Systems of Support Supporting Educator Excellence through Technology and Strategy

Category Archives: Apps

Tips for Turning Classroom Content Digital

In last week’s post I talked about the importance of using digital text in the classroom. However, making the transition from traditional content to digital is not always an easy process. While there are many digital resources available, you still have to find them. And if nothing suitable is found, you may have to resort to converting/scanning your traditional materials into a digital format. The purpose of this post is to provide a few ideas for finding and creating digital content of your own.

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Engaging Learners through Organizing

A few weeks ago I shared how I categorize my apps for use with learnersAs a behavior interventionist, I have seen over and over that when students are engaged in learning, they are not engaged in misbehavior. That is why apps that Engage is one of the four categories I use for learning environments.  One of the “must do” interventions for engaging learners is helping them have a system for all of the material and information that is entailed in being a student. For years, I would teach learners to organize their materials in a binder with the following:

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Haiku Deck: An App that Facilitates Good Presentation Design

Last week Jason Carroll shared 3 presentation apps for the ipad. Though there are many many more (and we’ll keep sharing them), I wanted to dig a little deeper into Haiku Deck. As he mentioned, Haiku Deck naturally leads you through good presentation design principles. This is important to highlight as you may have heard us say at conferences that “great technology requires great strategy to make a difference.” This still holds true with your presentation.

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Top 3 Presentation Apps for the iPad

While Android tablets continue to gain speed ( and market share) against Apple it still remains the case that iPads dominate many classrooms.  Because of this educators are always looking for more ways to take advantage of these mobile devices.  Last year I did on post on How to Present with an iPad that focused on ways to use your iPad as a presentation tool.  This focused mostly on ways to connect to your iPad to a projector or TV to present content to students.  The post did not do a very good job at listing solid alternative apps for PowerPoint or Keynote however.  In this post I want to share 3 that I use depending on the situation.

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What are Browser Extensions?

If you have an iPad or other “i-device” you are probably familiar with apps. “Apps” is short for applications that provide additional functionality to your device. There are thousands of apps ranging from supports for weather and business to games and education. We frequently discuss and recommend apps in sessions and here on our blog.

Web browsers, such as Google Chrome and Internet Explorer have similar supports that you may not be as familiar with. Instead of apps, these supports are referred to as extensions. Extensions basically “extend” the capabilities of your browser. Most browsers have their own store where you can find extensions for a variety of purposes. For example, to access the Google Chrome Web Store simply visit You can search for specific extensions or browse through categories ranging from Education to News and Entertainment.

A few of my favorite extensions include:

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Categorizing Your Student Learning Apps

One of the things that I find most difficult in wading through the flood of tech tools is keeping up with everything that is coming out while not losing track of what I already have. This is especially true for mobile apps to be used in the learning environment by students. To help me keep things in order, I categorize them into 4 broad categories. Apps that: Teach, Create, Engage (& Quiz), and Practice.


Teach:  These are apps that can serve as the “teacher” of the content and allow me to step aside and momentarily become a facilitator in the classroom. I’ll dig into these deeper in a future post, but Khan Academy is a great example. This app delivers content to the learner so that they can learn something directly.

Create:  These are apps that can be used to create content that you can deliver to your learners. There are quite a few and they can vary from text, to images, to video. Explain Everything is my favorite for now. Worth the $2.99 for sure. If you’re looking for a free option to try first, consider the ShowMe Interactive Whiteboard.

Engage (& Quiz): This category includes the apps that can be used to have students actively participate in the learning environment. For example Math Champ is an app that lets your learners respond to math quiz questions on their device and the results from the entire class can be displayed. These type of apps are especially useful for BYOD schools.

Practice: This last category is the one that many students may call the most fun (but not necessarily so). The key is that there is an educational skill that is practiced while using the app. Motion Math and iPrep: Advanced Math are a couple of examples. Motion Math Zoom is a game like app that works on finding place on a number line). iPrep: Advanced Math is a higher level math practice app that is not structured as a game. There are countless others that would fit in this category.

These work for me. What other categories do you have for your apps for student learning that you use to keep things in order?


Apps to Use for Video Self Modeling

Video self modeling is a great intervention strategy to use in a variety of settings to increase student behavioral success. Jason Carroll wrote a few great posts here and here in the past that are a great start to get an idea of what this is all about. If you want to read a recent meta-analysis of this strategy here’s a link to the article (it costs) and here’s a link to a great summary (it’s free!) that gives you the main nuts and bolts.

When considering the initial media equipment that was used in the early years of video self modeling, we have come a long way. Fortunately we have been able to trade in our VCR tapes for mobile devices! Here are 2 great apps that I have used to create video models:  iMovie and PuppetPals HD.

iMovie is a mainstream app that is a replication of the software available on Macs. With the app version of this tool you can record, edit, and deploy all from the same device. Using iMovie on my iPad, I’ve been able to make videos on the spot in almost any setting. With cases like LifeProof, you can even get them wet.

PuppetPals HD is actually an app that people (children mostly) use to create digital puppet shows. I’m sure the developers didn’t have VSM in mind during the development of this app. It is a free app, but if you upgrade (an in app purchase) then you can take pictures of people, objects, and settings and use these in the creation of the video. I have found this to be a helpful tool when creating a video model of a student that will not demonstrate the target behavior. Here’s a really simple example video created in this app.

Look forward to hearing your thoughts on using these apps to develop intervention media.

Universally Designed is now Systems of Support

Just a quick update regarding our blog if you are a subscriber… For years this blog has been referred to as Universally Designed.  Its purpose has always been to provide tips and tricks related to Assistive/Instructional Technology and Behavior.   The blog was part of our website, where we shared handouts and other materials used in keynotes, conference workshops, and webinars.  We have now decided to merge the two and call the blog Systems of Support.  This will allow us to continue to provide relevant information dedicated to helping educators succeed in the classroom while keeping all content in one location.

If you are a subscriber you will continue to receive weekly updates when new posts are made.  We know we’ve been a little behind lately on our postings, but the idea is that this transition will help us to once again make the blog a priority and deliver content you expect.

You will notice that the handouts and downloads on the resources page is now password protected. As always, that content is free so no worries about that! If you are already subscribed to our blog, then you will receive an email in the coming days with the password for the resources page. If you are new to the site, subscribe to our blog and once you confirm, you will automatically receive the password get access.

-The Jasons

Upcoming Webinar on Creating Mobile Content for your Classroom

Wednesday, October 10 (3:30pm – 4:30pm EST), will be the second of my webinar sessions as a part of an online series organized by the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA). This session will focus on creating content for the mobile devices (iPad, iPod, Droid) so that you can use your personalized classroom content rather than having to rely on pre-loaded material.  The focus is on simple and easy to implement, so don’t let the description make you wary. If you can attach a file to an email, then you will be able to stay engaged in this session.

As always, this will be practical, research-based, and ideas that can be immediately implemented in the learning environment. If you are interested in attending this webinar. Click on the link here to access additional details and session registration information (there is a nominal fee). Feel free to email me if you have any questions.

Collecting Data on Your Smartphone

The last couple of posts, Collecting Data in Today’s Classroom and Accessing the Data You Just Collected, have been based on free ways to collect data online using Google Docs.  This method is both highly effective and efficient, but typically requires you to have a computer handy.  These days it is much more likely to have a smartphone or iPad close by, so this post is dedicated to demonstrating how easy it is to collect data using your mobile device.  I’ll focus on using an iPhone/iPad, since “iDevices” are the most popular mobile devices in schools, but if you are an android or other user the same idea should work there as well.

If you remember from the previous posts, Jason G walked us through how to create a form in google docs, then how to make sense of the data we collected.  What’s missing from the information provided so far is how to collect this data using a mobile device.

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