• App a Day

Technology Tools to Transform Teaching

by Lindsey Fuller
July 18, 2013
Over and over, I am asked, "What are the advantages of a 1:1 school setting?" I find it a difficult question to answer—not because I can't come up with a response, but because the person who asked often gets much more than they bargained for. I love teaching in a 1:1 setting, and the opportunity to do so has altered my classroom and my approach to teaching in innumerable ways.

p: Global Partnership for Education via photopin cc
One of my favorite aspects of teaching with technology is the ability to go paperless, and the surprisingly far-reaching benefits of doing so. Completing, editing, and grading assignments electronically is a budgeting bonus, while also saving me from toting reams of paper between home and school. In the classroom, I no longer hear excuses about lost papers, hungry pets, or a lack of supplies. I have no need to haunt the front office begging for more paper or ink, and spending my own money on these materials is a thing of the past.

But amazingly, these advantages are only the tip of the iceberg. In finding ways to accomplish tasks electronically, my students and I wind up stretching our creativity and our problem-solving skills. When I am able to give up the illusion of control and admit that I don't have all the answers, my students find me more approachable and we communicate more effectively. I ask for their invaluable input when I am out of ideas or feeling frustrated, and I invite them to work with me rather than for me.

A digital classroom also provides the opportunity to reenergize established instructional techniques. Apps and web tools breathe new life into well-known tasks, giving them a fresh appeal and increasing student engagement exponentially.


A free app available for Apple devices, iBrainstorm is a mind-mapping tool that offers a flexible range of options for classroom use. With the ability to draw, type, or arrange sticky notes, I often used this with my students to brainstorm or to create timelines and story maps. One of the cool features is that multiple iPads can connect and work together on a single project. The iBrainstorm Companion is a supplementary app that, among other things, allows users on iPhones to communicate with an iPad running the iBrainstorm app and contribute ideas to a collaborative project, even if only a single iPad is available. My students and I never tried this approach, but it has the potential to give the iBrainstorm app remarkable adaptability.

Tools4Students and Tools4Students 2

This pair of language arts iPad apps are priced at $0.99 each. Each gem contains 25 reusable graphic organizers that students can fill in, save, and email. The organizers are generic enough to be useful for a range of literature, non-fiction, and content area lessons. They can also be projected and filled in collaboratively in classrooms with a single iPad.

Apps like these hold great value and undeniably enhance the learning experience in my classroom. Yet they are only a piece of the puzzle. Whatever my initial response might be when asked about the impact of technology in my classroom, it is inevitable that I will eventually land back on this specific aspect of my experience: Incorporating technology into my classroom has created a positive transformation that encompasses everything from the back-to-school supplies I purchase to the ways my students demonstrate learning.

All these pieces make up a whole that has brought me to the realization that the type of technology is of little consequence; it is how we approach the implementation of that technology that makes all the difference in the world.

Join us for a Twitter chat on "Digital Writing in the Classroom." The one-hour chat is happening today, July 18th at 8pm EST. Use #IRAchat to join the conversation.

Lindsey Fuller is a sixth grade teacher in Decatur, Illinois. Her interests are classroom technology integration, literacy instruction, and Common Core curriculum development and implementation. You can read more from Lindsey on these topics at her blog, Tales of a 6th Grade Classroom.

© 2013 Lindsey Fuller. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.
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