On-Call and substitute teachers face a perplexing set of planning-related problems that require each to become a proverbial Jack- or Jill-of-all-trades. On Monday, you may be filling in for an elementary school music teacher and on Thursday you could be spearheading a discussion on Dickens. Investing in some apps for substitute teachers may save you stress and time, allowing you to have a lesson plan or the materials for students literally at your fingertips.
CourseNotes is an on-call teacher’s mobile notepad. Available for Mac products, and able to wirelessly sync with iPads and iPhones, this app allows you to take notes and organize them into subjects. With a whole heap of extra options than the “Notes” app that comes standard on most iOS devices, CourseNotes allows you to write notes, draw sketches, format your writing with bold, italic, or underline styles, and share or print your notes wirelessly. This app will allow you to brainstorm a host of subject-specific ideas and keep them until you need them. Searching and accessing notes is easy, which eliminates stress on the morning of your new teaching assignment.
A fantastic resource for not only creating lessons but finding video support for lessons planned quickly, EduCreations is a community “where anyone can teach what they know and learn what they don’t.” To facilitate this mission, EduCreations has created a free app for the iPad that turns your tablet into a whiteboard. If you are interested in creating videos to be used later, this app is a fantastic resource for feeling prepared. The site itself is a veritable treasure trove of short videos, organized by subject, on a host of relevant teaching subjects.
Dropbox is a cloud storage system that allows you to store and share documents and retrieve them from almost anywhere. Store useful PDFs, video files, photos or complete lesson plans and remain able to access them regardless of your classroom computer access. This free app can also be incredibly helpful for personal use, allowing you to transfer photos and other priceless files from your phone to backup cloud storage.
Called “the Facebook of schools,” Edmodo is a closed social networking site that allows teachers and students to interact virtually with each other. Teachers may post assignments, annotate work, or interact with students in a way that fosters electronic literacy and familiarity with digital media. An on-call teacher with Edmodo may be given access to the class’s electronic classroom to catch up on what’s been going on or to continue posting work while the full-time instructor is absent, or may use Edmodo to simply connect with other educators. The app is available for all iOS devices as well as Android devices.
Google Earth features 3-D maps and local search capabilities, all very helpful for anyone needing to find a unique location (a new assignment, perhaps, in an unfamiliar neighborhood?). However, this app is also useful in an unfamiliar classroom. You can develop games to test geographic skills, help students learn the relationships between political lines and geographic features, or even challenge them to learn something new about the neighborhood they live in—all while utilizing Google’s very cool zoom and fly features.
For those unique moments when you are asked to cover a music or dance class, the Spotify app may save your lesson plan. Using the Premium app, you can sync all of your favorite playlists and play them offline, creating a soundtrack for any activity. With a bit of preliminary planning, Spotify Premium can help you keep the arts in your classroom even when the full-time teacher isn’t.
If you have an iPad and the Discovery Education app, you can easily find some fascinating multimedia support for any lesson. Quick planning on the iPad the night before, or even on the train or bus ride to school, can allow you to utilize supplementary material that can be played on existing classroom technology. Even if you are required to use your iPad as the screen, a bit of circle time and these science and social studies curriculum boosters can make a daunting day of substitute teaching into a successful one.
AlgebraTouch is built as a refresher course, moving from the ground up to help you remember everything you’ve learned but forgotten; this primer will certainly be helpful for on-call teachers asked to take on a challenging lesson outside their comfort zone. Users will be impressed by the instructions and the interactive nature of the app.
For younger grades, this “hands-on” math learning app may help students apply mathematical knowledge in a different way. If you are able to show it onto a smartboard or projection screen, the entire class can guide you as they learn; if students have access to similar hands-on tablets in class, you can introduce the activity and have them follow at their seats. Regardless, the interactive nature of this app will help younger students cement mathematical principles in a fun, engaging way.
Embrace the tech savvy of older students by asking them to use their own Twitter enabled devices to engage in a new type of classroom discussion – a Tweet supported large group discussion. Whether discussing current events in a social studies classroom or the most recent literature assignment, utilizing Twitter as a secondary part of the discussion can ensure that more students are participating and engaged. Create your own #hashtag, start the discussion, and see what tweets start appearing. Even the shiest students can participate without fear, and you may be surprised at how fruitful the discussion becomes.
Samantha Kotey is the editor for AvatarGeneration and has a background in educational technology and virtual worlds. A mom of two, she is passionate about all things related to toys and technology.