IPad Integration: Apps with Multiple Classroom Options

Sometimes you find an app that will work great as either a small stand-alone activity or a game-changing classroom revolution – – all depending on how much you want to customize it and use it.  If you want to use the App as a filler activity, it could be.  If you wanted to make the App an individualized choice activity that students use to practice a concept, it could be.  If you wanted to use the App for specific students in enrichment and intervention activities, it could do that for you too.  If you wanted an App to totally revolutionize the way you gather data and build practice activities, it could do that.  The great things about these types of apps is that: 1) each student has a personal log-in so that each students experience on the app is personal, saved, customized and abled to be accessed again and again, 2) the teacher can include as much customization as he or she is comfortable with.

Edmodo  Free (App Store)

I’m a big fan of Edmodo as a classroom management portal.  It’s an easy way to send students links, files, notes, assignments and quizzes, and safely allows them to collaborate, write and share.  Students can log in and out of their individual Edmodo profile so that each individual user can access their individual Edmodo account.

Ideas for Edmodo Implementation in general:

  • Post a discussion prompt and have students respond to a question or share thoughts for everyone to see
  • Create an assignment in which students submit a private only-seen-by-the-teacher response
  • Post a class brainstorming session to generate writing ideas
  • Create formative assessments in the quiz module
  • “Exit Ticket” or “Elevator Speech” where students explain what they learned following a lesson or day
  • Post videos, notes or information for students that need extra review or were absent
  • Put links, documents or information there for students to easily access

Another great plus with Edmodo is its Apps (so, essentially, there are Apps within the App).  There are a lot of great ones – – some that you have to pay for and some free ones.  One really great literacy app is No Red Ink.  (Click here for a review on No Red Ink)  (There is also a internet site for No Red Ink that anyone can use through Safari).

ScootPad  Free (App Store)

I came across this App last week when a friend of mine was talking about how the students in her school can’t wait to use the IPads to review Math and Literacy games in order to earn coins and that their school earned more coins in the last two weeks than any other school in Iowa using the App.  Many parts of this looked intriguing, so I setup a teacher account on ScootPad posing as a 5th grade teacher.

Screen Shot 2013-01-27 at 1.33.29 PM

ScootPad has a teacher set-up page on the Internet at www.scootpad.com.  That is where I set-up my account, created a class and added my list of students.  I control the student usernames and passwords and can adjust and change them if needed.  I picked by grade level (5th grade) and then chose my standards.  ScootPad works with the Common Core and I chose to select all the Common Core standards for 5th grade.  These standards are now added to my class.

Option #1:  That’s the bare minimum of what is needed to work with ScootPad (setup a class, create student accounts, share account info with students).  At this point, your students can go to the ScootPad app on the IPad, log-in with their personal information and access grade level appropriate Math and Literacy practice activities.  These practice activities are randomly generated using the Common Core standards and over time also keep in mind the progress of the student, adjusting to their level of comprehension and understanding.  The students earn coins for each correct answer and bonus coins for 100% completion.  From what I can see, students can do as many practice activities as they want, whenever they want.

Option #2:  Teachers can log-in and monitor progress and student achievement.  Teachers can also assign practice activities to be completed.  These homework assignments can be assigned for every student or assigned to only those students in need of enrichment and intervention.  I like the results tracking feature in ScootPad because it breaks everything down by the standard.  The teacher can see the level of proficiency of their students in each standard area.  It’s a great tool for identification and intervention.

Option #3: The students have an individualized piggy bank that they store the coins that they earn for completing their activities.  Teachers (and parents!) can set-up classroom rewards that students can “purchase” with their coins.  You can also customized these and make them available for only a few students (for example, if you had a reward available only for those struggling students).  It’s a nice option and ScootPad is something parents can access also so that they can build rewards for their own students.

Screen Shot 2013-01-27 at 3.13.49 PM


Khan Academy  Internet

If you want your students to practice math problems by concept, there isn’t much of a comparison with Khan Academy.  It’s an internet based application that can be used through Safari on your IPad.  Students can practice the problems, get hints if they get stuck and watch tutorials and explanations if they need to.  If students created an account on Khan Academy and attach a teacher as a “coach”, the coach can see progress and get data.  But the activities still work well as review and practice activities even if they don’t log-in to an individual account.  But since that option is there, I include it here.


Extend your Professional Learning Network with Edmodo

Teaching an elective subject in a small school district and make building a professional learning network difficult.  Teachers using Edmodo are fortunate to have subject based communities that they can access for resources, suggestions and discussion regarding education in their content area.  These communities are the perfect extension of anyones professional learning network.

Edmodo Communities
Edmodo Communities

The communities are built around content area and not grade level, so each community includes teachers from all age groups.  Edmodo reaches across the country and into several different countries around the world.  The diversity of teacher ideas within the content area is amazing.  You can check in and look at the community activity any time you want: twice a day, once a week, once a semester – – it doesn’t matter.  The community is there for you as you need it.

The greatest gift of the Edmodo community is the sharing of ideas, resources and content specific information.  You can simply go to the community, post a question and within a day, have 15 responses from across the globe to try and help you out.  Since the information comes from other Edmodo teachers, there is a huge focus on technology and how to make it work in all tech savvy environments (IPad, 1:1, mobile carts).

No Red Ink Grammar Review

Edmodo has quite a few “apps” that could easily be integrated into your classes if you are already using Edmodo.

Screen Shot 2012-10-16 at 3.26.04 PM

One I came across last week is called NoRedInk and it generates grammar exercises, assignments and quizzes using pop culture references.  A great resource for upper Elementary and Middle School teachers — great review site for High School.

Screen Shot 2012-10-16 at 3.26.12 PM

The app is free.  Students will have to get the app from the Edmodo App store and then all of your students will automatically be registered and be able to do your NoRedInk activities.  I created a practice activity to demonstrate how NoRedInk works.  I “assigned” everyone in the Denver Edmodo Training Group a grammar assignment.  If you get the app from the app store and access it, you should be able to complete that activity and see the student side of it.


Here are some additional features:

Screen Shot 2012-10-16 at 3.19.18 PM

When creating a grammar activity, you can choose the category.  Each category has subtopics.  The possible categories: Apostrophes, Commonly Confused Words, Subject/Verb Agreement, and Commas, Fragments & Run-ons.  If you want to focus on a specific subtopic, you can checkbox just that topic (like who’s vs. whose) or leave it wide open.  You choose the number of questions and points.  You can schedule it for a specific time or make it available right away.


You can also make it available for only a few students.  This would be great for intervention.

I also like how the data for each class is displayed.  I breaks down each category and color codes each student’s proficiency in each subtopic.  You can easily scan to see if many students struggle with a certain topic, etc.

Screen Shot 2012-10-15 at 9.24.37 AM

Sentence Proofreading Activity

My students are great at knowing all the separate pieces and rules of the language on their own but stumble when it comes to putting them together for the purpose of writing for communication.  Something that always has been a challenge for me is to get my students to edit and proofread their work.  When I give them writing corrections, I feel that the feedback is oftentimes ignored and no learning takes place.  Recently my students have been doing a proofreading activity that has provided many teachable moments and I am now seeing positive results.


Pre-lesson preparation: My Spanish 2 students have been learning about house vocabulary.  While we practiced vocabulary and descriptions in class, I posted a prompt on Edmodo for the students to write about.  They had to go to Edmodo (an online collaboration website for our class) and type just one sentence describing their house.  After they had typed their sentences, I printed them all off on to a piece of paper and we worked with the sentences in class.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Entrance Ticket: When my students walked into class, each student took a piece of paper and had to brainstorm at least 5 characteristics of a good sentence.  I told them to think about what a Spanish teacher would look for in a perfectly written sentence and also what a 3rd grade teacher would look for in a perfect sentence.  They had approximately 2 minutes for this brainstorming.

Class Sharing and List Making: As a class, we took the characteristics each student generated to create a class list of qualities that a sentence needs to have.  My students were very attuned to the characteristics of quality sentences.  Every class identified punctuation, capital letters and proper spelling.  Most were able to speak about specific Spanish skills, such as proper word order, adjective agreement, gender agreement and correct conjugation.  This class sharing portion of the class was also interesting because many students wrote down good grammar as a characteristic of well written sentences but they couldn’t elaborate on what good grammar was.  They have been told over and over again that they need to have good grammar but couldn’t identify what good grammar meant.  Many teachable language moments came out of this class discussion.

Finding Perfect Sentences: After generating a class list of sentence qualities, each student received a copy of the sentences they had typed in Edmodo about their house.  I told the students how many of the sentences on the paper were perfect sentences, or sentences that had all of the qualities listed on the board.  They worked alone to try and read each of the sentences to find the sentences with no errors.  Since the paper I printed had each student’s name next to their sentence, there was a lot of personal responsibility for the sentences.  Most students focused on their sentence first to see if it was good or not.  Then I noticed that they zeroed in on the sentences of students they perceived as being smart and good at writing.  Once they had some worktime, we came back together as a class and identified all of the perfect sentences.

Levels of Errors: After the perfect sentences were taken care of, we focused on editing the remaining sentences so that they could become perfect.  I talked to them about the importance of the type of errors in these sentences.  For most of my high school students, minus 1 is the same as minus 25; if it’s not perfect, it is no good.  I drew a chart on the board of the 5 levels of sentences that I use when evaluating writing progress.


Peer Editing: I individually called on students to find the errors in the remaining sentences.  Most were able to recognize something wrong.  Sometimes I would give prompts, such as “This is a Level 4 sentence, so we’re looking for a small stuff”, or “Remember to check all of the qualities listed on the board to make sure that everything works”.  I found that the students were very good about finding the errors.  And they also enjoyed the labeling of the sentences in Levels.  While the activity progressed, I heard students debating whether or not a sentence was a Level 4 or a Level 3.  One said, “You just have to add a word here to make it correct, so it’s not that big of a deal.  It’s only a Level 4”.  The other countered with “But Level 4 sentences are so good that you just have to change the parts that are already there.  Forgetting a word is a bigger deal and it should be a Level 3”.  I did notice, however, that some students didn’t like that their sentence was being called out as a Level 3, or the lowest level in this particular activity.  While I know that those individual students didn’t like that part of it, I know that they seriously will learn from that mistake they made.  I also made sure that we spoke only about this one sentence written about that individual and not the individual in general.  Since each student was included in the activity, I felt that they were very respectful towards each other in that regard.

Post Formative Assessment: Some days later I would give a short slip of paper to each student at the beginning or end of class.  I would show them pictures of a house on the projection screen and ask them to write one sentence about that house, remembering the qualities of a proper sentence.  Almost no student made the same mistake on this sentence as he or she did previously.  The total number of correct sentences improved greatly and the students that did make errors made very small errors (Level 4 errors).  I was pleased with the outcome of this activity and will make it a routine writing and proofreading exercise in my lesson plans.

Edmodo Time Experiment

On an overcast Saturday in Iowa, I found it hard to stay interested in my school work.  I had plans to make, materials to develop and, every teacher’s favorite, papers to correct.  As I looked at some of the paper clipped, fringe ladened notebook papers in front of me, I had a thought.  I created a little game for myself to keep me interested in working for the next 3 hours.

Last week in school, I was running late with my first class of the day.  I quickly printed out homework for them to complete on paper.  However, with my later two classes, I had the time to upload the homework to Edmodo, an online classroom module where students can complete the homework online.  I asked myself: Is it faster for me to correct these assignments on paper or on Edmodo? And just like that I had a Saturday challenge to keep me occupied.

I set the timer and began to correct 18 of the paper copies in front of me.  It took me 23 minutes, 15 seconds to correct the sentences and write the grade on the paper.  It took an additional 1 minute 50 seconds to put the scores into my gradebook.  That is a total time 25 minutes, 5 seconds for one class of 18 students.  It’s approximately 1 minute, 40 seconds per student.

One student's Edmodo assignment.

I had more than 18 students complete the assignment on Edmodo, but to keep things equal, I only timed myself for 18 of the students.  In Edmodo, the students type their responses in a text box and the teacher has a comment box for comments.  I commented just as I would have on paper and graded the assignments.  I was done with that portion of my work in 16 minutes, 48 seconds.  I then had to transfer those grades over into my gradebook, but since the students are listed in Edmodo in alphabetical order, it took me only 40 seconds.  (The paper homework was in a random order.) The Edmodo grading took me a total of 17 minutes, 28 seconds.  That breaks down to only 58 seconds per student.

Concluding Reflection:

Pros: Edmodo looks like a clear winner in the department of time saving.  The difference between grading the paper copies and the online assignments was about 42 seconds per student.  I average about 65 students in my Spanish sections, which is about 45 minutes of time saved just grading the assignment and inputting the grades into the computer.  That is 45 minutes of “me time” that I can spend watching Bravo reality shows, painting my nails or chasing my dog.  And it’s 45 less minutes I have to spend in front of my computer or with nubby, fringy homework papers.  Also, the students get that feedback immediately.  They aren’t going to have to wait until Monday when I pass back the paper (which takes about 2 – 3 minutes of instructional time) to get their results.  These students can log-in anytime to see their score and their comments.

Cons: I like my Sharpie correcting pens because they make bright, dark marks on papers.  I like to draw in arrows or missing letters on the assignments so that the students see their mistakes and they pop.  In Edmodo, I am limited to making my comments inside of a text box, so my comments cannot be drawn directly onto one of their sentences.  In this particular assignment, students were writing sentences and I was assessing their sentence structure and grammar.  Being able to make visible corrections over top of their work is valuable and something that is lacking on the Edmodo side.  However, as a high school teacher, I usually carefully watch when my students receive these types of assignments back and most of them take a quick glance at the letter grade and start to crumple it up and practice their jump shot with the trash can.

Bottom Line: For future grammar assignments where I am particularly interested in word order, spelling and construction of the phrases, I would seriously have to think about sticking with the paper assignments.  The feedback options and the opportunity for students to learn from their mistakes should outweigh my basic need for more free time.  But I will not lie: the valuable of a teachable moment vs. 45 minutes of being able to kick back and relaxing creates an internal struggle.

An Edmodo Cheerleader

As my students can probably tell, I love using Edmodo.  I found Edmodo at the end of last year and used up a chunk of my summer trying to decide the best ways to use it and investigating all the little in’s and out’s of this marvelous site.

This fall I was asked by my administrators at Denver to present a short technology presentation during the NICL Professional Development Day on October 15, 2010.  I was very flattered, but most of all very excited to be able to tell people about Edmodo and how great it can be in the classroom.

The presentation went very well.  I met some teachers from other schools that use Edmodo and heard only great things about it.  I’ve also been talking with some of the Edmodo network people and I’m trying to worm my way into their inner circle so I can find out about the new developments before they come out.

I’d like to thank my students for volunteering to be in our little Edmodo commercial.  (I’m going to pretend that they really like Edmodo, even if they were just trying to say nice things to make me happy and get on my good side.)