My first article was filled with tidbits to consider regarding the use of iPads, but now I can write about the fun part- the apps! For the last few years, I have been on the hunt for fun, useful, friendly, and most importantly, free, apps. There are thousands of applications to sift through, but with the help of some great bloggers and library journals, I have a small collection of awesome apps loaded and ready to go for my students.
One of my favorite go to apps for all ages is News-O-Matic. It’s a kid’s newspaper that provides the last five days’ worth of headlines. It’s full of colorful pictures and graphics, and it’s completely interactive. There are embedded videos, trivia questions, audio options, and much more. The articles are mostly about positive current events that would interest kids such as the First Daughters, Minecraft, or the teenage Nobel Peace Prize winner. However, some articles do cover serious topics (like the Ebola outbreak) but they are edited by a team of child psychologists, so students are getting the news in a safe, non-frightening way. Sometimes I have the students complete a current events worksheet, or sometimes I simply have them browse for and article to present independently. I am certain there are many more ways I can use this app and like I stated, all grades/levels enjoy it. There is an option to purchase the entire paper instead of just getting the five days of front pages, but I have found the free version to be enough.
Another app that my students use is Aurasma. Aurasma is an augmented reality app. This app allows users to attach a video to a trigger picture that stays hidden until revealed by an iPad. The simplest way for me to explain it is to offer an example of its use. Let’s say a student has a presentation on the solar system. One of the requirements would be a poster featuring all of the planets. Students would use Aurasma to embed video into the pictures on the poster. After all posters are finished and displayed around the room, students can walk from poster to poster with the iPads and hold the iPads over one of the pictures. Like magic, a video will appear of the students explaining more about the planet or a YouTube video about it will play. I’ve also used this app to plan a non-fiction scavenger hunt. Groups of three or four kids take an iPad, and starting at book one, they will use the app to reveal a hidden video of me giving the clue for the next book in the hunt. I definitely recommend watching a YouTube tutorial about it for clarity, but once you know how, it’s very easy!
Educreations is an excellent app for teaching a concept that needs at home review. It’s essentially a very easy way for you to record an example of what you might put on your blackboard. Once it’s saved, students can access the video from home and review the lesson. They can also make their own creations. The Math teachers in our school simply love to use this app.
Students reading biographies find RWT timeline very useful. They can make easy timelines according to date, time or event. I have also used this as a graphic organizer for autobiography projects.
Science 360 is a very educational app. It’s a science library full of stunning images and short videos each of them accompanied by informational text. I usually have students plug in their headphones, find a corner of the library to settle in with the iPad, and then I allow them time to freely explore the app. Not every iPad use needs a worksheet or assessment. Some are just really fun to play with!
Earth as Art is a NASA app featuring images of the Earth taken by five different satellites. The images look like something that should be hanging in an art gallery. It’s almost unbelievable that the Earth actually looks that fantastic from space. Each of the 75 images has accompanying information about the picture. I’ve used this app during a research lesson and had students find more information or a “view from land” picture. I could also see having them find the spot on an Atlas.
Some of our favorite presentation making or picture collage/editing apps are PixlrExpress, Animoto, Pic Collage, and Adobe Voice. These are all simple apps used for a variety of creations. Inspired by the book, See a Heart, Share a Heart where heart shapes are found in everyday life, I manned my 8th grade students with an iPad and had them make their own version of the book using Pic Collage. The results were phenomenal. I am always amazed at how imaginative they can be when given a little space and time to create.
Too Noisy is my first attempt at using a behavior app. This is a noise control app that works very well in the library. When students are checking out, I’m often in the mix helping the little ones find a book, and the noise level gets much higher than acceptable. I project this app onto the screen and it’s an instant monitor. It’s a colorful noise meter with adjustable sensitivity. The students (especially the little ones) like to watch and see the meter stay within acceptable limits. If they get too loud, the smiley face gets a frown and an alarm will sound. The paid version allows for a star reward system, but the free version works just as well if you develop your own reward system.
Last, but certainly not least, Book Creator lets students make their own book using personal pictures, video, and/or music. Once the story is finished, it can be email or printed. One really neat feature is that it can be sent to iBooks to sit on the shelf with all of your other favorites.
The challenge with apps, like most things is to be economical. All of the apps I presented here are free. Most have paid versions, but the free or lite version is working for me so far. I have several new apps that I’m still in the process of reviewing, but I promise to share if I find any of them to be a great tool for the library. I hope this list was useful for you and your staff!
Today's post is written by Tricia Pfeil, librarian at St. Joseph/St. Robert Elementary School in Pennsylvania.
Links to Suggested Apps