The iPad can be a powerful tool for education. It has a state of the art web browser and a number of other great built-in functionality. That said the software bundled with iOS only scratches the surface of what the device is capable of. iOS has a rich and vibrant ecosystem of free apps that can enhance the device and make it an indispensable part of your classroom.
One of the major goals of instructional technology is to engage students and give them tools to be more productive and collaborative. Below are four free apps that will help you and your students create and share great work.
Evernote is an app for Windows, Mac OS X, Android, iOS, and the web that lets you create notebooks and store useful information. Evernote offers quick searching, tagging, and sorting of your notes through advanced filters. Notes are not limited to text. You can capture audio and pictures as well as store files. Evernote employs state of the art scanning and handwriting detection software to figure out what you’ve written in a photo of a note and adds it to its search index so you can find it easily when you need it.
In addition, you can share notebooks with your students or colleagues and since it is multi-platform, notebooks can be accessed from pretty much anywhere.
Skitch is available on Mac OS X, iOS, and Android and owned by the good folks at Evernote. The app allows you to take photos, screenshots, web pages, maps, or a blank canvas and annotate it with text, arrows, highlights, and drawings. Annotated images can be exported to Evernote, shown on a large screen through an AirPlay device (such as the AppleTV or helpful software such as AirServer or Reflection), shared via Twitter, emailed, or saved to the camera roll.
iBooks allows you to create a library of documents that are in either ePub or PDF format—the latter being extremely popular on the web. ePub books can be annotated, highlighted, and bookmarked. PDFs are not as versatile. iBooks allows you to distribute your class materials and enables your students to store those materials locally on their devices. If you have Pages for Mac OS X, you can even export Word and Pages documents to ePub to give your students more flexibility with your texts.
In January, Apple released iBooks Author for Mac OS X. This application gives you the ability to create rich, multi-media textbooks with built-in quizzes, interactive maps, and a number of other powerful features.
Dropbox is another application for Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, Android, Linux, and the web. The premise is simple, it creates a folder on your hard drive conveniently titled “Dropbox.” This folder stays in sync with every other device that you install Dropbox on. Put something in your Dropbox folder on your PC at home and it is instantly available on your classroom computer, your mobile phone, and your iPad.
In addition, Dropbox keeps backups and revisions of your files for 30 days under the free plan. You can share a folder with your colleagues or students. I recommend using it with DROPitTOme to make the submission of student work a breeze. With DROPitTOme, your students can upload their work to a web site and it will be added to a special folder within your Dropbox account.