Subscribe to SLJ
Touch and Go
Inside Touch and Go

APPlications: One School’s Learning Tools

I recently asked a few Touch and Go reviewers to tell me a little about their schools, some of the apps they have downloaded, and their experiences with them. I thought I would share their responses with you. If there are products that you find useful and would like to tell us about them, feel free to leave a comment.

First up is Elisabeth LeBris, Director of Library Technology Services, School District 38 (PK-8) at the Sears School in Kenilworth, IL. I asked Elisabeth about the apps she is using with kindergarten through grade six. In the next Touch and Go posts, you’ll hear from a junior high and a high school librarian.

Here’s what Elisabeth had to say:

“Sears School is a 570 student K-8 public school located just north of Chicago on Lake Michigan. We’re currently in the second year of an 1-1 iPod touch pilot in 3rd grade; an expanded iPad pilot in the library and in Student Services (Special Needs), consisting of 20 and 15 iPads respectively; and in the first year of BYOD program with our 8th graders. We recently tripled our bandwidth in order to improve our Wi-Fi capability since we were operating at capacity by 10:00 o’clock each morning.

Right now we are using our mobile devices to leverage research, production, and information sharing. However, I have purchased The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore and Mo Willems’s Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App! These two quality story apps appeal to a range of grades and both prompt great discussions about the future of reading and literacy.

Where to start? Well, the 3rd graders are using a variety of products that dovetail closely with their language arts, math, and science curriculum. Each iPod started with a few basic apps such as Story Kit, ABMathKids Math Advanced, Google Earth, Tourwrist, and Nations. During the year the teachers were given a budget to purchase others, as needed. These have included Cash Cow, ClockMaster, BrainPop, and email.

In the library, I immediately added to the basic iPad menu a link to our local subscription databases, Google Earth, Large Type, Dragon Dictation, Book Creator, ScreenChomp, Comic Life, BrainPop, EasyBib, Explain Everything, and Guitar. I have used all these apps with students as young as third grade (Google Earth, Large Type, ScreenChomp) through sixth grade (all the apps). Our bandwidth issues were a problem with the production apps such as ScreenChomp, Book Creator, and Comic Life; if more than five students working with them at once, everything slowed to a crawl. Hopefully, things will be better now. My best experiences have been highlighted by student engagement, cooperative teamwork, improved presentation skills, and creativity.

In Student Services, many of the iPads have been customized for particular students. Teachers have the flexibility to purchase products to suit the needs of individual learners – and they have to the tune of some 72 apps. Some of those favorites are Time Timer, Web Reader (actually reads any highlighted web text!!), Learning A-Z, Dragon Dictation, Speak It, Infinote, ScreenChomp, Show Me, Fuse, FlashCards, Evernote Peek (leverages the smart cover on the pad), Pages, Webnotes, Notability, Behavior Journal. Many of these relate to executive functioning and are useful resources for our IEP students.

It bears mentioning that many of these apps are either free or very reasonably priced ($1.00-$3.00).  Only Proloquo2Go for autistic students is  expensive ($189.99), but parents have paid for that app.”