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20 Types of Tablet Tools for Teaching

June 10, 2011

UPDATED on October 1, 2012

In May 2011, after a year of experimentation, I became sold on the idea of using a tablet instead of a laptop as my primary mobile computer. It was my turn for a workstation update, and I chose a desktop. I’ve been happy with that decision ever since. My laptop used to remain on the desk when I left the office, but these days I take my tablet wherever I go!

I have thought a lot about which tablet apps are most likely to be useful to a college teacher. A complete answer really depends on the subject area — there are apps for music, maps, the periodic table, star charts, frog dissection, and much more. I’ve tried to be generic on the list below, describing categories of apps that will be useful to many people. I freely admit that non-objective factors figure in, including personal interests and outright whims.

Under each category I name specific titles for iPad and Android which you may want to explore as good examples. They are not presented as “best of breed.” Scan the reviews and try out a variety of programs. If no price is listed, the app should be free (I may have missed one or two). Also note that some of the Android apps on the list may not be optimized for a tablet-sized screen.

I generally do not use a phone connection. Nearly all of my tablet Internet experience has been over Wi-Fi. Even after spending some time a tablet that had 3G data access, my ideas about the device did not change very much. Perhaps that’s because I have a smartphone that can handle most of my Internet needs when I’m out of Wi-Fi range.

Teaching

This first group of tools is the one most directly connected to the act of teaching.

  1. Grade Book – iPad: Gradekeeper ($5), Gradebook Pro ($4), Android: Grade Book, AndroClass ($7)
  2. Annotation – mark up student-submitted PDF files with highlights, text and drawings. Adobe Reader, iAnnotate PDF, and Skitch are available for both platforms.
  3. Attendance (may include a seating chart with photos) – iPad: Attendance2 ($5), TeacherKit, Android: Attendance, AndroClass ($7)
  4. Course Management System – there are mobile options for Blackboard, Desire2Learn, and Canvas. Much of Sakai is also tablet-friendly.
  5. Polling – use tablets and smartphones like clickers in the classroom – Both: Socrative (app) and Poll Everywhere (website)

Content

Use your tablet as a tool for course readings or to create materials for class.

  1. e-Reader – there are many reading apps. On either platform you can use CourseSmart for textbooks and Kindle for books of all kinds (only the apps are free, not the books).
  2. Recording – use apps provided on your tablet to capture and share photos, video, & sound. I also like SoundCloud for audio (either platform).
  3. Social bookmarking – to save and share links to course-related sites, use Diigo on either platform.
  4. Productivity – create, view, edit, and sync Word, Excel, or PowerPoint with Documents to Go for iPhone/iPad ($10-or Android ($15) to
  5. Content creation – there are many opportunities in this area, including …

Presentation

Plug your tablet into the classroom projector and off you go!

  1. Slideshow viewer – a number of apps will display PowerPoint files. You can control Keynote ($10) on an iPad with the iPhone app Keynote Remote ($1) – and check out Prezi Viewer for iPad
  2. Air mouse / remote – Splashtop provides a suite of apps that connect a Mac or PC with an iPad or Android device and provide a bunch of functionality.
  3. Stopwatch and Timer – there are many ways to track time for a presentation or sound a buzzer after a five-minute writing period. The iPad’s standard clock app is one example.
  4. Media players are included for photos, video, & sound. There are also apps for YouTube videos and Flickr images – iPad: FlickStackr ($2), Android: FlickFolio ($3).
  5. Chalkboard/whiteboard – paint, draw, graph

Generic

These tools are less specific, but you will probably use them a lot.

  1. Calendar – track your course calendar or (apps are on the device)
  2. Notes – simple, quick text entry and note management. The iPad app PlainText integrates nicely with DropBox, allowing you to sync notes across multiple devices.
  3. To do list – there are MANY apps in this category. Lots of people swear by Evernote (both platforms), but I use Things ($10) on my Mac and iPad.
  4. Document manager – save and organize files
  5. News – receive up-to-the-second info, images, and video – for both platforms: USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Fox News, NPR, and so on

I’d love to hear from readers who have identified other teaching functions where tablets are helpful — and I’m sure I’ve left out some of your favorites. Please share testimonials for apps that you think lots of people could use in teaching.

More tablet articles on this blog

16 Comments leave one →
  1. VickiC permalink
    June 11, 2011 11:44 am

    Hi Chris. I found this to be a wonderful post and it answered some of my questions relating to apps available to teachers and how well they work in the real world. I am currently in the process of completing my Masters degree and I am what I would consider a very techy (or some call us “geeks”) type of person. I know you tried to keep this as a generic post, and I appreciate that. I also see you have provided a well rounded list and I thank you for that.

    My question to you is relating to the Kindle you mention here – I have used a Kindle for years and I love it. It’s probably my favorite and most used device next to my cell phone (yes, I am a blackberry user – and yes, they are seriously limited so I see why you say we are on our own). What I find is that the books for my Master’s program seem to not be an option from the institution in electronic format.

    Do you see this as something that may change with the future of our technology growth or is that something you feel will always be in paper format from the institutions? Would the cost be the driver on that or would it be due to their own limitations in technological advancements?

    I don’t know if Student Docket is available on your platforms or not, but I have used that in Blackberry and it seems to be the best I have found out of the blackberry apps for input/tracking from a student point of view.

    I will be checking out some of the other apps you mention for the iPad and Android too. Again, thanks for the information. I love finding posts with great data and then doing my own research from that information. Thanks again and I hope all is well.

  2. June 11, 2011 3:03 pm

    More great apps:)

  3. November 17, 2011 1:23 pm

    very nice ….. thanks

  4. January 11, 2013 3:18 pm

    Your personal post, “20 Types of Tablet Tools for Teaching
    NspireD2: Learning Technology in Higher Ed.” ended up being very well worth commenting on!

    Simply just needed to point out you really did a tremendous job.

    I appreciate it -Coy

  5. April 30, 2013 5:57 pm

    Wow that was odd. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I clicked submit my
    comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
    Anyhow, just wanted to say fantastic blog!

  6. Guilbert permalink
    May 26, 2013 1:53 pm

    Could you try my Android Application “Teacher ToOl” ? I think that it can help to manage classroom.

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.teachertool.android&feature=search_result#?t=W251bGwsMSwyLDEsImNvbS50ZWFjaGVydG9vbC5hbmRyb2lkIl0.

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