Tuesday, September 18, 2012

My Top 20 mTools to Support Learning


m is not for myth, at least not in this case.  mTools are iTools that support an mLearning environment, meaning that they enhance the use of mobile devices for learning.  That said, many of these tools also require a desktop device.  The largest mTool of all, a strong wifi with open access, is an understood need.

I don't quite understand why we need these new words, mTool and mLearning - it seems to me that iTools still works for all personalized digital learning.  But it is nice to know that as the tools themselves temporarily flatten in functionality (we are seeing variations of repeats of variations and very few unique products), language itself is serving to keep the spirit of change alive.  (Myth #9 should probably be: iTools are not driving change.  People drive change.  Back to the myths in my next post.)

Anyway, my current top 20 mTools are:
  1. Three Ring - the purpose of this tool is to create teacher-built digital portfolios of student work, with notes attached - in a 1:1 environment, students would be able to build their own portfolios - in a global or digital class, the tool can be used to greatly extend the idea of collaborative conversations - use of mCameras and blogs, VoiceThread accounts, will extend the functionality
  2. WEB to PDF - this robust app alternative to Readability or Instapaper makes it possible to turn any webpage into a pdf for later reading, sharing, etc.  - I prefer Readability as a literacy app and Instapaper is proven in the classroom and workplace, but there is also learning value to sharing an entire page, links, ads, distractions and all - A cool new alternative is PDF Printer for iPad (separately available for iPhone) - other apps that do similar work are dotEPUB (creates docs that display in iBooks) and the Chrome extension Send to Evernote (captures highlighted web text)
  3. GoodReader - read, organize, annotate pdf files - OR UPAD, which adds a note-taking feature - as a literacy teacher in a 1:1 or BYOD school, I would have found either an invaluable as a tool for teaching students how to read documents - with WEB to PDF, eliminates much of the need for printing... (articles, company information pages, government sites and info, infographics, data...) - OR Notability (cheaper) - read and annotate multiple file formats - I like and use the audio annotation feature - can also be used to "sign" a .pdf file - integrates with DropBox.
  4. Google Drive - get the app and an account, for each device - schools should provide Google ed accounts to all stakeholders and make sure that Drive is enabled (and installed, where possible) - this is a great alternative to DropBox (see below), especially since it opens the door for educators and guides to use the wide variety of Google Docs tools available - check out David Byrnes' new guide, selling the power of Google Drive in education
  5. Blog Docs - huge range of features - integration with DropBox, WordPress, Blogger and Google Docs - does not support audio at this time, but otherwise a terrific tool for student bloggers and for file sharing
  6. Join.Me (read about the app here) - free virtual meeting space that can be used on the fly - works for both students and teachers
  7. DropBox - my go-to app for file sharing - I use it across devices for instant access, but also as a cloud server to facilitate uploading and sharing files of all types - when set up with care, it is the only server a classroom will need for collaboration, document submission, etc. - Google Drive is newly available, and probably I would switch if I was in a school today - on the other hand, David Byrne has just posted this about Box (changes in features), which will make me take another look at sharing in DropBox - Evernote is another tool I use at times because it is integrated with various apps and web applications
  8. The Oona - this is not an app, but a tool of intelligent design that will support digital creativity and the display of information to a group - turn student smartphones into document cameras, claymation stations, display mirror-ports (with a screen sharing app like) - lots of places to buy it online - although fixed seems to fight against the concept of mobile, there are times when a steady hand is not going to be good enough
  9. A stylus - I am still seeking an improvement over my PenGo TouchPen, but I find the stylus invaluable for sketching, brainstorming, or annotating - now available in multi-packs
  10. IdeaPaint - not an app, but literally a paint - it makes almost any surface into a dry erase whiteboard - walls, desktops, floors, screen, lockers...   Rust-oleum makes an alternative, as does Whiteboard - I have not had success today with the IdeaPaint website, but it may just be overloaded
  11. Reflection - a mirroring app for an iPad or iPhone - to Mac or PC - makes sense to me to have this in a learning room with unencumbered wifi - I tried the free demo and it worked beautifully at home (until we had a more complex network installed) - also use Reflection with AirPlay (on Mac) and Jing to quickly create a screencast of an iPad or iPhone app (very cool)
  12. WebNotes - read multiple web pages using tabs, search using several engines, take notes in a lower window - word count - post directly to Twitter or Facebook, email, attach (txt or pdf) - this is a 1-1 student reading/research option  OR Side by Side +  a similar tool that enables the user to take notes on multiple web pages or texts (stored on the device) simultaneously (multi-window display) - this tool has DropBox (and CX) support and integration so notes are uploaded automatically to your cloud
  13. VoiceThread - a school .ed account is recommended, but even without it this is an invaluable tool for communicative learning - for the instructor, can be a 1-stop place to receive most digital assignments - for the student, multiple ways to communicate with other students - a much simpler app is Air Sketch, which can also be used for group communication about a text (pdf), image, idea... (note: at $9.99, it is a serious investment)
  14. Educreations - one of many free or inexpensive tools for creating audio-visual demonstrations of learning or understanding - fully supports creative storytelling as well - other options are ShowMe (which gets more robust with each update), Screen Chomp, Explain Everything, and Replay Note.  That said, the newish app Haiku Deck will probably become my top choice after a few more uses.
  15. Nearpod, now that it is IOS 6 compatible and sensibly streamlined, should be on all iPads.  Also a presentation app, this one allows for all-user simultaneous viewing, but also for individual responses to instructor-created slides within a longer presentation.  It does require a web-based account for the instructor.
  16. QuickMark Classic - my favorite QR code reader, but just one of many free options - also creates codes (not for audio, alas) and uploads directly to DropBox
  17. An audio recording app like iTalk Recorder,  DropVox or TinyVox Pro - select one that uploads to a cloud or blogspace (all will send via email) so that students can access files to use them elsewhere - one double-tasking device is Speak It!, which can be used to speak imported text of any type and thus for student-created files as well as files that need to be read - I'm not sure how I feel about AudioBoo, which is simple and straightforward and free and has a 3-minute limit - it will help students reach higher as long as quality standards are set
  18. Pages - it makes no sense to me to scrimp on a writing tool - period
  19. Camera - the onboard still and video are invaluable for learning - you can enhance the experience with free apps like Adobe Photoshop Express and Camera Plus, but the basic app (on any mDevice) will do just fine - students using iOS 6, will want to use shared Photo Stream, others will want a Picasa account (Google) - all students will want to couple Camera with the new app Givit, which makes quick editing and sharing (via email for school use) a snap.
  20. AnswerGarden, a web-based tool (works on mobile devices too) that serves for polling from any mobile device - teacher has a simple interface and a small number of very sensible options - an alternative to Poll Everywhere, Google Docs/Forms, and Socrative.
+1:  Need to print?  Select an app from this list of Printer Apps.  I personally prefer to use the cloud to share docs and to rely on printing the old way - from a laptop with the option of using a USB cable.  There are times when wifi and place and time do not work well together - and a print is needed.  I have both AirPrint (compatible HP printer) and Brother Print and Scan (Brother all-in-1 printer) - both work seamlessly,  but I rarely use either.

1 comment:

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