Primarily, I use Google Reader as my hand-in box. Each student has their own Blog (either Tumblr, Blogger and WordPress) where they complete and hand in most of their assignments. These assignments are completed as a traditional Blog post, an embedded video/presentation/picture etc..., a link or a combination of some or all of these.
At the beginning of the semester I got all the kids to either create a new Blog (the best option) or send me a link to a previously made Blog which they will only use for school. I then created a folder (DI Blogs) and subscribed to each student. Then I renamed them all, sorted alphabetically and whammo...an RSS enabled, time stamped hand-in box!
Google Reader also allows me to follow some professional Blogs and my mom (shes paying me with hugs to shoot her mad props).
Communication and Professional Development
Twitter is my primary tool for communication with my students (it has become my way of sharing videos, shape of the day) and my colleagues. For my students, we use a hashtag to link all our posts #rsidedi, this allows us to all be on the same page when we share things.
I use Hootsuite as my Twitter dashboard for a couple of reasons:
1) its a Vancouver company
2) I like how its web-based and it doesn't matter what machine I am on
3) great iOS apps.
Hootsuite also lets me do a better job of following my Personal Learning Network (PLN). I made the following presentation last year about why Twitter and PLNs are so important for teachers.
Building a personal learning network
Google+ over the last little while and it has started to become a staple on my screen. I especially like the ability to move people into different circles. I am trying to figure out how to use it as a teaching tool...but I'm not there 100% yet. Next year for sure!
To collaborate with colleagues or students, I tend to gravitate towards Google Docs and WikiSpaces. Google Docs because the sharing function allows us all to edit at the same time. While this can be chaos (just try it with a group of Grade 9s and see) ... it also allows for really cool things like shared notes, collaborative projects and student created forms). When I look at the Digital Backpacks for 2011/2012, almost all of the students have chosen it as a worthwhile companion.
Assessment and Record Keeping
As I said earlier, I use my Google Reader for much of my written summative assessment. It's also great for the formative piece (making sure kids are up to date, quick little check your understanding snap-shots, etc....). For my formal testing I use Classmarker. It is an on-line test taking engine that allows your to create, edit and distribute tests very effectively. While the paid version is superior, the free mode suffices for us.
For recording marks, I use Engrade.ca (servers are in Canada so no FoIPA issues), the on-line gradebook which allows students to check their marks any time they want. It has done 2 things for me:
1) It has made me a better marker because of the accountability of students having real-time access to their marks
2) it has made me take a closer look at what I do mark. My understanding of summative and formative assessment has grown because of Engrade.
I have used many more apps than these over this past year. Prezi, Popplet, YouTube Trends, PHeT, etc.... not to mention everything I use on my iPad. But the ones listed are my mainstay... they just keep getting better and better.
Have any rock solid education apps? Please share!