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Monday, February 25, 2013

The land of the free apps...and the home of the confused? - Guest Post

So many apps, so little time to go through them and see if they’re useful. We’re busy writing lesson plans that connect to and support the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the upcoming Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Our time is precious when we go home (and it’s not at 3 pm) and want to spend time with our families (in my case my bird and four cats). So how do we determine what free apps are useful in the classroom without doing an immense amount of research?

Many organizations have already done the work for you. This part take a bit of time to research, but organizations like CAST (Center for Applied Special Technology) recommend various free apps to cut down your “Hey, let’s play around with this app” time.

As a mathematics instructor for middle schoolers, I need apps that cover core concepts like algebra, geometry, and statistics. CAST recommends puzzles like iSolveIt’s MathScaled and MathSquared to keep students practicing their skills while (dare I write it) having fun. One of my favorite games (and yes, it’s truly an addictive game, even for me as a math teacher) is Glow Burst Lite, which is perfect for the 6th grade community learning about negative numbers on the number line.

For Science middle school instructors, the new NGSS coming out this spring brings with it plenty of engineering requirements rather than content regurgitation. So apps with puzzles, (and I would suggest getting the Apple USB cable that works with a projector), are perfect! Engineering calls for solving problems, so anything with puzzles is fantastic. An app that’s free from Autodesk called Tinkerbox is a great one for the little ones AND middle-school kids. Micro-Empowering Inc. is on Obama’s trail with STEM education with CuriositySchool, another app focused on solving engineering problems, including Biology, Chemistry, and Physics all in one, simple to use app. Again, I would suggest showing this on the “big screen”.

Are you in the Fine Arts and think that the App Store locked its doors on you? Oh, dear no! The app Music Notes is a great tool for the MacBook Pro and iPad for learning where the notes are on the keyboard. There is both training mode as well as a play mode with a timer as the note names come up and you need to click (or tap) on the correct black or white key. For art there are, of course, many sketching apps such as SketchBook MobileX (designed for the iPhone and iPod Touch) which let you get your Stylus on. I have to admit, although we’re talking about free apps, for art history there is a fab app for $9.99 (I know, I know, kinda pricey), called Art Authority. Definitely worth the green.

I hope this gives you a bit of an idea of what’s out there that’s free (minus the last one above) that will get your students excited about your class, your content -- as well as getting you just as thrilled!! Cheers all!

About the guest blogger, Susan Elizabeth D’Auria:
Currently I am the STEM Director and Head of the Mathematics Department at an all-girls private school in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, NY. I spearheaded the Advanced Mathematics Program in 2004 in which our 8th Grade students take a 9th Grade mathematics course. A graduate of Brooklyn College, CUNY, I was accepted as a PhD candidate at Teachers College, Columbia University in Mathematics Education (2010). Since January 2012, I have been working as part of Cohort 4 of the Endeavor Science Program which only accepted 51 teachers across the United States. In May 2013, I will receive a STEM Teaching Certificate from NASA and Teachers College, Columbia University.

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