5 Unique Ways to Use Google Classroom

posted May 6, 2018, 9:01 AM by Mason Mason

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When I was a high school English teacher, we were using a proprietary learning management system (LMS) that was not user-friendly. My team and I were searching for something to replace our clunky LMS, and even though Google Classroom is not a full-fledged LMS (yet), its ease of use, and ability to distribute, collect, and organize content quickly became our go-to resource.

At the time, Google Classroom was just coming out of beta (just in time for the new school year), and it quickly began to change the way students and teachers interact inside and outside of the classroom. As more educators are gaining access to Google Classroom, especially now that it’s available outside of school domains, I will offer up five non-traditional ways to use Google Classroom. As a hub, educators can leverage Google Classroom in ways they may not have initially thought.  

Parent Communication

Every G Suite for Education school that uses Google Classroom has a G Suite Administrator. This is usually someone in your district’s information technology department. This domain administrator has granular controls over the district’s G Suite account. A useful option that the administrator can turn on is the ability to allow outside domains to join a Google Classroom. With this option turned on, teachers can create a community where parents can receive updates, newsletters, and other resources all in one place. This goes beyond Guardian Summary which sends parents an email summary of their child’s missing work, upcoming work, and class activity. Teachers can disseminate and collect permission slips, schools can share letters, and districts can share notifications all in a flash. There are so many possibilities, but imagine if every parent used Google Classroom to stay up-to-date on what was going on in their child’s classroom, school, and district. It can redefine parent communication.

Campus/District Communication

There are many different ways campus level and district level administrators can leverage Google Classroom to increase productivity, organization, and communication. Principals and campus evaluators can use Google Classroom to collect teachers’ lesson plans. Department heads can use Google Classroom to share department meeting agendas. Instructional coaches can share resources with teachers in their departments. Superintendents can keep administrators up-to-date on district business. Similar to how teachers can distribute, collect, and organize content, school and district leaders can do the same processes with their teams.

Special Education

Special education (SPED) teachers have unique roles on campuses because of the varied ways they interact with both teachers and students. They can leverage Google Classroom to manage the students and teachers on their caseload. Google Classroom can make it easier for SPED teachers to communicate and collaborate with students and teachers. Because of the SPED teachers’ unique role of working with students and teachers in multiple grade levels and subjects, Google Classroom can help them streamline their workflow and maximize their impact. For example, a SPED teacher can have a Google Classroom where all of the “students” in the class are teachers on his or her caseload. The SPED teacher can then quickly and securely share documents with each teacher.  

Professional Development

If you are an educational leader who facilitates training and professional development,  Google Classroom is a great tool to use as the hub of your campus or district level PD sessions or at conferences. All resources for the PD can be in Google Classroom. Also, Google Classroom will aid in controlling the focus and the flow of your training. And just like with teachers and students, workshop facilitators have an easy way to distribute, collect, and organize materials.

Vertical and Horizontal Alignment

Teachers, teams, schools, and districts can leverage Google Classroom for vertical and horizontal alignment as well as for other interdisciplinary collaboration. Imagine all 4th-grade students school-wide being students in the same Google Classroom with their teachers working collaboratively as co-teachers.  It creates an environment where students can collaborate, learn, and grow from even more of their peers. Maybe they are discussing the themes in a book, new concepts learned in math, or how their science projects are solving sustainable development goals. Connecting more students and teachers through Google Classroom helps enhance the learning experience and foster new levels of collaboration.


These are just a few of the many innovative ways educators can use Google Classroom.

Think about how many other non-traditional ways you can use Google Classroom to transform teaching and learning to enhance communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity in your school or district and please share them with me on Twitter.

Draw Freely in iWork

posted Apr 4, 2018, 6:57 AM by Mason Mason

By Apple Education

Whether you're working on a term paper or about to pitch your startup, the latest additions to Pages, Numbers, and Keynote make it even easier to add some artistic flair to your work. Use Apple Pencil with iPad Pro and iPad (6th generation) to quickly create drawings in your documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. Here's how a student could bring photosynthesis to life in a biology paper:

Get Started

In Pages, tap and hold your Apple Pencil anywhere inside a document to create a box, then begin drawing a plant inside.

Choose a pen, pencil, or crayon from the toolset at the bottom of the screen, changing the color at the right. Tap your selected tool again to adjust its line weight and opacity.

Fill in the Colors

Experiment with the fill tool. Select it in the toolset (it looks like a tube of paint) and choose a color. Then tap inside an enclosed area of your drawing, like a leaf of your plant. The tool will fill up the area with your chosen shade, intelligently respecting the boundaries.

The fill tool also lets you draw colored-in objects from scratch:

Choose blue and draw blue raindrops. Or quickly layer on a shadow

that gives the plant a realistic flair.

Finesse the Details

The lasso tool is just as handy. Use it to encircle parts of your drawing you want to move, duplicate, resize, or recolor. Try it out by copying your first raindrop, pasting in a few more, then changing their size and color to give them a more natural variation.

When you're finished, tap Done at the top right. Your drawing is now a

resizable vector graphic that you can use, or continue to edit, in any of

the iWork apps.

Animate in Keynote

Want to paste your drawing into Keynote and animate it so it's redrawn on the slide? Tap the drawing with your finger to copy it, then open Keynote and paste it into a slide.

Tap the drawing again, then tap Animate and the blue plus sign to add a Build In, setting that to Line Draw. Play the animation to watch your creation spring to life.

Novices and pros alike will get great results. Good luck with that term paper!

Apple Special Education Event

posted Mar 27, 2018, 5:32 PM by Mason Mason   [ updated Mar 27, 2018, 5:36 PM ]

On Tuesday, March 27, 2018, at Apple, Inc. hosted a Special Education Event in Chicago, Illinois at Lane Technical College Preparatory High School. This was the first time in six years that Apple has hosted such an event. In those six years, the education landscape has changed dramatically with the Cupertino kids losing significant market share in K-12 education to Google and its G Suite for Education and Chromebooks.

This event introduced a new 9.7” iPad priced at $299 for education ($329 for consumers) with compatibility for the Apple Pencil priced at $89 for education (and still $99 for consumers). In addition to the new hardware updates, there were a slew software updates geared toward students and teachers. Here are the five announcements that I am most excited about from the event:

iBooks Author in Pages

iBooks Author has been out for years, but students and teachers had to have a computer to create digital books. Now iBooks Author is available on the iPad in Apple’s word processing application Pages. This allows students and educators to easily create books using the iPad. I love when students have different ways to show what they know, think, feel, and understand, and this is a great new option for iPad classrooms. I can also see students creating interactive notebooks and so much more using this tool.


Schoolwork is Apple’s answer to Google Classroom. The Schoolwork application will be out this June (in beta) and will help teachers distribute and collect assignments, monitor student progress, and collaborate with students in real time. I’m excited about the possibilities this brings to the iPad classroom, and how it will help teachers streamline productivity and save time. This app is long overdue (pun intended).


ClassKit is Apple’s newest API. This update is geared towards developers but has huge implications for educators and students. With almost 200,000 iPad apps made especially for educators, this update can be integrated by them all. ClassKit allows third-party apps to connect and talk to Schoolwork. In other words, teachers will be able to assign, assess, and monitor students’ progress in third-party apps using Schoolwork. Teachers will also we able to assign a specific task inside third-party education apps. This is a feature that does not exist in Google Classroom. Tynker, Nearpod, and Kahoot are a few of the third party developers Apple gave early access to the ClassKit API.

Everyone Can Create

Apple already has the Everyone Can Code curriculum to help educators foster computational thinking and problem-solving in the classroom. They are now releasing a new curriculum for students and teachers to help foster creativity through video, music, photography, and drawing called Everyone Can Create. This curriculum will help bridge the gap between the arts and core subjects to help enhance teaching and learning. Everyone Can Create curriculum will help educators help students to not only be consumers of information but creators of content.


Classroom has been available on the iPad for almost two years and allows teachers to push apps, links, and more to student iPads in their classroom. It also allows teachers to group students, view student screens, and lock student iPads. Classroom is now coming to the Mac. This was a question I often received from teachers when I introduce them to the Classroom app. It would be nice to see Google offer something free and natively like this similar to Apple.

What are your thoughts about Apple's announcements? Did you want more? Are you excited about today's announcements? Let me know on Twitter.

Shake Up Learning

posted Mar 21, 2018, 6:44 PM by Mason Mason   [ updated Mar 22, 2018, 7:45 AM ]

Kasey Bell’s book Shake Up Learning will be released on Wednesday, April 4, 2018, but I was granted early access to the book and wanted to share some key quotes that resonated with me using #Booksnaps. Shake Up Learning (the book, not to be confused with Kasey’s popular blog), is a three-part book that helps educators understand the why, what, and how behind shaking up education.

Each chapter in #ShakeUpLearning starts with a quote and ends with discussion questions, actions, and space for reflection. Kasey helps educators understand how to shift classrooms from static to dynamic using the Dynamic Learning Framework which focuses on dynamic learning experiences. I’d recommend this book to any educator looking to transform teaching and learning.

Part 1 The Why: It's Time to Shake Up Learning

Chapter 1 21st Century Change

The only thing constant is change. —Heraclitus

Chapter 2 Technology Has Changed the Way We Learn

The world has changed—and continues changing—rapidly and radically when it comes to the ways in which we can learn, and what knowledge, skills, dispositions, and forms of literacy our children will need to flourish in their futures. —Will Richardson

Chapter 3 The Rise of the Entrepreneur

The industrial age is over. It’s dead. The idea of going to school to get a job is an obsolete idea! A steady paycheck is an industrial age idea. —Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad

Chapter 4 Technology Is Not a Solution

A problem is a terrible thing to waste. —Peter Diamandis

Part 2 The What: The DNA of Dynamic Learning

Chapter 5 Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

Courage is not the absence of fear; it is pressing forward when you feel afraid. —Joyce Meyer

Chapter 6 Breaking Barriers and Bad Habits

If school’s function is to create the workers we need to fuel our economy, we need to change school, because the workers we need have changed as well. —Seth Godin

Chapter 7 Always eLearning

The most important skill to teach students in the age of the internet is to learn how to learn. —Alan November

Chapter 8 Uberize Your Learning and Curate Resources

We’re assembling resources in a way that represents the ongoing story of our learning. We are the curators. —Gayle Allan

Chapter 9 Unleash Creative Thinking

An innovative culture never happens by accident. You have to create a creative culture. —Craig Groeschel

Chapter 10 Connect and Share

The first step to connect your classroom to the world is to connect yourself rst. —Vicki Davis

Chapter 11 Share Your Voice, and Share Your Story

And do not forget to do good and share with others. —Hebrews 13:16

Chapter 12 Go Global

The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow. —Bill Gates

Chapter 13 Empower Your Students

Who owns the learning? —Alan November

Chapter 14 The Dynamic Learning Model

Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them. —Steve Jobs

Chapter 15 The Dynamic Learning Framework

To move from something that is a noun to something dynamic and unpredictable, to something living and present tense is to move from law to grace. —William P Young, The Shack

Part 3 The How: Equipping for Impact

Chapter 16 Purposeful Planning

Begin with end in mind. —Stephen Covey

Chapter 17 Facilitating with Finesse

I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn. ―Albert Einstein

Chapter 18 What Does Dynamic Learning Look Like?

If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else. ―Yogi Berra

Chapter 19 Your Dynamic Learning Plan

A goal without a plan is just a wish. ―Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Chapter 20 Go for It!

If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done. —Ecclesiastes 11:4

Looking to learn more about the Shake Up Learning book, be sure to visit www.shakeuplearningbook.com. And if you want to learn more about booksnaps, be sure to visit Tara Martin's website at www.tarammartin.com/resources/booksnaps-how-to-videos for how-to videos and more examples. 

Podcasts with Mason

posted Mar 12, 2018, 3:16 PM by Mason Mason   [ updated Mar 12, 2018, 3:20 PM ]

Recently, I have had the privilege and honor of sharing my passions with other educators on various podcasts, so I decided to collect those podcasts here to share with you.

Google Teacher Tribe

With Kasey Bell and Matt Miller

I talk about becoming a Google for Education Certified Innovator and help to pull back the curtain on the Google Innovator process.


With Gabriel Cabrillo

From Gabriel-- "I had the privilege of sitting down with Mason (@edtechmason) on this episode of The EdTech Bites Podcast. If you know anything about the EdTech movers and shakers in Texas, then you probably know or know of Mason. This is the first episode with no food is involved but it is still good conversation, which included food talk. Specifically, Dallas, Forth Worth eats. He gives us some insight into his journey to where he is now. He’s served as a people person with Apple, a teacher, and more than anything, an advocate for Educational Technology. He’s now an Education Technology National Instructor for EdTechTeacher and travels while sharing his dominoes (listen to this episode to know what I’m talking about). I promise you, you’ll be engaged and more than anything, inspired. As always, Enjoy and Buen Provecho!"


With David Henderson and Jeff Madlock

I sat down with David and Jeff live at the 2018 Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) in Orlando, Florida to talk about my session using Nearpod and education technology in general.

5 Tips to Become a Google Certified Innovator

posted Feb 5, 2018, 6:42 PM by Mason Mason   [ updated Feb 5, 2018, 6:45 PM ]

5 Tips to Become a Google Certified Innovator

This blog originally appeared on Shake Up Learning by Kasey Bell

Wanna be a Google Certified Innovator?! We’ve got five tips to help you!

I am often asked what it takes to become a Google Certified Innovator, and it is not a one-size-fits-all answer like the other Google Certifications. The route to Innovator is different for everyone. I can’t teach a course or boot camp on this one. It is incredibly competitive, the most competitive of all of the certifications, and puts you in a family of an elite group of educators.

What is the Google Certified Innovator Program?

The Google Certified Innovator Academy is a two-day academy designed for innovative thought leaders in education–those with passion, drive, and a commitment to transformation. The academy has a very competitive application process, and only a few make the cut.

Google describes the program as:

“Candidates for the Google for Education Certified Innovator program are selected based on their professional experience, their passion for teaching and learning, their innovative use of technology in school settings and their potential impact on other educators. They are ambassadors for change who empower other educators and students through a thriving innovation culture within their own classrooms, schools and organizations.

Innovation occurs at all levels in the school system, so we welcome applicants from all roles: classroom teachers to superintendents. As participants in a community of educators working together to improve schools, Innovators will transform the organizations they’re serving, advocate for change, and grow their own capacity as thought leaders.” (Learn more about the Google Certified Innovator Program.)

Each certification has very specific requirements, to learn all about the application requirements for Google Certified Innovator, and all of the other certifications, download my free ebook: The Complete Guide to Google Certifications.

The program has changed a lot since my induction in 2014 (#GTAATX), so I asked a colleague, Mason Mason, from EdTechTeacher, Inc., to write this guest post for Shake Up Learning. Mason recently attended the Google Innovator Academy in Stockholm, Sweden. Below, Mason share’s five tips on becoming a Google Certified Innovator.

Below is a guest blog post from Mason Mason. Mason, M. Ed. is an Education Technology National Instructor with EdTechTeacher, Inc. and an Ed.D. student at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. He is passionate about helping educators transform teaching and learning through technology integration and closing the digital divide through equitable access to technology for all students. Connect with Mason through his website, www.edtechmason.com, and follow on Twitter @edtechmason.

I did not always know I wanted to be a Google for Education Certified Innovator. I just knew I was passionate about helping educators improve teaching and learning and wanted to affect positive change for all students, not just the students in my classroom. As a classroom teacher, I was invited by the instructional technology department to present at a local education technology conference. They wanted me to share with other educators how I was using Chromebooks and G Suite in Education in my high school English classroom.

That’s when I realized I had a bigger mission and a higher purpose. Google for Education Certified Innovators are thought leaders, change agents, and visionaries in their schools/districts, and at other educational institutions and organizations. If you are thinking about applying to attend a future innovator academy, here are five tips that helped me become a Google for Education Certified Innovator:

1. Find Your Passion and Purpose

The most challenging thing for me is narrowing down my passions. Tony Wagner, the Education Fellow at the Technology & Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard, says that our play leads to our passion which leads to our purpose. I have always liked technology and naturally incorporated it into teaching and learning, and once I bit the bug for facilitating education technology with adult learners, I found my purpose.

What’s your passion? What’s your purpose? Let your passion take you to your purpose. Your purpose will drive your innovation project, but your passion will help you endure the process. Because I have many passions: education technology, global collaboration, and professional development (just to name a few), I selected the passion that drives my current work and helps fulfill my purpose: effective professional learning for educators.

2. Choose Your Innovation Project

Certified Innovators are critical thinkers, problem solvers, and idealist. Your Innovation Project will be the manifestation of those ideas. You will be trying to solve a problem in education that positively affects many lives. But of course, that project proposal needs to be innovative. George Couros, the author of Innovator’s Mindset, defines innovation as a way of thinking that creates something new and better. Is your Innovation Project going to be new or, how is it going to improve on something that already exists?

The Innovation Project is the soul of the #GoogleEI program. Innovators have a mission and vision, go through the design process, work with their cohort, and are partnered with a coach and mentor who has been through the process. They share (a lot), have a growth mindset, use failure to propel them to success, and possess an immense amount of grit. Start thinking about your Innovation Project early and often.

3. Research Other Google Certified Innovators

When I decided I wanted to become a Google for Education Certified Innovator, I began looking at other Certified Innovators projects. I watched their Vision Videos, reviewed their Vision Decks, and spoke with them about the process and their projects. I had real models, ideas, and resources I could use to guide my thinking in developing and perfecting my innovation idea. The fact of the matter is, once you complete your Vision Deck and Vision Video, that’s only just the beginning.

Shake Up Learning has a YouTube playlist with some of the accepted Google Innovator application videos.

4. Get Feedback

Before submitting my application, I shared my ideas, vision deck, and vision video with several colleagues, mentors, and current innovators to elicit feedback. Their feedback helped me refine my thinking, elaborate on my ideas, and helped me clear up any misconceptions/misunderstandings in my application. I’d recommend having at least two other people review your materials before you submit your application.

5. Submit Your Application

When completing the Innovator application and applying to become a Google for Education Certified Innovator, there are four basic steps:

1. Be a Google for Education Certified Level 2 Educator

2. Develop your Vision Presentation

3. Film your Vision Video

4. Apply (on time)

Here is my Vision Presentation that I submitted with my application.

Below is my application video or Vision Video: Plane PD.

Keep in mind that being accepted to attend the Innovator Academy is only the first step in this year-long professional development process. And if you are not accepted your first time, don’t be discouraged and don’t give up. Fail forward, use this as a learning experience to propel you to success. The same growth mindset we instill in our students must drive our will to succeed with grit, perseverance, and determination. Just don’t make the mistake I made: applications are usually due before midnight based on the local time of where the academy is held. I erroneously thought it was midnight my time, and missed the deadline, so I had to wait to apply to a future cohort.

I hope these five tips help prepare you as you travel down the road to becoming a Google for Education Certified Innovator. Remember, the journey is not always easy, but it’s always worth it. I look forward to connecting with you and can’t wait until you join the #GoogleEI family.

To find out about the 2018 cohorts and application dates, visit the Google for Education Training Center. (At the time of this post, the 2018 dates have not been announced.)

The Innovator Academy Experience

Be sure to check out Mason’s blog post about his experience at the Innovator Academy, reflections, pictures, and more.

Mason was also a recent guest on The Google Teacher Tribe Podcast, where he shared the experience with the Tribe in episode 28.

TCEA 2018

posted Feb 5, 2018, 5:19 PM by Mason Mason   [ updated Feb 7, 2018, 12:11 PM ]

Tue, February 6th, 10:30 AM - 11:30 AM

App Smashing with iMovie on the iPad

Take digital storytelling and creativity to the next level by app smashing using iMovie and other native and third-party applications on the iPad. Participants will explore Apple's Camera, Notes, Clips, and iMovie apps and third-party apps like ChatterPix, Shadow Puppet Edu, Telligami, and more. 

Tue, February 6th, 1:30 PM - 3:00 PM

Fostering Creativity with iPad

This session shows educators how to engage students in the creative process using multiple iOS apps in a connected workflow. We will explore Apple’s creativity suite of apps and innovative ways to use them on the iPad. 

Wed-Thurs, February 7-8, 1 PM - 1:15 PM

Enhancing Productivity with iPad


Be sure to join me at the EdTechTeacher, Inc. Booth #2416 for mini-sessions and a chance to win registration to the Boston 2018 #ETTSummit.

5 Ways to Amplify Student Voice Using Technology

posted Jan 22, 2018, 9:35 AM by Mason Mason

Every student has a voice and deserves to be heard; however, sometimes it’s difficult for educators to amplify the voices of all of their students when they have class sizes of 30 or more students and can see upwards of 150 students in a single school day. Whether in a BYOD, one-to-one, or one-to-few device environment, educators can leverage technology to allow every student to share what they know, think, feel and understand in a meaningful way.

The following tools encourage discussion, reflection, and synchronous or asynchronous student response. Using technology inside and outside of the classroom not only gives students an opportunity to speak but also gives them a chance to be heard. Moreover, these tools can foster global collaboration if leveraged to their full potential

The digital tools below are each paired with a visible thinking routine; a procedure, process, or pattern of helping a student think about his or her thinking and learning.  Making thinking visible enhances communication, understanding, and reflection of the learning and the learning processes. Using these technological tools and pedagogical strategies can help improve students’ understanding and content knowledge.

5 Ways to Amplify Student Voice Using Technology

Flipgrid: Video Reflection

Devices: iOS, Android, Mac, or PC


Visible Thinking Routine: Think Pair Share

“Think Pair Share” is a routine that encourages collaboration, communication, reasoning, and explanation. And Flipgrid is a video-response tool that can be used on any connected device using the app or on the web. After completing an assignment, activity, or lesson, a teacher can have students Think Pair Share using Flipgrid by answering a question about a problem or topic to see multiple perspectives and ideas. When I taught Introduction to Radio and Television, I would often have my students stop to Think Pair Share when exploring various issues in mass media.

Recap: Q & A to Ignite Curiosity

Devices: iOS, Android, Mac, or PC


Visible Thinking Routine: I used to Think...Now I think…

“I used to Think...Now I think…” is a reflection routine that requires students to examine how and why their thinking has changed throughout a lesson, project, or unit of study. And Recap is another excellent video response tool teachers can have students use to make their thinking visible. For example, using Recap, a teacher can ask students to reflect on how and why their thinking might have changed after learning about and exploring a new topic. As an English teacher, I would have my students examine how their thinking changed about social and political issues after reading a novel.

Seesaw: The Learning Journal

Devices: iOS, Android, Mac, or PC


Visible Thinking Routine: See Think Wonder

“See Think Wonder” is a routine all about observation and exploration and asks students to notice what they see, think, and wonder about a piece of art or literature. And Seesaw is a digital portfolio platform students can use to make their thinking visible through text, pictures, or videos. As students explore art, literature, or music, a teacher can have students document their evolution of thought from surface level observations to insightful analytical and critical reflections about the piece. This strategy helped my students go beyond summary and make perceptive connects to other works and real-world connections.

Clips by Apple: Visual Evidence

Devices: iOS


Visible Thinking Routine: What Makes You Say That?

“What Makes You Say That?” is a routine that requires students to stop and think about their thinking and requires them to be able to articulate, interpret, and justify their answers.  And Clips is one of Apple’s newest iOS applications that allow students to use filters, animations, and voice-to-text features to enhance their response. To promote evidence-based reasoning, teachers can have students express ideas using Clips to describe what’s going on and what evidence they have to support their claims.

Shadow Puppet Edu: Video Storytelling

Devices: iOS, Android, Mac, or PC


Visible Thinking Routine: Think Puzzle Explore

“Think Puzzle Explore” is another routine that promotes more in-depth inquiry and understanding by requiring students to reflect on what they know, what puzzles them, and what they want to know more about related to a topic. To foster deeper inquiry, teachers can have students use Shadow Puppet Edu, an elementary friendly video creation tool, to combine images, video, text, and voiceover to make their thinking visible about a topic.


Amplify your students’ voices by helping every student in your class find his or her voice and be heard with one of these digital tools. Teach them these visible thinking routines so that they may regularly discuss and reflect on their knowledge, skills, and understanding. Even the quietest student in class deserves to be heard.

EdTechMason’s Top 5 Coding Apps on the iPad

posted Dec 5, 2017, 7:58 PM by Mason Mason   [ updated Dec 14, 2017, 1:09 PM ]

EdTechMason’s Top 5 Coding Apps  on the iPad 

We are in the midst of another exciting Computer Science Education Week (December 4-10, 2018), and I can not help but reflect on some of my favorite coding applications on one of my favorite mobile devices, the iPad. #CSEdweek helps remind educators around the world to foster computational, analytical, and critical thinking skills in students through Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) activities like coding.

One of the biggest pushes during this week is for students to try an #hourofcode. This hour can help introduce students to coding concepts, applications, and careers. It’s essential for us to remember that an hour of code should be the spark for further exploration and education in computer science. Coding is quickly becoming the language of the future, and even if students don’t go into STEM fields, the skills they learn will still serve them well no matter what path they decide to take.

There are a variety of apps available on the iPad that help scaffold the learning of code for students. Generally, before introducing students to a coding language, teachers can have students complete unplugged activities, learning tasks that involve coding concepts but no technology. Then with apps can further the learning with line coding, block coding, and then using actual coding language. Here are my top 5:

Scratch Jr.

Scratch Jr. is one of the easiest ways to introduce coding to students. Scratch Jr. uses block coding to allow students to manipulate characters, tell stories, and express themselves in other creative ways. This application is excellent for early grades and helps scaffold the learning of code in a fun, engaging, and non-threatening way.

codeSpark Academy

codeSpark Academy is another great introductory app for coding. What I like most is how they have mastered the gamification of learning and code. This coding experience is genuinely addictive, and the fact that this is the brainchild of the MIT Media Lab doesn’t hurt either. There is no better way to foster a love of learning and computer science in our youngest students.

Sphero Edu

Sphero Edu combines the analog with the digital. Students can not only learn code in a digital environment, but they can use their coding skills to code Sphero robots. Also, Sphere Edu allows students to code robots three ways: draw, block, or text. These are great for the beginner, intermediate, and advanced coders. I especially love creating labyrinths that require students to program the right code to help their bots escape the maze.

Tynker: Code and Mod Minecraft

Tynker is another good option with scaffolds built in for different levels of coding. Like the other apps, Tynker includes block coding but also allows coding using Apple’s coding language, Swift. With Tynker, students can code robots and drones or even add-ons and mods to Minecraft. Tynker is a great app to take students on the entire coding journey.

Swift Playgrounds

Swift Playgrounds is my favorite coding app on the iPad. Students can work through different levels of code advancing their skills and understanding of coding concepts and the Swift coding language. Lessons build on each other, and it reminds me of going through a math class. Apple also offers a free coding curriculum and other resources to help educators get started.

What are some of your favorite coding apps?

These are just a few of the many coding applications available on the iPad. I hope you and your students get a chance to try some of them out, and I’d love to know what your favorite coding applications on the iPad are.

From Consumption to Creation on the iPad

posted Nov 2, 2017, 8:40 AM by Mason Mason   [ updated Nov 2, 2017, 8:41 AM ]

From Consumption to Creation on the iPad

This blog originally appeared at EdTechTeacher.

Technology integration can be difficult. Often times when schools go one-to-one with iPads, teachers continue to do what they’ve always done. Digital worksheets, PDFs with annotations, and consumption can quickly become the norm.

I remember when I went one-to-one with devices in my secondary English classrooms. I immediately wanted to figure out how my classes could go paperless and how I could get my students to do everything on their devices. However, I was only at the “enhancement” level of Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR technology integration framework as I was only using technology to substitute or augment student classroom activities. For example, I had students take notes on their devices instead as taking notes with pencil and paper. What I needed to strive for was the “transformation” area of SAMR, modification and redefinition. I needed to help my students be creators of content and not simply consumers of content.

Research has shown that when students create meaningful products that require synthesis of information consumed and resources curated, they learn and remember more than when they simply consume content. It’s not that using technology iPads as a substitute for pen and paper is “bad.” However, teachers can do much more to transform their teaching and student learning. When iPads are added to the pedagogical equation, the recipe for curriculum, instruction, and assessment changes. What tasks can students now undertake that were previously inconceivable without the technology?

iPads are not only useful for the consumption of new material and for curating resources, but these mobile devices provide a pathway to the pinnacle of student creation. With two cameras (front-facing and back-facing), a microphone, and innumerable applications for capturing and editing media, iPads allow students to show what they know, think, feel, and understand in new and different ways. Moreover, after students create these new products they have the ability to share them with a wide audience.

There are a number of applications teachers can use with students as they navigate the journey from consumption to creation. Here are a few of my favorites:



Safari is the iPad’s native web browser and is optimized for performance, workflow, and functionality. Students can search, save, and create shortcuts to websites for easier access to information.

Google Chrome

Chrome may be ideal for students in schools using the G Suite for Education. When students learn to leverage the Chrome web browser, they can use the Google voice search and gain a more seamless integration with other G Suite for Education applications. Additionally, English as a second language students will enjoy the ease of translating webpages into their native language.

Microsoft Sway

Sway is one of the newest members of Microsoft Office. Teachers can share beautifully designed digital flyers, newsletters, and presentations with its adaptive design. Then Sways can be shared with a link to whatever learning management system the teacher prefers, including Microsoft Teams, a digital hub for teachers and students, in Office 365 for Education.


Google Keep

Google Keep is the newest member of the G Suite for Education. Students can easily create digital sticky notes containing audio, photos, checkboxes and so much more. They can also organize their notes through labels and color-coding. Keep is a good option for setting up reminders, creating list, and curating resources for class.


Apple’s native notes application contains useful features teachers and students can leverage to maximize student success, including the ability to add tables, scan documents, sketch and more. Notes on the iPad is a good option for non-G Suite for Education schools.

Microsoft OneNote

OneNote gets curation and organization right. It allows students to organize multiple notebooks, with multiple sections, and multiple pages within each. In addition to many of the features of the other curation applications, OneNote also includes an equation editor, the ability to convert hand-drawn shapes into perfect polygons and circles, and different paper styles including ruled lines and grid lines. For Office 365 schools, OneNote is definitely great for curation.



Clips by Apple allows students to create short videos with fun and engaging text, effects, and graphics. It allows students to show what they know and understand in a completely different way and redefines what assessment can look like in the classroom.


With Chatterpix, students can bring anything to “life” and make it talk, including inanimate objects, animals, and hand-drawn art. By simply taking or uploading their image into the app, drawing a line where they would like the mouth to be, and recording their voice, students can show what they think and feel creatively.


One of the best applications for making, editing, and sharing movies is Apple’s iMovie for iPad. Students and start from scratch or use one of iMovies many trailers to create high-quality movies with images, text, photos, videos, voice over, music, transitions and much more. iMovie makes any student feel like Spielberg, Cameron, or Bay in the classroom.

As you take students on the journey from consumption to creation using iPads, think about how you can leverage each of these applications with students to transform teaching and learning. As you develop your own recipe for success with curriculum, instruction, and assessment using technology, think about how you can shift the learning environment, go from teacher-centered to student-centered, and go from consumption to creation.

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