By: Susan Mongold, District Librarian at Woodridge Local Schools
At the ALA’s Annual Conference (Chicago, June 22-27, 2017), the AASL revealed the 2017 Best Apps for Teaching and Learning (http://www.ala.org/aasl/standards/best/apps/2017), and, like its predecessors, this year’s list is loaded with digital learning tools to help librarians and educators integrate technology into their classrooms.
Since 2013, AASL Best Apps Committee Members have looked for user-friendly apps that foster the qualities of innovation, creativity, active participation, and collaboration. Additionally, recognized apps should be engaging, cost-effective (with little or no advertising), and have a clear connection to K-12 curriculum. As apps are nominated, they are placed in a category. This year’s Best Apps categories include: Books, Humanities and Arts, STEM, Content Creation, and Organization and Management. One winning app, Google Expeditions by Google, Inc. (https://edu.google.com/expeditions/) did not fit well in one the five specific categories and was placed in the new “Off the Beaten Apps” category.
The AASL Best Apps for Teaching and Learning lists are a great resource for Ohio educators required to integrate the new Learning Standards for Technology (http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Learning-in-Ohio/Technology/Ohios-Learning-Standards-for-Technology) into their curriculums. For instance, apps in the Organization and Management category, such as Google Keep by Google, Inc. (https://www.google.com/keep/) and Meister Task by MeisterLabs (https://www.meistertask.com/apps), can be used to help students manage multiple projects (Ohio Learning Standards for Technology, Strand: Information and Communications Technology, Topic 1). Content Creation apps are excellent digital learning tools that students can use to construct knowledge (Ohio Learning Standards for Technology, Strand: Information and Communications Technology, Topic 3), communicate and disseminate information to multiple audiences (Ohio Learning Standards for Technology, Strand: Information and Communications Technology, Topic 4), and analyze the impact of communication and collaboration in both digital and physical environments (Ohio Learning Standards for Technology, Strand: Society and Technology, Topic 2.) For example, Bloxels by Pixel Press (http://www.bloxelsbuilder.com/home), is a hands-on platform for students to “build, collaborate, and tell stories through video game creation.” CoSpaces by Delightex GmbH (https://cospaces.io/), allows students to easily create their own virtual reality worlds from a collection of characters and objects which can be adapted and animated. Touchcast Studio by Touchcast (https://www.touchcast.com/studio), allows students to create interactive “smart, live videos” that they can annotate and layer elements from the web or the cloud. Toontastic 3D by Google, Inc. (https://toontastic.withgoogle.com/), allows students to create animated and narrated cartoons.
The examples above merely scratch the surface. Using the AASL’s Best Apps for Teaching and Learning website, librarians and educators can easily find apps to help students meet the Ohio Learning Standards for Technology. For more on the 2017 Best Apps for Teaching and Learning and to find a peer-reviewed app that is right for you and your students, visit http://www.ala.org/aasl/standards/best/apps. There, you will find the complete list of 2017 winners and past lists, along with descriptions, recommended grade levels, platforms, and helpful tips for each of the chosen apps. To nominate your favorite app, go to http://www.ala.org/aasl/standards/best/apps/nom.