Edutopia on Facebook
Edutopia on Twitter
Edutopia on Google+
Edutopia on Pinterest Follow Me on Pinterest
WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

This is our first year of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and boy, did the students bring it. They brought it all! We have iPads, Surface RT and Pro, iPhones, Droids, Chromebooks, Macs, and PC laptops. Here's my current thinking. Please share yours in the comments section below.


If students can't find, review and access their notes or pictures of the board, their mobile notetaking system is useless. There are two multi-platform frontrunners.

Microsoft OneNote

In my opinion, the most robust single note-taking app is Microsoft OneNote because it looks just like a traditional notebook. It rocks interactive whiteboards because the notes you write on the board go directly into the notebook you share with the students. You can also edit simultaneously with a maximum of five students (my unofficial number from testing it). Students can write notes, grab screenshots and make to-do lists.

Even with its strengths, I think the iOS version of OneNote is lacking, and it doesn't have the robust developer and app community of Evernote. But if you're predominantly using Windows or Surface RTs and have an IT staff who can support the setup, this may still be your best option.


Evernote is a multiplatform app with robust, useful apps like Skitch that let you work with your notes in cool ways -- but you cannot edit simultaneously. It's compatible with a great new tool for special ed (or for any student, really), the LiveScribe pen, which uses a tiny camera to scan every word that is written on LiveScribe paper. (You get a free premium subscription to Evernote with a new Livescribe pen and can also print free paper out of the Livescribe desktop software.) Pencasts made with Livescribe are a fantastic flipped classroom tool.

The premium version searches handwritten text so that photos of the board or your notes can actually be found later. The new Reminders feature can help students remember what to review and study on a routine basis.


With ebooks as the current battleground of education technology, students should know how to find and download ebooks and PDFs on Kindle, iBooks and Kobo. (Google Play is must for Chrome or Droid.) Students should know how to take notes and search any reader that goes with their etextbook.


Traditional Essay Writing

For writing "traditional" essays, Microsoft Word is still a standby on Microsoft devices. Students are syncing personal documents through Skydrive. More iPad/Mac students are writing on their devices with Pages and then opening it up at icloud.com.

Collaborative Writing

For collaborative, simultaneous writing and peer feedback, Google Drive/Docs is still king, although Office 365 has some new robust features that make Microsoft Word simultaneous even on the desktop. We couldn't do our team projects or online presentations without simultaneous word processors -- every school should choose one.

Moving Between Platforms

Students should know how to convert, export, import and move data seamlessly between apps and devices of all kinds. They should also know how to "print to epaper" and how to open and annotate the documents in various readers.


Blog posts can often start in other programs, but I'm careful to only use apps that are completely compatible with blogs and RSS (Microsoft Word is notoriously not.) I recommend Blogsy for iOS, Windows Live Writer for Microsoft and MarsEdit for Mac because they are all compatible with major blogging platforms like Wordpress (Edublogs) and Blogger (Kidblog), and let students write at home and post when they return to school. On Chrome, I love the Scribefire plug-in (although you have to be online to use this extension). For Edmodo, just use the Edmodo app.

Cloud Sync

One issue with mobile learning is how students will submit work. While we use Skydrive, Google Drive and Dropbox depending upon the circumstance, Dropbox is my go-to workhorse because students can upload video or anything else. You can also link Dropbox with dropitto.me to have students turn work in even if they don't have access to Dropbox.

Screenshots are King

No matter what platform, I want every student to know how to "grab" a screenshot. The built-in method is best, but Skitch is an awesome backup. Not only is this a cyber safety protection skill, it's also great for turning in work from a mobile device when you just can't figure out how to export -- or when the interface is buggy (as many are.)

If you’ve implemented BYOD or mobile learning, what are the most important lessons you’ve learned? What are your favorite apps? Please share links to blog posts you've written about this rapidly emerging field and the reality of how these apps work.

Innovative Ideas for Using Mobile in the Classroom
Sponsored by Concordia University, this series covers innovative uses of mobile in the classroom.

Comments (14)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Laurie Flood's picture


I love your list of apps that are for holistic, real world lessons!

One that I would also recommend for foreign language learning (or ESL) is Readlang. It is an eReader that allows students to place any online content (even entire, non-DRM ebooks!) in their cloud and get a translation of words that are difficult. Every word the student needed to look up as they were reading is stored in a library for later study. The program creates electric flashcards (much like Anki) and quizzes the student on the meaning of the words (even showing the context sentence) on a spaced repetition formula until the word is learned. This is great for reading for foreign language learning, allowing for easy vocabulary follow-up work.

There are more features. Here is my blog post with a link:

and a Pinterest pin:

Becky Fisher's picture
Becky Fisher
Education Consultant

This is a great list Vicki!

I've never seen a flipped classroom in action, but I am very curious to see and hear about the successes and drawbacks. Would love to hear from anyone who is using this model, and hear what they think!

Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher's picture
Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher
Computer Fundamentals, Computer Science and IT Integrator from Camilla, GA

Becky - this is an interesting one. I had a conversation with Steven Anderson about VSTE about what is called if you're making videos to teach and reinforce but they watch them IN class -- that is really what I prefer. Flipping has a place for many, but for me, I see the videos as more personalized instruction when something HAS to be taught point and click. Standing at the front pointing and clicking is pointless to me because everyone works at a different pace. I would look at Jon Bergman's articles here on Edutopia - he's sort of the expert and has done some cool things - so has Todd Nesloney and many others.

Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher's picture
Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher
Computer Fundamentals, Computer Science and IT Integrator from Camilla, GA

Thanks Laurie - that is a very interesting one. Thanks for sharing. One of my favorite things here on Edutopia is the quality of comments and feedback that posts get by the community that shares here. Thanks so much!

Discussion Is #edtech delivering on its promise?

Last comment 21 hours 25 min ago in Technology Integration

blog Five Minute Film Festival: Video Boot Camp

Last comment 1 week 1 day ago in Five-Minute Film Festival

Discussion #EdTechWish: What Do We Want?

Last comment 5 days 22 hours ago in Technology Integration

Discussion Video Games: Using Technology to Create a New Paradigm

Last comment 4 days 22 hours ago in Game-Based Learning

Discussion 5 Favorite Apps for PBL Language Learning

Last comment 1 week 2 days ago in Technology Integration

Sign in and Join the Discussion! Not a member? Register to join the discussion.