Unlike the slate chalkboards of back in the day, today’s writing tools have evolved to give students a plethora of options to make learning more interactive.
Specifically, I’m referring to electronic tablets.
Although these tools are powerful, we as parents and educators may sometimes be at a loss for finding new ways to use these tools during lessons.
The result is that we don’t make the most of what these tools can do.
In order to get started, you’ll need a basic electronic tablet, a stylus (or just use your finger) and an app.
I will categorize the apps into three distinct groups;
- Note taking apps
- Whiteboard Apps
- Drawing Apps.
Note taking apps allow students to capture details, information and organize tasks or lists. A common feature of the note taking apps is the ease in which you can import a PDF document and annotate it. Although most note taking apps can do much more than that, this is a feature it does exceptionally well.
Whiteboard apps are digital whiteboards which are great for sketching, doodling and sharing information or presentations. Some whiteboard apps may be equipped with powerful features such as screen recording, editing, and sharing all within the app.
Drawing apps are robust digital art studios distinguishable from whiteboard apps by it’s assortment of pens, brushes and digital art tools. A common feature among drawing apps is the ability to create and draw on different layers.
How exactly can you get started using these apps in your class or homeschool?
Keep reading to find out…
Tool #1 – Notetaking Apps
Some of my favorite note taking apps are;
- MetaMoji Note (Android and Apple) free
- Zoom Notes (Apple only) free
- GoodNotes (Apple only) premium app
- Notability (Apple only) premium app
Here are a few ways you can use notetaking apps in the classroom or homeschool;
- Digital worksheets or workbooks – If you don’t want to print lots of paper, or would like to reuse your worksheets, creating digital worksheets is the way to go. Once you’ve uploaded your digital worksheet into the notetaking app, your students can then answer all questions directly onto the digital worksheets.
- Exam Past Paper Practice – Exam past papers can be pretty lengthy sometimes. Instead of printing these papers, why not open the document in your notetaking app and allow the child to fill in the answers directly on the digital paper? The great thing about this is, if he gets the answer wrong, then he can easily erase the mark and correct the work. Using this method allows your child/student to complete numerous past papers without having to worry about printing.
- Study Notes – If you have digital textbooks or study guides, students can upload the textbook to the notetaking app. While studying the material, they will be able to annotate and highlight to their heart’s content. Take your study note taking up another level and use a split screen approach in which the text lies in one screen and student’s notes in the other screen.
- Handwriting Instruction – If you’ve ever had to teach handwriting, you may appreciate the zoom feature of notetaking apps. Zooming in allows you to give detailed demonstrations on how to draw each letter or number. Once you’ve done this, the child can then copy what you’ve done onto their own handwriting paper. Using the app, you can easily demonstrate how improvements can be made to what the child has drawn.
- Drag and Drop Activities – Use the lasso feature found on the app to create a drag and drop activity such as this math venn diagram activity shown below.
- Hide and Seek Activities – Using self created markers or images of your choice, you can create a hide and seek activity as shown in this 100 Number Chart Activity. In this activity, the student must guess which number is located below the mark. Traditionally, you would have to obtain a physical chart and use physical markers.
- Graphing & Geometry Activities – Most notetaking apps offer a variety of paper types such as dot grid, lined, and graph paper. Using the graph paper makes creating shapes, designs and graphs much faster and easier than with physical paper and pen.
- Reading Assignments – If you’re like me, then you know that there’s nothing like the feel of a physical book when reading. However, there’s a certain convenience that comes with being able to carry around 100’s of books at a time on one device. Students likewise who have many digital reading books can upload them directly to their device and read in a notetaking app.
- Audio Notes – Do you have an auditory learner? Apps like Notability have the option for students to record their voice or listen to a voice recording. This comes in handy with dictation exercises, foreign language practice and creating aural presentations. This is a handy and convenient way for students to express themselves and allows for a variety of learning styles in your lessons.
- Organization and Planning – You can successfully use notetaking apps to create student lesson records and teacher lesson planning. If you wanted to get a little fancy, you could also import an entire digital notebook (see image below) and store all of your records in there.
- Digital Scheduling – Digital Planners and calendars are becoming more and more popular. PDF versions of dated or undated calendars and planners could be uploaded to your notetaking app and used for regular daily scheduling. Download our free PDF Student Planners and try it out. Simply open the document in the app and duplicate any page you will need more of.
Tool #2 Whiteboard Apps
My favorite whiteboard apps are;
- Explain Everything (Android, desktop & Apple devices) free & premium
- LiveBoard (Android & Apple) free
- Educreations (Apple) free and premium
Here are a few ways you can use Whiteboard apps in the classroom or homeschool;
- Visual Notetaking or Sketchnoting – Do you have a doodler or visual learner? Does he love to scribble or draw while learning or expressing himself? If so, then he would most likely enjoy taking notes and sharing his ideas creatively on a digital whiteboard.
- Brainstorming & Mind Mapping – Many whiteboard apps such as Explain Everything have an infinite canvas. An infinite canvas is a potentially limitless space to write, draw or capture and share ideas. This feature makes it great for brainstorming and mind mapping activities, e.g. during a writing assignment or a big project.
- Presentations – Say goodbye to boring PowerPoint presentations and hello to animated presentations. Many whiteboard apps allow students to import media such as photos, gifs, videos and create their own animation. Educreations and Explain Everything also allows students to record their voice and images and then share it with others easily.
- Virtual Classroom/Whiteboard – As an alternative to virtual classroom software, you can use Explain Everything to create a virtual classroom where you can teach your students live. It’s as simple as opening up a whiteboard project then sharing the class code with your student(s). When both the teacher and student are logged into the virtual whiteboard, they can markup on, add media to and share the whiteboard in real time. This is a fun experience for students because they can pick and choose their own pen, colors and even pointer styles. (Side note: Explain Everything also has a lightsaber pointer which is perfect for the Star Wars fans).
Tool #3 Drawing Apps
My favorite Drawing Apps are;
- Autodesk SketchBook (Android and Apple) free
- Concepts (Android and Apple) free
- Procreate (Apple) premium
Here are a few ways you can use drawing apps in the classroom and homeschool;
- Graphic Design – Is your child interested in graphic design? He or she will enjoy the limitless potential when designing in these apps.
- Technical Drawing – Concepts is particularly geared at technical designers (hello there budding architects and engineers). Students will enjoy fiddling around with its numerous features. Unlike the other two drawing apps mentioned, concepts has an infinite canvas.
- Digital Art – Instead of purchasing countless brushes, mediums, and paper types, drawing apps have them all built right in. Digital artists also have the opportunity to extend these features by purchasing or creating their own brush types. Additionally, the artwork can be taken to another level with the use of layers.
- Digital Coloring – This is an activity which is fun for young and old alike. Students can color activities and worksheets using the crayon or paint tools in these drawing apps.
As you can see, these 3 groups of digital tools are packed with powerful features which can convert even the most avid pen and paper user. Used correctly, these apps will enhance learning, speed up your classwork, allow students to creatively express themselves, save both time and money and improve student teacher engagement.
Have you tried out any of these apps yet? What tasks are you currently doing which you would like to digitalize? Let me know in the comments below.