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Should apps and education ever mix?

Visit Fueled to explore a selection of educational apps for kids that allow teachers to engage students in active learning in the classroom.

Most of us remember the classic classroom setup -- teacher up front and students sitting in rows, not allowed to talk to each other during class. Instead, just having to pay attention so they can regurgitate everything on a standardized test, designed to measure how much content we could recall. 

I remember thinking a lot of times “this is just boring,” “there’s got to be a better way,” or “gosh, this is so outdated.” Sounds familiar?

Fortunately, there are plenty of great opportunities to improve how today’s students learn, helping teachers to design better learning experiences.

What do apps have to do with it?

In looking at the options, Mary Ann Spicijaric, the Fontbonne Hall Academy’s principal saw that bringing collaborative tools to classrooms [PDF] could help students take control over their own learning.

Without having state funds and IT staff, Mary found an affordable solution: she signed up faculty, staff and students for Google Apps for Education, giving everyone a Gmail address.  

Once everyone understood how to use Google Apps, they began testing Google Classroom and ordered 100 Chromebooks for the incoming freshman class, letting the rest of their students bring their phones, tablets, and laptops to school.

The benefits? Fontbonne used to be the type of school we are all familiar with, having a teacher talking, calling on one kid, and then another. But now, their students work in groups [PDF] with their Chromebooks open, inspiring them to engage in discussions.

Luckily, there are other teachers out there applying similar strategies. Few TED-Ed Innovative Educators revealed some favorite educational apps they use in teaching:

  1. Duolingo -- A great way to learn a new language, because exercises are split into vocabulary themes, and it has lots of “gamey” features. You lose a life when you get something wrong, and you earn points when you complete a new lesson. Its leaderboards encourage students to compete with each other, so learning a new language with Duolingo “revolutionized the way people learn languages”, says TED-Ed community member Dhruv G. Menon.
  2. Kahoot -- You can create a fun learning game, made from a series of multiple-choice questions. “In terms of student engagement, Kahoot helps create an exciting and fun classroom environment where a spirit of healthy competition is evident”, writes TED-Ed Innovative Educator Jennifer L. Scheffer.
  3. Padlet -- It provides many possibilities in the classroom, serving as an online discussion board or to display student work. “My favorite feature of Padlet is that students can post the products they create in other applications, whether it be an Adobe Voice, PowToon, Haiku Deck, iMovie, or Google Presentation. Virtually anything with a link can be added to a Padlet wall”, says Jennifer L. Scheffer.
  4. Haiku Deck -- Professionally-designed layouts and themes to create stunning presentations quickly and easily. “It’s great for pairing short poems and images,” says TED-Ed community member Jessica Dawn Kaiser.
  5. Explain Everything -- If you want to integrate content from endless sources to use them to create lessons and tutorials, this is the app you’ve been awaiting. Suitable for iPad, Chromebook, Android and Windows devices. “It’s one of the most versatile apps you can have in your toolbox,” says TED-Ed community member Caroline Taylor-Levey.
  6. QuizUp -- If you want to spice up the atmosphere in your classroom, start trivia games together with your students. This app allows you to be part of a great community and participate in topics you are passionate about. Each topic has a community where students can play and interact with others, thus increasing their confidence level and socialization skills. “Thanks @QuizUp for creating your own quizzes! I can now use this as a teaching tool!”, says Math teacher Ms. Fye, on Twitter.
  7. Edmodo -- Teachers and students can continue their discussion even after the school bell rings. Furthermore, this free app allows teachers to post assignments, feedback, and quizzes while providing access to relevant resources.  “The app makes it possible to give students constructive feedback in a 1:1 manner,” says TED-Ed Innovative Educator Jennifer Hesseltine.

The aforementioned online learning apps allow teachers to quickly integrate technology into their classroom, leading students to active involvement, engagement, and interaction. What’s really important is to motivate and inspire students to involve in the classroom -- in terms of collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity.

If teachers are willing to explore new ways of challenging themselves and their students, education won’t stop at the end of the school day. It will instead further push the boundaries of our youth’s potential.

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