New boxes of crayons. Yellow number two pencils sharpened to a point. Binders with college ruled papers all organized perfectly. Shoes without scuffs and a matching new outfit.
All of the above bring anticipated thoughts of the start of a new school year. But, for me, updating iPod software, re-syncing, and creating a start-up list of apps are what the new year means for my back-to-school routine.
When introducing your iPods/iPads to your new class, you do not want to overwhelm them with 100 different apps. What you want your students to understand right from the get-go is that iPods/iPads are not toys. Many of your students will come from homes where they already have iPods and iPads. They primarily know these devices as gaming tools; as a way of playing Angry Birds and Cut the Rope. You want to help them relearn that iPods/iPads are learning tools that are critical to their success in school; that when they pick up their iPod at school, that does not equal time to “zone out” playing games and listening to music.
While I believe learning games have a time and a place in school, they should not be the only focus of iPod/iPad use in your classroom. You want students to understand that their device is their connection to answers via the web and a research tool. You want students to be able to effectively use iPods/iPads to communicate and collaborate with others and share their learning. You want your students to be able to create and use critical thinking skills. With these 21st Century skills (communicate, collaborate, create, and critical thinking) your students will be able to enhance their learning. And your choice of apps will directly effect the success of your students’ use of the essential 21st Century skills. You really want to differentiate the difference between “skill review apps” and “creative apps” (see blog post Creative Apps vs. Skill Review Apps). So when selecting your start-up apps ask yourself the following questions:
- Will this app promote creativity?
- Will this app require critical thinking?
- Will this app enhance communication skills?
- Will this app enhance collaboration?
- Can I use this app in all content areas?
Begin by selecting no more than 12 apps to start off your school year. The majority of your apps should be apps that you plan on using in all content areas. Resist the urge to download 100 different apps. If you do this, you will overwhelm your students. I believe you should begin small. Let them get to know a small number of apps well, then build as your year progresses. I also encourage you to select apps based on what you are learning about in class at a particular time. Don’t feel like once you have introduced a new app that it must stay on that iPod for the rest of the year.
Here is the list of apps I begin my year with:
SimpleMind+: Simple mind is a mind mapping app that I use in all content areas for brainstorming ideas. Students create and collaborate in teams to demonstrate their understanding in Social Studies and Science. They also create webs of ideas for their writing. See blog post called SimpleMind: Digital Mind Maps for the Classroom.
DoodleBuddy: DoodleBuddy is used as a personal whiteboard to demonstrate learning.
SonicPics: I use SonicPics so students can effectively communicate their learning and/or comprehension. See my blog posts called 10 Effective Apps for Students with Autism and How Apps Promote Learning for details.
Edmodo: Edmodo is a social networking site created for education. Using Edmodo, students are able to collaborate, create, demonstrate critical thinking, and communicate ideas.
RL Classic: This is simply a QR code reader.
ComicTouchLite: This is an app I have students use to create comic books to demonstrate their comprehension or to help create interesting ideas for their writing.
Dictionary.com: While I currently use the free version of this app (it contains ads) I am hoping to be able to purchase this app for all of my iPods. This app has a great thesaurus built into it and an excellent voice to text option (only available on the paid version).
Accelerated Reader: My school uses the web version of AR and the app works really well. What I like most about the AR app is that when my students finish taking their quiz, they are able to view their TOPS report. This report allows them to monitor their progress toward their personal AR goal for the trimester. It shows also shows them their average percent correct on their quizzes for a selected period of time (the trimester dates). This has really helped my students to think critically about their comprehension success.
DragonDictation: This app is a speech to text app that really assists students with spelling and to help with effective communication skills.
In addition, I include two “skill review” apps; one Language Arts app and one Math app. This year I started the year off with:
Boggle: This year I am implementing the Daily 5 into my reading block. This app is an excellent app for students to use for Word Work.
MathAcademy: I chose this app because my students need to be able to pass their times tables by October 1 to meet their first learning target. This app allows my students to practice math fluency with addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division. It also allows them to select levels of difficulty so my students can personalize their learning.
Web-clips I include:
Edmodo: I include the Edmodo web-clip so my students can use the Edmodo quiz option that is not currently available on the Edmodo App.
My Class Website
Google Response Form (see blog post called Use Google Forms and Go Paperless!)
Getting your devices ready for the new school year can be seriously time consuming. Especially since they have mostly likely been sitting in storage all summer long and perhaps missed some software updates. I suggest creating a “master” iPod. On this master iPod, you will set everything up the way you want all of your iPods to look:
1. Update that iPod’s software (if needed).
2. Be sure to set up your school’s wifi password. You may also want to set up your home’s password as well, if you plan on working on iPods at home.
3. Carefully select the start-up apps you want on your iPod.
4. Create any web-clips you want included.
5. Create folders. I usually create a folder for all those apps that you can’t remove but rarely use. (For example, settings, contacts, mail, stocks, game center, maps, Appstore, and Find my iPod).
6. Set up email/contacts (with your teacher email).
7. Set up Find My iPod Touch account.
8. Setup restrictions in general settings.
Once you have created your “master” iPod, you can quickly sync each of your other iPods simply by restoring all them to your “master” iPod’s settings. In this blog post, I won’t go into detail about all of these steps, as Escondido Union School District’s iRead website has excellent directions for iPod and iTunes setup. Following these directions for me was critical to make the rest of my school-year syncing smooth and easy. Link to the directions on EUSD’s iRead Website.