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Apps for Librarians & Educators

Become an expert in the best mobile apps for education and content creation.
Nicole Hennig
358 students enrolled
English [Auto-generated]
Get experience using some of the best apps available and understand how they enable learning.
Understand how tablets are complementary to and different from laptops, and how their capabilities are creating new learning opportunities.
Understand how apps are being used by people with special needs, and get access to resources for learning more.
Get inspiration for creating your own app guides, offering workshops, and advising colleagues.
Get up to speed quickly: watch video demos and follow along on your own mobile device.

Mobile apps are empowering for people of all ages and abilities

As librarians and educators, we are passionate about learning and access to information for all. Contrary to the popular idea that apps are only useful for “consumption,” the best mobile apps are being used effectively as tools to enable learning and knowledge creation.

Got iPads, but no time to discover the best apps?

If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by the number of apps available and not sure where to start with finding the best ones, you’re not alone!

Many librarians have told me that they feel

  • excited about having new iPads, but not sure of the best apps to recommend and use.
  • overwhelmed by the sheer number of apps available.
  • unsure where to start with finding and evaluating the best educational apps.
  • worried about the digital divide and the loss of access to information for all.

You might have new iPads in your library or school, but what are the best learning experiences you can create with them? You know that just throwing technology at a problem is NOT the way to go.

When you become “app-literate,” you serve your community by becoming their go-to expert on mobile apps.

When you become an app expert, you become the go-to person for your community—evaluating, reviewing and recommending the very best apps for knowledge creation and active learning. You gain influence in your community by designing innovative programs and services that use mobile apps for learning.


Why the move to mobile is an opportunity for librarians & educators

Why mobile devices are not just desktop replacements, how they are enabling better learning experiences, and why app-literacy is important.

Why Take This Course?
Smartphones are everywhere and there is an explosion of apps for productivity, research, reading, and studying. Librarians can better serve their communities by having expertise in mobile technologies. Take this course to learn about the best apps for library users, including Evernote, Dropbox, Inst…
"Apps4Librarians was a great online class experience. The video demos and lectures greatly enhanced the readings and self exploration. I appreciated all the practical tips Nicole included, as well as the insights of the other class members."  -  Michele Mizejewski, Web Initiatives Librarian, Univers…
Course objectives
By the end of the course, you should be: knowledgeable about some of the best apps in each category (reading, productivity, reference, multimedia) comfortable with using your mobile device and installing apps on it comfortable with updating your apps, both in iTunes and on your mobile device comfort…
Getting started

Read this for information on buying apps and getting technical support for your device.

Mobile operating systems - some things to know

Basic things to know about Google's Android and Apple's iOS.


Kindle mobile e-reading apps

Tips for using the Kindle apps, including how to get content from sources other than Amazon.

iBooks and iBooks Author books

In this video I discuss the iBooks app. I also show two multimedia books made with iBooks Author. These have embedded media such as slide shows and 3D images. Books shown include Frankenweenie and NYPL Point: Frankenstein, Making a Modern Monsterby the New York Public Library. You can get each of these titles for free on the iBookstore (iOS only).

Individual book apps: Beethoven's 9th Symphony by Touch Press

Many books are being published as individual apps. This allows them to take advantage of the multimedia features that apps can provide. Beethoven's 9th Symphony by Touch Press is an excellent example. For more multimedia book apps, see my resource guide, which lists many of these interactive book apps.

Borrowing ebooks from your library

Borrowing ebooks from your library using OverDrive and using Bluefire as an alternative reader.

Reading magazines: Zinio and Texture

Reading magazines on mobile devices with two excellent apps: Zinio and Texture (previously called "Next Issue").

Reading and annotating PDFs with iAnnotate PDF

iAnnotate is an excellent app for reading and annotating PDFs and other documents. Read this to learn about new features: https://www.branchfire.com/blog/2016/5/3/introducing-iannotate-4

Saving web pages to read later: Pocket

Use Pocket (Android or iOS) to save web pages for reading later. Another good option is Instapaper.  In the video I show how to save articles from your desktop web browser into your Pocket. You can also install a widget on your iPhone for the same purpose. Follow these instructions for Android.

Reading news feeds with Feedly

An excellent app for reading and organizing news feeds. Since I made this video, there are a couple of small changes. The button for adding more blogs is called "add content." 
To import a whole group of feeds from another reader, follow instructions here:
Click on this to import an OPML file: https://feedly.com/i/cortex

Reading news feeds with Flipboard

How to read news feeds with Flipboard, and how to curate content with Flipboard "magazines."

Readings about E-Reading

A few articles to get you thinking about e-reading and the future of books.


Cloud storage: Dropbox

Dropbox is one of the most popular cloud storage apps. I've been using it for a few years and love it. Box is also very good and is the recommended choice if your institution needs to be HIPAA-compliant. It works in exactly the same way as Dropbox. You could choose to use one or both of these apps -- they are both highly recommended.

NOTE: One thing has changed since I made this video. If you want to open a file in another app, look for the 3 dots menu, then select EXPORT, and then you will  see the "open in" choice, for opening the file in another app, like iBooks.

1Password - secure password manager

I've been using 1Password for years and I like it. The mobile app is free and the desktop versions cost money, so if you want a free password manager, try LastPass. I prefer 1Password because it has an easier interface and excellent help.

If you would like more information about how to set it up, you can download the 1Password worksheet (PDF) that I made for my other course, Organize Your Life with Mobile Apps.

Wunderlist - excellent to-do list app

There are many good to-do list apps. My favorite is Wunderlist. Watch these two videos to see why. Other very nice to-do apps are: Any.DoTodo, and Paperless. It's a personal choice -- they are all quite good. I use Wunderlist for my daily to-do lists, and I use Paperless for grocery lists, packing lists, and other misc. lists. I like all the cute and pretty icons that are included with Paperless -- it makes your list of lists easy to browse.

Wunderlist - creating list items
Evernote - organize all of your information

I use Evernote for keeping track of EVERYTHING in my life. I love it. It's like a digital file cabinet with great tagging, keywords, search, and folders. The only downside is that it's not designed for pretty formatting.

If you prefer an app that focuses on notes with beautiful formatting, try OneNote from Microsoft. 

Penultimate - handwritten notes

Penultimate is a useful app for handwritten notes and sketching.

Jotnot - document scanning

I've been using JotNot for years and I love having a scanner in my pocket. This video was made in 2012 and is still relevant. The way this app works is similar to how all the scanning apps work. JotNot is iOS only, so if you're on Android, try  Scanbot (Android and iOS).  https://scanbot.io/en/

Scanbot can also scan QR codes. Learn more about its features on their website. Find more apps for scanning different types of barcodes in this article:
Scan, Save, and Share with Handy QR Code and Barcode Scanners.

Red Laser - barcode scanning

Scan book barcodes, generate QR codes, and more with Red Laser.

Word processing with Apple's Pages app

Apple's iWork suite for Mac and iOS includes Pages for word processing, Numbers for spreadsheets, and Keynote for presentations. In this video I demo Pages.

Here is Apple's info about compatibility with Microsoft Office.

Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides

To see a quick overview of Google Docs and Google Sheets, watch this very short intro video from Lynda.com: http://www.lynda.com/Google-Docs-tutorials/Google-Docs-Sheets-iOS-First-Look/171723-2.html.

I like Google Docs and Google Sheets for iOS, but only for very basic tasks. For full features, it's better to use the desktop/web versions.

Google Slides is also available for both Android and iOS. It's not as feature-rich as Powerpoint or Keynote, but has some nice collaboration features. Read this review to learn more:

    It's worth trying them on your mobile device, to see what you think.

    Haiku Deck & Prezi for beautiful presentations

    Two more apps for making your presentations look interesting (no more boring PowerPoint!)

    Readings about productivity & writing
    1. The iPad for Academics  - Alex Golub 2. My iPad Day - Ann Kirschner 3. Apps: web apps or native apps? - Rob De Lorenzo 4. What Cloud Computing Means for the Real World - Keir Thomas 5.  Collecting, annotating & redistributing student work using an iPad, GoodReader & Dropbox  -  Greg Clinton 6. Re…

    Research & Reference

    Merriam-Webster Dictionary App

    A dictionary with voice search and audio pronunciations.

    Wikibot 2 - for Wikipedia

    Wikipedia now has its own official mobile app, and there are several other apps for Wikipedia. Currently, the official Wikipedia app is the only one that allows edits of Wikipedia from your mobile device.

    The others are worth exploring because they have useful features such as: saving pages to read offline, bookmarks, history of your searches, reading the article out loud, location awareness - see Wikipedia articles about places nearby, and more.

    If you are on Android, try LoboWiki, a similar app to Wikibot. It's getting good reviews.

    Wikilinks - a different kind of WIkipedia app

    Wikilinks has some unusual features that are interesting - a mind map view for related articles, links to related YouTube videos, and more.

    Wolfram Alpha - "computational knowledge engine"

    Wolfram Alpha calls itself a "computational knowledge engine." A useful reference app.

    Convertible - unit convertor

    Convertible is a unit convertor for currency and many other units (length, volume, etc.)

    Google Maps and Apple Maps

    A quick look at the features of Google Maps and Apple Maps.

    2017: To learn more about the latest features of Google Maps, watch this video: 8 Cool Google Maps Tricks And Hidden Features: https://youtu.be/nJDtaXBEIeQ 

    To learn about the latest features in Apple Maps, watch this video:
    Hands-On with iOS 10's Redesigned Maps App: https://youtu.be/3Pt7_aC_NzQ

    Duolingo - learn another language with this game app

    Duolingo makes language learning into a game.

    IMDb - Internet Movie Database

    IMDb for iOS and IMDb for Android are very useful reference tools for information about films.

    Chirp Birdsong USA+ - learning birdsongs

    Chirp Birdsong USA+ is a fun way to learn birdsongs. Versions of this app for Canada and Europe are also available.

    Subscription database apps: EBSCOhost, SpringerLInk & more

    Learn about a few sample apps in this category, including apps for finding open access scholarly articles.

    Papers 3 - citation management

    Learn about Papers 3 for citation management, plus links to a few other recommended apps in this category.

    Research & Reference - Readings
    1. Apple's guidelines for app developers are interesting to read, even if you aren't developing apps. They help you understand the care that Apple takes and what some of their goals are. Here are the first 4 sections of Apple's guidelines: (these are only 1-3 pages each) Introduction Platform Charac…


    Art viewing - Google Arts & Culture

    Google Arts and Culture is an amazing project that collects art from museums around the world. Get the app for either iOS or Android, and view the web version here:


    Watch this video to learn how it works -- it's long, so just the first 5-10 minutes is enough to get the idea. https://youtu.be/dFJZUlqy9HU

    It works basically the same way in the mobile apps as it does in your desktop browser. 

    MoMA and other museum apps

    Try searching the app stores for apps from your favorite museum. The best ones show many highlights from the collections, not just hours and basic information. This document has links to some of the apps from MoMA - Museum of Modern Art.

    Art creation - Bamboo Paper

    Use Bamboo Paper to draw on your iPad or Android tablet.

    Art creation - Adobe Illustrator Draw

    A very good drawing app.

    Comic Book

    Comic Book! (iOS) or Comic Strip Pro (Android)

    I made this video in 2012 and it's still current. The comic book creation apps I mention in the video are: Comic Book!, Comic Life, and Halftone. The video shows Comic Book!, one of the easiest to use, in my opinion.

    See their Twitter feed for links to what people have created with this app.

    If you are on Android, try Comic Strip Pro. 

    Apple Pencil with the iPad Pro

    Learn more about the Apple Pencil.

    More apps for painting and sketching

    If you are interested in going crazy with lots of painting and sketching apps for the iPad, check out this article:

    24 Best iPad Art Apps for Painting and Sketching.

    There are many other art apps for collage, 3D printing, sculpting, and more --- too many to go into for this course!

    DIptic - photo collages


    Diptic is one of many useful apps for making photo collages.

    Photoshop Express & Snapseed

    Two excellent photo editing apps for both iOS and Android.

    More photo editing apps

    More photo editing apps

    There are so many good photography apps these days that there could be an entire course on just those. If you're interested in using more of these apps, see 10 Best Photo Apps for iPhone Photography.

    SoundHound - music identification

    SoundHound (Android and iOS)

    SoundHound is an app that can listen to music playing nearby and identify it (if it's in their database).

    TuneIn Radio - streaming radio

    TuneIn Radio Pro (Android and iOS)

    TuneIn Radio is an app for listening to streaming radio stations from around the world. You can also use it to record specific programs and save them on your mobile device.

    Pandora Radio

    Pandora (Android and iOS)

    Pandora creates streaming radio stations based on particular songs or styles that you like, matching similar music by its metadata from the Music Genome Project.

    Bloom - music creation

    Bloom HD

    In addition to Apple's well-known GarageBand app, Bloom is an excellent, fun app for creating music.

    This video about Bloom is cropped from a longer video that I made in 2012, but it's still current and Bloom works in the same way. Bloom was created by Brian Eno.

    ThumbJam - music creation

    ThumbJam is a fun app for creating music.

    Apps for watching educational videos

    Watch free educational videos.

    Video editing

    Video editing: iMovie or VidTrim for Android

    To learn more about iMovie, see my: Editing Movies - iMovie (PDF).

    If you are on Android, VidTrim is recommended for editing movies.


    For a fun free video editing app from Apple (for social media sharing), try Clips.


    Podcasts (mostly audio and some video programs)

    Podcasts are a series of regularly published audio or video programs. They are almost always available for free.

     Apple's Podcasts can display audio or video podcasts.

    There are several other excellent podcast apps for both iOS and Android. Overcast gets rave reviews for iOS, but my favorite is Pocket Casts (with apps for both iOS and Android). Watch this short video review that recommends Overcast for iOS and Pocket Casts for Android. 

    Multimedia - Readings
    1. In defense of digital play - Andy Russell 2. Storytelling, creativity, and the new frontier of digital play - Andy Russell 3. See this blog for reviews of apps that push the boundaries of new media:      Creative Applications Network - iPhone apps   | iPad apps 4.  30 second video showing an arti…


    Accessibility features of mobile devices

    The good news is that accessibility features of mobile devices are making life easier for people with disabilities.

    There is a lot to learn in this area—it could be a whole course. So here’s a brief introduction with suggestions for learning more.

    Accessibility - Readings
    1. All Technology is Assistive Technology
    Why everyone should pay attention to disability matters.
    2. Re-Enabled: iOS's Impact on Those with Impairments isn't Just a Marketing Slide; It's Profound
    Good news about how iOS is working for those with disabilities.
    3. iOS: a wide range of features for a wide range of needs
    Get the overview of Apple's accessibility features for iOS.

    Keeping Up

    10 Tips for Finding the Best Apps

    Read this for ideas on the best ways to keep up with new apps and find the best ones.

    Learning more

    A list of resources for continuing your learning after the course.


    Your feedback

    I'd love to hear how you are using the information in this course.

    You can view and review the lecture materials indefinitely, like an on-demand channel.
    Definitely! If you have an internet connection, courses on Udemy are available on any device at any time. If you don't have an internet connection, some instructors also let their students download course lectures. That's up to the instructor though, so make sure you get on their good side!
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