Apps for Higher Education

Gregory and Smith selfie
Rhonda Gregory with Darlene Smith

By Rhonda Gregory, Director of Distributed Education, with special guest Darlene Smith

Darlene Smith is a professor of education at Walters State Community College and a TBR Mobile Mentor. She was one of the first faculty members at WSCC to adopt use of an iPad for instruction. Last month, Darlene presented a 2-hour workshop to a group of Vol State faculty and staff about the use of mobile and web-based apps for higher education. Smith told us that when she started using the iPad for teaching college, she had absolutely no idea what to do with it. So, she started using it to play music at the beginning of each class while taking attendance. From that humble beginning just a few years ago until now, Darlene has started using apps and online web tools on a daily basis to teach her classes and become a TBR Mobile Mentor. How did she come so far? She started using just one tool at a time.

After Darlene’s visit to Vol State, I asked her a couple of follow-up questions in hopes to share her inspiring story with other faculty.


Question: For the faculty member new to using an iPad, what’s your first word of advice about getting started?


  1. Set Clear Expectations for Yourself: You must appreciate the value of the device, and each semester, be committed to expand how you use the device in and out of the classroom. The more you get comfortable using it, the more effectively and efficiently you will use it in the future.
  2. Get Organized: You will need some system for keeping yourself digitally organized. Make folders on the iPad that will help keep your apps organized so you can find them easily. Use the Notes app to keep important usernames documented. (IET will tell you not to do that, but I have an ageing memory. I need to have it written down.)
  3. Get the Right Tools: Look for apps that will help you distribute content to students as well as collect student work. Also, find apps that will allow you and your students to create content. Remember my motto: “The one that does the work does the learning.”
  4. Start Small: The multitude of available apps can make the “getting started’ process overwhelming. Find a few “go-to-apps” and get comfortable using them. It is better to be an expert with a few than a novice of many.
  5. Tech 101: Set aside ten minute each day to “play” with the iPad. As stated above, the more you “play,” the more comfortable you get with the device. This can be done individually, but I encourage faculty to work together. There is power and knowledge in numbers!
  6. Create Something: Put aside your fears and make something. For example, pick a simple app like Educreations, and make an introduction video for your students. Use ProCollage to create a Contact Page so your students will know how to get in touch with you.

Bottom line, just get started!


Question: What are your 2-3 personal app favorites for teaching, and why?


Adobe Slate:

“Named App Store Editors’ Choice, Slate lets you turn your next newsletter, report, invitation or travel adventure into a gorgeous visual story that delights readers on any device. Simply tap to select a unique look — beautiful fonts, color and magazine-style design are automatically incorporated. Fluid movement and elegant motion are applied instantly. Share your Slate story link anywhere. Grab attention, increase awareness and inspire action. Stand out.”

I have found so many uses for this app. My students and I have “documented history” using this app because it “tells such a nice looking story.” When creating your project, you can add text, images, and video, to bring your story to life. The project views well on the iPad as well as the computer!


“Use ThingLink to instantly add video and text to images. Create unforgettable greetings, interactive travel photos, and capture best moments. Share images to your friends on Twitter or Facebook — and communicate in new ways. ThingLink introduces a new, richer way to share the world through photos. Touch the Future of Images. Download the app now and start tagging.”

I have found so many uses for this app/web tool. My students and I have designed many projects: We have created virtual fieldtrips, tagged the parts of a cell, identified important offices in the student services building, etc. There is not much you can’t do with this app!


“Present your documents with video. The Movenote app let’s you record video alongside documents or pictures to create an integrated video presentation with slides.  Creating presentations is easy and fast. Simply record video with your device and swipe to synchronize the slides to the video. Presentations are shared by sending a link to the recipient and can be viewed without the app. First add the material you want to present to form a slideshow. Add pictures from your photo albums or take them directly with your camera. Alternatively bring a document from your mailbox or cloud storage like Dropbox. Also you can combine material from all these different sources. Secondly, record the video and simultaneously change slides by swiping. The recorded presentation will play out with the exact same timing.”

This is one of my new favorites! I have only created one project with it so far, but I already see endless possibilities!!!

For more suggestions from the fall training at Vol State with Darlene, visit this Pinterest board.