December 1, 2015

Kiera Parrott’s Picks from the Best Apps for Teaching and Learning | ALA 2013


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The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) announced its inaugural list of the Best Apps for Teaching and Learning. Revealed Jun 30 at the American Library Association annual conference, the 25 selected apps cover a broad range of subjects, inspire curriculum connections, and can be used with multiple grades. While chosen with school librarians and classroom instruction in mind, these apps can also be adapted for use in public library programming.

The Best Apps for Teaching and Learning Taskforce, chaired by Melissa Jacobs-Israel, developed a set of criteria based on the Standards for the 21st-Century Learner and selected apps in five distinct categories: books, STEM, organization and management, social sciences, and content creation.

The committee considered whether the apps were well designed, user-friendly, and filled with pop-up ads or other unnecessary distractions. According to the committee, the winning apps encourage deep inquiry, critical thinking skills, and engaging learning experiences. The result is a well-rounded list that will be very useful for teachers and librarians, particularly those new to the world of integrating apps into classrooms and programs.

The list included a few of my own tried and true favorites like Toontastic (a fun and funny content creation app for elementary students) and Evernote (as one committee member noted, “I run my life on Evernote”). There were a few surprises as well. The following are apps that looked so exciting that I downloaded them as they were announced by the selection committee:

Shakespeare in Bits—Hamlet: Where was this when I was in ninth grade? Full-cast narration, animated scenes and character webs help students visualize and further explore the Bard’s famous creation. The original play can also be purchased in-app.

Tinkerbox: This is what great STEM apps can be. Combining engineering, puzzles, and design, children are encouraged to problem solve, apply new skills, and use their imaginations. They can invent crazy machines and share them with friends or with the app developer.

Videolicious: There are a ton of video creation apps, but very few are simple enough for most kids to use successfully and powerful enough to produce high-quality creations. This one hits both marks. Kids can choose photo or video content already saved on their device, record a narration, and select a copyright-free song from the in-app library.

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On October 14, 2015 Library Journal, School Library Journal, and thousands of library professionals from around the world gathered for the 6th annual Digital Shift virtual conference to focus on the challenges and opportunities presented by the digital transition’s impact on libraries, their communities, and partners. Now available on-demand, this year’s program provides actionable answers to some of the biggest questions our profession faces for and from libraries of all types – school, academic, and public and features thought-provoking keynotes from John Palfrey, author of BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google, and Denise Jacobs, tech leader, author, and creativity evangelist.

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