Penn Manor School District recently distributed 200 Asus MeMO tablets to elementary and middle school teachers. To help our staff jump in and begin exploring, we developed a starter guide to highlight a few useful classroom apps. With over one million Android apps in the Google Play store, the sheer volume of content can be overwhelming. The attached guide helped our teachers focus their efforts. I suspect it may be useful to PM Techblog readers as well. Enjoy!
As the holidays approach, the Penn Manor Technology Team begins to receive questions about affordable technology gift alternatives to iPads and traditional Apple and Windows laptops. Below is a updated version of the holiday tech gift guide email I sent to district staff; I hope it is helpful to Penn Manor families as well.
Google Chromebooks and Android tablets are priced significantly lower than equivalent Apple gear. Plus, there are over a million games and apps on Google Play, the alternative to Apple’s App Store. Google Play includes a huge catalog of music, movies and books. Just in time for Cyber Monday, here is a list of snazzy tech gifts for kids of all ages:
Nexus 7 is my top tablet recommendation for families. The new 2013 model has been updated with a fantastic HD screen, faster processor and a slimmer build. Consider the 32GB version, which should provide enough storage for a mountain of games, music and apps. For comparison, a 32GB Nexus 7 is priced at $269; the iPad mini with 32GB of memory is $499. Think of all the apps, games, books and stocking suffers you can buy with the $230 you save!
*As of November 30, 2013, Google is offering a $25 Play Store credit with the Nexus 7.
If you are looking for an affordable 10″ Android tablet, start with the ASUS MeMO. This tablet is about the same size as the new iPad Air and similar to the tablets teachers received as part of the summer 2013 update. MeMO battery life is over 10 hours and the processor is super snappy. Currently $299 on Amazon, this great 10″ HD tablet is half the price of a 32GB iPad Air!
Note that Android tablets double as eReaders; simply install the Kindle or Nook app to access books purchased via your Amazon or B&N account!
Google Chromebook Laptop
A Chromebook is a fast, lightweight laptop optimized for the web. Unlike traditional laptops, Chromebooks rely on Internet applications and online services rather than locally installed programs. Chrombooks are virus-free and offer excellent battery life. If you need a laptop for home web browsing, games, Facebook or Pinterest, the Chromebook is tough to beat.
Several new Chromebook models hit the streets this past year. Two models stand apart from crowd. The Acer C720 Chromebook is priced at $249 and includes an 11.6″ screen. HP offers a nice 14″ Chromebook for $299. You’ll find these and other Chromebooks on Google’s store.
As the sultry days of summer rolled by, Google introduced a hefty refresh to their already solid Nexus 7 tablet. The new Nexus 7 (2013) sports a resplendent HD display, faster processor, upgraded ram, better power efficiency, and a sleeker design. Also included is a rear facing 5MP camera, which should satisfy those who longed for a camera on the first edition.
Google continues to keep the price significantly lower than the obvious competitor, the iPad Mini. Consider that at a cost of $269, the 32GB Nexus 7 is $160 less than the $469 32GB iPad Mini. Importantly, the Google Play store continues to offer a mammoth selection of apps for Nexus 7 and other Android tablets, many of which are free or ultra-low cost.
Based on performance, price and apps, the new Nexus 7 is an outstanding device and continues to be my top recommendation for students, parents and staff seeking an affordable yet powerful tablet. Check out a detailed Nexus 7 2013 hardware review on Anandtech.
Show me the apps!
Last year, I posted a few Android app recommendations based on our teacher and student experiences with Nexus 7. Here is an updated list of ten interesting education and classroom apps. Note that these apps will run on various Android tablets, not just the Nexus 7.
Duolingo – Learn and practice Spanish, French, German or Italian on your Android tablet. Duolingo is a fun and free language app to help develop conversational fluency. Simple and addictive, Duolingo provides language learning tools for Android and via the Duolingo website.
Evernote – Replace your paper notebooks with Evernote, the king of personal note-taking and archiving apps. Notes may be organized into folder-like notebooks, tagged with keywords and later searched. Your notes are stored in the cloud and automatically synchronized everywhere you access Evernote, be it the web, your phone or tablet. The Android app is a super organizational companion for students and teachers.
Lecture Notes – Annotate, draw, sketch and write in style with this versatile note-taking app. The feature list is long; PDF import/export, a wide pallet of pencil/pen customization, drawing tools… there are too many to mention. Plus, you can easily export your written notes to Evernote. The full version is $4. However, the free trial includes two notebooks, which should be sufficient for casual note-taking.
Writing Prompts– Chop writers block with 500 inspirational prompts to help your students launch the next great novel. Prompts are organized into category topics such as Animals, Crime, and Fantasy. One of my favorites: “Write a love letter from Peanut Butter to Jelly.”
Groupboard – Draw, chat, and collaborate in a virtual whiteboard space with Groupboard. The app and companion website offers a dynamic workspace for group projects or remote tutoring. Organize your students into small teams and let the brainstorming begin; the free version allows up to 5 participants per board.
MyScript Calculator – A great tool for checking homework or tutoring, this app truly needs to be seen to be believed. Write a mathematical expression on the screen and MyScript Calculator will convert your script to numbers and solve the operation in front of your eyes.
Graphing Calculator – MyScript Calculator is great for simple equations. When your studies reach the next level, you’ll find useful Algebra, Geometry and Pre-calculus tools inside Graphing Calculator by Mathlab.
Moodle Mobile App – Connect to your classroom Moodle course while on the move! The Moodle app provides access to course content, messages and notifications. Note: This app requires your school’s Moodle server to be running version 2.4 or above and Mobile Web Services to be switched on.
Socrative – Socrative is a free web service and mobile app that turns any laptop, Android or iOS device into a clicker response system. An innovative upgrade to traditional test review, Socrative continues to be a favorite of educators.
Extra Credit for Linux: Check out GfxTablet, an app that allows you to draw on your PC via your Android tablet. Pair this app with GIMP and you have a natural drawing slate. Note: This app is still under development and may be a little rough around the edges.