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CDETB Curriculum Development Unit | Apps of the week
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Friday, 20th April 2018

 

Teach Learn Lead – professional learning community for new teachers

 

 

 

Creating an account is simple – you can also use your LinkedIn or Facebook identity. If you allow the app to store your location, you can look for members near you and can connect with them. You can add topics that are of interest to you, e.g. ‘education technology’ or ‘new approaches to curriculum’.
There are four different parts to this app, which you can access through the icon in the right hand corner: ‘posts’, ‘articles’, ‘topics’ and ‘members’.

Posts are short messages to all members ranging from requests to surveys. Teachers post links to articles they have found on the Internet. ‘Topics’ list your selection of categories that you follow.

There doesn’t seem a lot of activity within this community with only some posts attracting multiple replies and comments. One strength, however, is the international spread of teachers, so if you had a specific query there is a good chance that someone in another country could help.

Could be used for: helping new teachers build up a community of practice. Finding out about other people’s approaches to everyday classroom problems might enhance your teaching.

What I liked about it: it is easy to use. You can just follow topics and people without having to reveal much about yourself, which might suit teachers at the beginning of their career.

Watch out for: no substitution for the real thing. Check out our CPD calendar for opportunities to meet other CDETB teachers.

Available from the Apple App Store and on Google Play.

 

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Friday, 13th April 2018

 

Fit Brains – train your brain

 

 

Fit Brains was developed by a brain health expert: “Numerous studies have shown that certain brain activities can help maintain key cognitive functions.”

Enrolling in it entails a ‘brain training calibration’ – an activity designed to personalise this training programme. You can select the area you are most interested in improving, e.g. “concentration” or “visual spatial”.  The app then asks for your level of education and why you have signed up. You then need to supply your email address, a password, your age and gender. You are signed up for a free 5 day trial.

Several games are then provided with short instructions of what to expect: Visual spatial awareness, Mahjong Match (memory), speed sort (processing speed), matching pairs (focus – visual processing), and language aquisition, where you are given an English word and you need to match it with a word from another language.

At the end of each activity your score will be compared with that of others (or so the authors claim) and your percentile rank displayed. You also learn your reaction time, how many you got right and your level of accuracy. If you do particularly well in the beginner’s category, the intermediate level will be unlocked. Upon completion, the next game starts. The ‘games’ tap at the bottom of the page contains more quizzes. By bettering your score you can go onto the next level. There are more activities, of course, available in the paid version.

Could be used for: unexpected “extra” teaching time. Students will find it stimulating and fun. You could even introduce a bit of competition by marking who did best in each game.

What I liked about it: these short exercises don’t take up much time. There is even an emotional intelligence test, which students might respond well to.

Watch out for: ads for the premium upgrade, which are placed just before the final results page. You could quickly end up signing up for the paid version.

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

More info here: http://www.fitbrains.com/

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Friday, 6th April 2018

Duolingo – learn a new language

Duolingo provides a fun way of learning another language. Short quizzes and games help you scaffold what you have learned in the last slides and enable you to  build short sentences within minutes.

Download it and get started. Choose a language and select a goal of how much time you would like to spend on this – ranging from 5 minutes to 20 minutes a day. Choose between “beginner” and “not a beginner”. The second option will offer you a placement test to test your ability.

I tried German as a beginner. You are given 4 pictures with words underneath and you have to select which one you think depicts the word given in English. The word you pick will be read to you, so you hear its proper pronunciation. Wrong answers are being sweetened by encouraging messages, which I found really motivating. Yellow words are new ones and you can tap them to reveal their meaning. Upon completion of the daily task you’ll get a congratulatory fanfare:)

Could be used for: all types of language learners. It’s intuitive to use. For teachers there are additional benefits: “Once you create a classroom with your Duolingo account, you will be able to track other Duolingo accounts, following their language learning progress and assign tasks for groups of Duolingo users (classrooms).”

What I liked about it: you don’t need an email address to sign up. You can add your profile, but the app works without that unless you want to save your progress.

Watch out for: advertisements for apps that pop up from time to time. This might be disruptive in a classroom setting.

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

More info here: https://schools.duolingo.com/ and https://www.duolingo.com/

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Friday, 30th March 2018

 

 

GOOD FRIDAY! HAPPY EASTER!

 

 

 

 

 

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Friday, 23rd March 2018

 

Dublin City Libraries – Mobile App

 

 

 

This is a complementary app to the one reviewed on 29th January 2018, but it really warrants another look. Dublin City Libraries and Archives have created a great app for their users (and still-to-be-persuaded users). Download the app quickly. No email needed. If you already have a library account, you can check your borrowings and orders online as well as access e-books, eMagazines and eResources. All libraries and their contact information, opening hours and locations (including maps and directions) are listed in the “find a library” category. Social media channels are also advertised. “Events” brings you to their calendar on their website.

 

The one feature I was really impressed by was the “search our catalogue” link. You can search for a keyword or title, the traditional way. But there is an exciting additional search option. If you come across a book or CD in a shop, just scan the barcode with your device by pointing the camera at it. You get information which branch library currently holds a copy and can reserve it immediately.

Could be used for: getting your students to explore their local public library.

What I liked about it: very easy to use. It surely entices non-users of the library service to sign up.

Watch out for: you get more use out of it if you sign up as a library patron.

 

Available on Google Play and the Apple App Store.

More info here: http://www.dublincity.ie/story/new-library-mobile-app?language=en

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Friday, 16th March 2018

 

Edkimo – student feedback app

Edkimo was designed by a German team. They claim: “Edkimo is a simple and hands-on way to ask your questions and receive valuable feedback from your students; in real-time. Edkimo gives students a voice. As a teacher you can see learning through the eyes of your students. Discussing the results improves student engagement and the quality of teaching and learning.”

Signing up through their website is straightforward, but, unfortunately, you’ll have to look for “other countries” to put in “Ireland”. Instructions are in both English and German, but some of the pop up messages (“Vorlage gespeichert”, which means your draft has been saved) only in German…

Creating a template is easy – just click into a field and fill it in. You can choose between multiple choice, single choice, open answer, 4-point questions (agree and frequency). Save it. Once you create a new survey, a feedback code for the group appears on the screen. This is the code your students will have to use once they have downloaded the app. More than one participant can use one device at the same time, so not all students need a smart phone or tablet.
There is no “right” or “wrong” feedback for students. This is really only to gauge how many of your students have understood a concept. The results only show how many participants have chosen a given answer. You can also create a QR code to send to your students or add to a website, for example. The free version is probably adequate for most educational settings.

Could be used for: quick assessment of students’ understanding. A variety of questions can check what is unclear in real time.

What I liked about it: feedback is anonymous. It works for all kinds of learners, adult and children alike. You don’t need a log in as a student.

Watch out for: apparently it is only free to the first teacher to sign up from any given school. You might use your personal email account to get around this.

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

More info here: https://edkimo.com

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Friday, 9th March 2018

Trello – project management system

 

Trello helps you manage projects as well as your own personal task lists. You need to sign up first – use any kind of email address. The free version gives you “unlimited boards, lists, cards, members, checklists, and attachments”, plus one so-called “power up”, which is basically another application. I chose the calendar function, which is pre-installed.

Trello offers a short introduction on how to use the app. You can create “boards” or “lists”. Boards stack “cards” which reminded me of the paper cards I used when I was a student. But, this being an online version, they allow many more functions: you can attach files to them, give tasks a due date, label them or add members. Collaborators can be invited by using the “invite members” function. Once they are on board, you can drag their logo/head to the task assigned.

Label colours can be changed quickly – e.g. if you respond to urgent tasks better by giving them blue labels instead of red. When you’re done, you can archive the board. You can search cards by applying filters, such as “due” or “label”, a handy way of keeping an overview as your projects grow. The “activity” function shows you who did what and when.

Could be used for: planning a class activity involving several pupils, e.g. a project for “Make-A-Book” or “Young Scientist”.

What I liked about it: The “stuff to try” board is self explanatory. By following the instructions you can create your first own board within minutes.

Watch out for: the need for a moderator. Some student groups might need a bit of overview from a teacher.

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

More info here: https://help.trello.com/

 

 

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Friday, 2nd March 2018

‘SNOWY FRIDAY’ – SNOW DAY AND STORM EMMA – CDU closed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Friday, 23rd February 2018

 

Canva – Design Editor

 

Canvas is a handy tool for creating quick graphics and presentations for social media, flyers, posters and collages. It has thousands of templates, most of them for free.

You need to sign up with your Gmail or Facebook account. A quick and easy-to-follow tutorial gives you the basics to get you started, e.g. how to drag objects around and change the colour of the background. It then proceeds to show you how to do your own design. Download your finished product as an image (if you want to do more work on it later) or as pdf file. Or else email it to Facebook or Twitter. You can upload your own pictures and photos.

Could be used for: any kind of presentation a student has to do. The “drag and drop” function makes it fun to use.

What I liked about it: Very intuitive design. Within minutes you can create a professionally designed piece of art.

Watch out for: Students will need Gmail or Facebook accounts, which might be against the policy in your school.

Available from the Apple App Store and on the web.

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

 


Friday, 16th February 2018

Mendely – reference management tool

Mendeley is a reference management tool which will help you with big research projects and piles of casual reading material alike. Signing up is easy. Any kind of electronic document can be loaded into this app with the Web Importer plugin- just drag and drop. Create your own library by adding new folders containing articles you have read.

You can highlight text and tag articles using your own keywords. Being able to annotate text is another great feature. From their website: “Easily add your thoughts on documents in your own library, even from mobile devices. For ease of collaboration, you can also share documents with groups of colleagues and annotate them together.”

The “feed” suggests other articles you might find useful based on what you have already in your library.

For full functionality, however, you need to download the desktop version and its citation plugin. This will allow you to cite the documents you have read as you type away in Microsoft Office or LibreOffice (open access writing tool).

Could be used for: creating bibliographies with your class or for your own research project. Just to have one space where you keep all documents related to a specific topic.

What I liked about it: the fact that you can read and add your own notes to pdfs, and that you get all citation details of that document by just importing it into your library.

Watch out for: all of these technologies might encourage plagiarism, so a lesson on how to use other people’s ideas and cite them correctly might be needed. Also, you might not have access to individual articles, so going open access might be your best bet: https://doaj.org/subjects

Available on Google Play, from the Apple App Store and online for your desktop. You can use it across platforms: use it on the go with the app and read up on it later on your PC.

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

A very comprehensive comparison of reference managers can be found here: http://www.docear.org/2014/01/15/comprehensive-comparison-of-reference-managers-mendeley-vs-zotero-vs-docear/

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Friday, 9th February 2018

 

Socrative

“Quickly assess students with prepared activities or on-the-fly questions to get immediate insight into student understanding. Then use auto-populated results to determine the best instructional approach to most effectively drive learning.” You and your students need to sign up first, but that is straightforward. The company also has a very comprehensive help page.

The free version allows you to set up quizzes for up to 50 students per session, which should cover most post-primary and further education settings.

Setting up a new quiz is easy. Give it a title and choose what kind of questions you’d like to ask: “multiple choice”, “true/false”, “short answer” or any combination of them. I tried the “multiple choice” option. You can add a photo or other picture if your question needs a visual clue. Fill in the answer choices – you need to indicate which ones are correct. Delete or add more options. You can also give your students more clues using the “explanation” box.  You can safe and exit your quiz at any stage and come back to it.

When you’re ready to go, launch the quiz. You can choose delivery methods and settings, e.g. “instant feedback”, “open navigation” or “teacher paced”. Reports for individual students, the whole class or for specific questions can then be emailed or downloaded.

 

Could be used for: quick formative assessments. All types of learners will find this an attractive app. You can even add a bit of competition with the “space race” option, where students race their little rockets across the screen with each correct answer.

What I liked about it: A very clean interface which makes it easy to manoeuvre around.

Watch out for: Your students might need help with downloading the app. They will need email accounts.

 

Available on Google Play, the Apple App Store and Chrome Web Store. It also works on computers and laptops, if smart phones are not available.

More info here: https://www.socrative.com/ and here: https://www.masteryconnect.com/features.html?utm_source=web&utm_medium=socrative&utm_campaign=socrative

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Friday, 2nd February 2018

Buncee – a presentation tool

“A creation and presentation tool for students and educators to create interactive classroom content, allowing learners of all ages to visualize concepts and communicate creatively.” Sign up for free with your email – there are also priced versions. Watch a video for an easy introduction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=9&v=osUKfRPRWT4

For inspiration have a look at the “staff picks” site.

This is quite an intuitive tool. Choose between “add a background” (like a desktop background) and “add an item”, which can be anything from text and drawings to animation, photo, YouTube videos and stickers. Buncree have a big library of images and the like, but you can also use resources from the Internet.

Create one slide or a whole presentation. You can time your slides and even put them on a loop.

Could be used for: fun content creation with students of any age. The animations in particular are quite sophisticated. Some teachers have also developed assessment tools: https://www.edu.buncee.com/schools-features

What I liked about it: Much more dynamic than e.g. PowerPoint. You can quickly create presentations and videos.

Watch out for: As always, be careful with copyrighted material taken from the Internet.

 

Available from the Apple App Store.

More info here: https://app.edu.buncee.com/schools

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Friday, 29th January 2018

 

 

RBdigital – online magazines and books

 

This is a fabulous resource courtesy of your local public library! Sign up for free with your (free) library membership account. Go to https://www.rbdigital.com/lgma/service/magazines/landing? and create an account. You need to select your home library. Download the app and select “Ireland”.

You can then take your pick. If a magazine is currently checked out, a small pop up message will appear. You can tick a box, and you’ll get an email when the next issue is available. You could also try a different issue of the same magazine.

They have a wide variety of magazines: computer & technology to arts & craft to, yes, even “Hello” magazine! Short abstracts will give you a flavour what the journal is about. You can search for specific titles, genres and languages.

Could be used for: in the classroom to encourage reading, particularly reluctant readers.

What I liked about it: I tried a few different magazines and they all loaded quickly.  Bigger fonts available through zooming will help readers with visual impairments. You can automatically download titles. Once checked out, you can read them in your own time, but you need to be signed into your account in order to access them.

Watch out for: You might still enjoy the feel of paper in your hands. Also, downloaded magazines will use up memory space.

 

Available on Google Play, the Apple App Store and Kindle Fire.

More info here: https://www.rbdigital.com/lgma/service/magazines/landing? and https://www.rbdigital.com/50emagazine/service/magazines/landing?

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Friday, 19th January 2018

VideoDoc

It’s that time of the year again. Everybody is sniffling. You’re not sure if you have a cold or perhaps the flu? Going to your own GP might just help spread the bug. VideoDoc is an app which is run by qualified medical doctors. Help is available from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. every day. A consultation is €20, which includes prescriptions, sick notes and referral letters. They also offer annual subscriptions, which might be of interest to families.

You need to sign up and provide some information on the reason why you visit, current medication and any other health issues you might have. Payment is by credit card. Some of the health insurers have signed up to this service, so you might be able to get free access if you have private insurance.

Could be used for: minor complaints by people aged 2 years and older, which don’t need a physical examination. The video link allows the doctor to see you, though.

Liked about it: Online face-to-face consultation can work for minor mishaps, such as allergies. You can access this service from your mobile or computer at a time when it suits  you, including while travelling abroad. So no more queuing in a stuffy waiting room as they aim to “see” you within a few minutes.

Watch out for: as they say themselves, they are not a substitute for the real thing. If you have any serious symptoms (e.g. difficulty breathing, severe chest pain), you still need to see your own GP and/or visit a hospital.

 

Available on Google Play and the Apple App Store.

More info here: https://videodoc.ie/

 

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Friday, 12th January 2018

Plickers – engage your students in formative assessment

Plickers is an easy-to-use app which enables you to gauge quickly and in real time whether or not your students have understood a concept. It replaces the old “hands up who is for answer A” in a fun, non-obtrusive way. Students hold up a card, which displays their answer (A, B, C or D) depending on which side they have chosen.  You “collect” their answers simply by scanning the room with your device.

You need to sign up, which is easy to do. This will lead you to a demo class, where you can create new questions (which can include photos) and up to 4 multiple choice answers. I took a picture of a site on the Internet and incorporated it into the question. The cards can simply be downloaded for free from the company’s website. You can laminate them, but they even work on ordinary paper. Larger font cards are also available. Cards can be re-used.

Could be used for: immediate feedback on a question. You can examine answers for individual students.

Liked about it: No need for students to have smart phones or tablets. This could be used in classrooms with “no smart phone” policies. Students don’t see how other students answer as each card has an individual shape. Plickers has many more resources (including short films explaining the different steps involved) on their website. Some of these freebies have been added by teachers.

Watch out for: the app itself has limited instructions, so you are being directed to their website.

 

Available on Google Play and the Apple App Store.

More info here: https://www.plickers.com/ and https://plickers.zendesk.com/hc/en-us

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Friday, 5th January 2018

 

Vocal Recall 

The Vocal Recall app allows you to create short audio records (up to 5 minutes). You can pause at any stage. When you’re ready to go, submit it and the record will be linked to a pre-made QR code. The company will send you these (up to 280 for each session, but you can order more) and you can print them onto labels yourself. They also offer a link to Amazon where you can purchase labels. Labels can be stuck inside a student’s portfolio, for example. Each student can then read their own individual QR code with the reader on their mobile phone or tablet. You can check if the QR code (and the recording) has been accessed through the “history” tab. It doesn’t show who did so, unfortunately, nor when they watched it.

I printed the codes on paper and it worked just as well. You’d have to cut them out, so there is a bit more work involved.

Could be used for: feedback on assessments. Students can get a personalised response from their teacher, which they can access wherever they are, at any time and as often as they want. Distance learners and young adults will probably enjoy this.

Liked about it: Recordings will be encrypted and stored on the company’s servers, but you can delete them quickly by going through the history list. This app is really easy to use.

Watch out for: recordings can be accessed by anyone who has the QR code. And anything that is being recorded needs to comply with copyright law.

 

Available on Google Play and the Apple App Store.

More info here: https://vocalrecall.co.uk/

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