Trending Apps in Hastings Elementary

Top three and a bonus with examples.

Andy Leiser
Jan 15, 2018 · 8 min read

Our young learners have had access to the most powerful and capable technology tool — iPad. These learning devices are used for a myriad of mobile learning tasks. From the consumption and review of concepts to the exploration and creation of original content, the students using these devices can push the envelope and use our tools with balance and purpose.

Inspired by Kerry Gallagher and her article Three Tools That Are Trending at My School, I decided to take a reflective look at our own device and app usage during the first half of the school year. Perhaps you, too, will be inspired to try something new.

For context, I will limit my focus to creation apps that empower our students to demonstrate what they know by making and sharing their understanding through original media.


Clips by Apple

The use of Clips is really beginning to take off as students and teachers experience how simple it is to create expressive and inclusive video on iPad. Clips is a free app from Apple and has only been available since March of 2017, but in that time the creative uses for its application have been impressive — see #ClassroomClips.

In Hastings, we have been using this app to create PSAs, highlight events, persuade peers, and share tips, but the possibilities are far reaching. Creating high frequency practice videos for students can boost recognition with a personal connection to the teacher, and the videos are simple to create so even our youngest students can create their own videos sharing what they know.

Live Titles are highly accurate, in-the-moment, closed captioning. When enabled, the iPad’s dictation software recognizes and pins your spoken words to the video as you speak them. There are a few minor edits that can be performed after to add punctuation and clean-up any grammatical or dictation recognition errors, but this is a skill students must practice when writing anything digitally or on paper.

There are stickers, filters, posters, and music that make your Clips video uniquely yours. These are the expressive additions that turn Clips creations into their one-of-a-kind finished products. With loads of customizability, stickers let you draw attention to portions of the video or give more information via text, and most them are animated when used. The filters let the creator transform the video’s mood by changing the way the images are presented. Posters are like book covers, many are editable and most are animated to capture and hold attention. They make it easy to open, close, and provide visual context.

The music is really special. It is free-use. You cannot violate any copyright laws by using the provided soundtracks in Clips. As incredible as that is, that’s not even the best part! All the soundtracks in Clips are fully scalable — meaning if you have a seven second video, ninety-seven second video, or three hundred and twenty-seven second video, the music will start and end with proper closure. It is unique to Clips and it is magical.

Any project can be enhanced with Clips, but it is especially useful in storytelling, retelling, summarizing, visualizing, guiding, and demonstrating — among countless other creative and empowering uses.

Vidra by Tentouch Labs

This formally free, but worth every penny, app is remarkably similar to Adobe Spark Video, but operates entirely without a login. With Vidra, the users create slides which are animated, presented with a cohesive theme, contain a subtle soundtrack, and can be published and shared as a video to a variety of platforms.

We have used Vidra for a few projects this year, and it’s easy of use mean that students can use it in all elementary grade levels. With minimal modeling, they can run with this tool to safely create and share meaningful information in a visually engaging manner compared to static slide presentations.

Contained in the app are thousands of flat icons that can be easily searched. These icons can be layered, scaled, rotated and changed in color. Users can add their own images from Photos, include text in dozens of fonts, and even write/doodle with digital ink. All of these tools layer and are presented with tasteful animated motion during playback.

The settings gear empowers the user to make tweaks to the background, direction/style of animation, slide durations (*if no voice is recorded) and theme music. Like Clips, this music is free-use and so you will not violate copyright laws by using it. There are forty-two soundtracks and you can control their volume during the presentation.

The real power of Vidra resides in Student Voice. Each slide has a prominent, red, *recording button. When tapped the student can speak to the subject of that slide and then stop the recording. It’s efficient, it’s crystal clear, and it lets even the quietest student in class have a voice in their presentation. Plus, presentation time is reduced since students are recording short bursts of audio rather than delivering it all at once.

When it comes time to share, users can save the project as a Vidra project to be transferred and furthered edited on another device, or the project can be saved as a static PDF (useful for handouts, but the paper…). The advised method for sharing a finished product is to save it as a video. From there, the user can save it to Photos and AppSmash it with countless other projects, save it to Photos, or Open In another app. If you open and share in another app, the final video will not save to Photos and will not add more media to your device’s storage limitations.

Any project where students created slides or cards of any kind can be elevated and injected with Student Voice using Vidra.

PicKids (Pic Collage EDU) by Cardinal Blue

This is a powerhouse app. It is the most robust, flexible, and empowering app residing on our iPads. It is also the most misunderstood and underutilized, but that trend is changing, because PicKids empowers learners to create a digital learning artifact for any situation, in any subject. Truly.

Students create digital posters about about significant events, innovations, or people using the tools in PicKids (PicCollage EDU).

At its core, PicKids is a photo collage app. It is a digital canvas upon which learners can capture, combine, annotate, manipulate, layer, type, and express their thoughts, ideas, and knowledge with transformational and flexible tools. According to its app page, it is the “safest and most user-friendly collage app available.” I have found that to be true.

Any photo captured with the iPad Camera can be included in a PicKids collage. The app has the ability to add text, with thirty-six typefaces and forty-five colors. On top of that, the digital ink boasts twenty-two colors and thickness from hairline to a third of an inch. There are also dozens of expressive sticker packs and backgrounds to allow any creator to make something that is a personal reflection of their learning. All of these tools provide content that can be rotated and scaled to meet the needs of the creator.

The most impressive feature on PicKids is the ability to incorporate web images into projects. Now, before you shout copyright, you should know that the makers of PicKids have clearly stated that using web images in their app for school creations falls under the umbrella of the Fair Use doctrine.

If you need to know more, check their website.

Students created real-time photo collages like this during our first-of-its-kind Create and Learn experience using a ReadWorks article and a live-streamed distance learning lesson hosted with Google Meet.

The images gleaned from the web have been run through all manner of safe image search protocol on top of your own district’s mandatory (CIPA) internet filtering. PicKids uses Bing as their safe search. With that established, someone on a mission to find inappropriate images might be able to if proper expectations, modeling, and supervision is absent. iPad is not a baby-sitter, as you know, and requires the same upstanding level of involvement and proximity from the leader to guide our young learners to use this (or any) tool in the best ways possible.

Do not let this scare you. PicKids is a bar-raiser for learning artifact creation. It takes any poster board, stack of magazines, scissors and glues and renders them archaic. The finished products here are visually stunning, equitable, and more unique than anything learners could have created in this spirit before the advent of this transformational application.

How do you use it? Have you Googled for PicCollage ideas? Like the next app, or any of the previous, I challenge you to find a project that PicKids cannot elevate.


Seesaw by Seesaw

Bonus app. Essential app. Learning hub.

I believe in sharing. It’s a crucial component in learning. If our students are the end of learning, if they do not communicate and share their understanding with others, then the transfer of knowledge and growth has died— and frankly, we have failed. Our students are not buckets to be filled. Every learning artifact created with our top three trending apps is then shared with others through Seesaw.

IMHO: Seesaw is an essential component in the modern classroom. It is a learner-centered platform for the creation, curation, and sharing of learning artifacts with authentic audiences in a safe and supportive environment. It has the ability to flip learning, encourages less dependence on paper, and saves all learning artifacts in a digital learning journal that is shared with a child’s family. Families only see their child’s contribution. It is safe, managed by adults, and models appropriate digital citizenship and social media use skills. I could go on and on, but that’s a future post.

On top of the ability to share anything created in other apps, Seesaw has built-in creation tools that make it simple for students to capture, annotate, and share their everyday learning. Snap a photo of a physical learning artifact and it is digitally preserved. Students can add their voice as a reflection/explanation. Share links, write notes, or add anything from Photos. Video of presentations, performances, and learning in action is simple. A digital whiteboard, with ink, labels, emoji, captions, comments, and the ability to record and point are all built in. They merge in the creation of #BookSnaps. Oh yeah — it also connects to all the major cloud storage services, including Google Drive.

And. It’s. Free.

Any list of apps used in the elementary schools of Hastings would be remiss without including Seesaw. I issue the same challenge any time I present or showcase Seesaw — Find me an effective academic project that Seesaw cannot enhance. Seriously. I haven’t been able to find one yet!


A major thank you to Kerry for inspiring this reflection and post. What are your trending creation apps? Let me know in the comments or connect and share with me on Twitter/Instagram.

Andy Leiser

Written by

I laugh. I learn. I teach. I play. A father, a husband, a teacher, and a tech enthusiast. Elementary Integration Specialist #ISD200