Tips for Evaluating Apps

If you have iPads in your classroom, one of your on-going tasks may be to look for great educational apps. This can be a lot of fun, but it can also be quite daunting. With over 80,000 education apps in the App Store, how can you (quickly) find the best of the best?!

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Here are some helpful tips and questions to ask yourself before getting started.

  1. Have a plan. Before you start looking for apps, think about what you want and why.

What types of apps are you looking for?  

  • First grade math apps?
  • Open-ended or creative apps?
  • Teacher resource apps?
  • Parent communication apps?

How do you plan to use the app in your classroom?

  • Help you teach specific skills (e.g., demonstrate the distributive property or decoding words with long vowels)? Check out our blog post, “Teaching with Apps” for some great instructional tips.
  • Document student work or create digital portfolio pieces? (See our blog post on how to App Smash by using a combination of content apps and open-ended apps here).
  • Provide extra, targeted practice that keeps students engaged? (e.g., independent math fact practice, e-books)
  • More easily communicate with parents?

 

  1. Don’t do it alone. There are many websites dedicated to reviewing apps designed for kids and so these can be a great starting point. Here are just 5 sites we love and why.
  • Balefire Labs: We love Balefire Labs’ use of research to inform its evaluation process. The review criteria used comes directly from research on how kids learn.
  • Common Sense Education (formerly Graphite): In addition to reviewing apps in-house, teachers can also provide their own reviews. The site also offers a variety of educator resources such as teacher-created lesson plans, webinars, and videos.
  • Children’s Technology Review (CTR): Also research-based, CTR’s rating scale takes into account the intent of the app (e.g., designed to teach vs. video game; classroom or home use, etc).
  • ClassTechTips: This is a great resource to find apps and tips for integrating tech in the classroom from former teacher turned Curriculum and EdTech Consultant and Apple Distinguished Educator, Monica Burns.
  • Edsurge: Find a variety of apps and other edtech tools catalogued on this site, learn about upcoming conferences and summits where you can meet with developers, and read important edtech news and tips for integrating tech in your classroom.

 

  1. Use an evaluation rubric. What features are most important to you? (Keep in mind, this may change depending on what you’re looking for.) Take a look at the rating scales used by the app review sites above, or feel free to use this evaluation resource created as part of Teachley Co-Founder, Rachael Labrecque’s dissertation research. Click here to access it.

 

  1. Test the apps. Play through the apps yourself to get a good sense of the experience the app provides. Learn what the app does, doesn’t do, and better understand how you could use the app to supplement your instruction, not just provide extra practice. Importantly, have your students test the apps! You’ll quickly find out whether the apps you’ve selected will maintain your students’ interest. If the app offers progress monitoring, take a look. See what kind of information you can get from your students’ gameplay and consider how that information can inform your classroom instruction.

 

  1.  Evaluate and reflect.
  • How well did the app do what you wanted it do?
  • How well did your students respond to the app? Keep in mind, engagement is just one aspect. How well did the app teach or reinforce concepts? How easy was the app for students to navigate on their own?
  • How well did the app fit with your instruction and intervention needs?
  • What features do you wish the app had but didn’t? Don’t be afraid to reach out to the app developer. We LOVE to hear from teachers using our apps. Your feedback is what helps us to continually improve.

 

What criteria do you use when evaluating apps? Share what’s important to you! Tweet @teachley #evaluatingapps

Teaching With Apps

There are many different ways to integrate apps in the classroom. Here are some suggestions for maximizing the effects of apps on your students’ learning.

 

Instructional strategies.

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Math centers: A great option for encouraging independent or partner practice.

Small groups: Using a Teacher profile, demonstrate a particular skill or concept as part of your targeted small group instruction.

Whole group: Introduce an app, features of an app, or demonstrate a particular concept or skill with your whole class by using an Interactive Whiteboard, Apple TV, etc.

Intervention: Target intervention efforts for students by setting aside additional time to practice independently, with a math coach, special education, or intervention teacher.

 

 

Teaching with apps. Use an app to help teach particular concepts or skills, such as modeling addition strategies to your class, in small and/or whole group lessons. For an example on how to do this, here’s a short video on how to use Addimal Adventure to teach Counting On.

For more instructional videos like this, log into your Teachley dashboard at www.teachley.com and go to PD Resources.

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Documenting for student portfolios. Encourage students to add to their digital portfolio by documenting their learning. One technique for doing this is called App Smashing. When playing an app, have students take screenshots of particular learning moments (i.e., a strategy they used) then upload that screenshot (or a series of screenshots) into another app, such as Explain Everything, Educreations, or even the Notes app to explain their thinking, teach another student how to solve the problem, etc. Click here to learn more about App Smashing.

 

Assessing with apps. Apps have much potential for replacing many tests given to students. By reviewing students’ gameplay data, you can track what students understand and where they’re struggling. Then, use this information to target your instruction. For example, five students struggle with 7 and 8 multiplication factors while three other students are still working on 4-factor problems. Use this information to then tailor your small group lesson for these two groups of students. To learn more about the types of data reporting and intervention features Teachley offers, click here or send us a quick email at info@teachley.com.

 

What are some other ways you integrate apps in your classroom? Tweet your instructional tips: #teachingwithapps @teachley.

App Smashing: What is it?

You’ve probably heard the term “App Smashing” in passing, or seen us present about it at NCTM or ISTE but maybe you are still a bit unsure about what exactly it means or how you would try it in your classroom. Summer is the perfect time to learn.

 

So, what is App Smashing? According to Greg Kulowiec, an award-winning teacher who coined the term, it is “the process of using multiple apps in conjunction with one another to complete a final task or project.”

 

One of the best ways to app smash in the classroom is by combining content apps with creativity apps (iBook creator, Educreations, Explain Everything). Students can learn and practice skills, building understandings through rich content apps and then integrate what they learned by sharing their thinking with creativity apps. Here’s an example of you could use it in a K-2 classroom:

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Addimal Adventure is an award-winning addition app for K-2nd grade students that focuses on teaching effective strategies to solve addition problems (count all, count on, doubles, make 10).

  1. Have students play Addimal Adventure and take 2-3 screenshots while they are playing. (To take a screenshot, hold the home button at the bottom of the screen and the power button on the top right of device at the same time on your iPad. The screenshot will be saved in the camera roll.) Encourage students to take screenshots of how they solved a problem, a strategy they used or an “aha” moment they might have had.
  2. Have students use a creativity app to share how they solved a problem or what they learned. There are lots of ways you could structure this part of the activity, for instance, students could create an Addition iBook or create a screencast with audio that shows their thinking through a strategy. Educreations and Explain Everything are great examples of screencasting apps. NOTE:  If you haven’t used an app like Educreations, make sure you create a teacher account and get a class code to give to students before they play. Play around with the app this summer to understand how it works. Students may need to be logged into your class for their work to be saved and easily visible to you. Some parts of these apps are paid, so be sure you fully explore your options and understand what you are using.
  3. Here are some steps students could use to App Smash using Educreations:Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 12.19.09 PM

Here’s an example from a K-1 classroom in Maine. From the student’s screencast, you can clearly see that she understands the Count All strategy.

 

In the next example, the student uses the Count On tool to solve a problem. However, when she explains her work, she does not use the visual model correctly to count on 4,5,6,7. Rather, she regresses to counting all the blocks (a less efficient strategy). After seeing this app smash, you could intervene with this student by reteaching the Count On strategy.

 

Still need help? Watch this short video on how to introduce App Smashing in your classroom: 

 

Finally, share how you are app smashing our apps with your students by emailing us at info@teachley.com.

 

Have a smashing good time! 

 

Don’t forget to try all 4 of our award-winning math apps: bit.ly/TeachleyApps.

 

Teachley FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

 

What is Teachley?

Teachley is an award-winning educational technology company founded by expert teachers with PhDs in cognitive science and funded by the U.S. Department of Education and National Science Foundation. Teachley’s mission is to transform teaching and learning by using app data to help teachers differentiate instruction and target interventions. Based on cognitive science research, Teachley’s apps focus on teaching important strategies shown to improve learning within fun and engaging games.

 

How does it work?

Powered by Teachley Connect, we bring together a variety of award-winning K-5 math apps into a single, game-based formative assessment platform. Students get a seamless, personalized gameplay experience across an array of apps while teachers get in-depth data reporting, intervention support, and instructional resources. Watch this short video to see Teachley in action.

 

 

What Teachley apps are available?

Teachley Operations includes a suite of four K-5 operations apps covering Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, and Division.

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While most fluency apps use drill-based approaches (e.g., digital worksheets and flashcards), Teachley’s research-based apps focus on teaching effective math strategies while scaffolding learning to promote conceptual understanding and fact fluency.

 

 

Our second product line, Teachley Fractions is in development. Stay tuned!

Sign up for our mailing list to be amongst the first to know when our fractions apps are available. 

 

What are Teachley-connected Apps?

We partner with other app developers to provide schools with a carefully-selected collection of Common Core-aligned apps. These apps sync with Teachley, providing schools a seamless login experience and rich formative assessment data on students’ progress.

 

I see two versions of the same app in the App Store. One is free but the other is not. What’s the difference?

EDU apps. Our EDU apps are designed for schools and work with a premium Teachley subscription. They sync with Teachley Connect to provide a seamless login and app management experience. Teachers can easily monitor student progress and access intervention support and instructional resources (e.g., lesson plans, instructional videos, etc.). Contact us to pilot Teachley’s premium services at your school.

Non-EDU apps. Teachers who do not have a premium subscription can access our award-winning content by downloading the non-EDU versions of our apps. These are also a great option for home use or extra math practice. Teachers and parents can create a basic account to personalize the learning experience for multiple children. Please note, a basic account does not work in the EDU apps and data reporting and intervention support are available for premium account holders.

Pilot Teachley for free. Sign up here.

 

How do I monitor my students’ performance?

Teachers with a premium Teachley account can log into their dashboard at www.teachley.com and click on Reporting to monitor their students’ progress and access their intervention support.  

 

Don’t have a premium account? Schools and districts can subscribe to Teachley to provide teachers with access to in-depth data reporting, progress monitoring, and intervention support. Teachers can track students’ fact fluency, proficiency on Common Core standards, and a variety of math skills (e.g., mastery of the zero rule principle, specific multiplication facts students are struggling with, etc.). Intervention support allows teachers to quickly plan instructional groups and target lessons as needed.  Click here to try Teachley for free.

 

What’s the best way to use Teachley in my classroom?

There are many ways to incorporate Teachley in your classroom. Click here to read about helpful instructional strategies for effectively integrating apps into the classroom.  

 

Does my school need an iPad for every student?

No! Teachley works with ALL iPad programs, including 1:1 classrooms, center models, and shared iPad carts. Children can continue playing right where they left off on any device logged into your account.  

 

How do you protect my students’ data?

At Teachley, we take the protection of student data very seriously and have signed the Student Privacy Pledge.  

We do NOT:

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knowingly collect personal data from children under the age of 13,

 

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sell or share students’ personal data with any third party or use it for marketing purposes.

 

We DO:

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protect all data using secure encryption for data in transit and at rest,

 

lightbulb use student data to support personalized learning and effective teaching.

Read our full Privacy Policy here.

 

Still have questions?

Contact us anytime at info@teachley.com and we’ll get back to you right away!

Introducing Teachley: Fact Flyer!

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Our fourth operations app, Fact Flyer starts with Linka and Pike’s take off from Mt. Multiplis. Kids help Linka continue her journey back to El Sumado, tracking her progress along the navigation map. Designed with a greater focus on building fluency, Fact Flyer allows 3rd – 5th graders the chance to practice both multiplication and division facts in a fun, flying game.

As with Teachley’s other apps, powerful, research-based strategies are provided to scaffold learning and support conceptual understanding of each fact, as needed. For example, to solve 8 x 4, students are reminded of the Double It strategy learned in Mt. Multiplis. They are prompted to “Take 8. Double it. Double it again.” To build flexible thinking, students are able to see the inverse relationship of multiplication and division when solving division problems. For example, the hint for 20 ÷ 10 appears as 10 x _ = 20.

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Fact Flyer automatically adapts to support the needs of each child, with problem difficulty progression based on proficiency and more time allotted to solve problems, as needed. Teachers can log into their Teachley account in the parent/teacher section of the app to personalize the gameplay for their students, allowing kids to continue playing where they left of any classroom iPad. Don’t have an account? No problem! Create your free account at www.teachley.com.

Students review their fact fluency at the end of each round. Teachers with premium Teachley subscriptions will be able to track their students’ progress in their dashboard. To sign up for a free trial of Teachley’s premium data reporting, click here. Fact Flyer is aligned with several Common Core State Standards and is designed to support Response to Intervention programs. This app is a great addition to your classroom’s operations fluency toolbox.

 

Fact Flyer is available for iPad on the App Store for $2.99 in the U.S. and is priced accordingly worldwide. Click here to download. Download before our ISTE 2016 promotion ends on June 30th for FREE!

 

*This app was made possible by the Federal Department of Education, with funding provided by an Institute of Education Sciences’ Small Business Innovation Research grant.

 

 

 

 

Teachley Connect: Connecting Apps and Formative Assessment

What’s the problem? We all know U.S. students spend far too much time taking standardized assessments (often between 10-20 tests) every year, not to mention the countless hours spent preparing for these tests. Research by the Council of the Great City Schools in 2015 found that spending more time on standardized tests does not improve student performance and that schools often have to wait 2-4 months to get the data from those tests. Data that is often too little too late…

Enough testing already!

Assessments can offer essential information for teachers about what students understand and where they’re struggling. But, they need the right kind of data, and it shouldn’t come from endless hours of testing. For instance, assigning student performance to a percentile doesn’t help anyone. What does a 75% or 1,267 points earned tell you about what a child understands or how you should be help that student? Instead, data must provide teachers information about where, specifically, students are excelling and struggling. For example, a first grade teacher can know that 5 students are all struggling with adding near doubles facts (e.g., 3 + 4 and 7 + 6) or a third grade teacher may see that half of her class consistently adds instead of multiplies when given Yx1 problems. Teachers can then use this formative data to intervene and re-address those concepts. Conversely, it also allows teachers to know when students are excelling and are ready for harder content.

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To truly impact teaching and learning, teachers need better sources of formative assessment data that they easily interpret and use when planning each day’s lessons.

So what is Teachley doing to help?

At Teachley, we believe learning should be fun! Imagine if instead of taking dreaded tests, kids are playing games. And these games adapt in real-time based on student performance and report meaningful data back to teachers. If you’ve been using Teachley in your classroom, you may already know how this can work. But, what you may not know is that we’ve recently received a new $900K Small Business Innovation Research grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences to expand our platform to include third-party math apps (see official announcement here). This grant will greatly bolster our efforts to bring rich formative assessment data across a variety of math content areas to teachers. So, students can spend more time playing games and less time worrying about filling in the correct bubble with a number 2 pencil. And teachers have the necessary information they need to easily differentiate instruction to meet the needs of all their students.

How will it work?

This summer, we will be working hard to prepare Teachley Connect for our first app partners. We’ll also develop new free EDU versions of our Teachley apps to work with the new system. During the course of the 2016-17 school year, we will expand our data reporting and intervention support to include students’ gameplay from our partners as well as several exciting new features. This new grant will allow Teachley to provide schools with a greater selection of apps that cover a wide array of K-5 math content. Stay tuned as we announce our first partners and beta launch later this summer.

 

Create your free Teachley account on our website, www.teachley.com to stay up-to-date on our latest progress. Have questions or want to be one of our first beta testers? Email us at info@teachley.com and we’ll get back to you right away.

Happy Summer!

Is four times always the same as two times doubled?

One of the trickiest part of teaching multiplication deals with the distributive property. Because of this, we made the distributive property the focus of Mt. Multiplis, our multiplication app.

The Common Core State Standards expect third graders to use the distributive property when multiplying (which you and I learned in middle school): “Knowing that 8 × 5 = 40 and 8 × 2 = 16, one can find 8 × 7 as 8 × (5 + 2) = (8 × 5) + (8 × 2) = 40 + 16 = 56” (CCSM.3.OA.B.5). That’s one complicated equation, and it’s hard to imagine that most 9-year-olds, who are just learning how to multiply, are able to make sense of that notation. So, we set out to see if we could not only make this complex content more approachable, but also fun.

At its core, the distributive property is about groups. It connects multiplication and addition by letting you break up a multiplication problem into smaller chunks. For example, when solving 7 x 8, you can think of it as 7 groups of 8. But, how does that help you multiply? Let’s say you forgot what 7 x 8 is, but you know 5 x 8 is 40. You can then think of 7 x 8 as 5 groups of 8 plus 2 more groups of 8, that’s 40 + 16.

In Mt. Multiplis students explore this property by using groups of wooden planks to build bridges. To fill a 7 by 8 area, students drag over 5 planks of 8 and then drag over another 2 planks of 8.


The best part of playtesting has been watching kids discover the applications of the distributive property on their own. While playing Level 5, which features a lot of 11 x __ problems, one fourth grader literally said, “Aha!” as he realized for the first time, why the 11s rule works. He explained to me that the 11s facts are easy (i.e. 5 x 11 = 55, etc), but that he didn’t know why the shortcut works, until playing Mt. Multiplis. Solving 11 x 7, he dragged over 10 groups of 7 to make 70 and then dragged over 1 more 7.

Another third grader was working through several 4 x __ problems. She would consistently drag out 2 planks and then use the Double-It card to make another set of 2 planks. She first saw the problem 4 x 6, dragging out 2 six-planks to make 12 then used the Double-It card to make another group of 12. She did not fully trust that the answer was actually going to be 24, but she entered it in anyway and was surprised when it was correct. Next, she solved 4 x 3 and then 4 x 8 in the same way. After solving 4 x 8, thinking about 16 doubled, she asked me, “Does that always work…with the 4 times problems…you can just double the 2 times?” Yep, it always works. And that’s some pretty sophisticated algebraic thinking. Another way to phrase her question: Does 4y = 2y + 2y? Yes, because of the distributive property.

To download Mt. Multiplis, go to: bit.ly/TeachleyApps

For a free extension activity to use with your students, click here.

 

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Teachley’s Photo Contest- Win an iPad

Congratulations to @ParoneK for winning our iPad mini filled with math apps! We loved your picture of how you use Teachley in the classroom!

Congratulations to our Finalists: @Chestnutbestnut @scottalan27 @cb6022 @MrsMarkersK

iPad Contest

How to win?

Tweet a photo of an extension activity (i.e. lesson plan, teacher-created game, whiteboard lesson, center activity, etc.) you have used to extend learning from any of Teachley’s apps. Share the photo by tagging @teachley and the hashtags #WeLoveTeachley #elemmath.  The person with the best activity will win an iPad mini filled with great math apps! Four finalists will each receive free promo codes for our apps. Tweet your photo by March 17th to be eligible to win. The winner will be announced on Twitter and the contest blog post on Thursday, March 24th.

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All participants must be over 18, have a valid school email address and a U.S. shipping address to be eligible to win. Visit our official rules to learn more.

Welcome BrainPOP teachers!

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Teachley is so excited to bring demo versions of Addimals and Subtractimals onto BrainPOP’s GameUp platform.


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Here are a few extension activities you can try with your students after they play Teachley Add and Subtract on GameUp.

K-2 Extra Practice

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To get the full versions of Teachley’s award-winning math apps, go to: bit.ly/TeachleyApps. We also offer in-depth data reporting and intervention support.  Contact info@teachley.com to learn more.

Teachley Winter Break Math Practice

Happy Holidays!

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To celebrate, we’re giving you Winter Break Math Practice packets to send home over vacation! To download, go to:

http://bit.ly/1M3p1P8

 

Encourage students to practice their math facts over winter break!

We know that students often slip in their academic skills over vacations. So, we’ve created different math practice packets for Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades to encourage students to practice their math facts and strategies.

 

Hope you have a wonderful, relaxing holiday vacation!

Love,

Your friends at Teachley