Essential Teaching iOS Apps on the iPad and iPhone (2016) 

Another productive year has passed by. This year is the first year for me to work with the iPad Mini 3 and iPhone 6S. Most of the apps are not new, meaning many are tried and tested apps.

By far my most used app for teaching is GoodNotes. The reason for this is that it is not only a PDF markup application but also a projection tool. Because all my textbooks and handouts are either scanned as digital copies or saved as digital-to-digital PDFs. So, as PDFs I can markup the pages we are working on, or can use blank pages as a saved digital whiteboard. GoodNotes hides all the editing tools (or user interface) on screen from the viewer (they only show up on the iPad screen) so that students can concentrate on the content rather than my activity.

GoodNotes also works best with a stylus. For me I have used the Jot Touch and Jot Dash both manufactured by Adonit. My pen of choice now is the Jot Dash which is a semi capacitive pen that does not require Bluetooth pairing (unlike the Jot Touch). This keeps the teaching smooth and flowing. The only feature I dearly miss is the undo and redo buttons. But once one gets used to this and works on-screen one will not even notice it is missing.

Plickers, an app I discovered through a friend this year, is a real-time survey app which works with an accompanying site. One sets up classes and questions on the website then accesses them and do live surveys with QR Code-like cards which individual students are given beforehand. The advantage of this system is fourfold. Firstly, it allows the teacher to quickly and accurately check the students’ understanding of a question in real-time. All answers are recorded and can be reviewed later. Secondly, it allows for anonymity because each student’s answer is not apparent to other students, unlike the traditional hands-up check where some students can be embarrassed by being the only ones answering incorrectly. No such problem exist with Plickers where answers are between the teacher and each student only. Thirdly, any kind of discrepency can be dealt with immediately rather than having to check through, for example, submitted mini-tests which then need to be corrected and collated by the teacher. All this can be done in real-time with Plickers for teachers to determine what course of action is necessary.

Sometimes teachers want to show clean typed notes on-screen quickly. At present there are no apps which are designed for this task. The closest workaround is Notability. Notability is a note-taking app for classroom and the office. It is designed for typing more than handwriting though it can handle both input methods superbly. The ability to pinch-zoom means the text can be adjusted easily for the screen. However, unlike GoodNotes, Notability does not hide the interface. It is rather unprofessional in presentation but because there are not alternative apps for now it is the best workaround.

Finally, I would like to mention Slow Fast Slow (SFS), a video/audio manipulation app which can be used for pronunciation modelling (phonology). As the name suggests you can speed up and slow down a video recording. While many other similar apps which allow you to slow down videos it distorts the sounds as well. SFS allows you to keep the slowed down edited recording at the original pitch as well, meaning the sound pronunciation can be kept as close to natural pitch as possible. Trimming (and isolation) is also possible so that only the target sound can be looped infinitely.

Other apps which I had found useful for the classroom are

  1. Keynote
  2. Skitch
  3. Scanbot
  4. Voice Memos
  5. Scansnap
  6. Epson iPrint

I hope 2016 will be a more productive year for you.

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