Teaching through tech: 10 essential apps for a smooth school year

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These days, the majority of your students bring their cell phones to class. Many others prefer to take notes on tablets and laptops. While phones and other technology devices can certainly serve as distractions (especially if your students are checking their Instagram feeds instead of listening to your lectures), they can also provide you with new and exciting tools to increase student engagement. They can even help you stay organized and save you time on some of the less glamorous teacher tasks. Here are the 10 best apps for teachers.

1. Google Drive

Student attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, but you’re not worried. After tons of hard work, you’ve put together a blockbuster course, complete with captivating lecture notes, tantalizing video clips, fascinating direct source material, and even a dazzling slideshow or two. (Maybe with the help of some of the apps in this list!)

Google Drive is the perfect place to create and stash all your documents. The program can store your existing files, or you can use Google’s own programs to create all-new documents. Because your Google Drive lives in the cloud, you can take your files anywhere you go on your phone or computer. You’ll never show up to class and realize you left your lecture notes at home again!

Cost: Free

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2. Remind

College can be a dizzying experience for freshmen and upperclassmen alike. It can be difficult to remember which assignments are due on which date or when a test is coming up. Give your grateful students a helpful nudge with the Remind app, which allows you to (surprise) send out helpful reminders. This is ideal for informing students about the big paper due tomorrow or to prepare for midterms next week. Additionally, use Remind for any big class announcements. You can also create group discussions or reach out to students individually if you notice someone falling behind.

Cost: Free

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3. Additio

Are you still taking attendance on a sheet of paper or jotting down quick notes about student participation in the margins of your lesson plans? One big gust of wind or coffee spill, and that precious information is gone. Additio is your go-to classroom management app. The app lets you take attendance, calculate grades, take notes about student performance, and even schedule your lectures and assignments.

Cost: Free (in-app purchases to upgrade)

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4. Haiku Deck

Long, boring slideshows filled with huge blocks of text will tank your student engagement and comprehension. Spice up your presentations with the Haiku Deck app. This fun and intuitively designed app lets you create beautiful and visually focused presentations. It can be adapted for almost any subject and will help you tell a story students will love to learn. (Hint: Your students can use this app, too!)

Cost: Free (in-app purchases to upgrade)

iOS

5. TED

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The TED organization is sitting on an absolute treasure trove of presentations given by some of the most insightful and fascinating people on the planet. These presentations cover almost every subject and come from thinkers, explorers, politicians, and everyday people who have something extraordinary to say. Many of these presentations can help your students develop a deeper appreciation for a specific topic or challenge their perspective. Download this app and start looking for the top presentations in your field to add to your curriculum.

Cost: Free

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6. Slack

Many of today’s most innovative companies and organizations have fallen in love with Slack, a team messaging tool. You can easily adapt this app for your classroom. Create a class Slack channel so your students can ask questions or continue the discussion outside the classroom. Slack is also a great tool for group projects, especially if you want to make yourself available to answer questions or provide feedback. You can even use Slack to set up virtual office hours or create a poll to gather student feedback.

Cost: Free

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7. Animoto

What if you want to create a presentation that goes beyond a simple slideshow? Rather than looking for some pre-made video, why not create your own? Animoto will help you unleash your creativity and design customized videos for your classroom. If this sounds work intensive, take a deep breath. Animoto lets you choose a theme, drop in movies or images, write captions, and then add music. Viola! You have a fun and engaging video that will keep your students awake and interested.

Cost: Free (in-app purchases to upgrade)

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8. Explain Everything

The best way to think of Explain Everything is to imagine a dynamic virtual chalkboard. Explain Everything gives you a blank canvas and lets you go to town. Write notes, drop in videos, connect disparate ideas, and actively collaborate with your students. Best of all, unlike a chalkboard, you’ll never run out of space with Explain Everything.

Cost: $13.99

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9. StudyBlue

The test is coming up, and you don’t want your students to get too lost in the weeds. Instead of leaving them scratching their heads about what to study, you can put together a helpful deck of flash cards with the ideas, concepts, and facts they’ll need to know to ace the next exam. StudyBlue lets you create personalized flashcards for your class. If you don’t want to hold the hands of your students too much, tell them about the app so they can create their own flashcards.

Cost: Free

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10. Poll Everywhere

Break the ice, figure out where your students are with the material, or ask for anonymous feedback on your teaching style. Poll Everywhere allows you to create customized polls and questionnaires for your classroom. Ask multiple-choice or open-ended questions. Your students can answer on their phones, tablets, or laptops, and you can watch the results populate in real-time. Poll Everywhere is the perfect way to get honest feedback and to encourage even your shyest students to participate in class.

Cost: Free (in-app purchases to upgrade)

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iOS

These are just a few of the best apps for teachers that you can use to supercharge student engagement in your class. If you think we missed one, let us know your favorite classrooms apps in the comments. You can start downloading these apps and using them in your classroom today!

Still looking for ways to keep your students awake? Check out this article on 5 Summer School Secrets to Improve Student Engagement.