Last week I wrote this blog post on 5 iPad apps for classroom creativity and the need for tech tools to foster creativity in my classroom. This week I am focusing on apps that I use in my classroom to help in the research process. More specifically, these apps should help students with locating, accessing, and making sense of all the information that is available. Here are my top five :
- QR Scanner: have a specific website in mind that you want your students to access? Create a QR code, glue it onto a poster, have students scan, and voila’! My students use this app daily to access the teacher “approved” websites relating to our current Unit of Inquiry.
- BrainPop: a treasure chest of information provided in short 3-5 minute animated video clips on a broad range of subjects, from reading and writing to math, science, health, and everything in between. The number of videos offered is constantly increasing and I use it to provide a more audio-visual way of accessing information to students. Next time you want to spice up your lessons search the BrainPop database to see if there is a related video. Each video (or topic) also has associated ideas for activities and lesson links. While the app is free, to access paid content you need to have a subscription. Each subscription will allow access to both the BrainPop (grades 3-5) and BrainPop Jr (grades K-2) apps.
- Google Chrome: the access point for the web in my classroom providing quick and easy answers to simple questions. Don’t know how to type what you want? No problem – just have students use the audio search feature. We use safe search through our school network in conjunction with a digital literacy program to make sure students know what sites are appropriate and what to do should they encounter inappropriate sites. Yes there is a slight risk that students are exposed to something they shouldn’t be exposed to, but I believe it is my job as an educator to manage this risk and educate – as opposed to hide my head in the sand and pretend that it won’t happen outside of the school walls. Anyhow, most of the time the students in my classroom use the audio feature to ask Chrome how to spell words (because it’s really hard to find a word in the dictionary if you don’t know how to spell it =)
- Kidspirations: not really a “research” tool as such, but more of techy way to create mind-maps to help organize thinking. Very easy to use, and not confined by the limits of paper, students are able to mind-map their topic in greater detail (more branching out and off-shoots). The final product can easily be exported to cloud storage providers or saved as a .jpg (picture) on the camera roll.
- Nat Geo Atlas: a personalized globe on a screen with tons of extra features such as flags, facts, and stats for every country and territory. This app was especially useful during our trade/resources unit in easily identifying a country’s major imports/exports, trading partners, relative distance from each other, etc. Students would actually come into the classroom during their breaks to “explore” their digital worlds.
These 5 apps all help students to access information from a variety of sources. As mentioned previously, the tech component allows for greater access to information, however it is my job as an educator to help students apply their research skills by evaluating the reliability of sources and curating the information they receive in a way that is accessible and makes sense. Happy researching!