Tuesday, December 31, 2013

There's An App for That? Apps and Extensions for Students and Teachers With Chromebooks

Chromebooks are not without their limitations.  They lack Java and all student work must be saved in the cloud.  To overcome the technical obstacles that have arisen throughout this semester, there are apps and extensions that I have used with students to save documents and pictures, provide feedback, organize links, and create content.  While there are thousands of apps and extensions available and I have only began to scratch the surface, here are a few of the tools that have made working on a Chromebooks more efficient and effective within my own classroom.

Apps that Students and I have used this semester:

1. Explain and Send Screenshots:

This extension is extremely helpful when trying to capture a screenshot or a partial screenshot online.  This app is user-friendly and allows students to save pictures into Google Drive.  In addition to being able to take a screenshot, this extension allows users to annotate and edit pictures.  These pictures can then be shared to social media platforms or downloaded for other purposes.  At the beginning of my the year, I taught students to use this app when they were creating video slide shows of pop culture experiences that shaped/influenced their lives.  Again, students found this extension easy to use and found it helpful for several projects throughout the semester.  

Creating shorter URLs makes typing a website into an internet browser faster.  This extension not only shortens URLs, but it also makes QR codes as well.  I have used this to create QR images for class activities and for sharing URLs in videos and on physical handouts.  While I have not had students use this tool, I have found it handy for creating lessons and activities. 

3. EasyBib:

During major research units and even when working on smaller class activities, teaching students to use the EasyBib extension has made creating Works Cited pages much more accurate.  Having the extension located in the upper right hand corner of their Google Chrome browser is a helpful reminder to students that they need to cite their work, no matter how large or small the task is.  It also makes citing much more accurate and user-friendly.  There are so many different websites that inform students how to cite their work, but directing students to one source ensures that Works Cited pages will be much more accurate and consistent across the board.

4. Video Download Helper:

When trying to download videos to be used/edited for class projects, this extension allows users to download videos from YouTube and other websites.  There are many ways to download from YouTube, but I like this extension because it involves one click.  Also, this extension allows users to download from many websites, not just YouTube.  This is another helpful tool when students are creating multimedia projects and is also helpful for teachers when they want to save videos for future use.

5. Print Friendly and PDF:

Print Friendly is a great app that allows individuals to save websites as PDFs.  Before saving the website, Print Friendly provides users with the option of deleting pictures and even sections of text to shrink the document.  I use this often when saving news articles and other short texts for students to read.  After saving a news article as a PDF, the PDF can be pushed out to students to be read and annotated in hard copy or digital formats.

6. Kaizena (Voice Comments):

This semester, I have been fortunate to play around with several ways of providing feedback to students.  My department chair has encouraged us to use Turnitin.com, which I really enjoy for formal/long writing assignments.  I have also used Voice Comments to provide fast feedback on shorter writing assignments.  Voice Comments is a Google App that allows me to provide oral feedback to students.  Students do enjoy hearing my voice and feel that I provide even more detail than typing.  Providing feedback in this manner is fast and efficient.  When trying to give informal or short feedback, I have really enjoyed this app. This app has changed over the course of the last semester and continues to improve.

7. WeVideo:

This app allows individuals to create videos, much like Microsoft MovieMaker or iMovie.  It is a free app with some limitations, but it operates in the cloud and syncs with Google Drive.  Some changes have occurred to the free version of this app, which has made working with it more challenging, but students still find it easy to work with.  WeVideo allows individuals to share/post their videos on social media platforms. Students are able to manipulate their videos on this app with ease and have created some awesome projects with it.

8. Quizlet:

Reviewing for quizzes and test is made easy with Quizlet.  Quizlet allows teachers and students to create vocabulary cards, puzzles, and review games that can help reinforce important words or concepts within a classroom.  I have created review games for students, and they have responded positively.  Note cards created on this app can be shared via social media, email, and even pushed out to whole classes.  In addition to using cards created by a teacher, students can browse Quizlet by subject and access cards made by others.  Using Quizlet can make studying more fun and can help reinforce strong study skills.

9. Diigo:

Diigo is a bookmarking app that allows users to organize and save websites.  In addition, users can annotate websites and save those annotations.  Unlike annotating a paper copy of a text, annotating via Diigo can also include tags that can be saved and used to draw attention to specific subjects.  Diigo libraries can also be shared to other users, which could be helpful when students are writing a research paper or completing a project. There are many uses for this tool, and both teachers and students can use this tool for a variety of purposes.

Next semester, there are several tools that I hope to explore further.  Here are just a few:

1.Sound Cloud to create podcasts and audio reflections.
2-3. MindMeister and Cacoo to use for brainstorming activities and mind maps.
4. Online Video Converter to convert videos into mp3s.
5. PiktoChart to create infographics and other visuals for projects.
6. Report Comment Bank to help when providing feedback on Google Docs and other projects.
7. Read and Write to help struggling readers and ESL students with completing assignments and readings.

Experimenting on the Chromebooks is important.  Playing with new apps and extensions can broaden a teacher's or a student's toolbox.  Testing these tools is a valuable part of learning what works and what doesn't on this device.  Determining what an app or extension does, how effective it is, and how it can be used is an important part of teaching in a one-to-one classroom.  I am excited to see what new apps and extensions I can find in the new year!

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