This list is a bit out-of-date these days, but I leave it here for those just dipping their toes into using apps in their teaching!
I believe that the iPad and other mobile devices are powerful tools that can make education more accountable, more engaged, and more equitable. If you’d like to know more, you can check out the talk I gave to faculty at Jacksonville University in April 2016. (Don’t be dismayed by the length of the video; much of it is Q&A!)
Hood College was a 1:1 iPad campus from 2013-2018 and has been recognized as an Apple Distinguished School. I started teaching with the iPad in 2012. I use my iPad every day in my work and in my classroom and encourage my students to do the same. Here’s a video with my basic tips and tricks for using your iPad in college.
I’m often asked which apps I use regularly. Topping the list are three apps that come standard on the iPad: I use the Mail and Calendar apps to stay organized, and Safari to surf the web. (I have tried other browsers, like Chrome, but always return to Safari.) I am also a big believer in free apps. Any app listed below that costs money is something that I feel is 100% worth its purchase price, but many of them are free!
My choices here are pretty all-purpose and can be used in all different types of classes, not just for English. Want to suggest other great apps for college? Send me an email (mitchellbuck at hood dot edu) or leave a comment below.
A must for getting files on and off the iPad. Also syncs files across devices. Just install it on the iPad, all your computers, and/or your smartphone and you can access stuff anytime and anywhere you need. Dropbox has, quite honestly, changed my life. I can’t recommend it highly enough!
(Keynote, Pages, and Numbers)
I was a slow adopter on the iWork apps. But now Keynote and Pages are two of the apps I use most often. Keynote is particularly helpful for professors: I use it for quick-and-dirty slideshow building when I want to show something in class (it’s much easier and more intuitive than PowerPoint) as well as for conference presentations. Thanks to these apps, I haven’t brought a laptop to a conference since I got my iPad: a major victory!
If you’re a longtime Microsoft Office user, you may be most comfortable writing in Word on your iPad. Especially for those who have Office 365 subscriptions, Word can be really useful.
In my humble opinion, this is the best free notetaking tool out there. You can type and organize notes on the iPad and, like Dropbox, it will automatically sync them to all your devices. There’s even a web version for Google Chrome. Brilliant!
My colleagues in the Hood Math department do amazing things with this app in their classes: you can easily comment on files and share them via Dropbox – it’s a great option for submitting and grading homework. It’s also a pretty cool notetaking app, especially if you like to use a stylus.
One of my most-used apps. Doing initial research on the web and want to save articles and videos for later? Save them to Pocket. Use tags to separate your research from that funny cat video you’re saving for a rainy day. Install it on your phone, your laptop, and your iPad and you can always access the stuff you need.
Great for recording lectures and interviews. If you’re the kind of person who likes to “talk through” an idea before you start writing a paper, this also works well for that. There is a free version of this app, but the $0.99 version is worth the pennies.
engaging with texts & media
There are lots of apps – both free and paid – for reading and commenting on PDFs. Deciding which one is “the best” is a matter of taste, but GoodReader gets my vote. It’s $4.99 while its closest competitors cost twice as much. You can highlight, underline, make notes, and more.
If you’re looking for a good, free PDF reader that will let you do basic highlighting and annotation, Adobe has you covered. It doesn’t have all the functionality of GoodReader, but it’s enough for most students’ needs.
Materials created for iBooks are more than just digital texts. They are multimedia books that include sound files, videos, interactive widgets, and more. You can make your own custom iBooks using either iBooks Author (on Mac) or Book Creator right on your iPad (it’s listed below)
I like books. Real ones. But sometimes it’s nice to read without toting a tome. You can easily look words up in the app’s dictionary, take notes, place bookmarks, etc. Another plus: most of my students take more notes on their readings when using the Kindle app than with actual books.
Kindle is my preferred e-reading app, but nook is worth checking out, too. Random tidbit: many of nook’s page colors are food-themed (like “Earl Grey” and “Butter Pecan”), which makes me laugh.
The Riverside Shakespeare it’s not. But hey, a free app that allows you to read all of Shakespeare on the go? I have to recommend that. If you’re curious about other Shakespeare apps, check out my video review of this app, the Folger Luminary apps, and TouchPress’ sonnets app!
There is a paid version that allows you to access their unabridged dictionary, but I just have the free version. (For more intense dictionary work, I always head to the OED.) Students (and I) love the pronunciation feature!
sharing & collaborating
Google is great for collaboration! If you’re doing group work, Google Docs is a convenient way to get all of your colleagues involved in the writing and editing process. Remember that you can view any of your Google files in Drive, but you need Docs in order to edit.
This app is basically a digital cork board – add images, text, links, and more. The coolest part is that multiple people can use it at the same time to collaborate on a project or share notes from a class. You can use it via the app or their website, so it’s compatible across pretty much all devices.
Trying to coordinate something with out-of-town colleagues? How did we do this before Skype? This app has also been a godsend for students with chronic health conditions that lead to excessive absences – the students can still listen and participate even when they can’t be in class in person.
This app can do so many things! It’s a screencasting app, it’s an interactive whiteboard, and it’s great for presentations. Best of all, you can save your files as movies and upload them to YouTube or a CMS – this is great for profs when classes are canceled because of inclement weather!
If you’re the kind of prof who uses PowerPoint but also likes to write on the board, then this is the app for you. It also offers good interactive features that let you ask questions and share students’ responses anonymously with the class.
Socrative is a great way to open up discussion on a challenging or controversial issue. I love to use it for anonymous polls to see what students think about a topic at the beginning of a class. Also works well for group and individual quizzes! Students will need to install the Student version of the app.
I don’t use this much yet, but its possibilities, especially for things like language classes, are pretty much endless. You can record a quick “chalk talk” type file with both sound and a whiteboard.
Apple’s most recent update to iTunes U gives students and professors a lot of new options. I look forward to exploring its new functionality in the upcoming semesters!
I recommend this with major reservations – it’s got potential, but its functionality is pretty limited. Rumor has it that the Bb team is working on a major upgrade and that the new Bb app will be a whole new ballgame. I hope so, because I really want to be able to do more with Bb on my iPad!
tapping into your creativity
If you want to do any video filming and editing with your iPad or iPhone, this is the app for you. I shoot and edit all of my videos using iMovie. Very easy to use! (Alas, if you have an older iPad, your camera isn’t the greatest, but don’t let that hold you back!)
IMHO, this is the easiest and coolest photo collage program out there. I use this for an “Influence Map” project in several of my classes; it’s also helpful when students need to share/present screenshots or other photos with a group.
An easy way to add notes, music, and video to your images. A great tool to use with Photo Wall on the “Influence Map” project to share some details about the different images you have included!
Create your own multimedia books! Add text, images, music, audio clips, and internet content right on your iPad. Easy enough for kindergartners, but powerful enough for college classes. The free version lets you export one book, but for $4.99 you can make as many books as you like and share them via Dropbox or the iBookstore. My new favorite tool for creative projects!
Need to make a video but don’t want to appear on screen? Want to create some animation but not an artist? This app and your iPad’s camera can help you create awesome stop motion videos out of whatever cool props you happen to have lying around.
Need a soundtrack for a video project, a class presentation, an iBook, or other project? Garage Band can help you build an awesome score and you never have to take a single music lesson.
There are lots of great drawing apps out there – Adobe has a whole new set of Creative Cloud apps that are free to use, for example – but this one is simple enough for anyone. Import a picture and add some layers to it, or just start drawing from scratch. Great for sketchnoting, too!
Of course, the iPad also has lots of great apps for keeping up with news, playing games, staying in touch with social media etc. But I’m pretty sure that all of you are able to find those apps on your own! Remember, you can always check the App Store’s “Top Free” and “Top Paid” lists so you can keep up with what’s new in the world o’ apps.