New devices, like the Apple Watch, bring even more apps into the picture!

On their phones, tablets, and other devices, students today have access to some pretty amazing apps! In schools, many students are using Chrome apps and extensions on their Chromebooks and iOS and Android apps on tablets. All of these apps make it possible for students to consume, curate, and create digital information in new and exciting ways.

As various apps find their way into more and more classrooms and are used by students and teachers for longer periods of time, we are noticing that the apps are often developed with certain functions in mind, and students and teachers need to use more than one app to accomplish the types of complex learning and problem-solving tasks that we want to do. Many students and teachers, therefore, are engaging in a practice known as “app smashing.”

App smashing, using more than one app in order to complete a desired task, is explained by Greg Kulowiec (@gregkulowiec) in this blog post from 2013 when he first used the term:  http://kulowiectech.blogspot.com/2013/02/app-smashing-part-i.html. Recently, Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher) interviewed Kulowiec for her radio program, Every Classroom Matters, and in the interview they discuss the origin of the term and examples of app smashing, and how more and more teachers are exploring the options of using multiple apps together: http://goo.gl/gZyogc.

I like to think that the practice of app smashing is a lot like building a house. We don’t just use a hammer to build a house. We don’t just use a saw. We don’t just use one nail. Many different tools are evaluated so that the best ones are selected and then used in conjunction with one another in order to build a house. This is absolutely true in education as well. We can never rely entirely on just one resource, one application, or one piece of equipment. Instead, we plan instruction around using the most appropriate tools we have available to us, in the right combinations, in order to complete the tasks we set out to do. Just like building a house.

Seeing examples of content that others have created is a great way to learn about new apps, get inspired, and try new things, and students and teachers who have already combined multiple apps are happy to share out their work. Sunny Richardson (@SunnyJune77), Mccright (@mccright), and Dan Gallagher (@Gallagher_Tech) largehave collaborated on a special challenge to get other educators app smashing and to share out their creations called “You’ve Been AppSmashed!”

“This challenge is designed around 5 weeks. Each week you will be creating a final product, sometimes you will be able to choose the apps, other times the apps will be chosen by chance. At the end of the challenge, each successful finisher will receive a badge.”

Information about each of the individual challenges and how to submit the final creations is available here: https://tackk.com/audsuu. More information and examples of final products can be found by following the Twitter hashtag: #YOUVEBEENAPPSMASHED.

Consider yourself officially app smashed!

~What did YOU do in school today?


No matter what grade level we teach, we ask our students to respond to what they read.

Gone, are the days of the “book report” and instead, we now expect our students to think deeply and respond to literature.

Ultimately, we are teaching literary writing skills that students will use for the rest of their lives, and whether they are going to write an essay, a review, or criticism, they need to become comfortable with taking notes and recording their ideas while they read.

Asking students to “jot” the ideas they have while reading – on something like a sticky note – often incites a chorus of moans and groans.  Many of them absolutely hate doing it.  I even had a student recently and dramatically tell me, “Post-Its are the death of me.”  However, the bottom line is that we need “evidence” of the students’ thinking while reading, and those sticky notes are just so darn easy to organize and move around in notebooks, charts, organizers, and so on.  Many educators keep going back to using them simply because they aren’t sure how else to go about it.

The monotonous act of peeling off a new sticky note from the stack, writing the idea on it, and adhering it to the book sometimes makes reading that much harder for readers who already struggle  – or it becomes the “straw the breaks the camel’s back” for reluctant and unwilling readers.  The last thing we want to do, as educators, is turn kids off of reading.

Today’s technology provides new options for these students, and for us.  The available technology makes it possible for students to show evidence of their thinking in different ways, and they never have to touch a piece of paper if they don’t want to.

One remedy that has presented itself for students who use readers like Nooks, Kindles, or the iPad, is the way that they can actually create and organize notes right there, inside the electronic book.  This is a great option for them, but not all students have such readers.  (This option is a future blog post in and of itself!)  For the students who are still reading “old-fashioned”, paper books, there is another way to integrate technology and accomplish the goal of proving thinking while reading.

The ABC Notes app for Apple products is a current favorite app among my students.  They love it because the notes look just like sticky notes that we use in class and can be customized for color and size.  Students find the app easy to navigate; creating new notes, organizing the notes, and deleting them is very easy to do and does not require much time to learn. The students can color code the notes, add small images, or change the font style or color if they choose.   They can tilt or rotate the notes on the screen if necessary, and the notes expand to accommodate the amount of text typed on them.  The notes can then be exported easily, either one by one or all at once, through email.

The free version of this app allows for one “desktop” at a time, and the paid version allows for multiple “desktops.”  Most of my students use the free version and simply export their work and then clear the app before beginning a new set of notes.  I do like the idea of keeping multiple sets of notes, however, for middle school students, fewer notes to organize inside the app may actually be a good thing.  Clearing the app whenever they begin a new set of notes gives them a fresh start each time.

Once the notes have been exported through email, students can continue editing them, or they can save, print, or store them to be used later.  Because the notes are already in typed format, students can also copy and paste the ideas electronically when elaborating on their ideas further, as with formal essay writing.

I chose this app to share because I’ve noticed struggling and reluctant readers start to read much more and produce better evidence of their thinking while reading when using this app.  They enjoy it, and there are absolutely no moans or groans when my students are asked to record their thoughts while reading – if they get to use this app.

• 88 backgrounds to choose from
• 45 note skins
• 27 badge designs & 115 icons

• 15 virtual desktops
• Scale, rotate and drag notes
• Easy to edit, duplicate, move between desktops
• Supports any iPad orientation

• Email notes and desktops
• Copy note image to any application
• Synchronize notes between iOS devices
• Save notes as image and place to lock or home screen

What did YOU do in school today?