specific to job-skills. Depending on the class, however, these may be the most applicable online resources available.
- Alison: is one of the older players in this space. They provide online courses on a number of subjects, very similar to Khan Academy and MOOCs. The course material is free, but you have to pay for certifications. They have a close relationship with MIT and Stanford.
- Skillshare: is a vocational based learning platform that operates on a monthly subscription and offers access to a wide number of courses that can teach you to do just about anything.
- YouTube: is the world's leading video sharing platform. It is not designed for educational purposes, but there is a lot of free educational content posted online that is easily accessible via YouTube. The quality of material you can access is entirely dependent on your ability to find and discern the value of a video. But, it is a great free way to access anything from university lectures, documentaries and short informative video clips.
- On YouTube, there are a number of channels specifically dedicated to making educational content. See what you can find. To start with, check out: Crash Course; PBS Eons; and Ted Ed.
Summary: The Flexible Use of Apps Can Deliver Creative Outcomes
Teaching is about much more than apps, and apps are only one of many digital opportunities in education. However, they offer a flexible range of creative options that teachers should consider integrating into classroom strategies. Many are free and can easily be trialled using the technology already available to students and teachers. Computer-aided courses are even available to teachers themselves to improve their understanding of other digital opportunities in education, or simply brush up on the latest information about the subject of their choice. Apps are a creative and simple solution to bringing digital technology into the classroom.