Tag Archives: apps

Move Your Curriculets Down the E-Hallway to Edmodo

by Amber Wilson

This spring, the web-based, cross-platform text annotation super-tool Curriculet (formerly known as Gobstopper) launched as an app in Edmodo. Whether this news grabs your attention because of your fandom in either Curriculet or Edmodo, I hope you love the combination as much as I do.

Using Your Own Curriculets

What if you’ve already made curriculets and want to port them over? I had some trouble at first and was concerned that I was going to have to start from scratch. Not the case! With some terrific, speedy help from the Curriculet support team, I was able to bring my curriculets over and assign to my existing Edmodo classes with no problems. Here are the steps:

  1. Log into curriculet.com.
  2. In the Library, choose a text.
  3. “Share” the curriculets you’ve already made. This generates a shortlink that you can copy to clipboard or send out to social media.

    1. If you are porting more than one curriculet into Edmodo, you might want to paste all your links into a text document.
  4. Log out of curriculet.com.
  5. Log into edmodo.com.
    1. If you already have the curriculet app, go to the next step.
    2. To get the app: using the search bar at the top of your Edmodo homepage, look for Curriculet.
    3. Choose the app, not the publisher page.
    4. Install the app.
  6. Using the Apps Launcher at the right side of your Edmodo page, launch the Curriculet app.
  7. In a new browser tab, open the link(s) you generated with the “Share” button. This will open previews of the curriculets.
  8. Choose Add to library (at top right).
  9. Your curriculet will appear within your Curriculet Edmodo app.

Using Readymade Curriculets

Check out the category “ready-to-use curriculets” in the Store (which you will see once you are logged in). You can also search the store for texts in the public domain. Once you’ve selected the text and added it to your library, you will see the “Available Curriculets.” Click “preview” to see the content. If you like it, click “+ Add to Library” in the top right corner. Navigate to the library, and choose the text the curriculet applies to. The curriculet will now appear under My Curriculets for that book. Any readymade curriculet is fully editable, so you can add, remove, or alter annotations, questions, and quizzes as you see fit.

Helpful Tips and Tricks

Click the colorful C logo at top left to quickly find particular chunks of the text, annotations, or questions.

Curriculet has a wide selection of public domain works readily available through its store. You can also easily add your own content to your library. This means you can make good use not just of additional public domain works but also web articles and essays—any file you have on your computer.

In your library, click “Edit Information Summary” on a title to give each curriculet a name and summary that will help you remember and identify it. You can make one curriculet for an entire text, or you can make one curriculet per chapter. Just remember to assign each curriculet to your class (or Edmodo group, if you go that route).

Note that because Curriculet is web-based, it can be a great option for 1:1 classrooms or BYOD settings in which students have different devices. Desktop computer? Tablet? iPad? Chromebook? Curriculet it up on any platform!

Thinking of Curriculet as a summer reading option for students? Check out this Curriculet post for ideas.


Teachers, how will you use annotation to increase student engagement with texts? How will you use quick-checks with instant feedback to help students build comprehension and good reading habits? Leave us a comment sharing your experiences using online close-reading tools.

AmberAmber Wilson is a consultant for Green Light Professional Development.

The Best Apps for Learning Spanish

by Jonathan Laxamana

learn spanish iPad app

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The two main questions you probably ask yourself when considering buying a new app are What does the app do? and Is the app worth the cost? When buying an app to learn Spanish, however, two more important questions should be added: Who is the app for? and How old is that learner?  With these questions in mind, we searched the App Store and chose the best iPad apps for Spanish learners of all ages and experience levels.

For Beginning Readers

Rosetta Stone has a series of apps that help new readers learn English and Spanish at the same time. These apps combine English reading skills with Spanish speaking skills so that children and other beginners can improve literacy on multiple levels while playing colorful, engaging games. You might expect a steep price tag—especially since Rosetta Stone software remains one of the most expensive language programs—but Rosetta Stone Kids apps are free!

For Independent Learners

Mindsnacks has done a great job of creating a game-based app for independent learners. It takes the immersion method to the next level by adding quests, challenges, and achievements to game-based instruction to keep learners motivated. The Spanish version features nine minigames that teach more than 1000 words and phrases. At $4.99, the app is a little pricy, but the games are fun and effective enough to be worth the cost. You can also download a free trial lesson before buying it.

For Adults

Living Language is another big name in the language game. Their Spanish app takes an entire language course and distills it into manageable lessons. This app gives the most formal instruction, helping learners understand the rules of the language in addition to recognizing basic words and phrases. The Living Language app is a lot less flashy than most game-based apps, but it does include some games and other exercises. The cost—$3.99 for one level of instruction, or $9.99 for all three—puts it on the expensive side, but for an app that mimics the instruction of a college-level course without the cost of tuition, it’s more than reasonable.

Best Overall

Of all the languages apps explored, Duolingo is by far the best. An immersion-based app, Duolingo uses games as the primary method of instruction. What sets it apart from the pack is that it includes opportunities to improve reading, speaking, listening, and writing skills. Unlike other language apps that focus on language recognition, Duolingo teaches you how to generate words, phrases, and sentences in your new language. Its website is also a helpful tool; it encourages collaboration and competition with other active learners through message boards, translation activities, and head-to-head duals. The website also syncs with its app, so you can pick up exactly where you left off no matter what device you’re using. Some of the vocabulary might not be appropriate for younger students—for example, one of the sentences I was asked to translate was “El oso bebe cerveza”—but for older kids, teens, and adults, this fun, engaging app cannot be beat. The best part? Duolingo is absolutely free!

Jonathan bioJonathan Laxamana is Technology Manager of Green Light Professional Development. He has more than ten years of experience in producing educational software products, video, web-based content, and mobile apps. He writes about new hardware and software, troubleshooting tips, and everything iPad. 

Apps for Students with Special Needs

by Jonathan Laxamana

apps, special needs, iPad, managing behavior

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

All teachers are challenged with meeting the different needs of the students in their classrooms. Perhaps one of the most difficult challenges is crafting effective and engaging activities for students with special needs. At the heart of knowing how to engage students with special needs is knowing not just their particular needs, but also their idiosyncrasies. Knowing a student loves music, for example, might prove helpful when trying to teach him or her new words.

Technology, especially iPads, can provide teachers and paraprofessionals who are aware of their students’ needs, abilities, and idiosyncrasies with more tools to instruct and engage their students. There are number of ways educators can use iPad features and apps to help improve their instruction:

iPad Features

Guided Access ensures that a student can complete an activity within an app without accidentally exiting the app.

Voice Over can help students to navigate the device and its apps with voice assistance.  The typical gestures used with an iPad are modified in this mode, but it can prove helpful for students with visual impairments.

Speak to Text is simpler to use if you simply want a student to hear words that he or she is having trouble pronouncing. The student can select a word or paragraph to hear it read as it is highlighted.

You can also modify the iPad in other ways to suit your students’ needs using its Accessibility features, including changing the font size and reversing its colors.

Modifying Behavior

Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame (Free) includes activities that help students learn how to calm down when they are frustrated and develop a plan to solve their problems by “helping” a monster to do so.

Communicating with Others

Verbal Me (Free) includes letter sounds, numbers, and images of things like seasons, food, and feelings to help students communicate. By tapping an image or even typing a word or sentence, a student can communicate what he or she thinks, wants or feels to others.

Learning the Basics

I See Sam (Free) helps students to develop phonemic awareness. Students practice new sounds and words before reading a simple book. Teachers can have their students listen to a sound or word, record themselves saying the sound or word, and then play it back to hear themselves saying the word.

Articulation Station does precisely what it sounds like it does. It helps students to articulate sounds. However, it does much more than that. It helps students to practice those sounds by practicing words paired with images, in sentences, and in stories.  The free version only includes the one letter. Each additional letter is $2.99.

See.Touch.Learn. helps students learn to recognize a wide range of things—letters, numbers, colors, food, animals, body parts, and emotions.  Some sets of cards are provided for free, but you can buy additional sets of cards for about a dollar or two per set.  You can also create a series of cards to teach the students the skills however you choose.

Bitsboard offers students a number of games that help them to learn many concepts like emotions, actions, jobs, and characteristics. Students can view flashcards, answer true-false questions, play a matching game, or even do a word search to reinforce the meaning and spelling of words.

These are just a few basic (and free) tools you can use to help you put the iPad to good use for your students with special needs. There are many other apps available, some of which can be expensive. You should evaluate the more costly apps’ usefulness knowing the idiosyncrasies of your students.

Jonathan bioJonathan Laxamana is Technology Manager of Green Light Professional Development. He has more than ten years of experience in producing educational software products, video, web-based content, and mobile apps. He writes about new hardware and software, troubleshooting tips, and everything iPad. 

Pi Day: How It Started and How to Celebrate

March 14 is Pi Day, a celebration of everyone’s favorite irrational number. The one some kid in your 8th grade math class memorized 50 digits from to impress people. 3.141592653….

What is pi?

Aside from being the 16th letter of the Greek alphabet, pi represents the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle. The value of pi is fixed regardless of the size of the circle: the circumference will always be a little more than 3 times the diameter. This makes it a mathematical constant.

It is impossible to express pi as a common fraction. The value of pi can be shown numerically only as a never-ending decimal with no pattern of repetition.

Early mathematicians such as Archimedes used many-sided regular polygons to try to calculate an accurate value for pi. (Check out this interactive web page from PBS showing how Archimedes was able to approximate the value of pi.) With the arrival of the computer, mathematicians gained an opportunity to find the value of pi to a staggering level of precision. In December 2013, mathematicians Alexander Yee and Shigeru Kondo announced they had calculated the value of pi to 12 trillion digits. It took Kondo’s computer more than a year to make the calculation.

What is Pi Day?

The first Pi Day celebration was led in 1988 by a physicist at the San Francisco Exploratorium. Participants marched around in a circle and then dined on fruit pies.

Next year will be an especially cool celebration of Pi Day, because on 3/14/15 at 9:26:53 (a.m. and p.m.) the first ten digits of pi will be represented accurately.

What should I do in my classroom for Pi Day?

Pi Day is a great opportunity to discuss property of circles, geometry in nature, and the beauty of mathematical constants.

Activities and resources we like for Pi Day:

  • Play the geometry and spatial awareness puzzle app Slice It! (G4–8) ($0.99)
  • Have younger kids play Moose Math ($1.99) on the iPad.
  • Explore the free NRICH website, sponsored by the University of Cambridge, which contains many math activities for students in grades K–8.
  • Check out the suggested Pi Day activities on the San Francisco Exploratorium site.
  • Have students play with circles with the Circles Are Awesome online activity.
  • Play around and see where students’ birthdays, favorite numbers, or zip codes appear in pi on the Pi Search page.
  • For more pi fun, go to TeachPi.org.

How do you celebrate Pi Day?

App Review Sites… Reviewed

by Jonathan Laxamana

App Review Sites... Reviewed

Review sites look for five-star apps in a swirling galaxy of content. | Image courtesy Blake Patterson / Flickr

There are a million apps in the Apple App Store (a million!). For busy educators, what’s the best way to find an iPad app that you can trust will meet your needs and be appropriate for your students? Should your first stop be the App Store? Maybe. It does offer an education category with collections of apps clustered by grade and by topic, and it offers featured and best-of lists—but the apps topping those lists are primarily determined by download volume, not reviews. Before you rush headlong into the App Store, check some review websites. Here are our favorite app review sites for K–12 iPad apps. To honor them, we gave each its own review.

1. Graphite (Common Sense Media)

Common Sense Media—a California-based advocacy group for digital safety and media policy for children—produces Graphite.
Pro: The website is well designed and navigable, containing punchy blurbs under an array of headings that make it easy to skim and scan to get the information you want without investing a lot of time reading narrative reviews. Metadata fields for every atomized detail you’d want (platform, grade, standard, etc.) make a trip here immersive once you get searching. This site’s organization, search-ability, and its Field Notes from teachers make it the best site in this space.
Con: I give up looking for one.
Rating: 5 stars
App review site starApp review site starApp review site starApp review site starApp review site star

2. Appo Learning (Appolicious Inc) [web] | [App]

This Yahoo-affiliate produces expert reviews organized by course. In addition to the website, there’s an app (a very good one).
Pro: Subject matter experts write the reviews, which prove a good read. (They are also well contextualized with subject area information and notes comparing similar apps.) The organization is clear and helps you dive deep right away. The website design looks dated, but the app is gorgeous.
Con: Search by standard is lacking, but there’s plenty else to give you a reason to view both the website and app.
Rating: 5 stars
App review site starApp review site starApp review site starApp review site starApp review site star

3. Apps in Education (Greg Swanson)

This Australia-based blog from Greg Swanson, a senior eLearning specialist, features thumbnail reviews of apps as well as topical features.
Pro: Well curated and frequently updated, this blog has a nice tone to the review copy plus being information-rich. Its listing of Speech-to-Text apps is a must-see. In addition to coverage of the subject areas, feature posts on such cross-subject topics as Editing Video on your iPad include excellent how-to videos. Helpful comments from visitors add further value to the site.
Con: You need to dig into the copy to find grade and standard connections, but that’s no reason to skip a trip down under to this blog.
Rating: 4 stars
App review site starApp review site starApp review site starApp review site star

4. iPad Apps for School (Richard Byrne)

This is a blog from Maine-based educator Richard Byrne, who also produces a valuable blog on free edtech resources.
Pro: Visually stimulating, this blog presents as variable-column hypertext that invites you to keep searching and finding resources you may not have first realized you were looking for.
Con: The site is inviting and searchable, but you have to get to know it to find what you need. It’s worth a try to see if the schema matches your searching (i.e. learning) style.
Rating: 4 stars
App review site starApp review site starApp review site starApp review site star

5. APPitic (App Lists for Education)

This resource from a consortium of Apple Distinguished Educators includes a multitude of search pathways and ancillary resources.
Pro: You can search by learning style and Bloom’s Taxonomies, and you can even translate results into 19 languages within the site. This group has a strong presence across the major social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, etc.) with related reviews and content.
Con: Finding reviews takes a bit of wending through drop-down menus with additional curricular resources (although those curricular resources are a plus of this outlet.)
Rating: 3 stars
App review site starApp review site starApp review site star

6. iPads for Education (Victoria, Australia)

This website, maintained by the Victoria, Australia, department of education, contains thumbnail app reviews alongside long-form case studies.
Pro: The reviews are brief and formal and include good cross-references to related apps. The mini-white-paper case studies and ancillary material are a step away and worth reading for apps you want to integrate deeply into your curriculum.
Con: Common Core State Standards and specific grades aren’t logged for the apps, but this Australian site is impressively comprehensive and an important stop in your search to find your go-to search sites.
Rating: 3 stars
App review site starApp review site starApp review site star


In summary, give them all a try! If you want brief capsule reviews, start with Graphite, Apps in Education, and iPad Apps for School. If you want longer-form material and more scholarly grist for your search, start with AppoLearning, Appitic, and iPads for Learning

Are there other review sites focusing on K–12 apps that you’ve found helpful? Please add a comment. I’d like to discuss and continue this thread—you can use the Leave a reply link at the top of this post.

Jonathan LaxamanaJonathan Laxamana is Technology Manager of Green Light Professional Development. He has more than ten years of experience in producing educational software products, video, web-based content, and mobile apps. He writes about new hardware and software, troubleshooting tips, and everything iPad.

Free Apps We Love: Sketch Pad 3

by Jonathan Laxamana

Sketching apps can be valuable visual learning tools in your classroom. For example, students can quickly create and share diagrams and other images in an engaging way on their iPads.

Sketch Pad 3 is a free app with many useful features. The app’s drawing area, or canvas, now has an unlimited writing space thanks to its scrolling capacity. The color swatch includes six basic colors in addition to black, and there are four pen sizes to choose from. Sketch Pad 3 features a toolbar to add emoticons to drawings as well as a track pad to reposition images. As with many other apps, you can use your thumb and a finger to spread or pinch images to change their size. The palm rest, which allows you to rest your palm on the screen without leaving marks, is another appealing option.

Here are some of the toolbars and other features Sketch Pad 3 includes:

Sketch Pad 3

Screenshot of Sketch Pad 3 in action. We covered most of the ad banner with the floating toolbars. The palm rest is in the bottom right, but can be switched for left-handed people.

The app can save images in either .jpg or .png format, and there is an option to email images as well. An autosave feature is another plus. The paid version of Sketch Pad 3 includes additional tools, such as a flashlight, alarm clock, audio recorder, and barcode scanner.

Some ideas for using sketch apps in your classroom:

  • creating graphic organizers
  • taking notes
  • working through math problems
  • listing homework assignments
  • brainstorming with visuals

Below are a couple of helpful tips from facultyfocus.com:

  • To erase the screen more quickly, pinch the image to its minimum size and erase that iteration of the image.
  • Make the advertising banner disappear by turning off WiFi. Or you can cover up the banner with the floating tools palette.

To see the app in action, check out this helpful screencast from the app designer.

Jonathan LaxamanaJonathan Laxamana is Technology Manager of Green Light Professional Development. He has more than ten years of experience in producing educational software products, video, web-based content, and mobile apps. He writes about new hardware and software, troubleshooting tips, and everything iPad.