Thursday, September 19, 2013

Revised list of 6 must-haves for elementary iPads

I enjoy setting up iPad carts for elementary. As a former classroom teacher, I see the possibilities as I download each app to the devices. I know there are differing opinions, but I always err on putting too many apps on the student iPads. I want options, and I don't want to stop everything and download an app in the middle of class when a student really needs it. So here's a revised list of 6 apps (or categories of apps) I would never leave off a student iPad.

Voice Recorders (QuickVoice, iTalk, Voice Record HD)
I love multi-purpose apps. The possibilities are endless with voice recorders. Students can conduct interviews, listen to their fluency, read their own writing, or anything else. All three apps I listed above work great. You can record, save, and export. Voice Record HD offers many more exporting options. All are free.

Presentations (Keynote, Haiku Deck, SnapGuide)
Here are three great options. Keynote is the best, but it's also $10. If you want free alternatives, then try Haiku Deck and SnapGuide. Haiku Deck lets you create visually rich presentations using copyright free images. SnapGuide will use your own pictures or video, all packaged in a neat slideshow format. 

Multimedia (iMovie, 30Hands, PuppetPalsHD)
iMovie is easily my favorite app. It's applicable to any content and age group. You have to pay $4.99, but it's money well spent. 30Hands is a great app for adding narration to pictures. Puppet Pals lets you make puppet shows narrated by students. All great apps that students can use creatively to show their learning.

QR Reader (QRafter)
If your students have devices, they need to be able to read QR codes. Which means you need to make QR codes a part of your teaching. There's no better way to efficiently send students to digital resources or secret text messages. Post them around the room, on worksheets, backs of books, or anywhere else. 

For many reasons. First, you can easily create a classroom account with notebooks for each student. Then you have a shared drive for word processing documents, research, pictures, or anything else. Second, it's log in specific. You can log in to a cart of classroom iPads and it will stay logged on. Or if you go with student accounts, they can log out when they're done and pass it along to another student. 

Pic Collage
What a great app. It's probably the first one that got a lot of buzz in our district and it's still at the top of most lists. Easily import pictures to make your own collage. Add text and backgrounds and you're done. Great way to share learning. Here's how a fifth grade class used Pic Collage to show their learning about genre: Mrs. Robison's Genre Project

I tried to be succinct. There's just so many great apps out there. Hope you found something new to add to your iPads. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

iPad Word Clouds: Four options

Everyone loves word clouds. And why not? They are great tools for students to show information about themselves, their interests, and learning. For many years, students across our district have used quality tools like Wordle and Tagxedo to create word clouds on school computers. But what about the iPad? Here are a couple of options that you should consider.


WordSalad - Free
Here's a simple free app for word clouds. With WordSalad, you will have to write the text of the cloud in another app. I used Notes to quickly type my text. Then I copied and pasted the text into the WordSalad app. There are several options for fonts, colors, and simple arrangements. It then can be exported to the camera roll. Sounds perfect. It's not. There is a watermark on the app that you can't remove. It's very noticeable, and personally, drives me crazy. It's a shame because otherwise, WordSalad is a good app. 


Textagon - Free
A more simplistic app that lacks any bells and whistles. Tap on the screen and you can enter text or copy/paste it in. Now if you like design elements, stop reading. Because it only arranges the text in block form. You can change the text and background color and the weight of the text. You can add a background image. And that's about it. Export your finished work to the camera roll. 

So those were free. Here are some paid options. I know, nobody wants to pay for apps. I've had teachers nearly throw their iPads at me when I mention an app that you have to pay for. But these are worth it. Really. 

Cloudart - $.99
Now we're getting some options. With Cloudart, you can create your clouds from a webpage or enter your own text. There are options for changing the density, emphasis, roundness, font, layout, and color scheme. You can
press one of two buttons to quickly see different random layouts or just tweak the one you have. Word clouds can be saved inside the app to use later. Or you can export to the camera roll or email your finished product. It's very easy to use and the product is excellent. A great buy at just $.99. 

Visual Poetry
Visual Poetry - $1.99
So I left the best for last. And the priciest. But I think the name of the app is right on. It reminds me of Tagxedo. Visual Poetry lets you have complete control. There are lots of templates you can use to change the shape of your cloud. Use one of their templates and then customize the text colors, fonts, size, background color, brightness, or add your own background image. A crazy amount of customization. Save your creation to the camera roll, email, Tweet, or Instagram (all the kids are doing it these days). It's really a cool app. 

There you go. I don't like to steer people towards spending money, but when it comes to current word cloud apps, you definitely get what you pay for. Doesn't it sound strange when you describe a two dollar app as being pricey?