As I start to prepare for the beginning of another great school year, I find myself reviewing the contents of my iTunes library with the purpose of evaluating what my app needs will be in the upcoming school year. Which apps I should keep on my iPhone? Which apps should be relieved of duty? I have downloaded several hundred apps to date for my iPhone, but I find that I keep relying on only a small handful of trusted applications to get me through my daily schedule.
For an app to catch my interest,it must be one that does it’s job. Not just the first time, but every time. I have no need for an app that is great the first time you use it, then malfunctions right after you invest the time into creating a full student database. My next necessity is that the app must be up to date. Sure, an app might have come out a few years ago, but has the developer kept up with current technologies? Does it sync or have a backup feature? Does it work well with the current Apple operating system? Does it have multi-functions built into it, or will it shut down when I switch out of the app? My final requirement of an app that I’m considering to use is will it fill a need? I am not asking “does it fill a want,” but a NEED. Is it an app that my daily schedule just can not live without?
It is with these three qualifiers that this list is composed. I am specifically writing today about apps for the iPhone. Some of these apps have companion apps for the iPad which also function very well. Since I don’t always have my iPad with me during the school day, I will be concentrating my recommendations based on what I use the most on my iPhone.
Attendance: I have been using Attendance to keep an electronic record of my classroom attendance for a few years. It is simple, clean, and it does it’s job each and every time. Sure, there are many apps out these days that take attendance and even include photos of your students, but for simple task of knowing if a student is present, absent or tardy, this is the app for me. One of my favorite features of Attendance is that is quickly and simplistically connects to your dropbox account to sync information with the iPad version. This feature is wonderful because I often find that I am in the hallways taking my classroom attendance on my iPhone rather than my iPad. With just a few clicks, I can have a detailed breakdown of my students attendance emailed to me for further review. For my time and energy, Attendance is an app that can’t be beat.
Memory Stick: Let me first say that I am a huge fan of Dropbox. I am even a bigger fan of iDisk and will shed a shed a tear when Apple drops the file sharing service next summer when MobileMe is dissolved. With both of those cloud based services relying on the internet to do their job, the question still comes up, “What happens when your school blocks those ports?” The answer is Memory Stick. This app gives you a portable and very powerful file storage system. Using iTunes as it’s transfer portal, this app can store any type of file and you are guaranteed to have your information whenever you need it. I often keep a few backup copies of my important information with me on my memory stick. There are many memory stick apps on iTunes. Please take a look at each of them. Several are free, several are paid applications.
Air Todo: Air Todo was one of the first apps that I reviewed and did a screen cast on when I began TeacherCast. I have a few dozen apps on my iPhone that are set up to help me manage my daily schedule. I have tried using them all, and I believe there is a place for those apps in the larger calendar of life. Air Todo is a simple reminder app. It works for iPhone, iPad, and on the Mac. I find that I input most of my todo’s on the Mac and then I have them handy when I’m moving about my day with my Phone. Air Todo is first and for most quick. I can turn the app on and make a note of my thoughts and get out of the app without taking up too much time. Often I find my self in the hallways doing my attendance and recording some last minute speaking points with the app. If you haven’t checked out Air Todo yet, you are missing something.
Keynote Remote: Before I was a Mac fanboy, I was a die hard PC/Microsoft guy. I created massive Power Point files and was very pleased with myself when I became the teacher who didn’t need a VCR because all of my classroom videos were embedded in his classroom slides. The problem with this method was that I was consistently tethered to the computer to change the slide. I fiddled with a few remotes that I bought at the stores but nothing really worked the way I needed it to. When I made the switch to Mac and started learning Keynote, I found that the Keynote Remote was a thing of beauty. I am a teacher who likes teaching in the moment. As I’m engaging my students I sometimes forget what the next slide is, or what the next talking point will be. With the Keynote Remote, I no longer have to worry about keeping myself in check. The app wirelessly connects with your Keynote program (both Mac and iPad). On your iPhone screen, you will see the current slide you are working on, and you will see the next slide coming up. It’s one of the best kept secretes in the app store. The app has the ability to start and stop the presentation and it has worked flawless for me. I recently used it on my music stand as I contacted a concert in a large concert hall. My Macbook was in the back of the hall running a rather detailed presentation that was shown behind the orchestra. Using the Keynote Remote, I was able to know where I was in the concert., The app also is able to show your presenter notes. This was helpful when I needed to turn around and speak to the audience about the next piece on the program. It turned out to be the best teleprompter I could have asked for. If you use Keynote in your classroom, check out this application.
Words with Friends: There isn’t much to say about Words with Friends that hasn’t been said already. Every teacher needs a little bit of down time during the day.
Dropvox: After writing about my 5 favorite apps, I decided to add this little gem into the mix. Dropvox is an audio recorder, simple and plain. As long as your iPhone has hard drive space to fill up, Dropvox will record anything it hears and records it very well. I use this app in my orchestra rehearsals and violin lessons. The key feature that pushes this app ahead of the other audio recording apps on my iPhone is what comes after the recording is over. Dropvox automatically connects to your Dropbox account and saves it’s recordings in the cloud for you to retrieve from any computer in the world. I have used this in several dozen occasions and I find it very useful to have the audio file waiting for me on my desktop computer by the time I sit back down in my office. I can then use those audio recordings for reflection, or cut them up to use online in my class website. I have even started this application, stuck it in my pocket and when the class is finished, I have given the recording to some of my students who were on home leave. Dropvox is one of the best little applications out there for syncing to the cloud.
There were several other apps that could have been on this list, but these were the ones who made the top five (plus one). I hope that you have found this list useful and will give these apps a try yourself.