Five Mobile Apps
The following is a list of five mobile apps that can be used in a K-12 setting. Even just in setting up this account, I learned a lesson on the dangers of mobile learning. While this service (tackk) has the glossy sheen of a True 2.0 Web Application, it hardly works on mobile devices. Many similar services have either full compatibility or a downloadable mobile version, but this one does not. It isn't a big deal that I will have to use multiple workstations to create this tackk, but in a setting with 30 students and access to tablets (rather than desktop computers), this would be an exercise in tripping over technology.
Professor Brian Cox's Wonders of the Universe
This was one of the first apps I got upon entering the mobile device age, and I wish I had had access to such a thing when I was a kid. Very basically, it's a map of the universe. But the learning potential is in the details. With this app, you can zoom in and out of space, getting a neat visualization of where things are. The thing that makes it special is the attention to detail. You can touch any planetary body, and an interactive text box comes up, filling you in on relevant information - usually at an impressive level of depth. From there, you can be linked to other similar celestial bodies, or just continue exploring.
Nothing blows a kid's mind quite like realizing the scope of our universe, and this app does a good job of conveying the enormity of it all. I could see building group projects around the app - there is so much to see that you wouldn't even have to give terribly specific criteria for an assignment. Instead, I would just let kids explore the app, find something they like (the scope is flexible... it could be a planet, a system, or even phenomena that come up frequently in the text boxes) and write about it/present it.
Also I would probably frame the assignment in space exploration/science fiction type terms, but maybe that's just me.
this is another one that I'm familiar with from personal use, and would recommend for classroom use. AnimationDesk allows for the creation of, yes, animations, without any prior knowledge of how these things work. The layout is not unlike MS Paint (at least in terms of it's simplicity), and it lets you to see a dim version of the last frame you made. This makes for much quicker work than some other, more cumbersome animation programs I've used.
I'm very interested in the idea of having kids do adaptations as English class projects, and this is a good app for that. Obviously, doing even a 5 minute cartoon frame-by-frame would take a long time, but that's an avoidable problem. Kids-these-days like quick and dense media, and this program would be suitable for making that. I would challenge my students to create a 30 second "viral" adaptation of a classic work, complete with soundtrack (which you can do with AnimationDesk). Not only would this ensure a thorough reading of whatever work I've assigned (cutting a novel to a 30 second clip requires a real knowledge of what's central to the story), it would pique the interest of students who use Twitter, Vine, and other forms of tidbit media production.
Strip Design is another simple little tool that would be great for English projects centring on media adaptation. All it is is a blank slate that allows you to trade page divisions with your finger. It separates your lines into clean and straight comic book panels. From there, you can upload art and scale it to for your panels, or you can use the simple paint tools included in the app to do your art directly.
I like comics as a creative medium, and they would work well in the classroom. The format is inherently collaborative, and a large project can be divided up amongst a class. For example, you could divide a novel into 15 sections, and have a pair of kids adapt each section to comic format. At the end, the whole thing could be compiled into a graphic novel. Using something like Strip Design would ensure that everyone's contributions are in a standard size and file format, allowing for easy compilation.
History: Maps of the World
This one is exactly as the name suggests. It provides a wide variety of maps, both modern and ancient. Much like the Wonders of the Universe app I wrote about above, the neat stuff lies in the extras. You can see little animations that show how borders have changed over time, and you can access historical information by clicking on places on the maps.
This would have a lot of general uses in social studies classes. I think a good project would be to select a map of a region, and have students play with the temporal sliders. They could each do a little write up of the region at the time (including why the borders were where they were, and the political climate), and at the end the projects side by side would give a time-lapse of a region's history.
Here's a weird one! DEVICE 6 is a recent game, released only for iOS. It attempts to merge a novel with a video game, which I think is a very cool idea. You scroll through text, one line at a time, constantly reorienting your device. Little images pass by, and they contain clues for continuing the story.
The story itself wasn't amazing and as such, I'd be reluctant to introduce this exact app to an English class. However, I think this game opens a lot of avenues for future game development - now that there is one, there will be more games like this, and they will improve over time. As a lifelong book-and-game geek, I would jump all over the chance to incorporate a hybrid into a lesson. I bet a lot of students would too.