Thursday, 12 July 2012

5 Favourite Free Apps for Educators

1. Evernote
As someone who seems spends most of their life away from their desk in meetings, being able to keep track of all of my notes is really handy - and Evernote allows me to do just that. It's also brilliant when I'm at events or listening to someone speak.  It's dead easy to take notes in a variety of formats - from audio to text, complete webpages or just photos you've taken.  For example, I frequently scribble diagrams on paper / whiteboards to illustrate points I'm making during meetings, then with Evernote I snap a picture of it and it lives with the rest of the notes for that meeting and I've got a copy to go with me wherever I am. 

You can tag entries, file things in different notebooks for different purposes - and synchronise all of your notes between your desktop pc, your tablet pc and your phone without having to really think about it. You also get a unique email address to which you can email notes to yourself for later or forward yourself emails you'd like to annotate later.  Very very handy!  

Available for: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Blackberry and multiple browsers

2. Zite
Zite in action
I absolutely love Zite.  There.  I've admitted it.  It's an absolutely brilliant way to have news you're interested in come straight to you... and it's all presented in a really smart magazine-style format.  I know there's Google Currents.  I know there's Flipboard.  But what Zite does is that it uses your profile on Twitter and Google Reader to understand the sorts of articles you're interested in... the progressively learns what you like the more you use Zite.

The reason it's so brilliant is that once you tell it what news sections you're interested in - for me, things like education, elearning, social media, technology, web tools etc - then you get presented with articles in each of those categories and discover new content.  Unlike an RSS reader like Google Reader where you're presented with content you've subscribed to, with Zite you're discovering stuff you might be interested in - and you can let it know if you are or aren't interested and help it build a profile of just the sorts of things you like to read about.  Oh, and you can also share and save articles really easily - whether that's on Google+ or Twitter, Delicious, Facebook, LinkedIn, Evernote, Email...

Zite: Personalized Magazine for iPad from on Vimeo.

Did I mention how much I love Zite?  :o)

Available for: iPhone, iPad, Android phones and HP TouchPad.

3.  CloudOn
Editing a PowerPoint presentation in CloudOn
in an iPad
If you're a DropboxGoogle Drive or Box user and you've got an iPad or Android device, then having something that will enable you to edit your Microsoft Office would be nice, right?  That's what CloudOn does.

Very straightforward to use, just download, connect with your Dropbox / Google Drive accounts and you'll get access to all the files and folders you've got stored in there.  You can edit docs, spreadsheets, presentations as well as viewing pdf and image files too.  It's not just editing though, what's also great is that you can create new Word documents, Excel spreadsheets or PowerPoint presentations - this helps you take your office with you wherever you've got access to the internet.

The other nice thing is that you can email files you've worked on from within CloudOn too.  It basically adds in the functionality that's missing from other mobile apps.

Available for: iPad and Android.

4.  Skitch
Less than a minute to create this in Skitch
Skitch is a fantastic tool for taking screenshots / annotating images (web captures, maps or photos) and you can share the resulting image via email, twitter or Evernote (see above)... or just save it to your camera roll.  For producing resources or letting putting together instructions and illustrations Skitch is seriously handy.  You can even draw images from scratch which I sometimes do when I want to sketch a picture for use in a presentation.

If you've taken a screenshot on your mobile / tablet pc and want to annotate it (for example, taking a screenshot of a page of a pdf file) then you can do that too.  On an iPhone / iPad, you just hold down the Home button and press the Sleep/Wake button at the top right hand corner to take a picture of whatever's on your screen - this image then lives in your camera roll.  Open up the resulting image from within Skitch and annotate away.  Really very handy!

Available for: iPhone, iPad, Android, Mac

5.  Storify
My Storify of the Google European User Group event
on the iPad Storify App
This seems to be a bit of an odd selection given there are so many apps out there, but if you think that a mobile app encourages you to - well - be mobile, then having something that's great at pulling together a load of mobile resources is great.

Storify does just that - it helps you curate social media.  Imagine if you had a class of students working on a project and tagging things with a unique hashtag and getting them to create rich social stories of their work?  And then let them do it from wherever they are using a simple free app.  Lots of potential!

For example, one of the things I tend to do at conferences is to use things like Twitter, Instagram, YouTube etc to share notes / resources from the event - using the hashtag of the event so that I can keep track of it.  It's then really easy for me to bring everything together using Storify to tell the 'social story' of the day - bringing together images people have taken, link to presentations they gave, comments people made, videos that were shared - for example, this is a Storify I did of the Google European User Group event at the University of Portsmouth in June.

It gives more of a sense of an event or idea and I think the potential for storifying in education is massive.

Available for: iPad and online at

These are, of course, just my favourite apps as opposed to university-recommended apps! Oh, and I also use apps for things like Instagram, Google+, Dropbox, Chrome, Adobe ReaderFacebook, Twitter (and Echofon), Pocket, foursquare, Easy QR, Flipboard, Dragon Dictation, Blogger, BBC iPlayer, Educreations, TED, Pinterest... but there are only so many hours in the day!

What are your favourite free apps for your mobile device?  What apps make your life easier as an educator?  Would love to know!


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