6 Must Have Back to School Apps

You’ve likely noticed that I like sharing lists of educational apps and websites.  There’s been these types of lists from the early days of this blog and I’ll be posting some new ones soon.  Most of these come from blogs and publications geared specifically to educators.

When general publications, such as the venerable Time Magazine, list “must have” educational apps, I’m especially interested.  Lists like this one give valuable insight into what the “media taste makers” deem as important.

Here’s what Time thinks American parents and students need for Back to School 2015:





Khan Academy

Here Comes the Bus

Note: I’ve not hyperlinked these apps as the Time article does this for iOS and Android versions.

The last app made my eyebrows rise as it sounds like a great pacifier for over anxious parents like me who wonder “where’s the bus?”

Here’s their promotional video:

“Make Way for Generation Z”

I’ll admit it – I’m inordinately interested in generational generalizations and how they play out in society.  I can remember exactly when this curiosity started.  It was early 1998 and The Fourth Turning had just been released in hardcover. This turned me on to William Strauss and Neil Howe and their research on and theories about the interplay between generations. 

They’ve focused quite a bit recently on the generation which has been rising behind my (X’er) generation.  Dubbed Millennials or Gen Y, this is the generation which was born after the early 1980’s. It’s hard to believe that the oldest Y’ers are now close to 35 years old!

Since a generation typically spans about 20 years, it’s about time for the next generation to be rising.  But what to call them?

I smiled today when I found, in the NY Times, the first article I’ve seen which both names and attempts to describe this generation – born in the late 1990’s into the 2000’s. The name given to these present eighteen year-olds and younger is the logical, but not creative, Generation Z.

According to The Times, these high-schoolers down to grade-schoolers, can be characterized as such:

Gen Z is already out in the world, curious and driven, investigating how to obtain relevant professional experience before college. Despite their obvious technology proficiency, Gen Zers seem to prefer in­person to online interaction and are being schooled in emotional intelligence from a young age. Thanks to social media, they are accustomed to engaging with friends all over the world, so they are well prepared for a global business environment…

Good thoughts to ponder as both my son (born 2001) and daughter (b. 2003) are firmly Z’ers.  And of course so are the high school students that I teach (12th graders – b.1997; 9th graders – b.2000!).



Parent and Teacher Guide to Online Acronyms



Using this new understanding of the younger generation’s text message vocabulary, be on the lookout for some important ones such as the following:

  • 182 – I hate you
  • 9 – Parent is watching
  • 99 – Parent is no longer watching
  • TAW – Teachers are watching
  • TWD – Texting while driving (if you spot this on anyone’s phone, they’re in trouble. Seriously.

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Two Ways to Engage/Assess Students with Google Forms

I have only begun to scratch the surface of what the ever-expanding Google Forms and the more encompassing Google Classroom offer to educators.  Here’s links to two posts which give solid step-by-step directions about how to create peer feedback Forms and also quizzes/tests with questions drawn from a question bank.

Delivering Peer Feedback with Google Forms

Creating a Quiz on Google Forms from a Test Bank

I’ve not yet tried Forms to create a quiz as my school uses the LMS BrainHoney which offers a robust assessment tool.

I did use Forms quite successfully for a project in one of my classes earlier this fall.  The assignment was a mock job interview in which the interviewee was to receive peer feedback. For this I set up a Form to be the means of this feedback.  I decided this in part because my class was a less expressive group of students and I felt the feedback would be more honest and useful if it was anonymous.  After the peers submitted the Form, it was quick and easy for me to go into Sheets and copy and paste the info into a spreadsheet for each student.

To see my Form for this assignment, click here.

Videos for Each Element of the Periodic Table

Although some may think there’s a dichotomy between Religion and Science, I think this belief is short-sighted and ignorant.

Even if I can’t use the material in my Religion Class, I’m interested in engaging ed tech resources my Science colleagues might be able to use.

This well organized set of videos for each element of the Periodic Table looks pretty cool and useful.

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The blog with more info about it is here.

And here’s a “periodic table” I can use for my Religion Classes:

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‘This’ Will Revolutionize Education – A Thoughtful Video

On a Friday afternoon, this article caught my attention so much that I had to watch the video right away.

The link to the Washington Post article about the video is here.

You can link directly to the video itself here.

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For me, the take-away, thought-provoking ideas from the video are:

“I think the reason technology hasn’t revolutionized education is something… that goes to the very heart of what education is. … It doesn’t matter what happens around the learner. We are not limited by the experiences we can give to students. What limits learning is what can happen inside the student’s head. That is where the important part of learning takes place.

So really the question is, “What experiences promote the kind of thinking that is required for learning?” Recently that research is being conducted and we are learning some pretty important stuff.

The fundamental role of a teacher is not to deliver information. It is guide the social process of learning. The job of a teacher is to inspire, to challenge, to excite their students to want to learn. Yes, they also do explain and demonstrate and show things, but fundamentally that is beside the point. The most important thing a teacher does is make every student feel like they are important, to make them feel accountable for doing the work of learning.

The foundation of education is still based on the social interaction between teacher and students. For as transformative as each new technology seems to be, like motion pictures or computers or Smart Boards, what really matters is what happens inside the learner’s head. And making a learner think seems best achieved  in a social environment with other learners and a caring teacher.”

Based upon this, some of the questions I have to ask myself as a 21st century educator are:

  • How do I choose technological tools?  Do I pick ones that make my content more engaging/entertaining for students?  Do I select tools that will ‘promote the kind of thinking that is required for learning?’
  • In my classroom, how well am I doing with the ‘social interaction’ between me and my students?  How do I evaluate how effective I am at fostering this?
  • Today, this week, this month, this school year – Did I make each of my students feel like he or she is important?  Did I make each feel accountable for doing the work of learning?

What are your thoughts on this video?

What questions does it lead you to ask yourself as an education professional?

50 Resources for Teaching with iPads

Another site which offers a list of suggestions of apps for teachers to use with iPads.

50 Resources for Teaching with iPads

This graphic alone makes this site worth visiting.  I like how it shows how key apps can be used with the triad of educational stakeholders – teachers, students, and parents.

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A Nice List of Teacher Recommended Apps and Websites

Often the best tech resources are those recommended by actual teachers.
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A Gold Mine of Free Educational Technology Resources!

This link takes you to Open Culture – an amazing resource for FREE educational materials of all types!

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Free Educational Technology Resources