Apps

… this is not another blog about appetizers, but rather the technical term, applications.

In this week’s Emerging Tech class, we were tasked with reviewing apps new to us (which, to me, is basically everything outside of Instagram, Pinterest, MapMyRun, and Weather Underground). Because I do not use a lot of apps on my phone, they never actually dawned on me as having an educational component. (I feel like this is a theme; I just never realized all that’s out there.)

My professor shared links of several apps, including a link to the American Association of School Libraries best 2019 apps for teaching and learning. I looked at several of these (mostly ones that I personally had an interest in or ones that I think my kids would like) and wanted to mention some this week:

Khan Academy Kids — 13&11 used this for assignments in elementary school, so I am familiar with the Khan Academy platform. There are a lot of resources for children on the Kids app and even preK-specific options. Personally, I do not like the idea of my child using a tablet or other technology at home; however, I do see how this would be beneficial in a pre-school/early elementary setting. I think that offering tech-based programming while the librarian circulates to help students find books is a great way to multi-task in the classroom, especially given that class sizes range 20-33 in most districts and there is typically only one librarian. This would be a valuable tool in a station-like setting.

Novel Effect — This app is really neat. I downloaded it yesterday to my phone to use with 3. He LOVED it. I think the concept is super cool; you read a book and there are corresponding sound effects that align with certain words once spoken. Personally, I had to delete this from my phone because I don’t like recording my voice and having it filed away somewhere. (Sounds paranoid, I realize. Oh, well.) I think on a basic school-wide iPad or tablet, this could be a great app to utilize. It is fun to hear the various effects and I think even middle-high schools students would be entertained by it in small doses. This app made me think back to teaching MS in Virginia when my ELA students wrote, directed, and filmed ‘TV shows’ for our figurative language unit — my students had so much fun with the assignment and had voice overs and effects for everything. It was a lovely memory to have while testing out this app and I’d love to use it again when I have a practicum experience with younger students.

PBS Kids — Who doesn’t love PBS? I grew up watching Mr Rogers (filmed in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA); it was one of the few shows I was allowed to watch and at an early age had met all of the stars. So exciting! As I grew older, my love of PBS grew. When I taught in the DC area, I sat on a panel where teachers tested/gave feedback to website additions/materials. The PBS Kids app delivers all I’d expect from such an education-centered organization. I love that there are STEM programs available on this platform, but what I really am excited about are the e-books: I think that e-books give families access to reading that they may otherwise not have. I can’t like this app enough and it goes along with everything I’ve ever known about PBS to do — give access to all.

Do Ink — This site is really cool for any school/program with video programming. Do Ink allows for green screen production and could be used for school TV programs, projects for any content area/class, and even instructional videos from specialists. I love the options of creating green screen videos (and there are really detailed instructions as well). The Do Ink Green Screen reminds me of trips to the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh and the ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain; both have weather green screens and my kids, husband, and myself have all enjoyed our personal video productions. This could be such a versatile program for students to use and to showcase student projects to parents or even community members (assuming all students can be filmed; all safety measures are followed). Before moving to Boston, I worked in an alternative school for students displaced from their base/public school. Our principal who was equally awesome and ahead of his time, supported project-based initiatives; we regularly took some really unique field trips that allowed students to ‘get their hands dirty’ and they all related to the end of the year culmination project about the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. I would have LOVED for our students to use such technology to report their findings in such a way encouraged by Do Ink. I really appreciate all this app offers and hope to use it some day with my students in the library classroom!

iCell — I will be honest: I never got into science. Most everyone on my dad’s side works in medicine and everyone just assumed I would too — that English degree of mine couldn’t be more opposite. That being said, the iCell app is a really neat tool for giving simulated bio lab information. 11 would love such an app and I can guarantee would play on it for hours if we let him. This app allows you to make notations/annotate along the cell’s structure and image; you can lock and hide your notes if necessary. This makes for a great tool in the classroom and yes, in the library. I am constantly thinking about ways to integrate the library classroom into the classrooms of content and it’s really easy for me to figure out ways to incorporate the library into a humanities class and even mathematics; however, I struggle most with science. This would be a great way to support science teachers and/or students who are interested in studying science independently. A colleague at BHCC who teaches science told me that most of their dissection is now done virtually, so I think that students looking to study science post-secondary could really benefit from having access to such an app. I look forward to keeping this app in mind when I am a school librarian.

iCivics — This app caught my attention because 13 is in the eighth grade this year and is currently studying civics. While we are not a very tech-heavy household, I always keep my kiddos in mind when I learn about new educational technologies. 13 and I have been having regular conversations (class assignment) about duties, responsibilities, and rights. The games on this program would allow for additional support in the classroom. Similar to the PBS and Khan applications, I could see this being used in the library classroom while the librarian works with other students to identify appropriate texts. I think that games are a good break for students in the classroom and this could allow them to utilize knowledge without spreading everyone thin and also while giving them a break from the rigorous in-class work and discussion. To me, Supreme Decision seems like the coolest of the games to play within the app — here, you are presented with a case and have to help the US Supreme Court make a decision. Anything that allows a child to be in the company of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a win in my book.

Flickr — We were asked to look at Flickr this week as well. On a personal note, I could see this leading me down a rabbit hole of lost hours looking at pictures of dogs. On a professional level, I see some really neat things you could use Flickr for in the classroom and especially in the library. To me, using the resources available on the site is where the bread & butter is; I think having students post pictures to an open space in the outside world is scary. (Specifically, I think of students in state custody who may not realize the dangers of someone coming across a picture.) This is an app that I need to table until I am in a position to use it. I feel like it would be best to be able to create such a platform on a school/district-wide intranet because there are so many learning opportunities for students to discuss cultures, places, art, humanities, and even science and mathematic components. One area I could see using this would be a collaboration club between maybe an art class and the library; student number would be small and thus could be more easily monitored with content and commenting postings. I see the potential in this app but the parent/foster parent in me sees red flashing lights.

Lastly, it seems there are a lot of virtual/augmented reality apps. I think that these programs are really neat for students to experience and should spend some time looking into them. Sadly, the mere thought takes me back to Body Wars at Disney’s Epcot (circa 1990-something) where the 3D virtual body tour made it so I never see another thing like it since. I get squirmy just thinking about these programs because of that experience… Still, apps like Sites in VR seem really cool. I love the idea of exposing students to other places outside of their comfort zones. Years ago, back at the Alternative School mentioned above, I had mentioned my travels through Europe. Nearly all of my students were jealous of my travels to Amsterdam because they thought it would be a wild party of Red Light District visits and drugs. They were less impressed with my stories of visits to the Anne Frank House, the tulips, the canals, and the food. I think an app like Sites in VR allows students to gain knowledge beyond stereotypes or grandiose stories and could really be utilized in the library classroom to highlight settings of stories, work with ELA/social studies teachers, or just allow students to investigate their own curiosities of the world.

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