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5 Free Apps That Every Chromebook Classroom Needs

24 Jul 2014 by Heather Breedlove

With a more than 30,000 apps in the Chrome Web Store, finding good education apps can be daunting. So, what makes an educational app stand out?

A great app:

  • Meets student needs
  • Is simple to use
  • Is visually appealing
  • Provides opportunities for students to grow in a particular area
  • Is open-ended

Let’s look at a few good examples:

1. Typing Web

As early as third grade, students will be required to use keyboarding skills to produce and publish writing. The Typing Web app helps students develop the keyboard skills they’ll need to meet the Common Core English Language Arts standards. Sixth-grade students will need to demonstrate sufficient keyboard skills to write a three-page paper in one sitting.

Students may know how to text on phones, but typing fluently requires consistent practice and feedback. Typing Web offers keyboard tutorials and allows students to work at their own pace. Students play typing games, complete tests and earn a certificate. The best part? Teachers can monitor students’ typing in real time through a portal. Teachers receive reports and graphs that track each student’s progress.

This app is great for third grade through high school teachers looking to help their students become writers. In as little as ten minutes a few times a week, students can build the foundation for developing solid keyboard skills.

App ability:
Grades 3-12

2. Snagit

Metacognition is thinking about your thinking. It’s an important skill for students to master, yet a difficult skill to grasp. Snagit makes the process seem as easy as creating a YouTube video. Snagit accomplishes that through screencasting and screen capture. Note: this app comes as a package deal: teachers will need both the Snagit app and the extension for both to work.

How does it work? Students use the app create a screen recording of whatever they can access in the Chrome browser. They can click on the extension and capture an image on any part of the screen, then add text and shapes on the image. Both videos and screenshots are auto-matically synced to a Techsmith folder in their Google Drive, making it easy to find and access.

Students can discuss their thoughts on an informational article, justify their choice of a resource or summarize their thoughts in their own writing. Students who struggle with getting thoughts on paper or typing them out will benefit from expressing themselves via spoken word.

App ability:
Grades 1-3 with support
Grades 4-12

3. Kaizena

Save time on providing feedback with this great app! Kaizena allows teachers and students to provide feedback within the document and with voice comments. Think of it as voicemail, texting and tagging all in one place.

Teachers just open the app and add the document or folder that needs their feedback from the Google Drive. Once a document is open, the teacher can highlight words or a sentence. A simple black toolbar appears with three icons: microphone, comment and tag. The microphone records student messages about the particular text. The commenting allows typed feedback. The tag enables a teacher to link to an outside source, such as a website or video. Students can use this app to provide feedback to each other as they collaborate on documents and share resources.

To review or edit the feedback, click on the highlighted text and it will appear in the sidebar on the left-hand side. At the top, use the previous and next links to navigate through all the feedback on the document.

Kaizena’s resource section, found under the Docs section, is a real time-saver. Teachers can name resources and copy links. This basically bookmarks all the links, making it easy to add to a document for a student. For example, teachers can record all their resource links to a unit study and have them easily accessible for students who are starting to collaborate on that unit.

The great thing about Kaizena is that teachers have the option to share their feedback through email or via a link in Google Docs, which is great for students who don’t use email in their school.

App ability:
Grades 5-12

4. PowToon

Give your next presentation a little “pow” with Powtoon! Engage students with animated presentations that they will not only watch and listen, they will want to create their own!

Use it as a school-wide motivational message for students during testing. Give teachers a laugh at their next professional development meeting. Teachers can try flipping their class by introducing a concept with a short, fun video that catches student attention and gets them ready for a new unit. It starts as simple as a presentation, but adds another level when the words, characters and props animate. The animation is organized into slides, with each slide having its own characters, icons, text and animations.

Teachers can get started quickly by editing an existing Powtoon, or expand their creativity by creating a new one. Students can get started by creating an animated greeting card. Animations can be up to five minutes long and have access to ten songs of royalty-free music and eight different video styles.

App ability:
Grades 6-12

5. Realtime Board

The whiteboard reinvented! An endless whiteboard that allows ideas to flow and organize themselves for students and teachers. Realtime Board helps teachers and students visualize their thinking. This is an interactive whiteboard that provides drawing tools, objects, and the ability to add files and videos.

Planning project-based learning can be daunting for teachers. There are so many parts to the project to think about; from what the students are learning to what they are doing. Realtime Board helps organize large projects and can help teachers save time by having their brainstorm board later serve as their project board to use with students. Teachers can set up a board to house the content, related resources, shared collaborative team boards for students and a place for students to post questions without ever leaving the whiteboard. Boards can be shared with others and works with Google contacts.

Students are able to use the whiteboard to collaborate with others in a project or use it as a visual way to present information. They can use it to create a poster about a topic by saving it as an image, or can integrate their Google Drive to connect a document or presentation.

App ability:
Grades 6-12

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