10 Great Apps for Teaching and Learning

Innovation funding supports school led projects that focus on the use of technology to benefit learning and learners, teaching and school community development. Several projects investigating the use of iPads in different learning situations are currently being funded through Leicester City Council’s BSF schools Innovation Fund.   These include:

All of the schools have thought carefully about how they will share their findings and  outputs – we will be providing information and resources, as openly licensed resources, from all projects here.

At the end of the last school year, a parents evening was held at The City of Leicester College, where they are piloting a BYOD project using iPad Minis. The tutor group involved in the pilot were chosen through a competitive bidding process, organised by the school. The purpose of the evening was to  introduce the group’s parents and carers to the project, and to the ways in which the devices could be used to enhance learning and teaching.

I was asked to attend the session and give a presentation about how some of the free apps available on the iPad can be used to support teaching and learning. Below is a summary of my presentation.

iBooks IconiBooks

iBooks is Apple’s e-reading application – many of the classics are available for free and if teachers create their own eBooks (using iBooks Author or another ebook creation tool) they can also be stored and read by the iBooks app.

What is useful about the iBooks app, is it’s annotation facility – you can highlight, underline, add notes and even look words up in the dictionary from within the app.

In the classroom, this could be used to highlight key passages (e.g. introductions to main characters, or descriptions of places/characters), to identify particular types of words (e.g. verbs, adverbs, nouns) or even to add extra information to the text (e.g. facts about the author or story).

At home, learners can use the app to make revision notes on top of the text – and they’re not restricted to fictional texts, subject text books are also available through the apple store (though often at a cost).

popplet iconPopplet Lite

Popplet Lite is a mind-mapping tool which allows the user to add text, images and free drawings. This is the free version of an existing app, so has its limitations, but for simple planning or reflection activities I have found the free version to be sufficient. The biggest draw back is that you cannot save your Popplet maps – although I tend to take a screenshot to get around this.

Popplet could be used in any lesson to explore a topic, for example a book or a famous figure. It could be used to gather thoughts around a project, say a group presentation. I have used Popplet with younger learners to help them to reflect on their progress – I took photographs of their handwriting work over the course of the year and let them annotate it with their own thoughts – it worked really well and we printed off their popplets at the end of the session; one copy for their school record and one to take home.

evernote iconEvernote Apps

The Evernote family of apps all focus on helping you to organise useful sites, documents and ideas. I looked at four of the Evernote apps in this presentation. Evernote, an app that stores ‘notes’ (documents, links, memos) and allows you to sort them using tags. Skitch, an app that lets you annotate webpages, maps, images and PDFs. Penultimate, a virtual notebook. Peek, a revision app which utilises the iPad Smart Cover – allowing users to test themselves on pre-made or self-created content.

The Evernote suite are great apps for supporting students in managing their own learning. Evernote offers users the ability to store useful resources, for example websites linked to class work topics. Skitch allows users to annotate images – great for making visual revision notes (such as notes on anatomy or a musical score). Penultimate is a great way to take notes and jot down ideas that can then be accessed anywhere – with Evernote you can log in to your account from any computer, so students can get their class notes from anywhere. Peek helps learners to test themselves, in preparation for quizzes and exams, with predefined content or even tests they (or teachers) create themselves.

pocket iconPocket

If you find something online, that you’d like to look at later, maybe a webpage or an article – put it in your pocket. You can access your Pocket account from any device, meaning that you can choose when its best for you to come back to the things you’ve saved.

This app is my personal life saver – I am something of procrastinator and I often find myself looking at information and resources that aren’t linked to work I’m trying to complete at the time. With Pocket, I can save these webpages or documents and return to them later at a better time. Students and teachers could use Pocket to collect useful resources and even share them with one another via Twitter, Facebook or Email.

socrative iconSocrative

Socrative is a tool which is used by teachers and learners. The teacher sets up a short quiz, and using a room number, students can then access and take the quiz.

Socrative is a great formative assessment tool – perfect for a quick plenary at the end of a lesson. The teacher can set up an account quickly and tests are simple to create and students only need a room number to take the quiz – so no setting up learner accounts. The app also collects data on student answers – helping teachers to assess how well a class has understood a new topic, for example.

nearpod iconNearpod

Add some pizzazz to your presentations with Nearpod. You can upload existing presentations (as PDFs) or create a new one and add interactive elements, such as videos, activities and quizzes.

Nearpod is a great way to jazz up old (or create new) interactive presentations. There are four elements to the nearpod system:

Content Tool – where the teacher creates the presentation.

Nearpod Teacher – the app which allows the teacher to control the presentation in the classroom.

Nearpod Student – the app that learners see when interacting with the presentation.

Reporting Tool – where the teacher analyses responses to the interactive elements of the presentation and can monitor classroom activity.


dictionary iconReference Apps

With the iPad you need never worry about other resources being available again – and learners don’t need to carry lots of extras to school with them. There are many reference apps available – for the purpose of this presentation I tried to keep it fairly generic, looking at the following forms of reference: Dictionary, Calculator, Period Table, Translation, Atlas.

I wanted to pull together some examples of reference apps on the iPad to show how it can become a reference source in itself. With access to dictionaries, encyclopedias, translation tools and more – students no longer need worry about remembering to pack other reference resources. Also, for the teacher, the reliance on availability of certain tools is no longer a problem if students have access to reference apps on their iPad.

myhomework iconMyHomework

An electronic homework planner, MyHomework helps students to keep their timetable and all their homework organised in one place. Teachers can also create content at Teachers.io and this can then be accessed from the learner’s device – signing them up to classes.

The MyHomework app is another great example of how the iPad can be used to support students in taking control of their learning. Students can input their timetable into the app and then add homework as it arises. The handy homework menu shows users what is due soon, what is late and what has already been completed. Using Teachers.io, staff can create the content for learners and then share it using the MyHomework app.

jot iconJot! Whiteboard

Turn your iPad into a mini whiteboard with Jot! Draw, add text and show others your whiteboard using ‘Live Sharing’.


There are lots of apps available which allow learners to turn their iPad into a mini whiteboard – but I chose this one because the instructions are well communicated and its really easy to get started. Also, using ‘Live Sharing’ learners can allow others to view their board – perhaps to demonstrate an idea or if the teacher would like to use their work as an example.

photoshop iconPhotoshop Express

The iPad’s camera is often used in the classroom to capture and demonstrate learning. With Photoshop Express, you can edit your pictures before adding them to presentations or records of work.

Finally, I wanted to include an app for photo editing. My own experience with the iPad Mini has taught me that it’s camera isn’t the best – at least not compared to other devices that I own – mainly because it has no flash. With Photoshop Express, simple effects can be added to improve the brightness and contrast – even to add further effects such as borders and distortions.

The purpose of the presentation, and with it this post, was to demonstrate the potential of some of the free apps available on the iPad. I chose to look at general educational support, rather than subject specific apps, but there are many great apps out there for particular subject areas.

Interested in using apps in the classroom? Why not get your students to suggest some as a homework activity – ask them to research apps that could support your subject and write a proposal, including justification for why it would be effective. It’s a great way to broaden your awareness of some of the apps out there!

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