Role of Apps in the Elementary Classroom

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As more and more classrooms add technology–and as states add technology-based standards to their curriculum expectations–apps are becoming an integrated tool in many elementary classrooms.  Individual teachers are writing technology grants when their schools can’t afford all the educational equipment, and students (as well as teachers) are becoming increasingly at ease with the use of interactive technology for educational purposes.

Entire companies have arisen to fill the increasing demand for this educational technology niche, developing apps designed for classroom use. Educational bloggers are popping up with fresh ideas for putting apps to use in classrooms. Teachers are networking and sharing success stories and problem-solving strategies. Educators can use an app with the whole classroom by projecting an iPad screen onto a whiteboard or smartboard, and iPads available for individual student use can be employed in tutoring or additional activities.

Although the apps being offered in earlier days were intended for individual or family use, applications are now being developed specifically for classroom use.  These include everything from math skills, data plotting and graphing, editing written work, recording and analyzing science lab results, creating presentation materials, and apps in every subject area.

Reading teachers have begun using the recording functions of iPads to enable students to record themselves reading aloud. Playing back the recording together, the teacher and student can identify mistakes before going in for another round. The reading fluency of children using this method is improving dramatically.

Gifted or advanced students who become easily bored can be put to work with on an iPad with engaging programs related to the classroom topic, keeping them challenged and taking them deeper into the subject matter at hand. Students who struggle with a particular subject or concept can practice with flashcards or games that help them grasp and retain the skills that have been eluding them.

Teachers are also employing apps for classroom management and record-keeping. Gradebook apps and others with more complex options are being released particularly for this aspect of classroom use. Additionally, teachers can easily save and archive student use, employing cloud storage apps for student files and portfolios.

With the extensive availability of free and inexpensive educational apps, the use of apps in a classroom has really only the upfront cost of supplying the classroom with the mobile devices at the start. Some schools are beginning to budget for this purpose, and teachers and educational groups are writing grants for the purpose as well. Even a handful of iPads in a classroom can be put to good use when a teacher plans strategically.

As with any type of technology, the implementation is critical to the educational success of classroom apps. Educators learned years ago that simply adding computers to classrooms isn’t effective in itself–unless teachers make strategic use of them. The same holds with classroom iPads and their associated apps. Individually, inspired and creative teachers are discovering and inventing these uses. And as they network with one another and share ideas, classroom practices are making a whole new leap in technology-enhanced education.

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