Hello Everyone! I am Erin from rrrErin2Learn and am so excited to be guest blogging for Minds in Bloom! I can’t remember life before I started focusing on ed tech in my classroom, but it was only two years ago that my technology administrator handed me a couple of iPads and the password to download “ALL THE FREE APPS I WANTED!” I admit, I went a little crazy over the next few evenings on my couch. I downloaded about 50 apps and started a list of 10-20 more that would cost money. I worked for the next few months to figure out how to manage them on my four shared iPads.
I encountered mostly frustration. The students would jump from app to app and would rarely choose ones that were appropriate for their level. My iPads became merely gaming devices with an educational focus. I knew I needed a change. Over time I have trimmed to about five (FREE) apps that I consistently use and have all changed the way I teach!
(Fair warning: I really like exclamation points and parentheses!)
I am passionate about GAfE (Google Apps for Education).
In a nutshell: You can share everything students create across devices. Google Drive allows you take pictures and automatically upload them into your own very large database that you can access from anywhere. You can create folders in your Drive to keep everything organized.
How I use it: Although your students may have their own accounts, I use a shared account for the shared devices in my classroom. I gave each student a folder and taught them how to access it. Students can take photos right in the app to skip the step of uploading. The camera is a powerful way to document anything they do. No need to save piles of paper; draw on a whiteboard and take a picture! I also have students create a document and type on the iPad. They can type our morning message, their writing pieces, or their own list of sight words!
Notes: If you are a GAfE school and have 1:1 devices, I recommend using Google Classroom instead for ease of organization. There are other non-Google apps that will do similar things, but not all are free with this amount of storage!
Seesaw – The Learning Journal
If I had to choose only one app, this would be it.
In a nutshell: Teachers create a free account and a class (or classes). Students can add pictures, videos, links, drawings, and more to a personal portfolio. They tag themselves, and it will share the item with their parents/caregivers (who also need the free app on their end). It can easily be built into a class with as little as ONE shared device! It is also perfect for any level Pre-K-12.
How I use it: For everything! I can’t list all the ways to use it here, but I will share some of my favorites. We use Seesaw…
- during morning message by typing the message for the day (example below).
- at center time to take a picture of hands-on work they have accomplished to hold them accountable.
- during math to take pictures of math manipulatives and then explain new concepts using the audio feature.
- at writing time to photograph their latest writing and add audio of themselves reading it.
- along with other creation apps, so we can share our hard work.
- to share what we have done with ALL the parents with only one click (just tag the whole class)!
- to send notes as reminders that go directly to parents on their phones.
- to record a video newsletter each week starring students and sent home to parents! (I haven’t done this one yet, but my colleagues in first grade do!)
I could go on and on! The creators of Seesaw are amazing and extremely responsive to educators using their tool. It is perfect for all ages!
QR Code Scanner
You have seen these codes all over on signs, posters, products, and more!
In a nutshell: A quick-response code is a way to easily get information on your screen. You can link a code to just about anything–images, text, videos, web sites, and more. They are also extremely easy to create on your own! Students scan the code with the scanner on most any device and see your linked content right before their eyes.
How I use it: My first use for QR codes was linking to listening center stories on YouTube or other free read alouds available on the Internet. The students scan, listen, and respond! I have added QR codes that read directions to students, sing our weekly poems, and name pictures they may struggle to identify. Check out this FREEBIE of reading comprehension questions that students can scan and have read to them! Another great use for any age is a QR code scavenger hunt. Students scan a code, get a clue (i.e. definitions to CVC words), and then find the next image or word. They continue until reaching the end! My students LOVE these because they can move around the room while learning!
Something for fun creation!
In a nutshell: Take a picture of ANYTHING, draw a line as the “mouth,” and then record what you want it to say! Oh, and then laugh hysterically!
How I use it: Earlier in the year we took pictures of school supplies and added our voices as the supply telling us about their proper use (imagine a glue stick telling you to put the cap back on!). Using our weekly poem, we take an associated image and have students sing it (i.e. a bear sang to us about hibernation). Older students could take a picture of a book cover and have the book tell a synopsis or give reasons why others should read it.
This app comes from the same creators of Seesaw and is a great tool for students to create in on their own.
In a nutshell: Students upload pictures into the app and create a slideshow. Students can record audio, add background music, and customize their images. These can be saved to the device, uploaded to YouTube, or shared in Seesaw.
How I use it: Since I have kindergarten students, we have mostly used this in partnerships and small groups. Students recently took images for the different steps of how to brush teeth. Then they inserted the images and told the steps to go along with it. Below is a video of last year’s students making slideshows to explain how to complete our different reading centers. I have had students draw their own images and then take pictures of their own drawings. We can then use them to teach others about a new topic. For older students they could easily be independent creating slideshows with little guidance. There are lots of available images that are safe for students to use, as well! Students could retell a story, explain a life cycle, or teach others how to do something.
Do I use more than five apps? Of course I do! However, if I had to choose five, these would be it! They all take up very little storage space, allowing you to request less expensive devices, as well! Allow students to think critically by teaching others and having a chance to create with technology instead of just consuming it!
Erin Weingaertner lives in Geneseo, NY. She is a mom of two beautiful girls and wife with a supportive husband. She has a Bachelors degree in Early Childhood Education, a Masters in Literacy, and over 10 years of teaching experience in these areas. Her latest passion is educational technology and how best to use it to make teacher lives easier while engaging students and meeting learning needs. Check out her blog and follow her on Pinterest to see these tech ideas in action and learn some tips and tricks. This past fall she began contributing to TPT through her store, rrrErin2Learn.