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Apps for High School Students: Productivity

This is the third installment of our Apps for High School Students series here on the blog. Today we are sharing a few great apps for Productivity. This is a really important topic for high school students, and one that maybe doesn’t get enough attention.

Being productive and exercising good time management are crucial to being successful in school, especially once you get to college. Mastering these skills becomes even more important when you enter the workforce. Usually, there’s no one telling you how to do your work or when or how much time to spend on it, all of that responsibility falls on you (the student)!

The apps we are going to share with you today can help you practice these skills as you are working through your high school career or heading into your college years.

myHomework
myHomework is a FREE app for iPhone and iPad that provides a place to keep track of homework assignments, so you never forget another assignment! The app includes a calendar where you can see when assignments are due, a class schedule where you can store all the information for your classes, and a web-companion where you can sync and view your assignments.

 

 

iStudiez Pro
iStudiez Pro is an iPhone and iPad app that offers many of the same features of myHomework (above) but also offers much much more! This app is a great way to organize your entire life. Keep track of class schedules, assignments, grades, and push notifications to let you know of upcoming tasks that are due or events that are scheduled. For a limited time, get this robust app for only 99¢!

 

 

Promodoro
Promodoro is a great app for keeping track of time and making the most of your time! This app is a complement to the Pomodoro Technique of time management which suggests making a list of your tasks to be completed, tackling them one at a time for 25 minute blocks of time only. After working on a task for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break! After 4 25 minute periods (Pomodoros) take a longer break. This app includes not only a Pomodoro timer, but a task list and stats sheet as well. See if you can beat yesterday’s productivity by completing more pomodoros today! This would be great for students learning how to better manage their time and is great for encouraging breaks when working – which is so important!

 

Evernote
Any student who doesn’t yet know about the power of Evernote, you need to download this app now! Evernote is an amazing and simple note-taking app. However, it’s so much more than that! You can add web clips, photos, and voice reminders. Then, share your notebook with other people you may want to collaborate with on a project or keep it to yourself. Either way, you can access your Evernote account across multiple devices (iPhone, iPad, etc.) and on the web, which is nice because you can get access to all your important notes no matter where you are! There are other great apps, products, and services that integrate with Evernote to make the experience even better – including LiveScribe pens! Perhaps best of all, Evernote – and it’s apps – are all completely FREE!

 

We hope you will try some of these recommendations this year to help you be more productive and practice good time management. If you have any other suggestions for Productivity apps for students, we would love to hear about them – Share them in the Comments!

 

*This post is the 3rd in the series: Apps for High School Students. You can read the other posts here:
Apps for High School Students: Seniors
Apps for High School Students: Studying

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Apps for High School Students: Seniors

Senior year is a very important year, however it can be very stressful for students. Here are a few apps that might help to make a students senior year a little easier.

 

MyMajors

MyMajors is an app that’s available for iPhone and iPad for free. This app allows you to search through various college majors to help you choose which one is the best fit for you. After you’ve chosen a major, the app generates a list of schools that offer that major and fit any criteria that you’ve set. This app is perfect for students who aren’t sure what they want to study, or where they want to go to school.

 

 

ACT College Search

This free app is perfect for students who are looking for a college to attend. With this app you can narrow down your school choices based on state, major, size, and more. When you find a school that stands out to you or a school that you like, you can add it to your “favorites” so that you can remember to research more about that school. This app is sure to help you find a college that’s a good fit for you!

 

 

College FAFSA Finder

This iPad app is available for free in the iTunes store, and it’s sure to be a big help to a lot of students! FAFSA is the way that students are able to get financial aid for college, this app helps you to not only search for colleges, but also FAFSA opportunities. This is definitely something that will help all high school seniors!

 

 

Do you have any other apps that you think would be good for high school seniors? Let us know!

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Apps for High School Students: Studying

FlashCards++

This app is perfect for studying, for all ages! It’s available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch for just $3.99. With this app you’re able to create cards on your device by using text and images from various files and websites. There are a lot of cool features within the app, one of them being Text-to-speech, which allows you to listen to vocabulary and learn correct pronunciation. This app is sure to come in handy for students throughout the school year.

 

Evernote Peek

This app is available for free for the iPad.  This app was designed for the iPad 2 Smart Cover. And no worries, if you don’t have a Smart Cover, there are virtual covers available within the app. In order to study, you choose a note from your Evernote pad, and the app tests you based on the information within that note. To see the clue, you peek under the Smart Cover, and then you lift the entire cover to view the whole answer. This app is perfect for studying, no matter what age! Be sure to check this one out!

 

Study Tracker

Having trouble getting your kids to study? This is sure to help solve your problem! With Study Tracker, your student is able to track the amount of time that they study for each subject, and they’re able to compete with other kids to see who studies the most and gets the best grades. And as their study habits improve, there are badges they can unlock. This app is a fun and interesting way to keep track of studying, and I’m sure your kids will love it!

 

 

Do you or your kids have any apps that you use to study? Let us know!

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Incorporating Technology in Education

Many parents believe that allowing technology in education won’t benefit their student and will only distract them. However, many teachers and educators disagree with that. Nowadays, you can’t even walk into a classroom without seeing some type of technology being used. The majority of teachers prefer to teach using tools such as laptops and PowerPoint programs because it mixes up the lesson and it’s something that will get students to comprehend the information better. Being a student myself, I can say that technology in the classroom is great. We all look forward to any chance we have of using the computers, and we enjoy not having to just copy down notes everyday. And different from many schools, my school even airs a daily video broadcast of our announcements every morning. I found a video on The Digital Generation Project that focuses on an elementary school in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. This elementary school is what they refer to as “wired.” They are very tech savvy and encourage technology use through all of their grades, kindergarten through 5th grade. This school is one of the many schools nationwide that are integrating even more technology into their education.

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Apple Introduces Textbook App

Apple has recently released a new app “iBooks2″ which is available for free through iTunes. It’s very similar to the original “iBooks” app, but the new version contains a section that is specifically geared towards students. Users will be able to see 3D images and rotate them for better understanding. Also, students can highlight and bookmark on the pages and create their own study cards within the app. There are a few reviews of the app in the Apple store and many people seem very excited about textbooks being available. One says that there is more detail included in these books than the paper versions. I think this app is a great idea! I haven’t used it yet, but it seems so helpful and I can’t wait to try it out. Once I get to college I’m sure that I’ll be using this app because I’d rather carry around an iPhone or an iPad instead of multiple 5 pound paper textbooks. If you want to learn more about this new app you can visit The Online Mom or The iBooks page in the App Store.

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Students Seeing the World from a Different View.

While surfing the web, I came across this video and I thought I would share it with all of you. It shares information about  what “Global Kids, Inc.” is doing to teach students about world affairs. Global Kids is a non-profit organization for global learning and youth development. Groups of high school aged students are offered during school and after school programs to help teach them about things that are happening in the world that they don’t know much about. When asked if they wanted to learn more about global affairs, they were very excited because they never get to know about the different cultures of people that they go to school with. And they’ve never gotten the opportunity to learn this in school. They are using an online virtual world called “Second Life” to explore the world through the virtual side of things. They’re getting the chance to interact and learn more about people all over the world while sitting in their classrooms at school. To learn more about this project and what Global Kids is doing you can watch the video below.

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Education Hack Day Recap

Last weekend the Campfire Apps team attended Education Hack Day at Digital Harbor High School in Baltimore. The event was a weekend-long hack-a-thon where teachers paired with developers in teams to produce products to match ideas teachers submitted for ways that technology could enhance their classrooms. The event was the first of its kind in Baltimore and was a great success.

It was wonderful to see so many people working hard together over the weekend to develop products that can be really useful to teachers and educators. There were a ton of great ideas that were pitched and at the end of the weekend there were 10 final products that were demonstrated.

We worked on our first app to be released for teachers, What’s Due?. This app is an assignment tracking app for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. Teachers will be able to track assignments by student and sent alerts and reminders when assignments are due, plus much more. It is not complete just yet, but we hope to have it available for download next month.

We had a great time over the weekend working on the app. Our team consisted of Shawn and myself, my sister Jackie – who is pursuing a Master’s in Teaching in Social Studies, and our new intern Rahul. On Saturday, Jackie, Shawn, and I hashed out our idea and started deciding on features for the app. Jackie and I then started wireframing the app with paper and pencil. Shawn began storyboarding the app in the development program and worked on this until 4:30 Sunday morning! I worked on the artwork and interface elements last Saturday night. Then, Sunday afternoon Rahul joined us and helped Shawn with the programming in order to enable us to have a working demo for the presentations. Jackie joined us for a once over before the presentations began and then Shawn and I presented our demonstration to the audience.

Alas, we didn’t win, but we had an awesome time and it was such a great event, we were honored to be a part of it all. You can read more about the event on The Baltimore Sun’s website and the Education Hack Day’s website. You can see a few screenshots that we shared of the app What’s Due? on our Facebook page.

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Inspiration: 6th Grade iOS Developer

This young man, Thomas Suarez, gave a TEDtalk about his app development. He, too, has established an app development club at his school to show other students how to make iPhone and iPad apps. Very cool, and much more inspiring than 2 old folks like ourselves doing the same!

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Thoughts on a Tech-Free Classroom

A few weeks ago, the New York Times published the article “A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute” which featured the Waldorf School and their method of eliminating technology in their classrooms. The school claims that technology and the devices that accompany technology are detrimental to childrens’ creativity, attention spans, and human interaction. The article also pointed out that the school frowns upon the use of technological devices at home as well, however, this particular branch of the school happens to be located in the heart of Silicon Valley, the beating heart of technology in our country.

The article makes a persuasive case in favor of the Waldorf method of teaching and learning, but it is hard to compare this school (and others in the network) with the general public schools across the nation, and that is important to note. For starters, the Waldorf school submits no standardized test data on its students, and while I am not a huge proponent of standardized testing, it is helpful in terms of comparing one school to another. This school also serves a very small cross-section of the population. With a tuition price tag of “$17,750 for kindergarten through eighth grade and $24,400 for high school” per year, you are looking at a very select group of people who can even afford to send their children to this school. Furthermore, the founder of the Waldorf School in Los Altos, Lucy Wurtz is quoted in the NY Times article as saying: “The typical Waldorf parent, who has a range of elite private and public schools to choose from, tends to be liberal and highly educated, with strong views about education; they also have a knowledge that when they are ready to teach their children about technology they have ample access and expertise at home.” This is where we part ways, Waldorf School.

You see, reading the article through the first time, I found little to argue with. Having been a teacher, I place high value on creativity and human interaction and socialization, I taught Kindergarten, this is the basis of what I spent my day teaching and promoting in my classroom. So I can’t really argue with an approach that says that creativity and human interaction are more important that technology. I believe that. But I also believe in balance. In a world that is thriving on technology and technological advances at an increasingly rapid rate, I also believe that we need to introduce children to that part of our society.

As educators, we certainly know that what works for one, doesn’t work for all. And that is a great argument to make here. Sure, the Waldorf students may have a fantastic graduation track record and may go on to big institutions to further their education, but they were going to have that opportunity with or without technology in their classrooms. They also have parents who value education and make it a priority for themselves and their children. That’s great, but that’s not all parents. These are parents who also, according to the school’s founder, have the knowledge and background enough to teach their children how to use the technology that they have “ample access” to at home, when they are ready. Again, this is not all parents.

I taught in a school on the East Coast, far away from Silicon Valley in a section of the community that was a mix of low income and middle class families. I had a wide range of students in my classes with an even wider range of abilities and skills. But I have to say, even my most well-off students did not have “ample access” to technology and devices. Nor did their parents work in the technology industry as tech leaders with the knowledge and background to teach them the technology whenever they felt appropriate. And I think that this scenario is a much more clear picture of the majority of families in the United States.

The problem with the Waldorf School’s approach is that they are dealing with an already privileged group of young people who would grow up having a vast variety of resources and opportunities that the overwhelming majority of children in this country will never have. So while you may be able to take technology out of their classrooms, they still have a better chance of learning to use the technology than others might because they have access to it at home. My students did not all have access to technology at home, so if I wasn’t teaching them about how to use it, they may never know.

The problem is that we have a whole massive group of children who will not have the opportunities to learn about technology from their parents when “the time is right.” And if we (the teachers and schools) don’t teach them about these technologies, they will never be able to compete with those people who had “ample access” to the technologies at home when it comes time for them to enter the work force. We have to keep technology in our schools for those children who don’t have the same opportunities at home or the same encouragement and support from their families so that they have a fighting chance to compete with the highly technical jobs and careers that they will no doubt be facing 10-15 years from now. Teaching them about technology now is preparing them for their future, which will, without a doubt, be more technology focused and centered than the times we are living in right now.

What are your thoughts about tech-free classrooms? Share them here in the comments or on our Facebook page.

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Addressing the New Digital Divide in Classrooms

The term “digital divide” was a term coined in the 90s to describe the gap between those who had access to computers and the internet and those who did not. Since the 90s the price of personal computers has dropped significantly, making them more affordable for more people, and there is now a whole new field of computing devices out there: tablets and smartphones. Now, the issue is less about the haves and the have nots but more about keeping up with the quickly changing times and finding new ways to deal with this new flood of technology.

Crossing the Digital Divide: Bridges and Barriers to Digital Inclusion”  by Sara Bernard is an article from Edutopia that explores some of the new implications for schools as a result of the ways that digital access is changing. This quote pretty much sums it up: “Technology is more widespread and prevalent and there have been massive jumps in technological innovation, all of which has created higher expectations for technology at home, at school, and at the workplace.” This is backed up with a few figures that seemed surprising to me, for some reason. The article sites The Pew Internet & American Life Project which claims that “95 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 use the Internet.” Another figure that stands out is that 91 percent of Americans use cell phones, with 90 percent of cell phone subscribers using a phone with internet capabilities. I’m not sure why I was surprised by these numbers, I think because they seem so high. I guess that’s not really so surprising.

The article suggests that the term “digital divide” is, in many places, completely defunct and is instead being replaced with the term “digital inclusion.” However, the issue at hand is basically the same no matter which terminology you prefer. What was once seen as a factor of wealth, is now a factor of education – the gap is now between those who have opportunities to learn technology skills and those who do not have these opportunities.

Now the education systems are tasked with finding ways to bridge this gap, this new gap, when the fact is that students often know more about technology than their teachers and instructors. Many students have more technology contained in the smartphone in their pocket than what is available to them in their classrooms and schools. It seems that the instinct of most teachers is to prohibit these devices from their classrooms, however, according to Bernard, “demoniz(ing) cell phone use during school, may be an outdated policy.” Not only is it becoming more difficult to keep up with this, but it is disconnecting kids from the reality that is all of our lives right now.

Changing the game and really addressing the new digital divide can be approached in three ways. First, ensuring that people have access to the hardware (and software) devices, as this is still an issue in rural and low-income areas. The second step is making sure that people have access to the technologies out there. This is perhaps the most difficult and cumbersome as it involves making sure that firewalls are not blocking content, specifically the “creativity-enabling websites“. This step also encompasses the maintenance portion of technology, providing a maintenance team or allowing tech-savvy students and teachers to troubleshoot problems. Also, a more abstract concept involved in this step, is the idea of open-internet which is important in low-income areas. The third approach is providing opportunities for everyone to become literate in, not only the hardware and software, but the global communications that are possible with technology. According to Bernard addressing this idea of literacy “means beefing up effective technology-integration programs at schools of education, encouraging and enabling students to create media and to participate in collaborations with others around the world, and making sure that every computer lab — whether at a school or elsewhere — has a way for users to tap into an educational component” (from Amalia Deloney of the Center for Media Justice & Shelly Blake-Plock of TeachPaperless).

There is no doubt that addressing this new digital divide / digital inclusion will be a long and winding path met with many obstacles, but starting in the schools is the best place to begin addressing this. People who are students right now are those who are going to benefit most from attempts made to close this gap and find new ways to begin integrating technology in new ways, meaningful ways. According to Shelly Blake-Plock, blogger in chief at TeachPaperless and a faculty associate at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education, schools have a lofty decision to make; they can continue to ”treat technology as their auxiliary“, which has been the way for years, or they can start to see technology for what it is now and value it for what it has become “a place where culture itself is developing in the 21st century.”

There are tons of bloggers and educational tech professionals and technology enthusiasts who are creating new ways to approach digital inclusion everyday. These are people who work in your building, teaching in the classroom next to you or across the hall. These are the principals and leaders in your schools. Mostly, these are teachers. Are you a teacher or educator who has starting making strides to address the new digital divide? How are you addressing these issues in your classroom, with your students? What are some of the obstacles you see to schools changing their views about the role technology plays in the lives of your students and in your classrooms? As always, we invite you to share your thoughts here in the comments. Don’t be afraid to share what you are doing to address the new digital divide and change views about digital inclusion.

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