Learning goals then lead to a learning activity: “Project: Book Posters–Students create a movie-style poster to advertise their book. Poster elements must include the title, author, a representative image, a ‘hook’ to get others to want to read the book, a quotation of a credible review, and a student review.”

Beth then chose apps for students to use that support these objectives: “While this could be created on paper or using a computer, with an iPad and apps such as Skitch, Visualize, or Text Here, students can quickly create, publish, and share their work. By integrating with the Camera Roll, these posters could eventually include audio narration with Fotobabble, be included in a book with Scribble Press or Book Creator, or added to a video project with iMovie or Animoto.”

Beth’s priority was not to find cool apps or tools selected primarily for their engagement factor. Apps were selected because they supported and aligned with a vision. Apps played a purposeful role in the support of student learning.

Toward that end, we have created a collection of annotated apps for teaching and learning on our website. Unlike other lists that promote so-called “cool tools,” or lists of content apps by academic disciplines, our list is driven by specific learning goals that promote critical-thinking, creativity, collaboration, and community- mindedness. In a nutshell, our focus is on what kids can do and not so much on what teachers can teach.

As we remind teachers, the fundamental challenge of integrating technology is not in learning how to use apps. The challenge is in imagining the innovative ways in which the tool can be used to enhance student learning. Ultimately, it’s to conceive of ways in which the iPad/Chromebook/Surface is a pathway to new challenges, new creativity, new collaborations, new connections, and ultimately new opportunities for students to demonstrate and share their understanding.

More than anything else, we get excited at the possibilities for students to create performances of understanding and use apps as a tool to think with.

Tom Daccord is executive director of EdTechTeacher, a professional learning organization. This article includes excerpts from “iPads in the Classroom: From Consumption and Curation to Creation” by Tom Daccord and Justin Reich.