It’s the first ever iPad Educators App Awards! Join us as we take a look back over the apps that wowed us the most in 2014 with some great insights from some very special guests.
2014 has been a great year for us here at iPad Educators. The whole project has snowballed into something far larger than we ever planned or expected. This year we've produced a huge range of content, expanded our team, presented globally both in person and remotely and even won Best Use of ICT at the GESS Awards! To close out the year, we've put together this post to spotlight some of the apps that have helped us redefine our practice throughout the year.
Contributors from the iPad Educators crew include myself, Sabba Quidwai (@askmsq), Luke Rees, Simon Moore (@simonabroad) and our newest team member Justin Bell (@jabellpepper). We are also really lucky to have some guest contributors - UK EdTech guru Lee Parkinson (@ICT_MrP), Ciaran Kelly from Tablet Academy (@tabletacademyme) here in the UAE and Beth Holland from EdTechTeacher (@brholland). Massive thanks to these guys for taking time out over the holidays to share their valued opinions.
I just want to make something clear before we begin. Although we’ve dubbed this the 2014 App Awards, we won’t be selecting one overall winner in each category but rather all giving our own picks. The personalised approach that each of these educators employs within their specific teaching stage means that choosing just one really would not make sense. I guess that makes them all winners!
BEST APP FOR ENGLISH STEVE - This was quite a tough choice as the amount of apps released for teaching English has been so broad. In the end, I had to go for the one that had the most impact in my own teaching - Alan Peat's Exciting Sentences. The fact that one of the world's leading minds in the realm of grammar and language development essentially streamlined his own book into an inexpensive app was almost too good to be true. The app has so many, differentiated concepts for spicing up creative writing and kids just love embedding these special effects into their writing as they can see instant results.
LEE - Very much agree with the above and I would also throw in Comic Life 3, which provides children with a range of ways to present and create their writing. Comics, Story Plans, Instructions, Newspaper articles can all be created with ease for children to make their writing more interesting and appealing.
JUSTIN - My vote would go to GrammarCrush, which offers individualized grammar instruction, and Shakespeare in Bits, which helps make the bard more accessible.
BETH - For younger students, I really like Write About This and Tell About This. Both visual prompts for students and encourages them to work on their use of descriptive language.
SABBA - Students of all ages can benefit from screencasting as they enhance and develop their literacy skills. For the younger ones I’m in love with Draw and Tell and once they are ready to advance in their screencasting Explain Everything would be my number one choice.
LUKE - Working with children as young as 7 last year using BookCreator allowed them to produce non-fiction work that absolutely blew me away. One of the first apps I began using in the classroom yet still one of my favourites.
BEST APP FOR MATHS STEVE - If there's one subject that seems to get more new apps than any other, it's got to be maths, making this quite a tough choice. There are some great games out there like Numbers League, Math Duel and Land of Venn. There are some innovative tools like Math Chat, PhotoMath, Storest and Curious Ruler. I'm going to have to go for Little Digits though as the way it cleverly uses the multi-touch interface of the iPad really impressed me, especially as I watched my four year old counting and even adding using it.
LEE - I would have to go with Math Duel and I used it a lot all year and always had the children working hard with enthusiasm and enjoyment. I would also mention Shape Lab, which is amazing for everything shape and space and I am sure will be used a lot in my lessons in 2015, read more here.
SABBA - MathChat was my favorite release of 2014. I love the idea of students teaching students and the power to make thinking visible while learning maths. The interactive nature of the app really creates an atmosphere of learning to learn.
BETH - For upper level math students, FluidMath is an incredibly rich tool that works on any device. Teachers and students can explore math concepts and physically manipulate graphs and equations to see the relationships.
LUKE - Numbers League had my students fully engaged in maths needed for rapid recall and mental calculations. By making them the superheroes that had to trap, cage and collect different villains by completing sums, the children forgot it was anything to do with Maths. Brilliant game, children even asking to stay in at break times to play it!
BEST APP FOR SCIENCE STEVE - Star Walk Kids gets my vote here. Streamlining one of the most acclaimed apps ever into something more palatable for younger students was a great idea and the delivery is simply excellent. The addition of animated video content was the icing in the cake.
CIARÁN - I cannot get enough of the Arloon augmented reality suite of apps. Their biology app is superb for all learners. You print out a card or use any book or image. Then the magic happens. An augmented reality version of, for example the skeleton, pops up on the card. You then move the card, rotate it, move it closer to the iPad and so on. By touching sections on screen, the names of bones pop up. There are sections on all aspects of biology. Genius!
LEE - Although not necessarily a specific science app, I found using Book Creator for children to write up different investigations has worked wonders. The range of different features, such as sound recordings, adding photos and videos, makes it really easy for children to predict, observe, record, analyse and evaluate.
BETH - I agree with Lee. Book Creator is an amazing tool, especially to support the creation of multi media lab reports. Elizabeth Glassman also did a great, collaborative, science review book
SABBA - A winner with students at Keck USC was DrawMD for making health visible. The beauty really lies in its simplicity making it a great teaching tool for students and patients. Have to give a shoutout to Daqri as well as they did a great job this year modelling what content apps can look and feel like. Their two releases Elements 4D and Anatomy 4D are great supplements to any curriculum.
LUKE - In a similar vein to Lee and Beth the app my children enjoyed using the most last year in Science wasn’t specifically designed for this subject. Comic Life as we knew is an incredibly versatile app and used to record the results of an investigation, it provides a much more child friendly way of presenting this information.
BEST APP FOR HISTORY
STEVE - There's been so much great content from Quelle Histoire and Kids Discover but I'm actually going to choose an app that I stumbled across and isn't even relevant to the curriculum I teach. The Underground Railroad: Journey To Freedom is just awesome. The way you are out in the shoes of a slave trying to reach his freedom, meeting real historical figures along the way and influencing the storyline is one of the most innovative approaches I've ever seen in an educational tool.
LEE - With it being the Centennial of World War 1, Timeline WW1 has been a great reference tool, with a whole range of interactive elements to educate and inform the children about all the different aspects of the Great War.
SABBA - As a history teacher one of my favorites was definitely TouchCast. History is about investigation and TouchCast was a great way for students to analyze sources and share their interpretation of events. Any app that allows students to make thinking visible when doing source analysis will always be at the top of my list and for this reason I have to again mention Explain Everything.
BEST APP FOR GEOGRAPHY
STEVE - I do love Photo Mapo and again, Kids Discover have some great offerings but I'm going to choose Wilderquest. This app, which I featured back in my Gamification in the Rainforest article, harnesses AR tech in a genuinely unique way to allow students to virtually explore a location they may never see for real. I guess some may consider it more of a Science app but I'm sticking to my guns and giving it my vote for best geographical app this year.
LEE - The next app from the team behind Math Duel is Geography Duel and looks like a great competitive way for children to learn about different places around the world.
LUKE - Barefoot World Atlas is a somewhat simplified Google Earth style app that allows young students to find out about the world around them. Used numerous times last year as the highly engaging graphics and information informed and entertained my students.
BEST CODING APP STEVE - I'm going to have to go with Scratch Jr. True it's not got the scope of Hopscotch or even the revamped Tynker, but the way it creates a logical stepping stone for younger students which you can learn more about in my recent post, Scratching the Surface, is superb. It can even be used as an SEN or EAL resource higher up the school for those that are weaker readers. The inclusion of sample projects as well as the simplified character editor are just two of the other highlights that pushed this little gem into the top spot for me.
LEE - Tough as there are so many and there is such a big focus on Coding in the new curriculum. Kodable and A.L.E.X have been used a lot in our classrooms. However an app that I am very excited about using which combines coding with literacy is The Adventure Creator, watch this space with that one.
LUKE - I’ve enjoyed following Tynker grow over the last couple of years and used it frequently in the class. The children find it very intuitive and I think it teaches the basics very well. My number one.
BEST APP FOR ASSESSMENT
STEVE - With my recent move into a new role as a specialist Computing teacher, the Class Act app that I have favoured for a couple of years now really came into its own for me. Being able to make quick AfL judgements for each student across the thirty classes I now teach has been invaluable. I just wish you could export the data!
SABBA - Kahoot was definitely a winner for me this year and a refreshing take on digital assessments. From elementary to higher ed this app engages everyone and allows students to identify their own strengths and weaknesses in a fun way. I’d have to also agree with Lee that Explain Everything and its ability to help students make thinking visible will always be a favorite for more in depth assessments.
LEE - I have recently started using Explain Everything to assess and give oral feedback on children’s work. It has had an amazing and immediate impact on children’s progress, read more here.
BETH - I’m still a huge fan of Socrative. It works on multiple devices and can be used for so many different types of assessment. Now that you can login with your Google account, it’s also a great collaboration platform as reports can be shared with students.
LUKE - This one's easy. I agree with Steve - Class Act. (The app - not Steve!!)
BEST APP FOR PRESENTATION
STEVE - There can only be one winner here for me and that's Nearpod. No other app for direct presentation of content allows for the interaction and active participation that it does. The fact that they keep adding more and more features to it too is just superb. Would be in my top three educational apps full stop.
LEE - I feel I need to use Nearpod more, but I am a massive fan of using green screen for children to present and perform their writing and Do Ink Greenscreen is by far the best I have used and you can learn more here.
JUSTIN - How can anyone look past TouchCast? Students can create professional broadcasts with news scroll, special effects, and even green screen. Students love it.
BETH - I’m a fan of Explain Everything. Not only can it import any other type of presentation file, but annotated presentations can then be shared as PDF or video back to the students.
SABBA - Can’t make up my mind between Adobe Voice and Haiku Deck! I love both because they take students away from text and ask them to focus on images and telling a story. It is essential that students learn how to engage their audience through media while presenting a story. Both Adobe Voice and Haiku Deck help students enhance and develop these skills.
LUKE - Feel like I’m just jumping on the band wagon for the second time here but again completely agree with Steve. The interactivity of Nearpod really sets it apart and allows it to be used effectively from early years to University and beyond. If you haven’t used it yet… you should start soon.
BEST TEACHER TOOL APP
STEVE - VEO (Video Enhanced Observations) is my choice here as it is unlike anything else on the App Store and can be a genuine marvel. Being able to record lesson observations and digitally tag core elements and features for review later is simply brilliant and a genuine way to improve your practice.
CIARÁN - I would choose Plickers. This is an essential tool for teachers whose students don't have iPads. Using cards similar to QR codes, teachers can scan responses from up to 63 students in seconds. Wonderful tool for pre and post lesson assessment. And it's all free!
SIMON - I would have to go with Showbie. I have used it to facilitate group learning activities, setting and monitoring tasks, communication tool between students/parents and teachers and it has been integral in providing assessment for learning opportunities with students. The beta testing recently has added many new tools, with the next one bringing the opportunity for a task to be set, students record their work in Showbie and the teacher can mark all without having to flip from student to student. The online version is slowly making similar gains.
LEE - Plickers has been extremely useful, the pocket curriculum has also been a great little reference tool, Socrative has been great for Pre and post learning tasks too.
JUSTIN - I love Pick Me and Team Shake. Pick Me is great for random names. Team Shake is amazing because you can take the time out of sorting students into groups. You can do it based on ability, or--like me--you can have it based on personality.
BETH - I’m going to vote for Evernote. As a teacher, it can be used for lesson planning, portfolio curation, and sharing resources. The fact that it has a built-in document camera as well as the ability to search handwriting makes it invaluable for curation and archiving.
SABBA - I’m going to give my vote to iAnnotate. Year after year this app is my trustworthy assistant. From grading (especially love the voice annotation) to signing forms to collaborating with students and colleagues iAnnotate makes every process simple to complete.
LUKE - Nearpod features for me in this category too. The assessment features give me such a clearer understanding of the students I work with.
MOST VERSATILE APP STEVE - For me, 2014 has been the year of Tellagami. I know it's taken a bit of a critical bashing since they monetised it over the summer but personally I don't see the problem. why shouldn't they make a profit on something that I can use day in day out in pretty much any given subject? I've used it for longer projects as well as for simple assessment purposes. Kids always react well to using it and I love that it is accessible by even the younger students. A clear winner for me.
LEE - I am a massive fan of Augmented Reality and the way we have used Aurasma this year has transformed learning in so many ways! We have used it to inspire writing, showcase and share children’s work and a range of other ways - see an example here.
SABBA - Explain Everything. There isn't anything this app can’t do. From creating simple screencasts to providing engaging feedback this app can do everything.
BETH - I’m with Sabba on Explain Everything. It does… everything!
LUKE - Explain Everything. One app to rule them all.
THE APP MORE PEOPLE SHOULD TRY
STEVE - Tony Vincent's Stick Around puzzle creator gets my vote here. This is another app that's so versatile and easy to use that it can be incorporated across teaching stages and curriculum areas with ease. The integration with Explain Everything is another major selling point. In my opinion, this app should be on every iPad used in a classroom.
SIMON - For the younger years I go with Imagination Box. It mixes drawing with playdough and what kids don’t enjoy that? and it isn’t messy. My 6 year old loves it.
LEE - I would have to say Thinglink, it can be used in so many ways and is great for linking videos to pictures and sharing on the web.
SABBA - I would have to say ViewChat. When creating on the iPad to me the real learning comes in the process. ViewChat has a great platform for allowing students to work through and discuss the different elements of what they are creating. The different communication tools allow for a great user experience, all while allowing you as the teacher to be in on the conversation.
BETH - For middle/upper grades, I think Diigo Browser is under utilized for supporting online research. Students can save links, annotations, and comments when bookmarking and reading within the app. The new Outliner feature that just launched really changes the way you can think about organizing research for writing.
LUKE - MadPad. Great fun to use in the classroom to break away from the more traditional subjects. Recording your own sounds to compose a ‘Stomp’ style performance is just so enjoyable.
THE DESERT ISLAND APP AWARD (The one app you couldn't live without) STEVE - Every time I ask someone this question, I always get the same response and it's the response I offer if I am asked. Quite simply, Explain Everything rules in the classroom.
CIARÁN - I agree with Steve. I frequently meet schools that are looking for a paid app that will deliver the return on investment across all subjects. It has to be Explain Everything. It's a video tool; it's a whiteboard; it's a flipped classroom; it's a visual thinking aid; it's a creativity tool for all ages and technical abilities; it's an animation creator; it's indispensable!
SIMON - Explain Everything - does it all. The one App that should be on everyones iPads!
LEE - Ditto
BETH - EE/Morris Cooke (they made Stick Around, too!)
SABBA - Has to be Explain Everything
LUKE - If I was stuck on a desert island, I hope I wouldn’t be there with a class full of children. I enjoy my job - but maybe not that much! That being said, my choice would still be Garage Band either way. Infinite possibilities to keep myself (and possibly 30 accompanying children) entertained with this very powerful all encompassing musical app.
STEVE - Am I allowed to say Explain Everything again? :)
BETH - I’m with Steve on Explain Everything. However, for 1:1 classrooms, I also really like Notability. First, it has the auto-backup feature that syncs to Drive/Dropbox/Box/WebDav. Second, the audio-syncing is a game changer for supporting students who struggle with auditory processing.
BEST APP FOR GROUP PLANNING
SABBA. - ViewChat - This app opens an unprecedented approach to collaboration and communication on the iPad. Hope to see the different ways it can be used in 2015.
BETH - Trello is a fantastic tool for project management and works on all devices.
STEVE - Bai Board is something I'm definitely going to using a lot more in 2015.
BEST CROSS PLATFORM TOOL
SABBA - I’m going to choose Nearpod for this one. While many view it as solely a presentation tool, it can be used for so much more. 2014 witnessed some exciting new features such as being able to embed a Nearpod into a blog making it a great way to flip your class or create a newsletter or even use it to create a digital portfolio. The interactive elements allow you to collect feedback allowing you to create a truly interactive experience. Best of all it works across all platforms.
LEE - Socrative
STEVE - You know what, I'm gonna choose Dropbox as so much of what we've accomplished at school using Book Creator etc has relied on being able to share work from different devices via Dropbox.
JUSTIN - Edmodo for the discussion, posting, and quizzes.
BETH - Google Drive!
LUKE - Nearpod
BEST GADGET FOR LEARNING
SABBA - Osmo is one of the greatest iPad games released this year! It’s sensitivity to early childhood development to responsible iPad use made for a beautiful merger between the physical and digital worlds. The variety in games and creative nature of play made it a winner with children and adults!
STEVE - Sphero and Osmo. I had both of them set up in my room all of last term. Sphero has been the one they've clambered over. I just got the Sphero chariot for Christmas too - now they can build a Lego vehicle and really get creative with it.
BETH - how about iBeacons? While I’m still discovering more about how they can be used, Paul Hamilton and Daniel Edwards have written some great posts on how they are using them.