Linking to learning

There’s an app for that!

Your iPhone is an incredibly powerful device, but did you ever consider using it for taking classroom attendance, as a grade book or as a lesson-planning resource? Well, there’s an app for that!

Here is a short list of useful apps for the iPhone created with teachers in mind. Some of them are free and others charge a nominal fee.

iGrade for Teachers ($7.99) turns your iPhone into a portable grade book on which you can record test scores, attendance, student demographic information and emergency contact numbers that you can call directly. You can also store large ID pictures of your students so you can put a face to a name. The analytic statistical reports help determine weighted averages that can include extra-credit assignments. The application is highly customizable and the software comes with step-by-step tutorials.

Attendance for the iPhone ($3.99) from David M. Reed Software is an enhanced attendance tool on which you can view records, e-mail an entire group and e-mail any students who were absent. You can sort the list by first or last name. Each student, course and date you take attendance has a note field for storing additional information. This software is popular with instructors on college campuses and with its mass e-mail function is probably better for use with older students or adults.

Video Science (free) is a series of videos of science class experiments featuring award-winning teacher Dan Menelly that you can find on www.sciencehouse.com, but all the short videos are also available for viewing on your iPhone. The 65 short videos are two to three minutes long and demonstrate simple science experiments designed to get children of all ages excited about science. This series falls under the “professional development” category, but it is full of experiment ideas that you can immediately put to use and that will reinforce science concepts from your curriculum.

If you’re an English or foreign language teacher, you will love Grammar Girl podcasts from Wizard Media ($2.99). This podcast has been in the iTunes top 100 applications for the last three years and Oprah featured it. Primarily used by those who want to improve their English language skills, teachers find the simple, short explanations of grammatical concepts useful when they want to clarify these concepts to their students. You can update the podcasts on iTunes from your iPhone or search the archive and listen to previous discussions in the car on your way to work.

The NASA App (free) puts a ton of NASA program information right on your iPhone or iPod Touch. It collects, customizes and delivers an extensive selection of dynamically updated information, images of the day and videos, as well as current mission status and orbital tracking. The iPhone app isn’t as rich in resources as the actual website (www.nasa.gov), but it will help keep you in the loop and remind you about new features, events and missions.

Several news sources available for the iPhone include The New York Times, spoof news providers like The Onion, broadcast media such as BBC, CNN, ABC and CBS and aggregators like Google and Newser. You can also get 196 sources in one package by downloading News Feed Elite ($1.99) and have most of them at your fingertips with one simple download. The categories of news feeds include world, technology, regional, entertainment, sports and financial and include most of the most famous and influential news providers around the world. Although this app is designed for news junkies, a teacher could provide valuable critical reading lessons for students as they compare how different news media handle the same story.

It’s surprising to me that there isn’t a more extensive list of smartphone applications for educators. The iPhone has the most applications under education, but most fall into the category of tutorials for students. But, other smartphones like Google’s Android models may slowly encroach on Apple’s domination over the field in the near future.

Smartphones are already the portable Internet communication devices of choice for many users and as the reach of wireless networks expands, especially in North America, the use of smartphones will grow exponentially. Right now, Apple has a tight grip on the market, so if you want to expand the utility of your iPhone, you will need to go to the App Store (www.apple.com) directly or go to iTunes to download education software.

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