Back to School Apps For The New Nexus 7

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.

Image via Google
Nexus 7 Image via Google

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.

Elementary School Wireless Upgrade Complete

Teachers and students increasingly rely upon a high-performance network for innovative teaching and learning. As classroom technology grows, and mobile computing devices expand, strengthening our technology infrastructure is vital. The wireless network, in particular, is the core hub through which virtually all classroom technology projects flow. Without wireless, the district would grind to an unpleasant halt.

Penn Manor elementary staff and students recently received a big network boost. Today, PM IT Engineers completed a wireless network upgrade for all district elementary schools. With 125 new access points, the updated wireless system is engineered to be agile, solidly reliable, and super speedy. The new system significantly improves wireless speed, strength, and capacity–important elements of a modern school network.

After extensive demos and stress testing, our team selected Merkai‘s 802.11n cloud-based enterprise wireless and access switches. Meraki’s system is a comprehensive, feature-rich wireless solution with extensive benefits over our previous wireless equipment. Featuring centralized device management, comprehensive network visibility and an incredible assortment of security tools, the Meraki system is a stellar upgrade for our bandwidth-hungry classrooms.

Technology often works best when you don’t notice it at all. However, huge technology projects don’t happen magically. A huge thanks to our ultra-talented engineers, Shawn Beard and Chad Billman, for spearheading the upgrade. Their extensive behind-the-scenes work and dedication has successfully brought the new wireless network to life with minimal network interruptions. Bravo to our network wizards!

Education Apps for Nexus 7

Note: Check out Back to School with the New Nexus 7 for an updated list of great Android apps for teachers and students.
Google’s new Nexus 7 is proving to be a exceptional tablet for schools. The Penn Manor IT Team has been evaluating Nexus 7 for several weeks. Based on our tests, here are five apps for educators and students to explore. Note that all apps are free to download from the Google Play store.

Note Everything
Super note taking app supports text, voice, and paint notes. Easy to use and highly customizable.

Math Workout
Practice mental math and exercise your mind–a great math practice tool for student and adults.

Common Core
A handy pocket reference for the Common Core K-12 Math and Language Arts standards.

SimpleMind Free
Inspiration fans take note: SimpleMind Free is a useful brainstorming and mind mapper for Nexus 7. The free version has a few minor limitations but is a powerful tool nonetheless.

Google Sky Map
Launch Google Sky Map, point Nexus 7 to the heavens and enjoy a detailed map of stars, constellations and other celestial objects.

Bonus: MIT App Inventor
Not finding an app to fit your needs? Create you own using MIT’s free App Inventor. Similar to the popular Scratch educational programming tool, students can craft Android apps from a web browser running on Linux, Mac OS X or Windows. After building a code masterpiece, budding programmers can send the app directly to Nexus 7.

This list is by no means exhaustive–Google’s Play store contains hundreds of thousands of apps for Nexus 7 and other Android phones and tablets. Future Tech Blog posts will feature additional Nexus 7 apps for education.

Read Part Two: 5 More Classroom Apps for Nexus 7