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CDETB Curriculum Development Unit | App of the week – reviews 2018-2019
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Enjoy the summer!


Friday, 21st June 2019


iNaturalist – Connect with Nature

At this time of the year, most people are enjoying the great outdoors. Found a plant or animal in nature and not sure what it you’re looking at? This handy app, developed by the California Academia of Sciences and National Geographic, might be able to help. Their tutorial explains in a few steps how to use it: Take a full frame picture of it and the app will identify it for you. You can also discuss your finding with the wider community and get confirmation. You might have stumbled across something rare – so your discovery can be shared with scientists who are working to protect nature.

Create a new account or log in with your Facebook or Gmail account. The main menu is quite intuitive: ‘explore’ (the app asks for access to your GPS to pinpoint your location), ‘activity’ will send you updates based on your observations, ‘observe’ lets you take photos (access is needed to your camera) and ‘projects’ are “collections of observations with a common purpose” (some of which might be nearby). You can also download ‘guides’ or create your own. ‘Me’ shows the observations you have made.

This first success was the app recognising the parsley plant the librarian is growing in the (ehem) library. But it also correctly identified other plants in the CDU garden. Click on ‘suggestions’ if you are not sure of what you just saw. The top ten of suggestions seem to be spot on, but you can also look up by species by name. Exploring what other people had found nearby was quite exciting.

Could be used for: Biology classes, outdoor activities, and for anyone interested in the environment.

What I liked about it: easy to use while on the go – and you are part of a citizen scientist project!

Look out for: as always, be careful what you post online (e.g. no humans in the photo)

Available from the Apple App Store and on Google Play.

More information here: https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/video+tutorials



Friday, 31st May 2019

Nonogram.com – Brain Game

Simply download the app. No sign up required, but you need to accept its terms and privacy policy. This is for players over 16 years of age, which probably has to do with the amount of advertisement you encounter.

According to Wikipedia, “Nonograms, also known as Picross or Griddlers, are picture logic puzzles in which cells in a grid must be colored or left blank according to numbers at the side of the grid to reveal a hidden picture.“ Here, “x” marks boxes where there is free space. The square box denotes a used space – so for a “4”, for example, you need to mark four adjoining fields with a square box. Rows and columns that are correct become “invisible”. Move between “x” and a square by moving the slider at the bottom of the puzzle. The numbers in the labels indicate the amount of squares hidden in each row or column, and they are in sequence.

Try out the basic puzzles first. You have three lives, which means that basically you can make three mistakes. If you need more lives, you need to sign up to watch ads. Alternatively, you can try the same puzzle again. Of course, this time around you might remember where the fields are. A tutorial at the start explains the game quickly.

Could be used for: Logical thinking exercises, especially with students who dislike numbers.

What I liked about it: This has the old grey cells working.

Watch out for: Ads at bottom of the screen as well as lengthy ads and videos between games which are full screen and easily tapped.

Available from the Apple App Store.

More information here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonogram and https://www.nonograms.org



Friday, 24th May 2019

      Book reviews

Have you recently read a book that really captured your imagination? And now you need another one, but don’t know which one to pick? Here’s an app that will help you with your summer reading. Goodreads is a bit of a “classic” – it’s been around for a while.

You first need to sign up – either create a new account or through Facebook or Amazon. You can then join the challenge – how many books do you want to read this year? Either set yourself a reading goal or skip this step. You can also share reviews and recommendations with friends via Facebook, your own contact list or per invite. This might work best in a classroom setting where you want students to show their friends which books they have read.

The main menu lists books by genre. Select as many as you want. You need to rate 20 books in order to get personalised recommendations. Browse through the listing to see which one you want to rate using their “one to five stars” system. You can also select “want to read” – this book will be added to your own reading list. All of these books will be listed on two different personalised shelves.

You can search for books by title, author or ISBN. If you allow the app access to your camera, you can scan book barcodes and see what ratings and/or reviews this book has already received. This might be handy if you’re in a bookshop (or indeed a library!).

Could be used for: reading challenges in the classroom; getting students to write short reviews.

What I like about it: it’s widely used.

Watch out for: as always, algorithms are no match for human word of mouth. There is also a certain amount of personalised advertisements.

Available from the Apple App Store, on Google Play and online (on the website you can also log in via your Twitter or Google account). You can also just browse reviews on the website without an account.

More info here: https://www.goodreads.com/


Friday, 17th May 2019


Jigsaw Puzzles Epic


If you need a distraction from exams, why not do a jigsaw? Jigsaw Puzzles Epic is an app which has thousands on offer.

Download the app and accept the privacy policy. You go straight into your first simple jigsaw. Use your finger to move the pieces around. You can go on to the next one or choose a different one by clicking on “puzzles” on the right. Selecting the “setting” button on the left opens a sub menu. You can set yourself goals, such as “complete any 100 piece puzzle”. The “game centre” button in the right hand corner (icon displaying multiple bubbles) allows you to go public and share your results in multiplayer games. The “options” icon reveals a multitude of menu items: you can change the background, the shape and size of pieces, etc. You can even download all jigsaws for offline use, but that might take up too much space on your device.

Save your finished jigsaw to your photos – you could now use the image as your device’s wallpaper, for example. If you don’t want to be reminded of joining the game centre, simply untick this box in the “options” menu. Once you’ve selected a jigsaw, there are more choices: e.g. do you want only edge pieces to be shown initially? This might suit some players.

Could be used: everybody loves a good jigsaw! Could be used to calm some pre-exam nerves.
What I liked about it: No sign in needed.
Watch out for: pop up ads at the bottom of the screen and full ads popping up occasionally might be clicked at incidentally (you can click them away)

Available from the Apple App Store and on Google Play.
More info here: https://www.kristanix.com/jigsawpuzzleepic/


Friday, 10th May 2019

Voki – Speaking Characters


From their website: “Voki is a free collection of customizable speaking avatars for teachers and students that enhances classroom instruction, class engagement, and lesson comprehension.”

Simply download the app, which opens automatically without login. An avatar greets you and you have to tap the play button a few times as she only utters one sentence at a time – I thought she might explain what to do next, but she just came up with random stuff (in a slightly annoying voice).

But creating your own avatar is easy. Click on the icons to the left of the screen and select the character you want to be: a human being, an animal, or a fantasy character. I went for dragon lady. Next, you can choose clothing and head gear, and a background. The colour palette symbol lets you change your avatar’s features.

Let your avatar speak by typing into the speech box (hidden under the “loudspeaker symbol”) – try a different language or change the speed (the “chipmunk” version might be of interest). You can also record your own voice (up to a minute). You can now share your avatar on social media, by email or embed it on a website. Additionally, you can also create free presentations using a character: https://www.voki.com/presenter/create

Teachers can sign up to the free basic classroom (for 5 students). Combined with the presentation feature on the website you could use this app as a basic teaching aid with a small group.

Could be used for: helping shy students express themselves.

What I like about it: it’s fun playing around with the different characters and accessories.

Watch out for:  the paid versions of avatars – but they are clearly marked, so students shouldn’t fall into the trap. And that annoying voice.

Available from the Apple App Store, on Google Play or online.

More info here: https://www.voki.com/


Friday, 19th April 2019

Good Friday – CDU closed


Friday, 12th April 2019


The MYCIRQA Reader App

UPDATE 7th MAY: And we’re online! Simply download the app from your device’s app store and find us by typing “Curriculum”. 

Today we’re experiencing some problems with our wifi, so no review. But here is a sneak preview of a new app for the CDU library, available in May. We run a library management system (Cirqa), which basically lists all books, CDs and videos available for loan. The catalogue is available here:

– This app is not available yet-

The following information has been provided by Heritage, the company behind the library management system:

Save yourself a trip to your library with MyCirqa, the fastest and easiest way to keep an eye on your Heritage Cirqa library activities. At a glance, the home screen shows a summary of all the numbers that matter to you: how many loans you have, what fines you owe, your reservations and any messages waiting for you. Six clear icons will take you to more detailed information about:

Loans – showing details of each item, when it is due for return and renewal options
Overdues – by how many days and if the library charges fines, what is owed for that item
Messages – automatically generated by the system about your account, or from the librarian
Charges – outstanding total amounts owed (the CDU library does not run a fining system😎)
Reservations – list of all your currently reserved items
Collect – your available reservations and, if your library is multisite, where to collect them from

Filtering and sorting helps narrow down item lists and selected items can be forwarded by email, message or printed out.

Which devices are supported?
It is available to download for iPhone and Android.

Please note that you need to contact the library, if you want a reader account. If you have borrowed books from the library in the past, you have an account already – just contact the library for your details.

You don’t need an account in order to see what books we have: http://curriculum.heritage4.com/


Friday, 22nd March 2019


MindShift – Free Evidence-Based Mental Health Relief

From the Reachout.com website: “MindShift is an app that uses CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) based guidance and evaluation to help young people learn and practice anxiety coping skills […]: developing their knowledge of anxiety and symptoms, engaging in relaxation tasks, evaluating their level of anxiety in particular situations, developing realistic thinking patterns and changing behaviour. Young people can also tag their favourite approaches for easy access later.”

You need to create an account. Interestingly, this app asks you for your nickname, presumably to establish rapport with the user. The main menu invites you to describe how you are currently feeling in the form of a “smiley”, which you can alter by sliding a little button. A submenu checks what kind of anxieties the user is feeling ranging from ‘general worry’, ‘social anxiety’, ‘perfectionism’, ‘panic’ to ‘phobias’. Here you can find general information, advice on signs to watch out for as well as tips on how to cope.

The ‘tool’ section has three options: ‘healthy thinking’, ‘chill zone’ and ‘taking action’. ‘Healthy thinking’ gives access to a ‘thought journal’, which is basically an interactive diary. You can type a message and the app lists common ‘thinking traps’, which you can select. The next step, ‘balancing your thought’, then provides the user with alternative statements to think about. ‘Coping cards’ are short statements of positive thoughts. You can also create your own. The most interesting is ‘belief experiments’: you can set up experiments to test out beliefs that fuel anxiety in different circumstances, make a prediction of what will happen and select a date on which to check how things have panned out.

The ‘chill zone’ contains short audio files (male or female voice) which are breathing and mindfulness exercises to help the user relax. ‘Taking action’ has more exercises and information on how to change to a more positive outlook.

Explanatory notes pop up throughout the app guiding the user along. The ‘learn’ icon provides a kind of ‘frequently asked questions’ section on anxiety. Clicking on the ‘smiley’ icon in the bottom menu opens up the ‘quick relief’ menu, which lists small things the user can do, e.g. ‘take a breath’. This seems to act as a mental first aid kit. ‘Goals’ lets the user set targets they want to achieve in making changes. You can also share your experiences and your progress with others (your data will be sent as an attachment via email). This feature did not work for me.

Could be used for: helping young people to develop coping mechanisms for stressful situations, especially around exam time.

What I like about it: it’s a friendly, non-judgmental app that gives plenty of information and encouragement.

Watch out for: this app is no replacement for professional help and there is plenty of text to read. You might want to give students some advice on Irish helplines and websites.

Available from the Apple App Store and on Google Play.

More info here: https://www.anxietycanada.com/mindshift-cbt


Friday, 15th March 2019


Pocket: Read it later


Pocket lets you collect online content for offline use. From their website: “…save interesting articles, videos and more from the web for later enjoyment. Once saved to Pocket, the list of content is visible on any device — phone, tablet or computer.”

Sign up with your email or through your Gmail account. You need to create a password. Pocket can be added to your apps and to your computer browser enabling you to save videos and articles, but you can skip that step. A short audio explanation is available, but it has the feel of a corporate promotional tool rather than an educational aid.

The layout is quite intuitive. The following features are available at the bottom of the screen:

Articles and videos are stored separately. Just select the extension to the main menu (“home symbol” on the left). “Discover” lets you browse content that may be of interest to you as suggested by the app. Add tags for ease of retrieving it later. You can follow recommended people or link your own Twitter, Facebook and email contacts with the app. Recommend and share content with people you know and on social media. “Activity” is activated when a friend shares an item with you or starts following you. You can also update your profile by selecting the last icon.

The coolest bit for me was the “headphone” icon, which reads the selected article to you.

Could be used for: Pocket is basically a bookmarking device, which might help organise your Internet reading.

What I liked about it: by clicking on the “headphone” icon, the app turns written information into podcasts. This could be helpful for students with vision problems. Also handy for the daily commute.

Watch out for: careful when connecting your email contact list with any app – there might be data protection issues here.

Available from the Apple App Store, on Google Play, for all types of mobiles and social media apps as well as a browser extension.

More info here: https://getpocket.com/


Friday, 8th March 2019


Gradeproof – Artificially Intelligent Proofreading


GradeProof is, according to its website, “a proofreading tool powered by Artificial Intelligence. The more you write, the smarter it gets.” Log in with Facebook or register using your email address. You need to sign up for a free trial in order to use this app fully.

There are four ways of inputting a text:

  • Import your paper – write text: manually write or paste your essay
  • Email: import an email attachment
  • DropBox – import a DropBox document
  • iCloud Drive – import a iCloud Drive document

The “sample document” icon leads to a short tutorial on what the app can do. “Spelling and grammar” acts as a basic proof reading tool (like the one you can use in WORD). “Rephrase it” aims at improving the quality of writing, including word count. “Reword it” suggests alternative phrases. You can pick any of the proposed changes and the app inserts them into the text. The “plagiarism” tap would probably be the most interesting feature for teachers, but this is only available in the pro (paid) version.

The final page lists all the changes made (which can also be emailed) and a copy of the full text.

Could be used for: helping students with assignments, especially those who struggle with writing longer texts.

What I liked about it: its inbuilt dictionary could help students expand their vocabulary and their knowledge of grammar.

Watch out for: it is no substitution for knowledge of grammar or spelling. Students should also be taught proper academic rigour, e.g. how to avoid plagiarism in the first place.

Available from the Apple App Store, with Google Docs and Microsoft Word as well as on the web.

More info here: https://gradeproof.com/


Friday, 22nd February 2019


Synap – Learn more in less time

Synap was developed by medical students who wanted an app to help them share multiple choice questions for their exams. They have now amassed a huge amount of quizzes in all subject areas which you can take for free. Signing up is simple: individual users first need to go to the website at https://synap.ac/ (you can use your Facebook account). Institutional users, such as students, can log in using the app with the password provided by their teacher. If you sign up as an educator, you get advanced access: “Teachers are able to create Classrooms, invite their students and view their results on a dashboard, amongst other features.”

The main menu on the app is simple: the ‘study’ area has two tutorials – one on ‘spaced repetition’, which means that the app sends you a personalised quiz every day, and one on ‘self practice’, where you can generate a quiz based on your study items. The ‘library’ contains brainteasers you have subscribed to or have generated yourself. ‘Results’ gives you a history of your students’ performances.

In order to build a quiz, you need to log on using the website. Start a new educational game by giving it a name, a description and tags (which can be used to search for your activity). You can set visibility to ‘private’, ‘private’ or ‘unlisted’. ‘Private’ probably works best in a school setting. Adding questions is easy: set a question, throw in correct/incorrect answers, perhaps an explanation for the question and further reading (which is optional). You can also attach code to your questions. Images, however, can only be included with the paid version. Share the quiz on social media, if you like. Log into the app and see the quiz you have just prepared.

I couldn’t see who answered it correctly, but that might be obvious once you have set up a classroom. This you can do on the website. For a closed classroom, simply forward the passcode to your students.

Could be used for: quick assessments and perhaps homework

What I liked about it: a huge library of ready-made quizzes you can use with your students on their website. No need to sign up!

Watch out for: having to switch between the website and the app is a bit cumbersome, but students don’t face that problem.

Available from the Apple App Store.

More info here: https://synap.ac/

Priced versions for business users: https://business.synap.ac/?utm_source=synap&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=footer


Friday, 15th February 2019


Giphy: The GIF search engine

Using animated photos or drawings is a quirky way of communicating your message on social media. They often reveal some additional information. Additionally, they show a glimpse of the personality and sense of humour of the person sending them. Giphy calls itself the world’s largest library of animated GIFs and stickers, so I put it to the test. The interface is quite simple: You can search the database with keywords or browse through it by selecting the “explore” button on the bottom menu. If you want to be creative, you can upload a video or picture from your device or paste an URL of a website or document. You can add information to your picture or video. Copy the GIF link by tapping on the little flyer symbol in the right hand corner and share it on social media. Should you decide to sign up, you can save them to your favourites.

I used one of pictures I had taken with the iPad. Maybe it’s the way it was set up, but I couldn’t manipulate the photo any further, so resorted to using their website: https://giphy.com/. You can change your picture by adding text and stickers, apply filters and drawing on it. It was really easy to do. You can upload your new animated GIF to a website or share it on Twitter or Facebook. The support page is good: https://support.giphy.com/hc/en-us

Could be used for: talking to your students about social media and communication and how easy it is to manipulate photos

What I liked about it: you can use them in so many ways, e.g. if you are taking photos or videos to celebrate your students’ achievements on your website or in your newsletter why not add a bit of glamour to them?

Watch out for: You can link the app to the keyboard of your device. Go to “setting”, type in “keyboard” and select “add a new keyboard”. I would not recommend this as the app can then access all the text you type!

Available from the Apple App Store, on Google Play and online.

More info here: https://giphy.com/


Friday, 8th February 2019


Jig Space – explore and share interactive 3D knowledge

From their website: “It’s how we experience the world. But the way we learn most things is in two dimensions. At the dawn of spatial computing, JigSpace is making 3D knowledge a reality.”

In this context a ‘jig’ is a 3D representation of an object. Download the app, which will ask you for access to your camera. This allows you to place the 3D figure into your surroundings. Each jig comes with short comments and additional explanatory tags with arrows indicating more information. You can manipulate this object by tapping on it and moving it with your finger making it bigger and smaller.

The library contains some more jigs: explanations of how machines (e.g. a toaster) work; descriptions of how to do things (e.g. how to remove skateboard bearings); as well as jigs related to science (e.g. tectonic plates), space (e.g. solar system -and how a lightsaber works!) and history (e.g. flint knapping). The jigs are, however, predominantly in the STEM subjects.

Could be used for: introducing a complex idea in a STEM subject.

What I like about it: these representations basically work like a YouTube video, but are more fun.

Watch out for: unfortunately, you cannot make your own jigs at the moment. There will be a workshop feature in the future. Also, the offer is quite limited at present in the free version.

Available from the Apple App Store.

More info here: https://jig.space/


Friday, 1st February 2019


Makers Empire – Design thinking and 3D printing



For the creative students in your class you might want to try Makers Empire. Even if you don’t have access to a 3D printer, this app provides a fun way of trying out 3D software. Download the app. Start by creating your own hero, basically your avatar. Open the app and follow the instructions. A tutorial pops up and asks you to select the hair features. Easy. Give your hero a name and a password. This is your login. Choose between “Design in 3D”, which allows you to enter a training lab, and “Make and Play”, the game zone. Of course I tried the game area first, but was rebuffed. You need to go through the training lab to get up to level 3 when the game zone will be unlocked…

The first design is a simple tower. You learn how to delete (a bomb which explodes) and redo your creation. The tutorial then goes on to other shapes. Icons and buttons are quite intuitive, so it’s great fun to play around with this. By following the onscreen hand you learn quickly how to create and delete figures. And it all happens in 3D, which means you can look at them from all sides. All action is by tapping on the screen or drawing with your finger, which would make this app suitable to younger children.

The game space also starts with a short tutorial where your character has to find its way through a maze. You can then make your own maze: choose a base and add building blocks to it. You can always test your creation to see how it looks like for your avatar. Continue building by clicking on the “make” symbol. “Create” on the top menu adds more design features and tools, including characters (boy/girl/troll!), blocks, shapes and cog wheels (some others need a subscription).

 Could be used for: getting students to think about design and construction; to explore themes in STEM subjects, or for use in art classes.

What I liked about it: Once you have completed a task, you can claim your reward (tap on a golden star), which is very motivational.

Watch out for: school subscriptions cost about €2000 a year, so stick to the free individual accounts.

Available from the Apple App Store, on Google Play and online.

More info here: https://www.makersempire.com/


Friday, 25th January 2019


Classkick – Feedback in real time

Immediate feedback can be a challenge in formative assessment. Classkick is an app which can help you checking on students’ understanding during a lesson. Sign in as a teacher or students with a new email account or your existing Gmail or Facebook accounts.

The main menu gives you the option of two assignment templates. You can add a new exercise or upload one you already have. A new one can be created quickly: select “new blank assessment” from the menu hidden beneath the “plus” sign on the right hand. Open the first slide, which will be your first question, by clicking on it. Add text from other sources, videos, recorded messages, pictures and links to this canvas. Delete any features you don’t like by dragging them up to the “bin” icon. You can write by simply using your finger or touch pens. You can add more questions, duplicate and also reorder them.

When you have your task ready, you can share it with a colleague or on social media. Or, of course, distribute it to your students. In order to do so, create a new roster. Go back to your assignment on the main page and click on the three dots on the right hand side of the assessment box. Click on “assign” and “create new roster”. Just type in a name. Student will be automatically enrolled when they join. Go back to your assignment and click on “assign”. Your new roster will display a class code, which your students need in order to log in. When your students are online, their names pop up in your menu. As they work their way through the challenge, you can watch what they are doing in real time. They can raise a hand to show that they have a problem. You can write feedback into their assignment sheets, which they can see and respond to. The “quick feedback” stickers, which are visible on the right hand side, can help if you want your students to think more deeply about their work. You can also allow students to help each other by enabling that option.

More information is at hand – clicking on the information icon in the main menu, a tutorial pops up, which includes a video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Al5QaMAr7I

Could be used for: immediate feedback and students engaging in peer assessment activities.

What I liked about it: very interactive app. This could also be used in remote classrooms.

Watch out for: might be stressful for teachers with a big classroom as you need to monitor all students for requests for help.

Available from the Apple App Store and for Chromebooks & computers.

More info here: https://classkick.com/


Friday, 18th January 2019



Lino – sticky notes for collaboration


Lino is based on a simple idea: create virtual notes that you can use across a number of platforms and types of medium. As someone who uses Post-Its a lot, I think of it of an extension of paper-based ones.

Sign up quickly by providing an email address, username and password. The main canvas acts as an informal tutorial which shows you how to use this app.
Create a new canvas and define who has access to your work decide by deciding on the level of accessibility: ‘for your own private use’; ‘show stickies to everyone’; or ‘everyone may post stickies’. This is really handy if you want to use them in a group with your students. Stickies can be created via email. You can also create an RSS feed for this canvas, but that might only make sense if you want to let other people outside the group know about your notes.

One you are ready, start populating your canvas with texts or photos – the format determines the type of sticky label you are making. The text based one has all the features you can expect: different fonts, colours, emoticons, date stamps and tags. Take a picture with your device’s camera and change it: give it a frame, change the size, and add a comment, dates or labels. Share your sticky note by clicking on it. You can now send it by email to someone, who needs to log in with their own Lino account. Or else copy it or change it again. When you don’t need it any longer, simply click on the “check mark” symbol.

Could be used for: By creating a group, students and teachers could provide questions or comments on their learning. Or set yourself reminders of work tasks.
What I liked about it: you can use it across different platforms.
Watch out for: advertisements displayed at the bottom of the screen can easily be clicked.

Available from the Apple App Store, from Google Play and online.

More info here: http://en.linoit.com/


Friday, 11th January 2019


Koma Koma – animation made easy

Koma Koma is a simple, but effective tool for short animations. It’s incredible easy to get started. Download the app and open it. There is no need to sign in – you only need to allow access to the camera.

Four simple buttons are available: record, delete (one frame/all frames), play (in a loop) and save. Start by pointing your device at the thing you want to record and press the red button. Take a few shots and then check your film by pressing the green button. The blue button enables you to delete frames. The yellow arrow lets you upload your animation into the gallery, which is hidden under the icon in the right hand corner. In the gallery, you can edit your creation or mail a flipbook (for this feature you need a valid email address). You can also save it to your camera roll on your device.

For more advanced work, check out the settings button in the left upper corner: it lets you change the frame rate and time lapse, so that individual
shots are displayed slowly or fast. You can also reverse an image horizontally or vertically. ‘Onion skinning’, a feature which allows you to see
several frames at once, might help positioning your next image. When you have made your choice, simply click on the yellow arrow.

Could be used for: demonstrations of complex concepts that would be benefit from a visual representation.

What I liked about it: very simple interface with big buttons.

Watch out for: for more elaborate animation needs you probably need a different app.

Available from the Apple App Store and, according to its manufacturer, it also runs on both Windows and Mac with Adobe AIR.

More info here: http://komakoma.org/en/?page_id=9


Friday, 4th January 2019


iTunes U

The first review of 2019 looks at the iTunes U app. This application brings together educational content, assessment and connectivity. The catalogue offers an overview over free educational courses. You can browse all categories or restrict your search by looking at specific institutions or collections.

In order to create your own course you need to register as an iTunes U instructor: name your school, choose the type of institution, and add a short biography and photo (doesn’t have to be your portrait).

Creating a module is easy: enter a course name, a short name and a department. Then add an image and description. All of this information helps people find your tutorial. You also need to choose a subject category and a course type (self-paced or taught in real time). You can allow discussions, which means your students can post to the group. Finally, you need to decide on the type of licence you want to attach to your course: can it be shared or do you want all rights reserved?

Now the fun part begins – course creation! It should contain an outline (which could be your syllabus), posts (e.g. instructions), notes and any type of material (e.g. worksheets, pdfs or ebooks). Assignments can be attached to each post. Grading can also be done through the app. More on course creation here: https://images.apple.com/education/itunes-u/pdfs/iTunesU_CourseCreation.pdf. You can enrol students using a code (which you’ll find under the “admin” tab). Or else select “auto-approve” to let anybody join your lecture.

Could be used for: all kind of teaching events.

What I liked about it: student-authored books showcase the work done in other schools.

Watch out for: content that requires payment and/or can only be viewed using an Apple device.

Available from the Apple App Store.

More info here: https://www.apple.com/education/itunes-u/


Friday, 21st December 2018

Merry Christmas! We’re back in 2019!


Friday, 14th December 2018


Comics Head – make your own cartoon!

Christmas is the perfect time for storytelling. This can take many forms, of course. Why not create your own comic? Comics Head is a great tool that allows you to do just that. Just download the app. No email access needed.

Choose from templates or create your own. If you want to create your own, a very easy to follow tutorial pops up.

The ‘assets’ tap gives you access to backgrounds, characters, props, etc. You can use some of their library material or else import from social media tools or the Internet. Add speech bubbles (including audio speech bubbles!) or take pictures with your camera.

You can manipulate any object, be they images or photos. Save and share your work online (as a video on YouTube or via Email, Twitter, Facebook) or print it. Your work will be saved in the “photos” folder on your device. If you are dealing with younger children, you can also set parental settings. I created a short comic strip for the library in about 2 minutes. It was great fun experimenting with audio speech bubbles and different backgrounds. Check out this first attempt here: http://cdetbcdu.ie/e-library/the-cdu-library/

Additionally, the app has a slideshow function, which could be of interest to students who have to give a presentation.

Could be used for: storytelling sessions, for quirky presentations and also with students who love comic strips and animation.

What I liked about it: very pleasing interface and super easy to use.

Watch out for: you might want to upgrade to the paid version, which has a lot more features. Also, you might not want your students to upload their work to the company’s website.

Available from the Apple App Store and on Google Play.

More info here: https://www.comicshead.com/


Friday, 7th December 2018

Pocket Papers – Exam papers for Junior and Leaving Certificate

It’s probably too early to talk about Junior or Leaving Certificate preparation, but for those students who want to look at old exams, there is a handy app: Pocket Papers. It gives access to papers as well as marking schemes. You download the app and accept its terms and conditions. The interface is simple and easy to use.

You can retrieve papers for all the subject areas (English and Irish versions; Ordinary and Higher level). The ‘log book’ is a printable pdf with all the mathematical and business formulae students might come across during their studies. The ‘course finder’ has a warning to check with official sources. I tried a search of a course I knew existed, but the database came up with no results. Try https://www.fetchcourses.ie/course/finder or http://www.qualifax.ie instead.

Students can search by course title/keywords; course code; points needed; level of study (National Framework of Qualifications) and providers. The app also has a points calculator, a timetable for Leaving cert examinations and a file management system, where they can download papers.

Exam papers go back to 2012. Some of them have multiple choice quizzes (e.g. Maths). If you answer in ‘study’ mode, you can get hints. The ‘test mode’, however, only allows for one attempt per question and your score is tracked. Language subjects have aural papers and soundfiles. This is definitely a good additional learning aid. But check out the State Examinations Commission at https://www.examinations.ie/exammaterialarchive/ for papers going back to 1995.

Could be used for: preparation for the Junior and Leaving Certificate examinations or for revision.

What I liked about it: additional features, such as multiple choice quizzes and audio files, make this more interactive.

Watch out for: Adds pop up a lot and are pretty annoying. Consider upgrading to the paid version.

Available from the Apple App Store and on Google Play.

More info here: http://www.pocketpapers.ie/


Friday, 30th November 2018


XGimp Image Editor


XGimp Image Editor is a free and open source image editor, which has been released under a Creative Commons Licence.
You can load any kind of picture into this app and change it. Or else create a new one.
Some of the basic features you might be interested in:
– add layers to the image
– change text by using the paint brush or the eraser and by adding new text
– adjust colours, retouch your image
– scale your image up or down
But there are many tools that might appeal to more experienced users, such as students interested in animation. Try the ‘ripple effect’ on a photo, for example. Extensions can be added through the use of plug-ins and scripts. Plenty of help is available from their website and the community of developers.
The app’s desktop looked very small on my device’s display. So this might be a case where the website beats the app.

Could be used for: image editing tasks. You could use it in the classroom to show how easy it is to manipulate a picture.

What I liked about it: more sophisticated than Microsoft Paint. Free, unlike Adobe Photoshop.

Watch out for: plenty of ads along the way! And you are constantly being encouraged to pay for the blocking of advertisement. The website doesn’t have that problem.

Available from the Apple App Store and for download from their website.

More info here: https://www.gimp.org/


Friday, 23rd November 2018


Waypoint EDU: educational scavenger hunt


Despite the autumnal weather outside, you might want to get your students to engage with the great outdoors more. Why not create a treasure hunt? Waypoint EDU lets you do just that. As the app states: “Waypoint EDU is an educational geocaching game for classrooms and families.” Alternatively, by setting multiple choice questions, you can assess their prior knowledge of a subject area.

Download the app and decide whether you would like to create or play. Creating a new hunt is easy: click on ‘create’, give it a title, add a description and decide whether this will be an indoor or outdoor hunt. You then need to define the playfield – the device asks for your location and opens Google Map. You can pinpoint the area you want to use by drawing a line with your finger on that map. You can redraw this by clearing the selection you have made. Add waypoints: give each a tile, add a question and add potential answers (highlighting the correct answers). As a teacher you can transfer this hunt to a pupil’s device via AirDrop or by email.

The indoor hunt is slightly different: you are restricted to five targets, but you can print Waypoint cards that will help your students with finding the next pin. Unfortunately, this feature needs iOS 11.3 or later, so you might need to update your device.

There are also discounts available for multiple purchases of the paid version.


Could be used for: fun addition to orientation week, when students need to find their way in a new school, for learning about local history or for outdoor education.

What I liked about it: very quick to set up.

Watch out for: as the app cautions – stay safe while playing!

Available from the Apple App Store.

More info here: https://www.waypointedu.com/


Friday, 16th November 2018


Mind mapping tool

Mind mapping is not a new technique and not everybody is convinced of its usefulness, but here is a handy app which you might want to try out. With the free version, you are restricted to three maps.

Download the app and it opens automatically, no password is required. You can also use your Gmail, Facebook or Yahoo account. A quick guide is available (click on the ‘help’ icon in the information menu in the upper right hand corner). There are many themes and layouts you can choose from or else just create your own.

Starting a new map is easy: click on the ‘central topic’ icon and a submenu opens up. The plus symbol adds another “branch” to it. You can then start defining the relationship by tapping on the ‘arrow’ and linking it to your branch. Undo and redo actions by clicking on the respective symbols in the upper left corner. This app works very much like a paper-based mind map, but its additional features make it attractive: add notes, hyperlinks, images (including pictures you take with your device’s camera), icons (such as emoticons, numbers, etc.), or task lists.

You can share the map, export it as an image or pdf, or sync it to the cloud. The presenter feature turns the mind map into a slide presentation, which reminded me of Prezi.

Could be used for: brainstorming or problem solving sessions with your students, when you are trying to analyse difficult texts or ideas.

What I liked about it: bad handwriting is not a problem here when you create your own mind map! And plenty of great examples on their website: https://www.mindomo.com/mind-maps

Watch out for: as always, be careful when taking material from the web.


Available from the Apple App Store, for Android and online.

More info here: https://www.mindomo.com/


Friday, 9th November 2018


Science Apprentice


This week, we are looking at an Irish project. ‘Science Apprentice’ was created by a team of researchers based in University College Dublin. It is to be used in conjunction with the books series, which will be available for download from the website: http://www.ucd.ie/scienceapprentice/ at a future stage. The aim of this initiative is “to explore science, technology, engineering and maths in a way that is tangible and inspiring”.

The books can also be collected with the Irish Independent in SuperValu stores, one published every Saturday throughout November. Additional experts and related researchers are being presented in each book and on the website, thus showing the wide variety of research areas (which might inspire some pupils to think about their own career choices). Short YouTube videos introduce each topic. Series 2 investigates the human body, the science behind flying, illusions and our senses, and a look at how things are being made.

The app opens with a short tutorial. The idea behind this app is that by pointing the camera on your device at certain pages in the booklets, additional information will open up. As I didn’t have access to the booklets, this app was unfortunately of no use. “Designed by the wonderful UCD VR Team, our Science Apprentice app will make the pages of your book jump up and come to life. All of the books have been specially coded so that when you find a “View in AR” icon you can see an awesome 3D animation which helps bring our stories to life.”

There are more learning and teaching resources on their website. Booklets from series 1 are also available: http://www.ucd.ie/scienceapprentice/about/series1/


Could be used for: science education and computer classes alike.

What I liked about it: Irish schools were involved in the making of the videos.

Watch out for: a good example of an app supplementing a written document, but the functionality is limited at present. Perhaps the next series can feature some more interactive elements?


Available from the Apple App Store and on Google Play.

More info here: http://www.ucd.ie/scienceapprentice


Friday, 2nd November 2018


ShowMe Interactive Whiteboard



ShowMe is a creative tool for presenting information. This could be a once-off demonstration or as part of a course.

Download the app and you are ready to go. The basic version is free, but you might want to invest a little money to use more of its features, especially if you want to create a classroom for your students (Google Classroom). The default is to make your creation accessible to the public by sharing it on Twitter, by email or on the company’s website. Download is also available.

You can add text, photos and other images, documents or backgrounds, which include tables and charts. Use your finger to draw on the board. When you have added all your slides, save them as a draft or upload them as a video. You can review it and attach an audio recording explaining your work. Name your ShowMe and insert a description, choose which subject area it might relate to. At this stage you need to sign up. You have several options here, including using your Gmail, Facebook or Twitter account.

The playback tab can be particularly useful for students to check their work before sharing. Check out some of the presentations available online for inspiration.

Could be used for: flipped classrooms or for instant feedback – let your students create a presentation outlining one thing they haven’t understood during your lesson.

What I liked about it: very simple interface.

Watch out for: at several stages you will prompted to share your creation on a social media platform and to sign up for a paid version. There also might be some privacy concerns.

Available from the Apple App Store, on Google Play and the Chrome Web Store.

More information here: https://www.showme.com/


Friday, 26th October 2018

GoEuro – Travel Search

Heading off somewhere nice during the mid-term break? If you are planning to visit another European country, check out GoEuro. This nifty app helps you plan your journey across a variety of transport platforms.

Download the app and start looking up places. You don’t have to sign in, which makes it an anonymous service. You can allow the app to access your current location to save yourself some typing. “Top destinations” are being presented, but you can skip this step.

Add a departure and return date, and the amount of people travelling. If you have any kind of discount card (e.g. French rail card), you can also select this option.

Results are being displayed by cheapest first (which is also the ‘recommended’ tag) with other possibilities being ‘fastest’, ‘departure time’ and ‘arrival time’. Additional filters are available on the results page (e.g. amount of changes you would be willing to make and price information).

I tried a connection I use a lot and was surprised to find that one of the airlines going there was not showing in the results list. There also seems to be an over reliance on planes – the train between Dublin and Cork, for example, doesn’t exist according to this app.

GoEuro did better when I did a search in Germany. My reservation was passed on to the relevant transport provider.

Could be used for: travel planning.

What I liked about it: it is very straightforward to use.

Watch out for: it seems to be limited to certain companies, so perhaps use additional websites, such as www.transportforireland.ie, when travelling.

Available from the Apple App Store, on Google Play and online.

More info here: https://www.goeuro.com/


Friday, 19th October 2018





This week I am looking at an app for students helping with revision and learning aids: StudyBlue. From their website: StudyBlue “is the largest crowdsourced study library, with over 400 million flashcards, notes and study guides from students like you. Make and share study materials, search for recommended study content from classmates, track progress, set reminders, and create custom quizzes.”

Download and log in with your Facebook or Gmail account. When you first sign up, you need to decide whether to be logged as ‘student’, ‘teacher’ or ‘lifelong learner’. I signed up as a student in order to try out the teaching and learning resources. It asks you for your school, but you can skip this step. Check out all Irish institutions who have a presence by browsing their international section on the website: https://www.studyblue.com/notes/ireland-schools/ie

The main menu gives you an overview of recently studied material, has a search function and allows you to make your own cards. You can invite friends to join you. At this stage I switched to the website, which I found easier to navigate.

You can register areas of interest and the system suggests related materials, which are basically cards created by other people. There are class materials and other recommended resources. You can browse them by clicking on an US state or by selecting the country in the drop down menu further down. Try out some of the study revision sessions, look at the review sheet and take the quiz afterwards. If you want to create your own revision aid, write a term on a blank card, then browse or borrow similar cards. Audio and video files can also be added.

Could be used for: making notes of things you need to revise more.

What I liked about it: it is fascinating browsing other people’s cards to see what they are interested in or studying at the moment. This could also trigger new ideas for the learner and the teacher alike.

Watch out for: it is easier to create cards using the website rather than the app.

Available from the Apple App Store and on Google Play.

More info here: https://www.studyblue.com/


Friday, 12th October 2018


Enlight Pixaloop



This nifty app makes pictures come to life. You can animate parts of the image with a few taps on your screen.

A short tutorial shows all features: create path across your picture to animate that part of the image. ‘Anchors’ help define the area and ‘freeze’ blocks other areas from being animated. There are also predefined visual effects you can choose from to overlay your image, such as sparks, snow flakes or butterflies. Speed and type of movement can also be determined. If it’s an outdoor image, try adding a different type of sky. Or a different type of camera angle.

Choose your own picture from your IPad or take a photo (‘new project’ logo in the right hand corner). The app needs access to your tablet for that. Alternatively, select a stock photo.

When you are finished you can export your photo as a video or to Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or Twitter.

Could be used for: creative classroom sessions or as an addition to your website.

What I liked about it: very intuitive.

Watch out for: the paid for version is put prominently at the beginning and it’s easy to sign up by mistake (close that screen by using the ‘x’ in the left hand corner).

Available from the Apple App Store.

More info here: https://www.pixaloopapp.com/


Friday, 5th October 2018


GoClass: Redefining the classroom



From their website: “GoClass is a classroom application that adapts to the way you teach. Using common mobile devices and an Internet connection, GoClass helps you improve student engagement, classroom management and your effectiveness where it matters most—in the classroom.”
GoClass is a cloud-based teaching and learning platform. First, you need to register with a free instructor account on their website (the paid version has more features). It allows you then to log in with your Google account or any other email. Sessions can also be joined using a PIN. Students download the app on their own devices.

A sample lesson plan offers you some ideas of how your session could be structured. Create a new lesson on their website by adding a title, grade level, subject, course details, skills, duration and start date. You can also include images to make it more visible. Students can be enrolled individually (this will send them an email) or by bulk using a csv file. The system asks whether or not students have Gmail accounts (and their individual passwords), but you can use any email address (without password), which might be safer.

The basic version includes 4 courses with 12 lesson plans. Lessons consist of different elements, which are basically different slides. Each can be timed. Videos and instructor notes can be embedded. Additional explanations can be incorporated. The ‘ask’ function enables you to add formative assessment questions though instant polls. You can decide on different sessions: ‘flipback’ allows students to browse teacher broadcasts while in session or you can allow for sessions to be bookmarked. There is also a ‘sleep mode’ and the option of having a PIN based session.

The logs and reports section holds information on attendance as well as individual student and class results of assessments. All activities are recorded on student devices and can be checked later.

Could be used for: interactive classrooms as the whiteboard is where teacher and student devices are coming together. As GoClass states: “From here, you can begin broadcasting media, notes and more to student devices while simultaneously projecting the same or different content to the screen at the front of the class.”

What I liked about it: a short tutorial of the main features is available at the ‘log in’ stage. It is also available when you’re logged in. Plus plenty of instructor notes for each step.

Watch out for: courses need to be created on their website, not using the app itself, which might be a bit confusing.

Available from the Apple App Store and on Google Play.

More info here: https://goclass.com/


Friday, 28th September 2018


Seesaw: The Learning Journal


Seesaw is a tool which helps students to capture and reflect on their learning. As a teacher you need to sign in with a Google Email account. The basic version is free, but if you want more in-depth reports and statistics you need to upgrade to a paid account.

The app explains all steps, which are easy to follow: name your class, set a grade level and add students to your class. Seesaw then offers a bank of creative tools in its “activity library”: they were created by other teachers who circulate free of charge to this community. You can select a resource and share it with your class or other teachers (on social media or by sending them a link). Students need then to sign in and respond – you can check this in real time. Of course you can also create a new activity – this is being explained in a step-by-step guide. Instructions for students can be text-based, but you can also record your voice, which might work better for some learners.

On the right hand side of the main screen you can choose between the following options: “journal”, “activities”, “inbox”, “skills” and “blog”. Students’ work and responses to the tasks you have set can be seen under the “journal” tap. “Activities” hosts the above mentioned library. They can also be scheduled, but this option is only available in the paid version. Contact your students and their parents using the “inbox” function. These are private messages for your community. Award your students by tagging their work in the “skills” section. The blog feature allows you to paste students’ posts into a public website.

Could be used for: all age groups and types of learners.

What I liked about it: Your students can sign in with either their email address or by using a QR code, which you can create easily.

Watch out for: you need to tap on the little green hook to confirm an action.

Available from the App Store and for Android – and by logging into their website.

More info here: https://web.seesaw.me/



Friday, 21st September 2018

Numbers – create spreadsheets

With the start of the new school year you will probably be inundated with spreadsheets. Here is a handy app called “Numbers”, which can help you make sense of them. No log on is required.

You can collaborate with others by editing a spreadsheet in real time. The app also has in-built tips on how to improve your data with interactive charts. Furthermore, it allows you to add graphs and images. Arranging your data in one of the many visual tools is easy.

Creating a new spreadsheet is simple: there are basic templates, personal finance and scheduling examples as well as spreadsheets for business and education. This last category lists, among others, an attendance sheet, a grade book, and a school savings template.

I tried the personal monthly budget sample. The cells in the sheet can be changed quickly according to your needs and dates, time and comments can be added. “Quick formulas”, such as “sum” or “average” are available under the “cell” tab.

Columns can also be changed and sorted. I added a graph showing how my expenses have changed. This is very straightforward: select a two- or three-dimensional shape or even an interactive one. Then drag your table onto it – voila! You can also use Apple pencil.

Could be used: as an administrative planning tool or for writing reports (by exporting the final product).

What I liked about it: the graphs outlining your data change as soon as you manipulate the spreadsheet, which is visually very appealing and intuitive.

Watch out for: you might need some basic understanding of how a spreadsheet works.

Available from the App Store.

More info here: https://www.apple.com/numbers/


Friday, 14th September 2018





Learning platforms, such as Blackboard or Moodle, are familiar to many who work in schools. Schoology is another content management system (CMS), which teachers might find helpful. The basic version is free. You can log in through your school (if an account already exists) or else sign up through their website. I’ve requested CDETB to be added to their approved schools.

There are videos (for instructors, students or system administrators) on their website explaining all the features. You have space to import and export files as well as learning objectives (based on US criteria, but you can add your own).

The courses you develop can contain assignments, discussions, files, texts, links and quizzes. Students are encouraged to give feedback, so it is quite interactive. Also, once students are enrolled, you can email them through the CMS. Rubrics and badges can be added for formative and summative assessment.

Privacy settings in the ‘group’ function allow you to control access. A calendar page helps with planning. There are plenty of public resources shared by other educators, which are listed not only by subject area and grade level, but also by resource type, including assessment, games/puzzles and lesson plans.

Could be used: as an alternative to Moodle.

What I liked about it: the interface is clean and intuitive. Students who spend time on social media will probably like it.

Watch out for: as always when uploading material from the Internet, be aware that some resources might be copyrighted.

Available from the App Store and for Android – and by logging into their website.

More info here: https://www.schoology.com/


Friday, 7th September 2018





Actionbound is an interactive scavenger hunt programme that allows you to go on an adventure with your class. Tours include guided walks and “treasure hunts” – they are called “bounds” here. Download it and agree to its terms and conditions. Actionbound will need access to your location in order to guide you using GPS.

You can find a bound, scan a QR code, check out bounds nearby or create your own. I searched for bounds in “Dublin” and got plenty of hits, each indicating whether or not they were created for single or multiple players.

Some displayed additional information, such as the approximately distance a player would have to cover and the approximate time it would take to complete the hunt. You can download a bound for offline play.

Creating a new bound is easy. Sign up, give it a title you can remember and decide on single or multiple player modus and on whether the stages of play are fixed or flexible. Add some text, your first quiz or mission now – or else request that your players have to scan a code or find a spot.

You can allocate points for each completed task. Every step is well explained. When you are finished, you can test your bound before you publish it.

There all kinds of extra gimmicks, but the basic version can be set up fairly quickly.

Could be used for: orientation week for new students; outdoor activities combining (local) history and geography lessons with physical exercise.

What I liked about it: extremely easy to use – try some hunts without logging in.

Watch out for: there are paid versions, e.g. for schools who qualify for an educational license, depending on the type of organisation you are working for. You might be able to use the free (private) version with your class.

Available from the App Store and for Android. There is also a PC version.

More info here: https://en.actionbound.com/



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