My Terrific Three Apps for the Elementary Classroom
As a working parent, sometimes it is difficult to sign up for volunteer dates. So, when I have the chance to see what's happening inside the class or on field trips, I treasure those moments. As a teacher, I've found that the more I share with parents, the less they tend to question. When they feel like they are an active part of their child's learning experience, they are also more able to help with specific needs their child may require since they have an idea of what is going on in the classroom.
Before spring break, our school went on a field trip to the Henry Ford Museum. Our second graders explored innovations through history. Of course, I snapped photos of their creative minds at work throughout the day. Using my smartphone, I was able to quickly snap tons of photos and share them with parents in a secure way that was quick and easy.
I like being able to spend actual hands-on time with my students. So if a tool takes too long to figure out or use, I tend not to use it (no matter how amazing it is). I need to have my focus on my students. That's why I love the tools I'm sharing in this post. They allow me to stay focused and still capture memories to share with others in the moment.
PhotoCircle is a free, secure app for photo sharing. My good friend and fifth grade teacher Todd Nesloney introduced me to this app. To give it a try, I set up a circle with Todd and invited two other friends and fellow elementary teachers, Brad and Drew. Within minutes, we had all been added to the same circle and each shared a handful of photos. We began commenting on the photos and sharing more as the week progressed. What started as just a group of teachers testing out an app has now become the way that the four of us share photos with one another. Prior to PhotoCircle, we were texting each other tons of photos and our conversations would get lost within the steady stream of images. Now, our pictures are organized and saved within one app.
Since PhotoCircle was simple to use, I decided to set up a separate album for my family. I invited my mom, dad, daughter, husband, and other family members. Once each member is added, they can add photos, too. Each member that is added can also comment on the photos. This was a terrific way to share photos from our recent family trip to Disney World. Each day, my husband and I would add all of the photos we took so that other members of the family could see the highlights of our trip.
For the classroom, you could set up a circle for "Third Grade 2013–2014" and add the parents of your students. You could invite them at open house by bumping phones with each parent, sending a text, or sending an email invitation to join your class circle. They have the option to join or decline.
It's important to clear with parents. Let them know if they're invited to share photos with the circle. You may want to set up guidelines for leaving comments. I know some teachers encourage the social aspect of this feature; however, other teachers ask that parents only use the app to view the photos and not leave comments.
My favorite part about this app is that you can easily invite several people to the circle, share unlimited photos with the circle, and have a secure platform for only those invited to view the content. Plus, it is free!
II. and III. Remind101 and Animoto
Remind101 and Animoto are my favorite two apps. I've used both of these apps for several years now, and I stand behind both products 100 percent. What I love about both of these apps is that you can use them via your mobile device or the web. You can also get quite creative in the ways you use each platform. You can click here to see how creative teachers are using Animoto with their students. Be sure to sign up for an educator's account to unlock premium features for free.
I love opening the Animoto app on the bus ride home after a field trip, adding the photos, and clicking "create" to produce a beautiful video slideshow. After the video is produced, I receive an email that my video is ready. I open that video in my Internet browser and copy the link. Then, I open my Remind101 app, add a text message (like, "Enjoy this video from our field trip to the museum today! *insert link*). Then, I paste the link and click send. By the time the parents pick up their children at dismissal, they've already received the text and viewed the video of their child's learning experience.
It warms my heart seeing the children run to their parents and hearing their mom or dad say, "I loved seeing you check out the Rosa Parks exhibit at the museum today." Those specific conversations spark such meaningful conversations right there in the parking lot. I've received such positive remarks about using these two applications in the classroom. No more do parents have to ask, "What did you do today?" They can start by mentioning something specific to encourage rich dinner table dialog. My students get a kick out of it, too. They love coming to school and saying, "My dad got to see me touch the snake when we were at the zoo!" These magical moments from field trips can now be shared to help strengthen relationships. You can click here to see other ways I use Remind101 in my classroom.