Whatever your platform there’s a list of great apps f or you. The helpful folks at Tablet Academy UK and Tablet Academy Scotland have compiled three lists of favourite apps for education. They are a completely independent consultancy and provide good advice which is completely platform agnostic, and utilises good local knowledge (unlike some businesses I could mention).
So here are the lists – and if you think there are any missing, then let them know….
Apple and Microsoft both have really mature education ecosystems, with the Apple Professional Development/Distinguished Educator and Microsoft Partners in Learning/ Innovative Educator programmes. iTunesU is billed as the world’s largest repository of free education content (at last count there were over half a million different courses in there) – and it has to be one of the strongest ‘draws’of the Apple education programme. There is great content from some of the world’s leading education institutions and yet schools and their teachers can have courses that they’ve created up there with these leading lights.
Much of the material is multi-media and there are some nifty features included in the app version such as the note-taking tool. This keeps a record of the precise place in the resource that you were at when you made your note – a kind of digital bookmark, and you can share your finds with others via social media or email. If you’re doing a course, then your assignments are coordinated with the materials and any changes or notifications about changes or additions to the course get pushed out to you. These features have been well thought out,as you’d expect from Apple,of course.
One of the things I like is the egalitarian nature of this platform. You can have your courses up there with some of the great and the good, so your senior art class resources could sit next to content from New York’s MoMA ! A simple search engine brings up great content for both learning and teaching or staff professional development. There is really nothing else like it around at the moment and its almost like having a world-class education shrunk into every iPad.
iTunesU is a winner, and a reason to own an iPad. Its one of the apps which keeps the iPad at the top of the tree when it comes to tablet devices for education. It’s always enthusiastically received at Apple training events and iPad courses I’ve run as schools realise that its not just about high-brow higher education content, but is really accessible to them both as a source of materials and as a repository for their own stuff too. If you have a look through the content, you’ll be fascinated by the range of materials there are. The only caveat is that you need Apple devices to be able to view or use it however if your school or institution has 1:1 with iPads, then iTunesU is a great place to store and manage your student courses and for the students to work within..
iTunesU is one of those tools which sits really well with my Knowledge Grazing work. If you’ve not yet explored it, I think its well worth a couple of hours.Time well spent. And if its professional development you are looking for, this is where it really comes into its own as far as I’m concerned. Because it is meaningful activity which is self-directed rather than being ‘done to’ you, and this is always more valuable, has greater impact, and is long-.lasting.
I’m writing this blog post on my Windows 8 Surface Pro tablet – but its appearing on my laptop screen.
I should explain; I love Apple TV. The ability to present whilst wandering around the room or even have students displaying their work by having their ipad screens projected onto the whiteboard is such a powerful experience. It was one of the things I always missed when using my Windows 8 tablet…but now I’ve found the solution! From the folks at MirrorOp
MirrorOp is a nifty little product which can connect your Windows 8 or Android tablets to your PC or Laptop. So now, you can use any tablet during presentations without being limited by the length of your cable. You can even link your iPad to your Windows laptop.
I’ve used this product successfully now a couple of times and it is free (although you do have to pay for some of the enhanced functions). All you need to do is go to their website and download onto your devices and laptop.
Windows 8 and Android tablets for presenting? problem solved by MirrorOp
I’ve written about the three ‘killer’ iPad apps before, and more recently, about my favourite Android apps, and so its time to do Windows 8. Now Windows 8 came late to the party; the Android and Apple offerings are much more mature and this is reflected in the choice of apps available.
But Windows 8 is catching up fast, and for the increasing numbers of owners of tablets running this operating system, the message is that there are some real quality apps available for use in learning and teaching. There are a few surprise uses for Bing features as well to check out too, but here are some of my favourites apps at the moment …
- Send To QR Code - allows you to send a web page as a QR code to recipients using the Windows Share Charm.
- MQR QR Code Designer -create your own design QR codes.
- Easy Q R -reads and writes QR codes.
- Unit Conversion Tool -converts between units such as weights, distance, speed etc
- NovaMind Mind Mapping -an excellent free Mind mapping tool.
- Toolbox for Windows 8 (lets you have up to six selected windows open at one time)
- 9Slides - lets you record a video commentary on your PowerPoint presentation and runs alongside it in a split screen.
- MegaTube YouTube downloader – lets you search and download video from YouTube and save in your device library, then use from there.
- My Homework – a homework and planner app which helps students stay organised.
- Lesson Plan Manager – an organisation tool for educators which lets them plan,manage and share their resources for learning and teaching.
- Be a Martian- One of the NASA group of apps. This one concentrates on Mars exploration and the latest Mars Rover.
- Periodic Table – Always great apps for this, whatever your preference. Like short videos about each element and plenty of images.
- Khan Academy – Learn just about anything from these amazing video shorts.
- Corinth Micro Plant – Plant anatomy and function made visual and simple (you need to like them on Facebook to unlock some of the features) Corinth Anatomy and Engine are also great.
- GeoGebra – A cute free maths app which brings together algebra and geometry and lots of other useful maths into one easy to use app.
- Record Voice and Pen - an app for creating video’s for lessons, instructions, presentations or any type of screen casting. It records your voice and the drawing with your pen or finger at the same time. You can annotate pictures while explaining, and share it as videos (mp4 files) by mail, upload to YouTube or Facebook, or use it in presentations and classrooms.
- Bing Translator - is your companion when you need to quickly translate what you are looking at. Use your camera or just type the text you want to translate. Text and camera translation work offline with downloadable language packs, so you can get the power of Bing Translator on-the-go, even when you don’t have an Internet connection!
- Skitch Touch - Skitch Touch is a free tool for communicating visually with friends, co-workers, and the world. Annotate images with arrows, shapes, text, and more. Use Skitch to sketch something new, mark up maps, screen captures, or even a photo. Then save or share your Skitch annotation to help others see and understand your ideas.
- Fresh Paint - a fun and realistic painting application. Fresh Paint is an easy to use, free app that includes oil paint and all the tools you need to paint. Whether you are an aspiring artist, parent, or kid (or kid at heart), Fresh Paint will help you unleash your inner creativity.
- Comic Director - create awesome comics and share them with your friends! Use your own photos and video to create fun short comics to illustrate your life. Once you’ve added your photos, expand the comics with cool art and images built into the app. Trim and edit your own videos right in the app! If you would rather create your own art, then you can use a fun and creative drawing tool.
- Music Maker Jam - Combine the song parts and instruments to get the sound you want, then adjust the key and the tempo or add some great effects in real-time. Intuitive touch-screen control puts the full studio experience in the palm of your hand! all of the sounds are perfectly synchronized to keep you on the beat when you’re jamming live in front of friends and fans!
- Kids Story Builder - Help young kids create their own exciting and personalized stories using real photos and voices. One technique that’s fun is to use the webcam on the device to get the visuals and then let their imaginations run wild in the classroom.
These are just a few of my top picks (and thanks to the folks at PiL for suggestions). The range of Windows 8 apps is growing all the time. Keep an eye out for more great classroom and learning tools…
The disturbing news this morning that the Ugandan President has signed the draconian anti -LGBT laws into place is something which should concern all of us who are involved in Education. Kelvin puts his view very directly in a great blog post about the situation over there. I could say a lot about this issue but I’m going to confine myself to the potential effects upon educators and students.
For as well as directing a life prison sentence for anyone involved in or suspected of engaging of ‘aggrevated homosexuality’ (by this they really mean being open or engaging in any equality or protest activity) it also puts in place a duty to inform upon everyone in positions of responsibility or influence. And this means teachers, lecturers and academics. So now young Ugandan men and women will not be able to open up to or seek advice from school or university counsellors, or their teachers and tutors, for fear of being reported. And if the educators don’t inform on their students, they risk three years in prison for not doing so. They would also risk imprisonment for even mentioning homosexuality in anything but a negative light during classes and lectures.
I see these laws as an attack on many things, but especially on the duty of care all those in education have towards the emotional well being and development of a positive self image, of those in their charge. Criminalising educators is a dangerous road to travel, and one which those in positions of influence must challenge with the Ugandan Government and Ministry of Education. These include President Obama, Prime Minister Cameron, The EU, and UNESCO.
There is now a developing argument for withdrawing western aid to Uganda, and the argument goes if you don’t like so-called ‘western’ values, then do without western money (and its a substantial amount – $240 Million from the USA alone this year). I’m not sure about this, but I do think that there will be a developing traction toward this school of thought from all over Europe, the Americas, and South Africa.
Perhaps we can leave the last words to Archbishop Tutu (and also the Dean of Cape Town, the very revd. Michael Weeder who also spoke out strongly alongside the Archbishop Emeritus)- who last week broke down in tears when talking about this situation, and other issues in Africa. He compares the Ugandan Government’s actions with what happened in Nazi Germany. And speaking just as a teacher, I can see what he means…and what he is so afraid of.
This could be good news for Windows 8 tablet manufacturers… A significant price cut for the operating system would reduce the overall price of the tablet to the consumer.
Every little helps, as they say… Microsoft Said to Cut Windows Price 70% to Counter Rivals – Bloomberg.
It is always dangerous to get sucked into playing the comparison game between products and tools in education. Choices should be based firmly on need be they for devices or learning platforms. Microsoft Office 365 for Education and Google Apps are probably the two biggest players when it comes to productivity in the classroom and as such, comparisons are inevitable and it is perhaps worth a look at how these two shape up against each other. Both offer communication and productivity and storage tools based in the cloud.
Its no secret that I haven’t always been a fan of Office 365 for education – but then again, I’m not alone in this. Over two years ago when Education Scotland was comparing it with Google Apps for education, the users from schools who took part in a series of comparison tests voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Google products. At the time, they were probably right. Google were offering a mature product which was very familiar to most people, whereas the Microsoft produce, Office 365 for Education had not even been fully launched. When you add the general dissatisfaction which existed within the Scottish Education community over Glow (the Scottish Schools Digital Network which was built on an earlier version of Microsoft SharePoint) to this product immaturity, it is hardly surprising that this was the case. There were issues over the functionality of Office 365 on certain devices and platforms, and at the time, the decision made by the Scottish Government to go with Microsoft rather than Google looked to many people like a very bad one indeed. As it turns out, we were all quite wrong.
Fast forward two years and Office 365 for education has matured into a very good product indeed. The functionality issues on mobile devices appear to have been solved and the product now works very well across all three operating systems – something which is very important indeed for education. It is free to schools and those who sign up benefit from a superb range of tools designed for business use but which bring really awesome connectivity and productivity potential right into the classroom and which can be used by students and educators anywhere and at any time. The web versions of Office Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote let you work on your files wherever you are and in collaboration with other users (in real time if you want) and communication tools like instant messaging, shared calendars and Lync video conferencing really extend learning so that it becomes more and more self organised. This spin-off of giving students the tools which empower them to take ownership of their learning journeys is really significant; if we want to equip our youngsters with the skills they need to flourish in the information age, in the fast-changing pace of the twenty first century, then we need to be shifting our pedagogy away from an information transmission mode towards a much more looser heutagogy.
Office 365 for Education scores very highly in this respect. The creativity factor it’s tools and features encourage also move us away from the era of content consumption towards a creative agenda. Content alone is no longer king – its been replaced by the collaborative creation of content by people working together to create stuff which is relevant to their lives and their futures using tools which are culturally relevant to them. So they multi-task, creating and working together using technology to chat and discuss whilst they are doing it. When content is created, there is 25Gb of storage space on each users’s OneDrive (the storage tool integrated into 365)-my Google drive only gives me 15 Gb.
Office 365 for Education now fares much more positively than it did two years ago in comparison to Google Apps. Actually, it is now much better than Google, because it is a complete ecosystem of tools and features working together in an integrated and coordinated fashion. It is not just a collection of tools and services jumbled together, which is what Google Apps is, in my opinion. For example, you can invite people to join in a Lync video conference simply by sending them the link – nothing else required. Compare this to Google Hangouts where everyone participating has to sign up for a Google+ account before they join. Some people just wouldn’t want to do this (and you can currently only have ten folks in a hangout compared to many, many more in a Lync meeting). With the primary revenue stream for Google being advertising, I’m also nervous about Google scanning my email and the work I do for key words which might then be used to target advertising towards me.
The off line functionality with Office 365 is ahead of anything Google can offer and the interoperability between desktop productivity tools and the web versions is really very useful- the link between home and school is now better than ever.
Everything an educator might need in order to be able to interact with students can be reached just by logging in once. Great for evening homework help sessions or revision workshops at weekends before big exams. In fact, there is no need for a teacher to use any other external tools for communicating with students. Office 365 is a safe and secure platform for every teacher-student interaction, and this is good news for schools sensitive to the potential for misuse or accusations of inappropriate contact.
Microsoft has managed to join all the dots when it comes to a managed learning platform for education. The complete ecosystem of highly integrated services looks and feels like a highly versatile learning system. These productivity and communication tools really turbo-charge the potential for creativity. They can bring the world into the classroom,but also take the classroom out to the world. Having recently spent a lot of time working with Office 365 I’ve really started to see the potential it has for innovative and creative use in schools and other education settings.