Apps-olutely Essential

As our district continues on the journey of BYOT, I wanted to put some thought into what I consider the essential education apps for students of all ages. The basic considerations for the apps: can it function across devices, the cost is justified (or free), the app is reliable, and it increases productivity and learning. Apps are listed in alphabetical order – not order of significance, since that would change by the individual needs of the student.

Dragon Dictation

Students need to take an almost unending stream of notes. That is one disadvantage to many mobile devices – the keyboard features are not as comfortable for long notes. Some students don’t mind, but this provides a finger-cramp-saving alternative. Dragon Dictation records what you says and translates it into text. It is pretty accurate. If there is a mistake, it is easy to make a change. You can also change the language of the app, so it would also function in a foreign language classroom.


DropBox is the solution for people who use multiple devices. The DropBox app works with the DropBox website. Sign up online for the free account and there are various ways to earn additional space. This is the modern backpack/locker. Sadly, from the student perspective, DropBox means students can’t “forget the homework at home.”


Edmodo is a class management tool. The app is only beneficial if teachers set up a course for their students. In my school, Edmodo was introduced from the bottom up; the students asked their teachers to look into Edmodo as an alternative to Moodle. They like the social aspect of Edmodo. I like the combination of course management and blog.


This tool is specific to the iPad, but what you create can be accessed online. Educreations is an interactive whiteboard that will record the demonstration. It can be used as a presentation tool. Anyone, even without an iPad, can search either the Educreations website or ShowMe website to find lessons recorded by other people. It could be a study tool for concepts they need a refresher on.


You can download the app on to each of your devices and the computer.  Evernote is another cloud storage app (like DropBox). I compared DropBox to a backpack, which makes Evernote the binder. You can create different folders and create notes within the folders. You can attach different media to the notes and add links to important websites.

Google Apps

Many districts have Google Apps for Education – so it makes sense to take advantage of this on mobile devices. The Google app initially just looks like the search feature, but along the bottom it links to the other Google Apps. Personally, I don’t think it is as easy to manipulate and edit on a iPhone as on a computer.


This is another application that the teacher would need to set up for the students to maximize. There is a Nearpod Teacher App for iPads. From the teacher end, the create a presentation with quiz features embedded. Students watch along with the teacher on their own device. Students can not move ahead – they see what the teacher is explaining.

QR Reader

QR Codes are easy to create. Teachers could incorporate QR Codes into activities. There are many different, free QR Reader codes for students to choose from and download.

Screen Capture / Camera

Using either screen capture or camera students can record their work.



This is another application that the teacher would need to set up for the students to maximize. There is a Socrative Teacher App. Socrative is a formative assessment or voting app. Teachers set up polls with a variety of question types. Students use their personal devices to submit their vote or answer. There is no student registration necessary – only the teachers need to set up an account. The teacher provides a ‘Room Number’ for students to access the questions. For students who do not have a personal device, there is a website version for voting.


SymbalooEdu is a great bookmarking website. Now they have developed an app for mobile devices. The major difference with these bookmarks, they have icons and colors which can be customized. It makes it easy to find exactly what you need. You can set up multiple pages for bookmarks –  so you could have sets for specific classes. You can also share the links – which make it great for group work.


The Voicethread app goes along with It is a presentation tool that centers around images or documents, around which people can comment (voice, text, video, or doodle). My students like using the app more than the website because it feels natural to talk into an iPhone microphone.

Word Reference

Word Reference has triple potential – it can be a dictionary, thesaurus, or reliable translator with word background and examples.

All these example apps are iOS apps – some have Android counterparts. There are two app search engines to help you find exactly what you need: Quixey and chomp. With Quixey you type in the topic of app you are looking for. The results are displayed with compatible devices, price, and brief summary.  Chomp searchs for apps by topic and by type (for an iPhone, iPad, or Android). The website also offers a section with Free Apps of the Day and Trending Apps.

About Lisa Butler

Middle school geography teacher, tech trainer, Flocabulary MC, Nearpod PioNear, and Edcamp Hershey Founder. I have embraced the power of purposeful technology and am creative with their application. If I am not doing something with ed or tech, I am probably reading children's books, baking with a toddler sidekick, running around, or dreaming of traveling.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Apps-olutely Essential

  1. Melanie says:

    Lisa, this stuff is really useful to take into account! I would like to add something: I know Nearpod, but you can do more stuff than just quizzes, like polling, drawing activities, inserting videos, too. And the teacher gets immediate feedback from the students and can identify who’s logged out from the presentation. Someone uploaded this video showing how they use it:

    • lgb06 says:

      Thanks for the feedback. I haven’t used Nearpod with students, I have only tried it out on two of my own devices. I can see the potential, but I know I need to use it in my classroom before I really understand all the details I can’t wait until September until I can have the students using their devices.

  2. Melanie says:

    Oh it’s ok Lisa! I just wanted to add a few details to your description. I hope you can try it in class soon, really cool 🙂 Good luck!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s