Fresh Uses of 5 Popular Apps

November 25, 2013
Darri Stephens Senior Director, Education Content
Common Sense Education

CATEGORIES Technology Integration

Teachers are always tweaking and modifying educational tools in innovative ways to capture student attention and streamline day-to-day methodology. That artistry and ingenuity apply in the digital world as well. While apps and websites have their intended uses, sometimes the unintended uses spark new kinds of engagement and aptly realize objectives. We chose 5 apps to highlight with unexpected uses:






Create Class Culture – As a community builder, have students create VoiceThread slides with a photo and personal fun facts. Encourage classmates to leave each other questions and comments during the first few weeks of the project. It can be an interactive way to build camaraderie (and to set expectations about respectful online communication).

Student Conferences - Did you know that you can layer GarageBand behind another open app to record audio? Use this app to record student conferences. Capture in-person conferences or students’ own reflections on their work or problem-solving thought processes and then share these reflections with parents.

Goal Setting – Ask kids to use Popplet to brainstorm their individual goals for the second half of the school year.  Ask family members to create similar visual maps of their goals for their kids. Students can then compare and contrast their family’s hopes and dreams with their own over the Thanksgiving or Winter break.

Writing Feedback - Consider how you can use Explain Everything to give visual and verbal feedback on students’ writing. Talk aloud as you annotate a student’s paper – what’s awkward, what’s missing, what needs to be restructured? Then share the presentation with the student author to create a seamless feedback loop between you and the young writer.

Book Reports - Although geared toward younger storywriters, teens can use Toontastic to create animated book reports. Have students create QR codes for each report, print on address labels (Avery 22805/22806), then attach inside of library books’ covers as student-generated reviews. Use a free QR code generator like Kaywa.