Technology is more available in schools today than ever before. Most, if not all, students in my classes have a smart phone with access to the internet. Many schools are also heading in the direction of one-to-one student-to-device ratios. With all of this technology being available on a daily basis, there’s the added benefit of allowing teachers and students to use classroom management apps. There are apps for almost every aspect of teaching available for free to the public. Integrating these apps wisely is an essential skill for any classroom.
As always, when considering which apps to use, there are a few things that you should keep in mind.
First, student privacy is paramount. You should always research whatever app you’re considering and determine how the app will use student data before you begin using it in your class. The last thing you want is to ask your students to download an app that then collects and sells their data to advertisers.
Second, make sure the app is filling a void that actually enhances the student learning experience. Just because an app exists doesn’t mean it is better than having the students learn in a more traditional way. For example, I always prefer hands-on science labs to online simulated science experiences because there’s nothing more memorable and valuable than solving problems in real life.
Finally, the app should be simple to use and operate. If you have to spend more than 10–15 minutes explaining how to use an app, it better be a huge game-changing experience. We as teachers already have limited class time. If you have to add in how to use an app, it could confuse your students and distract from the overall goal of your lesson.
So, which apps do we recommend for your classroom? The following six apps have made our cut.
Start managing your classroom now with Classcraft.
Great classroom management and class participation apps
Classcraft is really unique when compared to the others on this list. It’s an immersive experience where students create a character and play in a fantasy world. They earn points and level up when they complete certain tasks in class that you as the teacher have crafted by hand. Students can also lose points when they engage in behavior that is detrimental to the class, like bullying, raising their voice, or missing assignments. The gamified platform is highly engaging and keeps students motivated.
One of the biggest benefits to using Classcraft as a teacher is that it is fully customizable. I choose who gets points or loses them, and I also have the ability to assign work and tasks based on what each student needs. It lends itself to formative assessment with ease through interactive “battle” modes, called Boss Battles, where students can earn points by answering questions either in teams or individually. Classcraft allows you to set this up easily, making classroom management a breeze because students actually enjoy playing!
2. Google Classroom
I love Google Classroom for many reasons, the first being that students can complete simple assignments whenever they have access to the internet. I do not have to worry about students losing papers or forgetting to save their work. In terms of student engagement and participation, Google Classroom has been a real game changer. I can set up class questions, allow students to answer, and do all of this while giving every student adequate think time. It is especially useful for my language learners who might need some time to think about their answer and how to say it prior to responding to a question. It ensures 100% participation, every time.
The other reason that Google Classroom is so impactful on engagement and participation is that it allows for extreme differentiation. I can send different assignments, specific feedback, and different resources to any student in class. This might be for one student, a small group of students, or the whole group — but in any case, all I do is check a box next to the student’s name to assign work or give them resources.
Kahoot is simple — what more can I say? If you haven’t used it, it’s a question-answering app where students are given a code to your quiz or a set of questions. The system then gives students time to answer multiple-choice questions in a fun way. You can even have the app keep score and make it a competition (or not — it’s entirely up to you!). I love how easy it is to create question sets that check for basic understanding. It gives me a place to start as an instructor and informs my daily instruction.
There are limits to Kahoot, though. Most notably, it’s only for multiple-choice or true/false questions. With that in mind, I use it mostly as a formative assessment tool to see if my class in general is ready for new information. The students really get into it, and it’s one of the easiest apps out there to use, from either a smart device or anything connected to the internet.
Plickers is similar in style to Kahoot but only requires the instructor to have a device. Students are given answer cards for A, B, C, or D that resemble QR codes in appearance. The teacher posts a question, the students hold up their answer card, the teacher scans the room with the app, and the app counts up each answer! It does this quickly and is really good for a formative check-in.
This is also very engaging for students and can help bring their attention to the task at hand much better than simply taking a quiz or a test on their devices (which could end up distracting them). Like Kahoot, Plickers doesn’t support short-answer questions or matching, so it’s limited in that regard. However, if you don’t have enough devices to go around, Plickers can be a great help in quickly quizzing your students.
5. Khan Academy
Most math teachers are familiar with Khan Academy, but this free platform has grown substantially since its early days and now features high-quality curriculum on grammar, art, biology, chemistry, physics, history, astronomy, and technology (including programming!). It even includes test preparation materials for exams like the SATs and the MCAT.
Khan Academy allows for a teacher to assign classwork that comes with how-to videos, practice problems, and exams. It reports how often students are active on the site and allows for parents to also check in on student work. My math teacher colleagues have reported huge gains, especially for students who are behind in math, because the platform helps reinforce learning and even comes with a pre-assessment and suggested learning tracks given a student’s skills.
It’s also a great way for students to practice at home since it tracks progress and gives students goals. Students will earn badges that range in rarity, making the learning process engaging and rewarding.
Nearpod allows you to bring your lessons right to your students’ personal devices. You create a lesson, including slides, videos, audio, and assessments; the students enter the code into the program; and they are taken to your lesson. It syncs all students’ screens to the same place. This allows you to control the slide that your students are looking at and is especially useful for students with vision issues, as they can see the lesson right on their phone or computer rather than at the front of the room. You also can give students free responses that they can share or quizzes to gauge comprehension. Students can also access lessons later, using the same code if you like, so that they always have the material on hand.
The bottom line with classroom management apps
These apps are powerful when it comes to teaching in today’s world and are becoming increasingly common in today’s classrooms. However, it’s important that teachers also value their role as facilitators — make sure you screen all apps prior to using them and ensure that students will be safe and learning while having fun. Over time, using these apps should not feel forced; rather, it should become a routine part of your everyday teaching. Don’t be afraid to try some of these! Kids generally love them, and they’ll help you be a more effective classroom manager and educator.
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