I used to carry a pad of paper everywhere with me. Jot down ideas, appointments, thoughts and useless tidbits of information. But I don’t carry one any more. No, it’s not because my jeans are too tight (although some would argue this), and it’s not because I hate paper (paper still plays an important role in my digital world). It’s because my phone is my pad of paper.
My phone is more convenient, more portable, more diverse and more searchable than any notebook I ever carried. My phone is linked to every other content creating device I use. My phone is with me all the time. And I suspect the same can be said for the majority of your students.
Does this mean that all students should be writing using their phone? No. Does it mean every child should replace their pad with an iPad? No. But it does mean that students now have a pretty amazing resource in their pocket that can be used for countless writing applications. Here are seven apps that specialise in each of those applications.
Writing Apps for Every Classroom Purpose
1. Journaling - Day One
Day One is a writing app specifically designed for journaling. With journaling and blogging a growing trends in classrooms and with the daily ritual of writing being shown to boost creativity and even provide health benefits, it can be a great habit to encourage with your students.
A really beautiful app, Day One has a heap of features all geared towards encouraging journal writing as well as providing a very clean interface to type and create content. It’s really simple to add elements such as images, weather data, and location to truly bring entries to life and capture moments as they happen. With Twitter integration and sync/backup to services such as Dropbox and iCould it’s also a great way to share and protect journal entries.
2. Simplicity - Drafts for iPad
Drafts is a writing app that is all about the written word. It puts written content front row centre and removes all distractions so that the focus is on writing and writing only. This can be a real benefit for students who find it easy to slip off task once there is too much happening on the screen.
From the second you launch the app the first thing you will see is a blank draft… Ready to start writing. A real effort has been made to remove clutter and make sure there are as few taps as possible to get writing onto the page. The app also has a load of output options allowing you send text to Twitter, Facebook, email, SMS, a Calendar event, save to Dropbox, Google Drive or Evernote making content very portable.
3. Collaboration - Quip
Quip is the writing app that puts focus on collaboration and discussion. Describing itself as a ‘social/professional online mobile-first word processor‘ the app take a unique approach to writing and how the process can take on a very social and collaborative element.
Combining documents and messages into a single chat-like “thread” of updates the app takes a lot of the best features of a social network and brings it together with writing. With real-time editing and messaging the app is a really great way to have students act as both writers and editors, while encouraging collaboration and idea sharing. Quip also has desktop (Mac and PC) versions to allow broader collaboration beyond the tablet.
4. Publishing - Byword
Byword is a writing app that uses Markdown, a plain text formatting syntax, to create written content. This is particularly useful when using a device such as an iPad or iPhone where formatting can be awkward and time consuming on the touch screen.
There are two major benefits for students who choose to use this app: improving the ability to focus on the written content (not formatting) and the learning of the (very useful) Markdown syntax. Given the standard nature of Markdown it means that content is very publishable on any platform as well as being exportable to a number of different formats. With this concept the Byword app includes features to make it very easy to export to HTML and PDF as well as publish to WordPress, Tumblr, Blogger, Scriptogram and Evernote.
5. Design & Style - Pages
Apple’s own word processor app, Pages is definitely the right choice if your students are looking to create graphic or visual written content. Apple is renowned for making simple and stylish software (and hardware) and Pages is one of the best examples of this. With very intuitive behaviour and a fairly minimal interface it’s amazing how colourful and professional creations in the app can be.
Although the app is a little more expensive than others, you get a LOT of bang for your buck. The app has over 60 Apple-designed templates that students can use as a base, where they can go on to add text, images, shapes, and more. As well as all these standard word processing features, the app also has advanced features such as change tracking, comments, and highlights to easily review changes in a document.
6. Efficiency - Editorial
Editorial is a writing app with a very cool difference… Automation. Like the others apps in the list, Editorial works as a simple plain text editor, but there is a whole other side to it with a powerful set of inbuilt automation tools.
Similar to Byword, Editorial also uses Markdown syntax, but the whole process can be simplified and made more efficient by harnessing many of the automation features. This app is certainly better suited to older students who want to ‘do more’ with their writing, but it is a great tool for building writing and scripting skills.
7. Note-taking - Penultimate
A little bit different to the other writing apps, Penultimate uses natural handwriting rather than the digital keyboard. This in itself puts the app in a whole different category.
Using some pretty smart tech (gestures and wrist protection) students can use the app just like a pad of paper for note-taking. A very neat way to get down ideas fast, the app is also part of the Evernote family, meaning all the info can be synced and configured with an Evernote account.
What writing apps do your students like to use? Share your tips and recommendations in the comments below.
Feature image courtesy of Flickr, GregDawson. App images courtesy of iTunes.