Beyond Technology | Education | Swimgrid | Professional Development | Student

Top 5 Free Educational Apps

By Dr. Malia Hoffmann

Assistant Professor, California State University, Fullerton

How do you motivate unmotivated students? The million dollar question. We use all the technology we can think of in hopes to inspire motivation. We have interactive SmartBoards, iPads, iPods, ChromeBooks, laptops, computer labs, Apple TVs, robust wifi, yet there are still those students who don’t seem to be phased by it. Why are they indifferent to what you are doing in your classroom?

 

Can Educational Apps Help With Lazy Students?

The quick and easy answer is that they are lazy. That could be, but look deeper at that student at recess, physical education class, other classes, or after school. Does that student still behave as a sloth? If the answer is “no”, then that child’s passion has not been tapped into. Other reasons for low classroom motivation maybe lack of parental support or value in school, poor sleeping or eating habits, or other traumatic home issues. Many of these things are beyond our control, but if you take some time to get to know your students you might be able to reach them and understand what is going on inside.

So often we say. “Use technology, it motivates students!”, but not all students. You have to get creative and if you are using the same tired tech applications that could be the reason for it as well.
— Dr. Malia Hoffmann

Educational Apps for iPad, Chromebooks, Windows and Android

Getting to know your students will make them feel like they are valued by you. If you can understand their home life, you can try to put some strategies into place to combat those issues to get them contributing more in your classroom. Ask questions, take interest, watch what makes them tick, see what gets them excited outside of your class and try to embed those into your lessons. So often we say “use technology, it motivates students!”, but not all students. You have to get creative and if you are using the same tired tech applications that could be the reason for it as well. How do you freshen up your tech applications and get these unmotivated students engaged?

 

Top 5 Free Educational Apps

Get these students involved. Find out what tech they use outside of your class and have them provide ideas on how you could use it in your lessons. I recently read a Business Insider (Kosoff, 2016) piece that surveyed students on what their favorite apps are. So what are the top 5 free educational apps?  The top picks are listed below in order of popularity.

  1. SnapChat
  2. Spotify
  3. Instagram
  4. Twitter
  5. Facebook

Each of these apps are used with a different purpose in mind; however, like an educational ninja you can try to infiltrate them unnoticed with bread crumbs of your content. You have to get creative with some of these apps to connect them to your content, there are a few suggestions listed below. Please feel free to comment and add your ideas as well.

 

Snapchat and Spotify

I’ve already written a blog post on how to integrate SnapChat into your classroom, so I’m deferring to that post. Spotify is a music app; however, you can buy a premium membership, create playlists, and share those. This would work really well in language arts classes dealing with themes, hyperboles, poetry, etc. Social Studies could pull out themes in certain eras and how music was influenced by what was going on politically.

 

Instagram

Instagram has taken on new SnapChat type features, so many of those uses apply as well. Instagram has added stories to the app as well, but you can post pictures of teasers to your lessons, capture what is going on in your class, and get students to contribute too. Be sure to use hashtags that are unique to your lessons, post them in your class for students to also use and search.

 

Twitter

Twitter hinges on hashtags as well. It’s considered a microblogging app limited to 140 characters, but it’s a great app to share resources, send out reminders, or even have live Twitter chats.

 

Facebook

Finally, Facebook was their last choice. They said they used it, but it was outdated and annoying. They also said they didn’t feel like they could be themselves on it because their parents were on it too. Facebook is a good way to organize group pages, events, and share a wider variety of resources. You could use it like a learning management system as well.

 

Teachers Have Options With Educational Apps

Either way, you have some options. You don’t have to use them all, you can pick and choose a few, but if you are tech savvy and are willing to take a risk, try them all because they all have slightly different things to offer.


References

Kosoff, M. (2016, January 31). Dozens of teenagers told us what’s cool in 2016 - these are their favorite (and least favorite) apps. [Web blog]. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com