Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My Three Favorite Teacher Apps This Year

One of the reasons I love my iPad is how it makes my work in front of the kids easier.  It has become something like a universal remote control that replaces the other 5 remote controls you used to fumble between.  For example, as a music teacher, I always had these things close by:
• a stack of seating charts (22 sections per week)
• boxes of CD's that matched our textbook series (about 60 CDs)
• my lesson plan book

My lesson plan book was filled with little codes to let me know which CD to use.  You might have 3 hours of classes without a break, and I would pre-load the 6-CD changer and mark down the disc number and track number in my lesson plan book.  (In the "good old days," I even had a code system for - gasp - records!)  And changing a seating chart eats ups valuable class time when you only get 60 minutes a week with students.  

All through the 2011-12 school year, my three most valuable teacher apps have been:
SmartSeat (by Cornsoft)
PlanBook (by Hellmansoft)
Remote (by Apple)

The combination of these three apps have made my life easier, and have had an impact on student learning.  I can only give anecdotal evidence for that claim - less time spent on seating charts, websites that launch automatically from my lesson book, no fumbling through CD's, more prep time available to do these tasks.  These take precious minutes.  Here's a look at each of them and how they have helped me.

Smart Seat
Smart Seat is a seating chart on steroids.  Smart Seat allows you to copy and paste a list of names into a class, customize seating arrangements, scramble students, randomly choose students, take pictures of students in the app, email seating charts, track attendance, and more.  I will often put other information in the chart such as folder number or instrument number.  I never print seating charts unless I have a sub - and then it is easy enough to just email the seating chart to myself or a printer.  Have to move a student?  Just slide his/her name to a new seat.  Students can be added and deleted easily throughout the year.  At the time of this post, Smart Seat is $3.99 and has been well worth it.

PlanBook is more than a lesson book.  As a music teacher, I have a very complicated schedule.  I am at two schools:  a middle school which runs an A/B schedule and an elementary school on a 5-day rotation.  Plan book can handle complicated schedules, but it also lets you adjust your schedule easily for those special days that pop up.  My favorite features of PlanBook include:
• allows you to put URL's into your lesson plans and launch website directly from your lesson book.
• allows you to upload other files (such as Smart Notebook files) and launch from lesson book.
• Dropbox integration allows me to work on lesson plans anywhere, even if I don't have internet access
• Allows user to color-code individual classes
• Drag and drop to copy lessons from one section to another
PlanBook is not cheap ($35 for laptop or desktop through App Store plus $9.99 for iPad version through iTunes store), but I may never buy another lesson book.

Remote is Apple's own app to control iTunes and Apple TV ... well ... remotely.  Instead of loading all those CD's into the stereo (and even some records that I've transferred), I just launch Remote and I can control my iTunes library from anywhere in the room.  This is great as an elementary music teacher who is moving around the room or often sitting on the floor with kids.  I do have issues with it on a secure , enterprise network, but I set up a computer-to-computer network when needed.  Remote is free from the iTunes store.

So those are my top 3 this year.  I paid full price for all of them.  And not only have they made my life easier - I am sure they have an effect on student learning because I can get more done every class.


  1. I found Plan Book a few weeks ago on my own. LOVE Love LOVe it! With 30 classes a week where one gets 2 steps ahead (or behind) it's so easy to keep track of where they are!

    Trying Remote and Smart Seat today!

    1. I agree, Gwenn. Plan Book really has made life easier! Thanks for the comment!

  2. Found this through someone's pinterest. Thank you!