I been asked quite a bit how I find so many different apps to use with my students. Sometimes the app is a popular one that has been mentioned on a zillion tech blogs or pinned a bunch on Pinterest. However, many of the lessons I create may revolve around apps that are little known. While I will say that process can be time consuming, I do have a process and I thought it may be helpful to outline my methods.
Here are my top secret tips for app sourcing, searching, and selection.
- Start with what you want students to learn & be able to do.
- Find an app to substitute an existing activity.
- Use the “Related apps” feature in the App Store.
- View “What Other Customers” bought or viewed in the App Store.
- If you love an app, click the developer to see what else they made.
- Think of new ideas for existing, free apps.
- Search on Pinterest or social media.
Read more to learn how I do each of the above strategies.
Think outside the app….box?
The number one way I find apps is by first thinking of what I want my students to learn and be able to do. This is the hallmark of any good lesson planning and technology integration should be no different. Instead of finding an app and structuring my lesson around it, I typically start from the teaching point.
After I know exactly what my learning target it for my students, I think of activities I have done before – tech free. Maybe I had students fill in a graphic organizer, maybe they had to find an example in a text, maybe they drew something. I also consider how I want students to demonstrate their learning – are they sharing it with me, each other, the world?
I then use the SAMR model to dream up ways I could substitute, augment, modify, or redefine those activities using some kind of app. At this point, I’m just inventing apps in my head – I’m not searching or anything.
I then used the search in the app store and Google to search out the app I have “invented” in my head. Nine times out of ten there truly is “an app for that (TM)” as we were promised years ago in those telling Apple ads in 2009. Sometimes the app is not exactly what I was looking for so I either try to be flexible to figure out how it could work or I start over from the top.
Use the related apps and customers who bought this recommended features on the App Store
I think this is what those are called. My iPad is across the room so I’m not checking. Much professional. But basically, when I’m browsing for apps as outlined above or just looking at apps in general, I make use of the inlinks that recommend other apps or apps that other customers downloaded.
After searching for Chatterpix, I learned about a few other great apps by the same developer:
And then at the bottom of the app store, I could see what other customers bought. I had never heard of the first choice and discovered something awesome when I clicked on it:
By checking both the “more by” and the “customers also buy” section, you may find one that fits your needs better than the one you had originally searched.
Warning – this can lead to a black hole of clicking until you barely remember what the original app you had looked at was. If you ever spend time on the website TV tropes, you will know this feeling well.
However, sometimes those long chains of clicks allow you to discover an awesome app that inspires a project down the road.
Stare at an app for a long time and think of a new way to use it
Is this tip for real? Yes it is!
One of the things I notice a lot is teachers will ask “What apps can I use for reading?” or “What apps can I download to practice word problems?” While there are definitely some apps that are specifically created for education that address the above, these tend to be more like electronic workbooks.
There are some advantages to these types of apps and some are done really well – but these are never going to be free. Lexia Core 5 is a fantastic app for teaching phonics but you need to subscribe for example.
So sometimes it is worth just picking a workhorse app – that is free – and thinking about different activities it could be used for. This is the opposite of the first tip but it is a good backup plan.
I was trying to think of ways to use the apps that we are stuck keeping on the iPad like Newsstand, Reminders, Notes, etc. While most of these I drag to a folder for students not to use, some, like Reminders, seemed like it could be handy. After staring it down, I realized it would be fun to pretend to be a character and make To-D0 lists for those characters.
Basically if an app seems like it could work because it has a neat function, you will probably be able to think of an interesting way to integrate it into your lessons.
Or don’t use these tips and let me continue to stalk the app store for you!
Check out my Pinterest board for more iPad apps and activities:
Have an app that you are wanting to use and can’t think of how? Have an objective you are looking for to practice with an app? Share below and I will see if I can help!
image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wolfgangkuhnle/4163909778