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App Round-Up

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By Elizabeth Varnado
23 October 2019

As we begin to explore the impact of the Smart Campus Initiative on teaching and learning at the University of Kentucky, we are discovering a whole world of apps that can help us achieve our classroom goals, check in with students, and guide them to effective, meaningful group collaboration. If you’re not sure where to get started, I’ve gathered some of CELT’s favorite apps to inspire innovative lesson plans. I’ve drawn this list from CELT’s Smart Campus Initiative workshops thus far, and we look forward to introducing more to the repertoire before the year is over. While first-year students all have iPads, I made sure to test these apps on a laptop to check cross-device compatibility. I also brainstormed how these apps could be used in a classroom or collaborative work setting and found them really useful. My favorites are Padlet, Perusall, and Mentimeter.

Another event in our Smart Campus Series will take place on November 21: "Media Production, Activities, and Assignments with iPads." If you'd like to attend this workshop, click here to read more and register!


Apps for Brainstorming

  1. Padlet: Create brainstorming boards within a variety of configurations!

    • Post within a wall, grid, stream, chat thread, or even a map for geographically-based thinking. Post images, documents, videos, music, and files from Photoshop, Illustrator, Autocad, and more.
    • Supports almost any file type. Embed content from anywhere on the web, including YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Vimeo, The New York Times, and 400 other apps.
    • Can be used just as well on a laptop/desktop browser or iPad. Padlets can be embedded into Canvas pages, too.screen shot of padlet showing multiple boxes of content on a board
  2. Popplet: Individual mind-mapping and brainstorming app designed for iPad and web-browser. [Cost: $4.99]
  3. JamBoard: More on this below!


Apps for Collaboration

  1. JamBoard: A Google Suite product (like Docs, Slides, Sheets, etc). JamBoard is a digital whiteboard that can be shared and edited like other G Suite products. Does work across platforms (laptop/desktop browser), but best used by the iPad.

    • Draw and write within the Jamboard using a stylus pen. (For non-tablet users, sticky notes are the only way to add text)
    • Add sticky notes, drawings, images, shapes, stickers, and more.
    • Useful for brainstorming individually or in a group, visual depiction of lessons, mapping ideas/concepts.
  2. Perusall: Use this browser-based application to collaboratively view PDF files of articles, essays, book chapters, etc. Works well across platforms! If you’re concerned about how to teach students to read critically in your discipline, this tool can be helpful.

    • Highlight text and add a comment as an annotation or pose a question about the passage.
    • Persuall can also read the PDF text aloud.
    • Respond to annotations posted by others in threads (Facebook style) or upvote questions you find helpful.
    • If a particular classmate’s point is relevant, you can explicitly "mention" them and they will be immediately notified, even if not presently signed on. screen shot of Perusall interface showing a PDF document with text and portions bearing highlights that indicate user-added annotations
  3. Padlet: Simple link sharing or QR code scanning allows for lightning-quick collaboration!

    • There are limitations (Create 3 Padlets) before you need to buy a subscription to the app, but it does work better than Jamboard across platforms. In my opinion, Padlet is more versatile than JamBoard for collaboration, brainstorming, and visualizing concepts). Additionally, Padlet has liking, upvoting, rating (1-5 stars), and grading features. How could you that feature be utilized in your classroom?
  4. Creatively utilize other Google Suite products to encourage students to collaborate! (Google Docs, Google Slides) Create assignments that encourage exploration, observation and belonging. Click here to view an example that CELT has used for UK 101 classes.


Apps to Check for Understanding

  1. Kahoot: Create a quiz to give in-class, then invite students to participate in a gameshow-style activity with a specific quiz code. Students can work individually or in teams. The questions are timed, with faster correct answers getting more points! At the end of the quiz, a leaderboard projects to the class with first, second, and third place.

    • Measure your students’ understanding by downloading the statistics of the quiz responses.
    • You can use Kahoot within the iPad app or on a browser, so it works well across tablets, smart phones, and laptops.​screen shot of Kahoot questionsscreen shot of Kahoot results
  2. Poll Everywhere: Use multiple choice questions to identify gaps in understanding, or kick off group discussions with a word cloud. Responses can be publicly displayed.


Apps for In-class Polling/Feedback

  1. Mentimeter: Using this bold and colorful application, you can ask students to submit questions, poll them on a topic, or have them send in reactions to form a word cloud. Students “join the conversation” with a specific code, and their responses are publicly displayed, to encourage classroom camaraderie and understanding. Works well across platforms! Conversely, this may also be used as a “back channel” for questions in large classrooms. Rather than projecting the poll to the class, anyone in the room can ask questions or make comments anonymously, directly to the instructor.

    • Free for Presentations with 2 questions
    • This app is great for quick-response use because it allows students to pose questions during lecture or submit reactions, but it doesn’t have as many free features as Poll Everywhere. screen shot of Mentimeter display showing a word cloud of responses to the question, how do you use Mentimeter?, with more popular answers in larger font
  2. Poll Everywhere: better for formative assessment and in-class quizzing.

    • All features are free for classes with 40 students or less.
    • Poll Everywhere published a comparison sheet for their product and their competition! Helpful for our purposes, too. Click here to view.


Apps to organize class notes

  1. OneNote (Part of Office365 Suite, available to all UK Students and Faculty, as well as via the JAMF app suite pre-loaded onto the iPads)
  2. Apple Notes App (iPhone, Macbook, iPad)

    • Both of these apps allow users to insert files into their notes (doc, pdf, image files) and to use a drawing feature rather than typing only on a tablet.
    • Both allow users to create folders (Mac) or notebooks (Office365) to keep notes organized and easy to find!


If you have further questions or want to learn more, please send us a message and ask to be added to our “Smart Campus Studio” course on Canvas. This testing and development course shell, built by CELTic Mike Wallace, gives a great intro to these applications, and was the basis for this blog post.