If you are like me, you’ve been teaching long enough to remember when we took our classes to the computer lab. Back then, we were concerned about students accessing their email during class and how that behavior would negatively impact their work. Soon after, students pushed our buttons using their Facebook accounts. It’s been a slow progression, but we eventually came to realize that while the tools have changed from passing notes to texting, our real concern has always been about getting our students to make good decisions and use their time productively. Our job is to help guide them to apps and tools that will get the job done, while keeping our focus on the learning.
I was purging old files from my office the other day and ran across a workshop I presented just a few years ago. I taught a long list of wonderful educational apps and software, most of which don’t exist anymore. The apps died… pulled off the market or buried in a “that was fun while it lasted” pile of old papers.
You see, what I constantly need to remind myself is that learning isn’t about the tools, it’s about how we teach folks to use tools effectively to meet learning targets. Don’t get me wrong, apps are amazing (I can’t seem to tear myself away from my Olympic apps). For education, I have a list of current favorites I use for different purposes:
Aurasma– trigger videos, URLs, slide shows just like a QR code
iMovie – Create, show, and share videos
iPhoto– browse, organize, and edit photos
Garage Band – touch instruments with a full-featured recording studio
Google Drive – access your school Google Doc account
iTunes U – online courses and course creation
iBooks or – It’s all about the books
Explain Everything – creating screencasts for instruction or information
Socrative – my new favorite, use smart phones and handhelds as clickers
Ken Burns– AMAZING NEW ONE! Brief clips from Ken Burns’s films grouped by theme
But the apps don’t stand alone. Instead, teachers are striving for students’ education, their achievement, and ultimately their success. We librarians need to continue to teach alongside our staff, suggesting just the right app to facilitate meaningful learning, much like we would have used paper or encyclopedias “back in the day.” The process we use must be sound and consistent, teaching both students and staff how to access and utilize information in increasingly independent and challenging ways. That is the real strength of the teacher librarian and our collaborative work.
It seems like every blogger, columnist, and our very own ALA has a top ten app list. These are all very good; most teachers can name several favorites. There is a selection of fabulous apps for just about every classroom need. The crucial piece to remember as we use apps is the larger learning that we are trying to achieve and work to provide every student what they need to be successful. Avoid the tech trap of discovering a new app and then trying to force its use into the classroom. Keep the learning central; apps are the supporting characters.
Phil Goerner is a teacher librarian at Silver Creek High School in Longmont, Colorado.
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