_Student response systems can play an important role to drive instruction, engage students, and provide feedback. Teachers who are lucky enough to have several iPads or iPod Touch devices in the classroom can leverage several different applications to quickly gather information before, during, or after lessons. Even if there are only a few devices, lessons can be designed to allow students to respond as a group. Here is a brief explanation of four different applications, from most complex (highest learning curve) to easiest to use.

Edmodo - This application requires teachers to sign up for an account and establish a group page. Students use a code that their teacher provides to sign up for an account and membership to the group page. Edmodo is an extremely useful tool, with dozens of features, but a s a means for instant feedback, teachers can use the polling tool to quickly gather information. Ask a question and provide a set of choices and ask students to select their preferred answer. The polling tool will not be able to provide information about which student provided which answer, but it will help identify misconceptions, gather opinions, and take a quick vote. Asking students to write a short note and direct their post to the teacher works well because the site populates the posts in real time. Ask students to be reflective and tell what they learned during the lesson. 

Google Forms - Teachers can use their district Google Docs/Drive account to create a form that can be used for a quick assessment. There are a couple of tricks to make it easy for students to submit their answers. First of all, the checkbox at the top that protects requires users to sign in first must be unchecked. If you need to track the results, use the first field(s) of the form to collect students names or ID numbers. Google Forms create a really long, complex URL that is impossible to get to without a direct link. Create a QR code from your favorite QR code generator so students can scan the code and get to the right place quickly. (TIP: First use Bitly.com to shorten the URL. Generate the QR code from the shortened URL or make sure the QR code image is really large and students get their device up close to scan the code correctly. The longer the URL, the more complex the QR code, and the more chance for error during scanning.

Socrative - This tool also requires teachers to sign up for an account. It will just take a few minutes to prepare a quick lesson. From the website (or the teachers' app), teachers develop a quiz or a poll, add a few questions, and get a code to provide the students. Students use the student Socrative app to access a particular quiz or poll from a number that is assigned. After they submit the answers, teachers can access the results. This tool provides all the features a sophisticated student response system for FREE, including the ability to track student progress and download the results on to their computer.

Mentimeter - This tool is fairly new and it would be an excellent way to gather the status of the class quickly. The user does not need an account to create a poll. Type a quick question for student feedback. At the very bottom, right corner - look for the tiny little QR code generator button. Out pops the QR code, making gathering feedback from the group amazingly fast. If the student devices do not have cameras, texting the answers works well too.
 
 
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For all the years I worked with 4th graders, I helped them write research reports on animals. We selected some web resources and they used various books and found information about the animal of their choice, including characteristics, habitat, diet, and behavior. The report usually took the form of a five paragraph essay including some pictures copied from the Internet. Eventually, the students were allowed to create a PowerPoint presentation and instead of paragraphs, they regurgitated facts in bullet points - no more than six per slide.

Using Diary of a Spider as a mentor text for books created by the students took a much more interesting and authentic approach to writing animal research reports using the iPads!  After they did some research on their favorite animal, the students wrote a "diary", writing in first person as the animal of which they researched. Each page of the book, created in Book Creator for iPad, included an illustration and a short text passage that carefully embedded a fact about the animal, including diet, habitat, behavior, or interesting facts. Many students recorded "sound effects" to add interest for the reader. After all the book were complete, students used the class Dropbox account to upload their story to share with classmate and download all the other stories to the iBooks library on their iPads. The spent some time reading and enjoying each others' hard work. The resulting project is particularly creative and fun to read!

 
 
The question that always arises with regard to the iPad is whether it is more of a content consumption device or a content creation device. Of the nearly 60 apps that were selected to start the iPad project, 30 apps are apps with which students can create, communicate, collaborate, tell stories, and demonstrate what they have learned across all curriculum areas.

Productivity
QuickOffice allows students to open, edit, save and send back via DropBox documents that are compatible with Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel. The user interface is very simple and intuitive for even third graders. Students open the QuickOffice app, sign in to their teacher's DropBox account, locate the writing prompt or other work meant for editing by the student. They finish the assignment, and then either keep the work on their iPads for future reference or turn it back in to the teacher using DropBox. Students can create original works also, including presentations demonstrating what they have learned in a content area. As they integrate text, images from either the camera or taken from a web resource, students can create a visual representation of what they've learned.

PaperPort (formerly called Noterize) is an incredibly versatile application. Students can import PDF of a worksheet, graphic organizer, writing piece or any other curriculum content. They can then annotate the document using the highligher (6 colors), text (typing), and pen. One of the most powerful features is the voice recorder which works as a speech to text feature, automatically typing what is said as it's made by the same developers as Dragon Dictation or Dragon Speak on the PC. Finished work can be sent back to the teacher through DropBox (email for the audio files).

Notability is another note taking application that allows the user to hand write, type, draw, annotate, insert media, and record voice. This app also integrates with DropBox for import and export of work with the teacher.

Digital Storytelling
StoryPatch is a favorite app for students to use their creativity to write original stories, retell stories as a reading comprehension assessment, or to demonstrate what they've learned in a content area. The app comes with hundreds of images to illustrate stories and also allows for original works created in other applications and saved in the devices photo album. This app really inspires creativity with students. In addition, another important feature is the build-in story themes and series of questions that builds a story based on the student's responses. This could be used for students as they learn story elements.

Book Creator is one the easiest to use story telling apps available. The student navigates page by page as he integrates images from the iPad Photo Album (which could be from the camera, orginal works drawn in a drawing app, or obtained from the web) along with text and audio to create a simply presented story. One of the best features of this app is that the finished story converts to an epub format that is read in the iBooks app. Students can share their work through DropBox.

Puppet Pals is a very popular application that allows for lots of creativity as students create a puppet show using any number of several character and background choices. This particular version of Puppet Pals allows the students to create their own characters from their's or their friend's picture taken with the iPad camera. There is limitless possibilities for story creation.