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back to school

Back to School Must-Have Classroom Assistants!

The beginning of a new school year is a time of excitement, anticipation, and nerves. Teachers want their classrooms perfectly organized but inviting, structured but flexible, and fun but educationally sound. These must-have apps will help teachers start the year strong. If you have one iPad in your classroom or thirty, this list will give you some ideas.

dojoClass Dojo

A FREE parent/teacher communication app. Originally built as a behavior management tool, this app has morphed into so much more. Class Dojo provides a fun and effective way to track both positive and negative student behaviors. However, Class Dojo has added features that greatly enhance communication between school and home. It allows teachers and parents to send comments and notes to each other via app and/or the website. Teachers can now send pictures and even short videos of classroom events helping to keep parents “in the know.” For schools that choose to use this technology school-wide, it allows administrators to send school-wide messages to families as well. The newest feature added this summer, will keep digital portfolios of student work. This all-in-one app streamlines parent/teacher communication. It cuts out the middle man (the student with a note clipped to their shirt) and goes straight to the source. It’s a huge time-saver for teachers and parents.

planbookPlanbook

While a bit cumbersome to set up initially, this $12 annual subscription is a HUGE time-saver in the long run, making it the second must-have on the list! Planbook allows teachers to create a customized template of their lesson plans to use week after week. Even more impressive, both state and national educational standards are embedded in the program making adding them as easy as a click of a mouse (or tap on a screen) to include in plans. There are many features making Planbook, the “go to” online lesson planner. They offer a free trial as well as tons of video tutorials.

reflectorReflector (Air Squirrels)

Reflector is software that you install on your computer. This software “teaches” your computer to “find” your iPad and display it’s screen on your computer. This is especially useful for computers connected to Smartboards or projectors. The one-time fee of $30 is well worth the price if you use or want to use your iPad as a teaching tool.

Reflector is software that you install on your computer. This software “teaches” your computer to “find” your iPad and display it’s screen on your computer. This is especially useful for computers connected to Smartboards or projectors. The one-time fee of $30 is well worth the price if you use or want to use your iPad as a teaching tool.

Reflector is software that you install on your computer. This software “teaches” your computer to “find” your iPad and display it’s screen on your computer. This is especially useful for computers connected to Smartboards or projectors. The one-time fee of $30 is well worth the price if you use or want to use your iPad as a teaching tool.

Want to use your iPad as a teaching tool, but only have one for your entire class? Reflector is a great way to get the most out of your technology. Use the Kindle app to turn your Smartboard into a shared reading activity, demonstrate iPad activities whole group, easily display images, use digital math manipulatives (there are a wide range of apps that provide these) to teach a whole group math lesson, or use your iPad as a document camera (see Doceri).

doceriDoceri

Doceri is an app with a multitude of uses. When used in conjunction with Reflector, Doceri can be used as a document camera. Take a picture of a textbook page, image, worksheet, or picture book. Then without being tied down to a particular classroom location, write, highlight, and draw on the image. Personally, I love how this option allows me to be mobile while still writing, drawing, and teaching.

Doceri can also be used to create videos. This app allows the user to record their voice while also recording what they are writing or drawing on the screen. Are your parents confused by the “new math” or even “old math?” Create a video and share a video demonstrating new approaches to math problems. Allow parents to help their children using the same vocabulary and methods you use in class.   Your students can create think aloud videos. Sometimes math is more than just getting the correct answer. Sometimes you want to make sure your students understand the concepts and the reasons behind each step. Doceri records both student writing and their spoken thoughts giving you a peek inside their brains.

autorapAutoRap

This unconventional app is often overlooked as an educational tool. This amazing app turns spoken language into a rap, complete with music. The app offers two free songs and a large selection of songs to purchase. There is also a subscription option (I would avoid this as it can be difficult to cancel). Create a fun first-day introduction. Have students practice reading fluency or spelling words. Have students read sight words or practice a Shakespearian sonnet. Autorap turns the mundane, fun!

SeeSaw

imgres-4Student portfolios have never been easier. Seesaw, a free app, allows teachers and students to save both digital and non-digital work (through pictures). Documentation of progress through photographs can also be taken of non-traditional learning methods such as science experiments, play, and cooperative learning. Work is confidential and can only be shared with the child’s family members. SeeSaw eases the burden of sharing digital work with families and turns over some of the responsibilities to the students. The days of keeping stacks of paper for every student are over. Welcome to class, SeeSaw!

timer toolsKagan Timer Tools

This $2.99 app includes a plethora of timers especially made for teachers using cooperative learning strategies. However, these easy-to-use timers have a variety of classroom uses besides cooperative learning. Timing transitions, managing small group rotations, and keeping the class on schedule are just a few of the ways this app can be effective in classrooms. The timers include a multitude of visual options –countdown, count up, and sliding scale. They are easy to use and very customizable! This app is a great way to get your class running smoothly beginning Day 1.

 

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@HartEdTechKatie Chirhart is a National Board Certified Teacher and has been teaching for sixteen years. She has specializations in early childhood and reading.  She began her career in College Station, TX teaching a full inclusion pre-kindergarten class. Currently, Katie lives and works in Shreveport, LA. After spending  ten years teaching third grade, she now teaches in an elementary iPad Lab. When time allows, she enjoys working with teachers far and wide sharing the wonders of technology. Her current job is a dream come true.

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