Education—there’s an app for that. In fact, there are hundreds of thousands of apps on the market designed for teaching and learning. As more schools bring tablets into the classroom, educators like Genia Connell are finding that apps are game changers.
“I have yet to see anything in education that generates excitement and motivates students the way tablets do,” says the third-grade teacher from Leonard Elementary School in Troy, Michigan. Connell points to e-reading apps like Storia that not only engage students but also level the playing field for struggling readers. “Differentiation has become easier with apps because so many of them have built-in levels of complexity.”
By many accounts, some of the most powerful education apps are used for teaching reading and supporting differentiation for students with disabilities. But their capabilities are endless. Developers have created easy-to-use programs that serve as learning platforms for students and as organization tools for teachers. Here are 50 fabulous apps that are helping to change the face of education.
This Scholastic e-reader app is designed just for kids. Books are embedded with questions, learning activities, and pop-up dictionary definitions. The app download comes with five free books; additional books can be purchased and added to a student’s bookshelf.
iOS and Android. Free.
Tales2Go is an audiobook app that provides access to more than 2,000 titles. “Its wide selection of audiobooks, both classic and popular, has made listening to reading fun and engaging,” says Dawn French, library and media specialist at Edinbrook Elementary School in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. iOS. $99.99 annual subscription for 5 licenses.
Super Duper StoryMaker
Primary students can craft their own stories using text, images, photos, sounds, and drawings. Stories can be saved, printed out, and e-mailed to friends. iOS. $4.99.
Jessica Millberg, school library media specialist at Central Early Childhood Center in Deptford, New Jersey, loves to use Super Why! with kindergartners and first graders. “It’s easy to navigate for little hands and it addresses rhyming words, letter identification, spelling, word building, and sentence completion,” she says.
iOS and Android. $2.99.
Toontastic provides kids with a structured story arc and 40 “playsets” of characters and story worlds so that they can create their own animated stories. They can use drawing tools, and incorporate images, photos, music, and voice narration. iOS. Free; $12.99 for access to all playsets.
Handwriting Without Tears: Wet-Dry-Try
Students use a virtual slate chalkboard to practice forming numbers and capital letters using the Wet-Dry-Try approach. Students first trace the letter with a wet sponge, then with a dry paper towel, and finally with a piece of chalk. iOS and Android. $4.99.
If you thought grammar couldn’t be fun, you’ve never tried Grammar Jammers. It’s a series of three apps designed for different levels—Primary, Elementary, and Middle—that teach grammar skills in a game format.
iOS. $2.99 (primary edition is free).
My Math Flash Cards
There’s no need for old-fashioned flash cards anymore. With My Math, students can practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. “This app is great for students who are mastering basic facts or for students who need additional practice,” says Erin Muschla-Berry, a seventh-grade math teacher at Monroe Township Middle School in New Jersey. iOS and Android. Free.
A similar flash-card math app exists just for Android. CardDroid allows you to customize colorful flash cards to meet specific students’ needs. The app features timed tests and interactive rewards for users.
Educreations is an all-purpose app that records both writing and voice. Jennie Magiera, a digital learning coordinator in Chicago, has her students write and explain their thinking as they solve math problems. “Screen-casting metacognition is invaluable,” she says. iOS. Free.
Reinforce addition and multiplication skills with Sushi Monster. “This app is a favorite with my math students who love a challenge because the difficulty level really escalates as they make their way through the levels,” says Troy, Michigan, teacher Genia Connell. iOS. Free.
Everyday Mathematics Equivalent Fractions
This isn’t your ordinary game of solitaire. Students must draw from the card pile and match equivalent fractions. They earn points for each match they make. iOS and Android. $1.99.
Motion Math: Hungry Guppy
The youngest students can practice counting and simple addition by feeding numbers to the hungry guppy. A similar version of the app, Hungry Fish, is aimed at elementary-age students. iOS. $3.99.
Happy Little Farmer
Designed for preschool-age learners, the app covers the entire life cycle of plants. Kids can grow their own fruits and vegetables, play games, and collect stickers along the way. iOS. $1.99.
BrainPOP: Featured Movie
Access BrainPOP’s huge library of videos, spanning all content areas. Science videos address topics in earth, life, and physical sciences, including weather, space, and physics.
iOS and Android. Free app; $6.99 for full-access subscription.
Smithsonian’s National Zoo
Take a virtual field trip to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Watch live-streaming videos of its residents and read about each species, from aardvark to zebra. iOS and Android. $1.99.
Nearpod allows teachers to deliver presentations to students’ tablets and collect responses. Karen Darroch, a fourth-grade teacher at Green Valley Elementary School in Hoover, Alabama, who uses Nearpod across the curriculum, says it’s particularly handy for creating interactive presentations in the sciences. iOS. Free.
Students in grades 4 and up can use this app for research and projects. Access news, photos, videos, mission information, and more from the country’s leading authority on space. iOS and Android. Free.
Aimed at a middle school audience, this app offers an alternative to physical dissection. Students learn about dissection tools, as well as a frog’s anatomy and organs. A quiz follows at the end. iOS. $3.99.
Geography Drive USA
“Buckle up,” says third-grade teacher Kristin Ram, of P.S. 128 Audubon in New York City. “This app makes geography fun—students drive customized cars across the country, learning about landmarks, historical events, and other state features. The game also has built-in incentives—students love filling up their learning tanks!” iOS. $4.99.
Ansel and Clair: Paul Revere’s Ride
Join Paul Revere on his midnight ride. This interactive learning experience teaches students about the people and key events that sparked the American Revolution. iOS. $4.99.
Search by zip code to access the names and profiles of your representatives in Congress. The app links to videos, news, social media sites, and contact information for each representative. iOS. Free.
Learn the World
No passport required to take this global trek. Learn the World tests students’ knowledge of countries, capitals, and continents. By completing multiple-choice quizzes, they can earn flags of countries from around the globe.
Disney American Presidents
Learn about every president, from George Washington to Barack Obama, by flipping through the Unofficial Oval Office Scrapbook. Embedded in its pages are profiles, videos, and little-known facts about each commander-in-chief. iOS. $3.99.
Music & Art
Andrew Goldberg, a music teacher at P.S. 117 in New York City, has formed an iPad band for his students with
special needs. “They can play melodies, chords, and rhythms on a realistic touch-screen keyboard, guitar, or drum set,” he says. “Because I teach in a special needs environment, the adaptability that GarageBand for iPad offers is essential.” iOS. $4.99
Young students can make their own masterpieces using pencils, markers, paint, stamps, patterns, and a variety of other tools. They’ll love Mirror Mode and mixing colors.
Let’s Create! Pottery
Have your students create ceramics—without the mess! Put your clay on the virtual pottery wheel and start to craft. You can even glaze and fire your pottery to perfection. iOS. $4.99.
MoMA Art Lab
Young Picassos in grades 2 and up can investigate how modern artists use line, shape, and color, with examples from the Museum of Modern Art’s collection. Then they can use the app’s drawing tools to create, save, and share their own works of modern art. iOS. $2.99.
Have students practice pitch identification and sight-reading skills with one-, five-, or ten-minute quizzes. The app lets you work on the treble clef, bass clef, or both. iOS and Android. Free.
Teach basic keyboard skills using this app. Virtuoso Piano has several handy features, including duet mode. Additional instruments can be purchased within the app for $0.99 each. iOS. Free.
Super Duper: WH Question Cards Pro
Speech and language pathologist Jenna Rayburn of Columbus, Ohio, uses her iPad with students on a daily basis. Apps like WH Questions Cards “eliminate the need to carry sets of articulation cards or language worksheets from classroom to classroom,” she says. iOS. $11.99.
“The iPad isn’t a magic bullet, but for some of our students, it really is,” says Leslie Schecht, a director of technology with New York City public schools. She recommends apps like AutismXpress, which helps students match expressions with emotions. iOS and Android. $1.99.
“Choiceworks is valuable in creating visual supports for students who have a variety of needs,” says Bill Thompson, a school psychologist with the Orange County Department of Education in California. “The program allows teachers and parents to construct visual schedules using their own pictures or ones from its library.”
Sono Flex is for students who are nonverbal or have communication difficulties. It allows them to express themselves with the touch of a finger. Students can tap words and pictures from the app’s glossary, and the tablet will say their selections out loud. iOS and Android. $99.99.
This voice recognition app is most useful for students with fine motor difficulties or physical impairments that make writing or typing challenging. Simply speak into the microphone and the words appear on screen.
This animated storytelling app tells stories in American Sign Language. With each book read, students can add words to their video dictionary. The app and first story are free; additional stories can be purchased separately for $5 to $7 apiece. iOS. Free.
Scholastic Classroom Ideas to Go!
Search by subject and grade through more than 1,200 lesson ideas from Instructor magazine. Save your favorites in your personal library. iOS. $0.99.
Socrative is a clicker-response system similar to those used with interactive whiteboards. One app is downloaded on students’ tablets and another on the teacher’s. Students respond to multiple-choice, short-answer, and quiz-game questions; results are displayed as bar graphs and can be exported as reports.
iOS and Android. Free.
Common Core Standards
ELA and math Common Core State Standards are organized by grade level. “All of the standards are at your fingertips on this easy-to-use app with search capabilities,” says Troy, Michigan, teacher Genia Connell. iOS and Android. Free
Common Core ConceptBANK
This app not only lets you navigate the K–5 Common Core standards in ELA and math, it also features sample questions for the standards. It seems intuitive to pair it with ScootPad, an app from the same developer that facilitates individual student practice in reading and math.
iOS and Android. Free.
TeacherKit (formerly known as TeacherPal) is a personal organizer designed for the classroom. Create class lists, take attendance, enter grades, manage student data, make seating charts, monitor behavior, and more.
Too Noisy Pro
Looking for a way to teach your students exactly what an “inside voice” is? Set the app to the maximum acceptable noise level for your classroom. When it’s exceeded, the app will respond with an alarm.
Super Duper Data Tracker
Monitor students’ progress with the tap of a finger. This app allows you to enter students’ names and their academic and behavioral goals. During each session with the student, you can add data and notes about progress. iOS and Android. $1.99.
Enter real-time data about student behavior by assigning points for teamwork, creativity, and more. Information can be shared with parents and other staff members. iOS. Free.
Communication & Organization
“This app gives students the ability to create collaborative documents and presentations,” says Alice Barr, a technology integrator at Yarmouth High School in Maine. “Drive also serves as a backup for documents and allows for storing photos and files.” Free accounts come with 5GB of storage. iOS and Android. Free.
Send text-message reminders about homework, tests, and special events to students and parents—all without students seeing your phone number, and vice versa. iOS and Android. Free.
Evernote is an all-utility tool for note-taking. Cathy Wolinsky, instructional technology teacher at Yarmouth Elementary School in Maine, has fourth graders create their own Evernote accounts on their tablets. “They are working on combining photos, writing, and voice notes to create multimedia projects,” she says.
iOS and Android. Free.
Combine still photos and video footage to make creative slide shows in minutes. The app includes easy-to-use templates and a large library of free music. Educators are given access to unlimited videos, which can be exported to e-mails, blogs, and more.
iOS and Android. Free.
Edmodo is a social media platform that facilitates communication between teachers and students. Users can hold discussions, submit assignments, and post messages to one another. Planning and grading features are also available. iOS and Android. Free
The possibilities for integrating Skype into the classroom are endless. Connect with parents for virtual conferences or correspond with e–pen pals across the globe. A number of authors and experts offer class visits via Skype. iOS and Android. Free.
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