Teaching is not easy, especially when students are distracted by time killers like WhatsApp or Candy Crush. But from that iPhone in your pocket, to the Android tablet in your bag, the same devices that are distracting your students can actually be the perfect platform for more interactive and interesting lessons.
Below are 16 useful apps for the classroom to help you enrich your teaching methods and build a virtual classroom, transforming you into a real 21st century teacher.
Nearpod, lessons on any device
Imagine creating a multimedia presentation, then sharing it with your students by having them load it up on their smartphones, regardless of make or model. You can do this with Nearpod, an app that’s designed to facilitate e-learning.
The service is free, as are the apps for Android and iPhone. Also, if you’re in a hurry, you can buy materials at the official store instead of creating them yourself.
You can sign up by clicking here.
Viper, the plagiarism detector for Windows
Who hasn’t discovered plagiarized Wikipedia articles in a student’s work? Sad to say, it’s a common problem these days. Fortunately, there are powerful plagiarism detectors like Viper (Windows), which searches local documents, as well as online sources.
To use Viper, you must first create a free account. Once you’re in the program, choose the documents you want to analyze, and Viper will compare the text. It’ll tell you what the probability is that the document has been copied without any modifications.
Download Viper for: Windows
Attendance, the attendance list for mobile
An attendance list on paper is very useful, but with the Attendance app (Android), you get an easy and visual way to keep track of your most absent students . There are various views that include students, groups, and classes, as well as a general calendar view.
The drawback of Attendance is that you need to do a fair bit of pre-configuration: you have to create names and courses, as well as upload photos. But once it’s ready, it’s well worth it.
Download Attendance for: Android
TooNoisy, background noise detector with alarm
TooNoisy is a fun noise detector for iPhone and Android that shows a graphic and sounds an alarm if the background noise exceeds a certain threshold. When the noise gets too high, the picture changes.
Obviously, the consequences depend on the teacher. If noise exceeding the threshold is associated with some sort of punishment (eg. detention), then students will be more inclined to keep the noise level down.
ThingLink, pictures that say a thousand words
Images are an excellent educational resource, but they can be even better when you add interactive points. This can be done with Thinglink, an app that helps you create interactive images.
Thinglink works in all browsers, and the membership is free. Creating an image is as easy as uploading one from your hard drive, Flickr, or Facebook. You can then add interactive points.
Access ThingLink from your browser
PDF Document Scanner, the scanner for your mobile
PDF Document Scanner is very useful for those who don’t want to carry around stacks of paper. With just one touch, documents scanned with your phone’s camera can be saved as PDF files, ready to be sent to your PC.
Among other options, PDF Document Scanner allows you to choose the page size (A4, Letter) and edit the shot before saving it as a final document.
Download PDF Document Scanner for: Android
Evernote, the notepad of the new millenium
Take notes on your PC and access them on your phone. Edit your notes on the go. Organize, search and share with students and other teachers. You can do all this and more with Evernote, the multi-platform notepad.
The creators of Evernote have also made a few suggestions as to how teachers can use the app, whether it’s taking photos of the blackboard, or saving web pages that can be used for research papers. The possibilities are endless.
Box, the hard drive for groupwork
Instead of using USB sticks or sending emails, why not use a shared online space? With Box, you and your students can create folders where files can be downloaded at any time.
The ability to add comments or access files from any phone or tablet gives Box a versatility that makes it perfect for schoolwork.
Trello, manage tasks, projects and much more
Trello is a virtual bulletin board where you can post ideas, tasks, images, or links. It’s so versatile and easy to use, that you can use it for just about any type of task that requires you to organize information.
What exactly can you use it for? You can distribute tasks when doing groupwork, gather ideas for essays, collect pictures for a collage, or simply organize and prioritize your class materials, among other things.
Paper.li, the online class newspaper
With Paper.li, the whole class can compile news and design the front page for an online newspaper. With the ability to add contributors, you can become the editor-in-chief, at least of your classroom.
Creating a virtual newspaper is simple: first, choose the sources, then customize the look, and share the end product on social networks. It also looks great on smartphones.
Access Paper.li from your browser
Socrative, exams on your web browser
Nothing will irritate a teacher more than marking dozens of exams. With Socrative, exam questions can be answered on your smartphone, tablet or PC. It integrates with Google Drive and even has educational games.
It’s an interesting alternative to pen and paper, and not only for exams, but for daily and weekly tests as well. With Socrative, checking that students have understood the lesson is quick and easy.
Screenr, video tutorials without the need of a camera
With Screenr, you can record videos of what you see on your PC screen and add comments using the microphone. The videos are stored online and can be easily shared. To record, all you need is a browser with Java.
Screenr is ideal for explaining programs like Excel, or commenting on web pages. It’s also much easier to use than the other expensive, commercial screen recorders.
Access Screenr from your browser
Calibre, the eBook manager that surpasses all others
Paper books are expensive and heavy, and handouts aren’t much better. If you compile eBooks with Calibre, you can send them to your students so that they can load them up on their smartphone, tablet or ebook reader.
Calibre is a great tool to manage ebooks, convert them to other formats, or create them from other documents. It’s the virtual librarian you can’t (and shouldn’t) live without.
Animoto, create videos effortlessly from texts and pictures
A video can be a powerful tool for teachers who know how to make them. With sound, music and visual effects, a video maintains students’ attention better than a book or a blackboard.
Animoto makes creating videos with text, pictures, and sound incredibly simple. If you decide to pay for the Pro version, you’ll have access to over 2,000 music tracks and lots of interactive features.
Access Animoto from your browser
Google Forms, questionnaires with Google quality
Did you know that it’s possible to create any type of survey or form with Google Drive? These days, it’s perhaps the best tool for creating forms in terms of value for money.
You can just imagine all the possible uses, but for now, take a quick look at the templates for students and teachers to see some of the many possibilities Google Forms can bring to the classroom.
Access Google Drive from your browser
Remind, sure reminders for students
Now available worldwide, Remind is an app that meets a very specific need: being able to send
Remind is the perfect tool for parent-teacher interviews. You can also send reminders and homework, as well as messages, to parents, and all without exchanging phone numbers.messages to students while keeping parents informed.
Technology doesn’t replace work, it enriches it
With everything going digital, it makes sense to bring it into your classroom as well. Whether you use one, two, or all of these apps, take advantage of them, and remember that it might be just be the best way to get your students involved without having to put away the smartphone.
If you’re looking for more productivity solutions, check out how Google Docs can replace your word processor.