Teacher Play - 6 Apps to Explore This Summer

Summer is a great time to play–but not just for kids! If you’re a teacher on vacation, the months of July and August are a golden opportunity to explore new apps and tools that you don’t have time to test during the busy school year. Devoting a few rainy afternoons to “teacher play” can pay off big in the fall: you can update your curricula or even develop new activities and assessments, and you can also test-drive apps to determine which ones would work well for your students to use.

Here are six apps and tools that I’ll be playing with this summer:

1. Canva (web, iPad)

Canva is a web app that allows you to design graphics-rich documents and files (such as infographics and posters). There’s a “Design School” section of the site that provides tutorials on graphic design principles as well as how to use Canva. To personalize the modern-looking templates, you can use images from their library or upload your own images. One drawback is that many of the images seem to be pay-per-use (about $1). However, I think this tool could be useful in creating an exciting-looking syllabus that can be easily embedded into a course website.

2. Zaption (web)

If you use videos to flip your classroom (or even if you don’t), then Zaption might make your job easier. You can use videos from YouTube and Vimeo, or create your own, and integrate different types of questions right into the video. Zaption collects student responses, which you can track using their analytics tools. Click here to see an excellent example of Zaption in action using a clip from the movie “Mean Girls.”

3. Blendspace (web)

Like Zaption, Blendspace allows teachers to develop interactive lessons using multimedia resources. But Blendspace also allows you to integrate documents, images, websites (pretty much anything that you can find on the web) in addition to videos. And just like Zaption, you can add different types of questions to each resource and track student responses.

4. Google Classroom (web, iOs, Android)

You’ll need a Google Apps for Education account to set up your Google Classroom. What’s cool about Classroom is that the other Apps for Ed tools–Drive, Gmail–are completely integrated. You can create assignments in Google formats (Docs, Sheets, Slides) and post them to your class “stream,” where students can complete them and teachers can grade them, all without paper. You can even export those grades to an external gradebook. Of course, there’s also a discussion component, where students can interact with each other about course content. This is really just the tip of the Classroom iceberg. In order to really explore what Classroom can do, you’ll probably need a test student account and the cooperation of your educational technology administration.

5. Versal (web; also available as a Chromebook app)

If you use course management software like Moodle, Schoology, Blackboard or Canvas, then the concept of Versal will be familiar to you: develop your content, add resources, integrate assessments and track student progress. But unlike some of the other CMSes, the interface is elegant, intuitive and easy to useAnd you can export your course to a variety of third-party sites, or embed it in your own website. A teacher could use Versal as the basis for an entire academic course, or as the organizing tool for each unit. A bonus? You can even do your own professional development by taking a Versal course as a student (see Google Tools for 21st Century Learners).

6. Adobe Voice and Adobe Slate (iPad)

Adobe’s Voice and Slate apps promise to help you create clean, elegant videos and documents with minimal fuss. A key feature that intrigues me is the voice-to-text capability. I’d like to see how I can use both tools to develop course content like video lessons and syllabi. They’d also work well for student projects.

What apps are you playing with this summer?


Feature image courtesy of Flickr, Infomastern.

One Comment

  1. Great post, Katherine. Thanks for sharing. I would love to introduce you to Bloomz (bloomz.net), a new app that helps teachers connect with parents and save them a lot of time and effort. We are fairly new, but we are growing rapidly and receiving great feedback from teachers and schools, and I think it would be a great addition to your list here. If interested, please reply back and I’d be happy to walk you through our team, mission and the app itself. Thanks!

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