by Michael Putman
Have you ever tried to find an app to use within a lesson, only to give up because you are overwhelmed by the sheer number available or because you’ve already spent too much time in a fruitless search? I know I have, but my hope is that by presenting the following two websites, I can eliminate (or reduce) this possibility for both of us in the future.
The first site, which is housed within Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything, is entitled iPads in the Classroom. By now, many of you are likely familiar with Kathy’s work and have come to know that one of her hallmarks is the sheer number of resources that she provides on selected topics. This website is no exception. In just glancing at the page, you may experience that overwhelmed feeling creeping in – bear with me. Instead, I want to highlight a specific link: Bloomin’ iPad. As you may have guessed, “Bloomin’” refers to Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy. What Kathy has created on this page is simply brilliant: a series of visuals that illustrate various apps for several devices that will allow you to structure your technology integration to reach selected levels of the taxonomy. In our current context where we consistently hear of the need to address higher order thinking skills, we now have a tool to determine an app that may help us do just that. For example, if your goal is to have the students engage in some form of literary analysis using technology, an examination of the “Analyzing” gear yields a tool that can be used to facilitate this process. Please note - the most recent version of the “Bloomin’ Apps” is what you see at the top of the page, but I highly recommend that you scroll down the page to examine the previous versions of this tool as they contain additional apps.
The second website is aptly titled “Best Apps for Kids.” It is actually a blog that is not solely focused on education (or literacy), but is intended to be a resource for parents seeking appropriate and, in most cases, educationally sound apps for iPads, iPods, or iPhones. Regardless of the intended audience, there were several notable features I found within the site that made it a great choice for finding apps for use with children. First, each review provided an overall quality rating for the app as well as information on the educational quality, general value, and child friendliness. In each case, the information presented was concise, yet useful in determining the functionality of the app. Second, I also liked that the user could search the website using a variety of criteria. For example, if I was trying to help my kindergarteners practice letter recognition and wanted to integrate iPads within the activities, I could search for apps via the grade level, device, or topic. Finally, the blog features Free App Friday, which I felt was very relevant given that many of us are on a budget. While the name is self-explanatory, the fact that the authors of the blog compile a current list of free, recommended apps and publish it on a specific day of the week is definitely a welcome relief from happening upon (or missing) “freebies” on your own. (Read more about Best Apps for Kids in Kimberly Kimbell-Lopez’s recent article.)
Whether you are a teacher who just received your first set of iPads or someone looking for new methods to utilize mobile devices within your instruction, I think the resources presented at these sites will help you quickly and efficiently locate several apps relevant to your instructional goals. Happy “apping”!
Mike Putman is an associate professor in the Reading and Elementary Education Department at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.