Thursday, June 5, 2014

My Top 5 iPad Apps for the Classroom Series: Notability

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The use of iPads in schools has grown tremendously over the past few years. It seems like every week you hear of a new school or district starting a new to 1 to 1 iPad program. With that in mind, I thought it would be a helpful to share some of the insights I have gained since the launch of my school's 1 to 1 iPad program two years ago. One question that constantly comes up when discussing iPads in schools involves what apps are best for the classroom. With the endless number of apps available, this can be a very daunting question.

A key point that helps sort through this mess involves a focus on apps that allow creation. Oftentimes, teachers get bogged down with trying to find apps that support and deliver content; however, these apps seldom require much in the way of higher order thinking skills as they typically involve simple drill and practice tasks. Education Week has an excellent blog post from February 2013 that sums up this issue very nicely... All the Good Apps Fit on One Screen. As mentioned by the author, a focus on creation apps can be very liberating for a teacher as it eliminates the need to stay up-to-date with the endless number of content focused apps available. Additionally, creation apps possess much greater potential to positively impact learning and the development of 21st Century Skills such as creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking.

With all that being said, I have put together a list of the top 5 apps I would recommend for anyone using iPads in the classroom. First on the list is Notability. At its core, Notability is a robust note taking app designed with students in mind. Although there are many outstanding note taking apps available for the iPad, Notability is ideal for students for a variety of reasons. Below are some of the most important features that make it stand out among other note taking apps:
  • Simple and intuitive to use for students of all ages including elementary age kids
  • Organization structure that students easily understand
  • Automatic backup capability to a variety of cloud storage services (very important for students)
  • Provides the ability to type or hand write notes = great feature for students completing work in subjects such as science and math where equations are much easier to hand write
  • Lectures can be recorded and notes automatically sync with the recorded audio
  • PDF and MS Office documents can be imported into Notability and annotated
  • A variety of multimedia content can be embedded into notes
  • Keyword search capability within notes 
Check out the following tutorial video created by two of our middle school students reviewing the key features available within Notability. The version of the app displayed in this video is not the most current one but you will still gain a solid understanding of what the app can do.

*Video courtesy of @teacherweiss 

To purchase Notability or view more details about the app, check it out on the app store here: Notability

While Notability is certainly not the only great note taking app available, it is my personal favorite for use in an academic setting. Students at our school have been using it with great success for over two years and the developers of the app continue to make it better and better. For those of you with experience using Notability, feel free to share any additional insights that may be helpful for individuals wanting to check it out. In the next post, we will look at the word processing app, Pages, created by Apple.

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