Teachers who ignore the daily newspapers, sites and feeds are missing out on a great resource to help kids master reading and critical thinking. Newsela’s Text Sets can help organize and distribute articles of interest by bringing them together into a collection, ready for kids to consume. There are prepackaged sets on everything from the upcoming presidential campaign to 3-D printing, but teachers can now compile their own sets. Just register for the free version or upgrade to the Pro service, which adds the ability to annotate and add notes or encouragement.
PDFs are static pages that you can only view or print, right? Wrong, with Notable PDF can not only open Adobe Acrobat files, but highlight items, type notes and do things like crossing out and underlining text. You can do all this in a variety of colors so several kids can mark up or annotate a document. In addition to making changes, Notable lets you print the document. It’s free but if you pay $2 a month for the premium plan you can save items to your GoogleDrive, work offline and add drawings when the software is finished.
It’s sadly a truism today that teaching can be one of the most stressful occupations, but the DeStressify app can manage and lesson its impact. The software, which runs on Android phones and tablets as well as iPhones and iPads, can help with a 5- to 10-minute relaxation period to sooth and free the teacher’s mind. The activities are described and shown and include relaxation techniques like visualization, breathing and physical movement. If they do it once a day, the activities can lower stress levels by as much as 20-percent, based on a recent study. The free version does a lot, but the $6 Pro software adds reminders and the ability to invite other teachers to join you.
Looking for that perfect video on the life of James Clerk Maxwell, an explanation of what a virus is or a critique of Plato’s Crito? Youtube.edu/edu is an amazingly deep resource with all that and much more for building lesson plans around. With a library holding 850,000 streaming videos on every facet of education, the items are organized by subject and range from a few minutes to more than an hour long. It deserves to be bookmarked on your class computer.
If you spend an hour creating classroom presentations for every hour spent teaching, you will quickly run out of hours. Prezi can help with a simple and innovative way to use your tablet to quickly build and display lessons. There are free versions for iPads and Android that have a variety of backgrounds, lots of special effects and can be shared. The free version includes 100MB of online storage space and all presentations are visible to anyone. There are optional plans for $10 and $20 a month that lets you keep your lessons private and raise the storage level.
With the increasing emphasis on Pre-K classes, schools need activities for their youngest students and the Toonia Colorbook fits the bill with 128 pages to color online or on paper. If you need more, they’re available for a few dollars per set. The coloring pages are divided into 16 themes so the kids can stick to an idea or roam around as they like. In addition to colors, they can paint in patterns and after you shake the pad, it’s ready to be reused. There’s a way to keep the colors within the lines or draw freeform and many kids can collaborate on a painting.
If you liked Adobe’s Voice app for the iPad, the new version makes storytelling even easier. Called Slate, the app is based on the notion that presentations don’t need to be static and silent. It can turn any storyline into a full-fledged interactive experience with photos, drawings, music and a slew of backgrounds. It’s all free and most of the tools are pulled out from the side of the screen. When you’re done, the Slate story can be saved to a Creative Cloud account, ready to be shared with the class or a small group. On the downside, it’s for iPads only with no Android app.
OneNote is a great way to turn lectures, meetings and class activities into digital pages in a notebook. It can also help teachers and administrators keep a school running and on the same digital page. OneNote Staff Notebook is an expanded version of the software that emphasizes all the behind-the-scenes work it takes to run a school. It includes one of the easiest ways to share new ideas and material and is a great place to record, store and department and committee meeting notes. In fact, it might be the best place to keep a complete list of the rules and regulations so you can ditch the out of date loose-leaf book of rules.
The Spelling Test Free app is not only available for Android and iPad tablets, but can help any class spell better with the ability to create custom tests and quizzes based on a teacher or department’s word lists. The tests can be used on either platform and Spelling Test Free will read the words to the kids and tabulate which students got what words wrong and right. You can use the free edition to create up to three spelling tests, but the $1 version allows unlimited use.
Showbie’s homework app covers everything from the teacher preparing the assignment through the collection and grading process on an iPad; sorry, no Android app at the moment. Teachers can build assignments within Showbie or have kids submit their work from other iPad apps, like Haiku Deck and Evernote. The student work is organized by folder and there are reminders and warnings as the deadline approaches. When done, the teacher can add comments and even voice notes to completed work. The free app is good for up to 100 assignments.