Monday, December 23, 2013

Are You A Free App Addict?

My name is Kristen Wideen and I am a Free App downloading addict.  I have been sober for 8 months......  It all started when I received 20 iPads to use in my classroom 2 years ago.  I wanted the BEST apps to use and I wanted to find the apps that produced the best learning results for my first and second graders.  I downloaded apps for free and followed various Twitter accounts that tweeted out deals and details about free apps.  I downloaded every free app that looked educational because I knew that I could delete it later.  This led to excessive downloading and hundreds of apps that I would never use.   I hit rock bottom when the message "You do not have enough storage to download this app" popped up.  It wasn't because I had all this amazing work from my students stored on the iPads it was because I had pages and pages of apps that I did not use!

I vowed to change my ways...

I deleted every app from one of the school's iPads and went through all of the apps that we used on a regular basis.  See, the truth is, there is no "magical app"  it's what your students do with the app that makes it magical.  I now try to stay away from consumption apps and use apps that let my students create.

I want my students to have "app fluency."  The ability to move through an app easily and smoothly.  If we stock our iPads with dozens and dozens of apps then our student's never gain this fluency.  I am all about choice in my classroom.  I never tell my students which app to use, however I think having 3 great apps to choose from that students know and feel comfortable using is much better than 40 apps to choose from that they have no idea where they are on the iPad and how they work.

My students basically have one page of "go to apps" on their iPads.  We do have a math folder where there are a few apps based on the curriculum strand we are currently working on.  For example, we were just working on money and time, so there are a couple of apps on those two topics.  We also have a folder labelled "Research"  where we have about 6 apps to help with research.  Other than that, we have our "go to apps" that I want my students to use and to build that app fluency I mentioned earlier.

Here is what we have on our iPads:

As you can see, the majority of these apps are for content creation.
I have Remarks to add notes, annotate and import PDFs, notability is also a great choice.
The 100's chart is on our main screen because we use it all the time in math.  It is a simple but wonderful app that my students use in many different ways.
Qrafter is a QR reader, which is a must in my class.  It is an easy alternative to having my students type in a url code.  Which brings me to why I have the Chirp app on my main screen.  If you have not used chirp, see what it does here. 
We then have our apps to share and collaborate with others: Kidblog and Twitter are a must and dropbox is our storage solution.
Minecraft is what my students will do anything for and having a carrot like that is amazing.  Have a group of boys that don't want to write?  Set a timer,  and have them play Minecraft for 15 minutes, then have them write about it.  Voila, you have them writing about something they are excited about and they can't wait for the next time to write.  I have a few students that never seem to get anything finished.  I told them that if they complete their work they can stay in for recess and play Minecraft.  I am now in the process of organizing a Minecraft club because it is so popular.  This is the reason, Minecraft is on my main page.

The rest of the apps are content creation.  However, if I had to choose just one app for content creation it would be Explain Everything, hands down.  This is your everything app and it is the most popular app with my students for sharing their learning.  Will you see Explain Everything on Apps Gone Free?  Probably not.  Most if not all of these apps will not be on those sites because they are high quality, tested and popular apps.

Do yourself and your students a favor, go through the apps on your iPads and start fresh in the new year.  Don't be the teacher that says, "I have that app somewhere" as you flip through page after page on your iPad.  I challenge you to get down to 2 pages, without multiple folders.  Encourage app fluency.  Instead of being mediocre at 40 apps be fantastic at 10.


  1. You make very good sense, Kristen,
    If explain everything is not in the App Store, where do we find it? Any good apps for practicing phonics?

  2. I review apps and love to share great resources, so I found myself with the same dilemma. I also love to find image editors but rarely find time to explore them properly! However, I plan to follow your advice for my own iPad in 2014 and ruthlessly delete!

  3. I am a recovering App Addict myself! So, I have a question for you...I personally just use the Educreations app but also have Show Me and Doodle Buddy on the iPad. You also have a few other recordable whiteboard apps (Explain Everything, Show Me, and Draw & Tell), are there features in certain ones that you (or the kiddos) like better? I am considering just leaving Educreations and maybe one other that has fun features for the students and am wondering why you have multiple apps that basically do the same thing before I go delete all of mine. :) Thanks and great post.

    Christina @

  4. Hi Kristen,
    Is there a way to wipe out all apps at once (I have 20 ipads that are linked to the same cloud.

  5. Hi Jennifer,
    If you use Apple Configurator you can wipe out all of the apps at the same time. However, as far as I know, if you do not use configuarator, you have to do it one at a time.