Apps and Tools: What do Students Want?

Students at MACS

Photo by Norton Gusky/ MACS students working on Scratch project

The Tech Forum in California conducted a survey of students.  Here’s a summary of the tools (apps/applications) that students identified with my thoughts combined with information from an aricle published by Tech & Learning (

Social Media

Students are moving towards new tools that incorporate social media. One of the “Favorites” is Tumblr. (  According to students the value of Tumblr is its ability to “…share blogs with peers and search subject hashtags e.g. #finalstips…” In addition, Tumblr makes it easy to “communicate with other students in your class or similar class.”

For today’s students video is key. So, what’s the number one source of videos? Yes, you were right, it’s YouTube. According to one student quoted on Tech & Learning, “Videos to me are a lot more memorable to visualize concepts and steps vs. taking notes.”

Communication and Collaboration

Google has really taken over the world of online communication and collaboration. Google Docs provide a set of tools for publishing ideas from anywhere, anytime. Yes, Microsoft and Zino have products out there, but Google is the easiest and most convenient for young people. According to one student in the Tech & Learning article, “[Google Docs] saved my life one day when I forgot my assignment – I just ran to the library and printed it out.”

When kids want to set up a video conference they also turn to Google for a Hangout. Again it’s the ease and convenience that makes it work. Again we have tools that extend the learning opportunities for students. According to one student on the Tech & Learning report, “”I’m in AP Physics; if I have a problem I can ask a friend or my teacher can set up online office hours.”

Creative Production

Learners want to make, create, build, and design their own products. They now have great tools. This includes: Apple’s Garageband ( and Keynote ( Garageband is more than just a tool for creating music. It provides for simple podcasting. Keynote, is Apple’s version of PowerPoint, but like all of the Apple products it’s connected with all of the multimedia elements on the Apple platform. Learners can easily insert photos or movies from their iPhone or iPad as well as embed online video or graphics.

More and more learners want to create digital stories and games. Scratch ( was the coding tool identified by students in the survey. Scratch provides a block based Lego approach that allows learners to snap blocks of code together. More importantly, Scratch allows learners to connect with each other to share their creations.

To get the word out about their views or ideas students are turning to “Paper,” ( Paper provides an app to draw, sketch, outline, write, and color.

Both teachers and students want to share what they’ve learned. The top choice in the Tech & Learning article was “educreations” (, an iPad tool for creating videos that can include screen captures.

Learning Tools

The online world has a multitude of tools for developing basic skills, including vocabulary and note-taking. Students identified as their favorites Socrative ( , Brainpop (, and gFlashcards (

What do your students like to use? I’d bet that the list will be a bit different and will change over time.