As a teacher who either owns an Apple handheld device or uses them in the classroom, you’ve probably perused the ‘Education’ section of the App Store. There are a kazillion apps on it. I’ve bought many of them for use in the classroom, as well as for my own children.
The problem with the Education Store is that most of the apps are not educational and many are just plain boring and dumb. Worst of all, they tend to be uber-focused on gimmicky content memorization. In other words, they are prettier, animated worksheets.
In my view, you pass through the novelty stage in using handhelds in your class when you initiate the use of apps that connect students to one another and content on the internet. To put it another way, if you see a button(s) in the app called either SHARE, POST, COMMENT, SEND, you’re probably on the right track.
I also think it is important that we think of apps for education by type, rather than too specifically. There are few things as subjective in technology use as what app to use for a particular purpose. Just look at the myriad of tools people are using to post to Twitter! Determining the quality of an app is extremely personal. What is more, the current changes so quickly in Appville that it is nearly impossible to keep an exhaustive list.
With this in mind, I’ve created a list below (one which I will continually update and invite contributions to through my comments) of App types that you should be looking for to thoroughly engage your students in creation, collaboration, and shared critical thinking. In italics you will see my own personal up-to-date favourites (most of them apply to both the iPod Touch and the iPad).
Every student/teacher should have at least one of these types of apps on their device:
A Social Networking app: Twitter for iPhone, Echofon, Edmodo, Facebook
A Google Apps app: Office2, G-Whizz! Google
A Task Management app: Things, Bento, Today
A Blogging app: Blogpress, WordPress
A Password Management app: 1Password
A Photo Sharing app: Flickit, FlickStackr
An RSS Reader: Reeder
A Notetaking app: Evernote
Books/Magazines/News (for students): Marvel, DC Comics, iBooks, Kindle, Kobo, Archie Comics
A Wikipedia App: Wikipanion
A Drawing or Doodling app: iDraft, Glow Doodle, Chalkboard, Whiteboard, Omnisketch, Kineo
And don’t forget about the apps that come loaded on your iPod, iPhone, and iPad: Safari, Calendar, Contacts, Maps, Notes, YouTube, Mail, iPod are all essential tools as well.
If you’re starting to hate me right now for being an Apple Fanboy, keep in mind that the same policy applies to Android, Blackberry, etc. Remember: it’s the purpose of the tool; not the particular tool/device/app itself.