Alright, I'll talk about apps

It started off innocently enough. A simple question from the woman behind the counter at The Learning Gear Plus store in Pepperell Massachusetts this weekend inquiring as to whether or not I was a teacher when I placed a package of pencil erasures and some very cool addition/subtraction function dice on the counter. The question was simply was I a teacher. I replied no I was a special ed aide.
"So am I" said the woman whose name I don't recall getting and if I did I have forgotten, please forgive me.

Conversation followed and we ended up talking about iPads and technology in our little spheres of influence. She mentioned that at her school they had written a grant and purchased a bunch of iPads for the staff. They hadn't deployed them yet, they were still working out the logistics, but the staff was excited to start using them.

I mentioned that I was using a borrowed iPad, my wife's, to see what I could use to empower/excite my "clients" to create work (actually I also use my Windows Phone 7.5 as well). She asked what apps I was using and this post is the result but before we start a few expectation management notes:
  1. I will list all the apps I have downloaded for use with my students and why.
  2. I do not suppose to be a certified expert in this stuff. 
  3. These are just real-world examples.
Evernote is basically a cloud-synced notepad. First you install the app on your devices; iPad, iPhone, Windows Phone, Android, Mac or Windows computer or as a plugin for Google Chrome or all of them. Now when you write a note on any of your devices it is synced to all of your other devices. You can also collect your notes into notebooks that you can share with others.

So in the case of one student who didn't like to write, the client's personal narrative that the client dictated to me and that I input into my Windows Phone's instance of Evernote is shared with the client's classroom teacher, the case manager and the other professionals that work with the client. The client wrote it with me and we walked down to the case-manager's room where she was already reading it on her computer. I got another story out of the client as well with little prodding.

Mindo is an idea mapping software. You start with a blank slate, you double click or tap and a box appears. You edit the type in the box and double tap again. Another box appears but is connected to the first box. By repeating the steps you create a mind map. A map of an idea with thoughts grouped together that should be grouped together. You can move things around too, Grab a a box and everything grouped with that box is movable to nest under a different box. It's a great tool.

I have a client who has trouble organizing thoughts while writing. It is difficult for the client to put thoughts and events in any form of a timeline. I decided to use Mindo. The client did basically free association within the subject he had chosen. He told me all kinds of details, none in order, about the event and I created a random mind map. Then I read it back to him and he started to move things around and organize his story in correct order. By the time we got done, the story almost wrote itself and he completed the assignment with little struggle.

A quick mind map using Mindo. The subject? This column.

ShowMe in it's most basic form is whiteboard you can narrate. You open it, hit the record button and start drawing and talking. We have a writing unit in second grade on writing instructions in order. I have used ShowMe to introduce the process to clients. How that works is that they tell the viewer how to draw something while narrating the process.
One client loves ShowMe. We ask for it as a reward for doing other work. That's great for me because we think we are playing on the iPad but we are really having a whole writing experience practicing narration.

Above I use ShowMe to explain a new kind of poetry.

Jungle Time
I needed an app to use to teach/practice telling time with a specific client. Jungle Time was it. You can either have the app set the time and have you guess or tell you the time and have you set it on the  the clock. The face of the clock has animal faces on it that look happy when you get the answer right and unhappy when you don't.

Adobe Ideas
Yes, that Adobe. Adobe Ideas is a very light version of Photoshop that has layers and adjustable brushes, transparency, custom colors etc. The pictures are saved to your pictures on the iPad and so you can use them in other programs to illustrate your writing. It's free so just download it and play with it.

Another free app that is basically a sketchpad that you can draw and type on. A great place for students to write and draw. I use it for having them correct spelling, write number sentences and take notes.

So what's the point?
The point of all this I think is that the iPad should be used to teach, not as a game platform for rewarding behavior by allowing 10 minutes of Angry Birds. The reward of the iPad is to doing work on the iPad and that to our clients is exciting.