A Parent's Guide to Popular Apps
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A Parent's Guide to Popular Apps

Jan 22, 2016

a parent's guide to popular apps

Michael Wilson, Technology Instructor

When I saw what this iPhone app could do, I knew I had to have it! I was sitting in a middle school math classroom a few weeks ago.  As I was observing the class, I came across an application for Apple and Android devices called PhotoMath which reads and solves mathematical problems by using the camera of your mobile device in real time. It makes math easy and simple by educating users how to solve math problems. I'm not just talking about multiplication and division, but advanced algebra equations that Mr. Luscombe would be proud that you answered.
 
As a parent, figuring out what devices will be best for your student and what applications or programs to download is always difficult and can be frustrating and time consuming. Chromebooks, MacBooks, iPads, and Apple Watches are just a few of the new devices that are in demand. To complicate the matter, the Android App Store has 1.6 Million applications and the Apple App Store offers 1.5 Million. That's not even counting the programs available for MacBooks and Chromebooks that students will be using at home and at school.

What's the best device for your student that will work well at home and school? What applications should you allow your student to download? What applications can help you as a parent work with your student at home to understand their course material? Who could possibly understand the technology needs that my student has at school in each of their classes? How does Chick-fil-a make their chicken taste so good? With the exception of the last question there is someone at Des Moines Christian that can help you answer these questions. (I heard Chick-Fil-A's secret ingredient is unicorn tears, but I could be mistaken).

As the Technology Instructor at Des Moines Christian, I have the best job in the world! I get to help our teachers and students find and use new technology in the classroom each day. I'm the only person at our school who has the distinct knowledge of the devices and applications our school (K-12) uses and am in a unique position to make several great recommendations for you!


Devices

One of the most common questions parents and educators ask when a discussion turns to technology is "What device should I buy?" The answer is always, "The one that does what you need it to do." Accordingly, my best advice is to start with a list of what you need your device to do. This list should include internet capability, lists of applications and programs (especially photo and video applications), cameras, intended life of computer, and any other unique information that may pertain to school or personal use. Pay special attention to the intended life of the device. With technologies rapid progression, devices become slow and outdated quickly. If you're looking for a device that will maintain its speed and usefulness longer, than be prepared to spend more money. Your upfront investment will generally pay off when your student graduates or moves into high school and doesn't need a new device to meet the needs of new programs and software. However, you don't need to smash open that piggy bank just yet! Depending on the list of needs for your device, you most likely will be looking at a device that is very affordable and doesn't have to be extremely expensive.  

In my opinion, 90 percent of the students at Des Moines Christian school don't need a large expensive device to complete some of the amazing projects and assignments our teachers have designed and will be planning in the coming year. Devices such as iPads and Chromebooks are great for the majority of these projects and are in the $350-$500 price range. Below is a list of recommended devices:

Laptop - $250-$500
These devices come in a variety of models and manufactures. Please look for the following features when considering a Chromebook.
||special183|| 4gb of Ram Memory or More
||special183|| Front Facing Camera
||special183|| Sturdy and Durable as possible
 
Macbook Air - $750-$1200 (Student Discount Available - Inquire at Apple Store)
You can check the online refurbished store. Mac has a great 1-year warranty with all these devices.
||special183|| They are lightweight and easy to transport, yet durable.
||special183|| Able to run more applications and downloadable content that some laptops such as Chromebooks won't be able to do.
||special183|| More ability for to run creative content such as photo editing and video editing but more geared towards online content and running basic programs
 
Macbook Pro - $1299-$2000 (Student Discount Available - Inquire at Apple Store).
Benefits include:
||special183|| Best Future Proof Specifications
||special183|| Best performance for: Editing photo and video, design applications, artistic applications.
||special183|| Bigger Screen size


Applications

"What applications should you download or purchase?", the answer is always, "The ones that do what you need to do." Here is a list of what teachers and student use the most at Des Moines Christian School, as well as some cool new apps like PhotoMath.

Google Drive
(Mac, PC, IOS and Android Devices)- Google Drive is home for applications such as: Docs, Spreadsheets, Drawings, Presentations, or just storing pictures or files. Students will store information for classes inside their Google Drive account and can turn in assignments this way through e-mail or Google Classroom

Google Classroom
 (Mac, PC, IOS and Android Devices)- Classroom is a free web-based platform that integrates your Google Apps for Education account with all your Google Apps services, including Google Docs, Gmail, and Google Calendar. It's designed to save you time and paper. Classroom also creates Drive folders for each assignment and for each class to help keep everyone organized. Teachers can attach material from their Drive folders to assignments they create. Students can also attach files from their Drive folders to coursework they submit in Classroom. Any files submitted as part of an assignment are automatically stored in Google Drive. Students can keep track of what's due on the assignments page and on Calendar and begin working with just a click. Teachers can quickly see who has or hasn't completed the work, and provide direct, real-time feedback and grades right in Classroom.

GeniusScan
(IOS and Android Devices)- Genius Scan is a quick way for students to take a picture of any document at school like tests, homework, projects, forms, or notes and quickly make a PDF file from it. They can then email it, text it, or just put in into their google drive folder. If you ever had a form you needed to get to school and didn't want to drive to school you could just download it from our website, fill it out, and then send it in using Genius Scan.

Here are 25 great apps that I also recommend!

The best thing about most applications is that they are free and if they don't work as intended, you can delete them and move on! Bigger applications and software that need to be purchased are generally provided by the school or university if required, or offered for a significant discount, so if you don't have to purchase them, please don't! However, devices themselves don't follow the same process. It is crucial that you start with the device and list what you need it to do, then you can look for programs and applications.

Technology by itself will not make anyone a better learner. However, with the right intentions in mind and being specific about its use, students will without a doubt by more efficient, more organized, and better prepared to enter the digital world.