Using hand held technology in the classroom is coming more and more popular in classrooms around the UK (and elsewhere), and with good reason. Some schools are using a lot of Nintendo DS activities to develop mathematical skills and problem solving (among other things). Other practitioners are using the ipod touch to engage pupils and a number of school have been involved in projects showing the versatility of the ipad in the classroom. Many pupils find it easy to engage in learning when it is via something they find familiar, tactile, appealing and interactive and the number of apps being developed for classroom use , or being used in a classroom setting even if that wasn’t the initial intention, is growing and growing.
I’ve come across few apps that are particularly useful if you are in a setting where pupils need assistance in understanding their emotions and how to read other people’s faces. Emotion x has a great selection of faces that such pupils can explore in detail; independently or with a supporting adult. The expressions are clearly defined and zooming in on details like the characteristics of the eyes or mouth is a helpful inclusion. Once pupils are becoming a little more aware of different emotions and expressions they could move onto an app like Micro-Expression trainer, although it’s trickier than it looks!
Of course, I like to tell people that the ipad is totally inclusive and good for pupils of all ages and all abilities: something I believe to be true! There are a number of apps that, on the surface of it, seem to do very little and yet have great impact and potential in the correct setting. The video above shows a short demo of an app called Cutie Bounce which, along with another great but simple app called Granimator, has just enough interactivity for any pupils who is at the ’cause and effect’ stage of ICT. These pupils might usually access technology using switch enabled technology or a specialised set up like Intellikeys: both of which can be cumbersome and are quite obviously different from the average computer set up. Using the ipad not only allows such pupils greater choice – it also, in my opinion, levels the playing field just a little (in the same way any great touch screen technology does).
There are lots more apps I could talk about (maybe I’ll discuss some more on another occasion), including some great ones that can be used to compose music or find thematically based information but I’m going to finish off with some ideas that could be used to engage pupils in story writing and creation, some of which you might already have heard of. Puppet Pals is a particular favourite: pupils move record their own little movie created by using their own voice, a few characters, a background and their fingers. I can’t explain it any better than that really – I just love watching the pupils excitement when they realise what the app can do! You can use your own backgrounds and characters if you want to (and could, therefore, create movies on whatever your current topic happens to be) or use some of the characters included. You can, for very little money, purchase additional character sets to extend the use of the app even further. My friend @ebd35 blogs about it here and every teacher I’ve shown it to has been able to see the potential to develop its use in their classroom – in short, it’s a keeper! Other fantastic apps include Strip Designer: a great comic strip generator that uses your own illustrations and photos (similar to the fabulous Comic Life), Tootastic (which, along with Puppet Pals, has been spoken about here) and Rory’s Story cubes – fabulous for getting the creative juices flowing!
You might notice, while checking out these apps, that not all of them are free. There are a great number of free apps available and some of them are useful but you should never limit yourselves to what is freely available – you would miss out on some amazing things that could really change things within your setting. So, if you’ve got an ipad or ipod available and feel like using it creatively just give it a go. And if you find something REALLY cool and useful, please let me know!