Best Apps for Teaching & Learning 2013

The apps recognized as Best Apps for Teaching & Learning are of exceptional value to inquiry-based teaching and learning as embodied in the AASL's Standards for the 21st-Century Learner. The apps foster the qualities of innovation, creativity, active participation, and collaboration and are user friendly to encourage a community of learners to explore and discover.

Books

Bats! Furry Fliers of the Night by Story Worldwide

Level: Grades 1 - 5
Platform: iOS

Website

Bats! Furry Fliers of the Night layers clear text with interesting diagrams, beautiful photographs, and interactive features that enhance young readers' understanding of the subject. The design elements are top-notch, providing just the right amount of zing to keep kids engaged without distracting them from the essence of the material. A well-executed informative nonfiction app that anyone implementing the AASL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner and Common Core State Standards will find beneficial. This is what a book app should be, it takes you beyond the book with innovative technology related to the topic.

Tip: Springboard an inquiry unit using Bats! Furry Fliers of the Night as a motivation and tie-in with a trip to the zoo.

Al Gore – Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis by Al Gore by Push Pop Press

Level: Grades 5 – 12
Platform: iOS

Website

Al Gore's Our Choice is a rich, multimedia app investigating the climate crisis.  Gore published Our Choice: How We Can Solve the Climate Crisis in 2009 as a young readers’ edition of An Inconvenient Truth (2007). The app, released in September 2011, updates the books content, incorporating a variety of compelling information and engages both teens and adult audiences.

Tip: Librarians will want to use this app as they explore Common Core persuasive nonfiction, as well as point of view exercises with the in-depth material provided on the climate crisis. Pair the app with a fictional piece such as State of Fear by Michael Crichton, as well as other topical nonfiction.

Cinderella by Nosy Crow Limited

Level: Grades PreK – 3
Platform: iOS

Website

Nosy Crow’s Cinderella app engages young readers, encouraging them to explore and play with this original adaptation of the classic fairy tale. Beautiful illustrations draw readers right into the story, but the design keeps readers engaged as they explore the tap-activated dialog, scenes that extend beyond the screen, and narration that captures the playful tone of the story.

 

Tip: A perfect app to reinforce close reading and engagement as the reader is immersed in the story through tapping, swiping, dragging and dropping. Youngsters will find something new almost every time they read the story over and over again. 

 

Shakespeare In Bits – Hamlet by Mind Connex

Level: Grades 8 - 12
Platform: iOS (note: Android option only currently available in Europe)
 
Website

The Shakespeare in Bits: Hamlet app will appeal to students who want a visual sense of the story as they listen and read the play. This app combines an excellent full cast narration of the play with a rudimentary animated version enacted on half the iPad screen, while the full text of the play is on the other half. While it sounds cluttered, the design works very smoothly providing visual context for the reader. Each scene is broken into manageable chunks, helping students absorb and appreciate the original language of William Shakespeare.

Tip: MindConnex has the plays either available to purchase within the general Shakespeare in Bits app as in-app purchases, or individually. This individual option allows schools to purchase one play in bulk using volume discounts and avoiding marketing/social media links.

Fam Bam: Got to Have Music by See Here Studios

Level: Grades K - 3
Platform: iOS

Website

Featuring music and narration by rhythm-and-blues singer Brandy Norwood and her family, this app engages children with its playful tone, love of music and cartoon animation. This family all loves music, but everybody has their own favorites and doesn't want to listen to the others' music. What's a tight-knit fam bam to do? The conflict resolves with a fun twist as everyone learns to compromise.

Tip: Get kid’s creative juices flowing and have them write lyrics describing their own “FamBam.”

STEM

Science 360 by the National Science Foundation

Level: ALL (grades K-12)
Platform: iOS

Website

Science 360 is a science and engineering news app designed to engage the user in visual explorations through photos, videos, and text. There is new content added weekly by scientists, engineers, and the National Science Foundation. Teachers can email image and videos to integrate into lesson planning. Additionally, there is a built in news feed that keeps students and teachers up-to-date with the latest scientific discoveries. Science 360 provides the latest science videos from scientists, colleges and universities, science and engineering centers, the National Science Foundation, and more. The pictures, graphics, and videos are high quality and information is very well organized, easy to locate, and simple to use.

Tip: Have students explore Science 360 for possible science project ideas and explore current science in the news. 

NASA by NASA Ames Research Center

Level: ALL (grade K-12)
Platform: Android, iPhone, NASA HD for iPad

Website

Kids dream of exploring space and the NASA app helps make that a reality!  Users can travel through the universe and gain an in-depth understanding of the NASA role in space exploration.   Browse through current news and feature stories, view over 157,000 images, watch on-demand NASA video, read-up on current NASA mission information, explore NASA TV, listen to Third Rock Radio, and follow NASA's Twitter feed.

Quick Tip: What would you say to an astronaut in 140 characters or less?  Be sure to check out real-life Tweets from astronauts!

Operation Math by Spinlight

Level: Elementary & Middle (grades 3-8)
Platform: Android, iOS

Website

Description: Stop Dr. Odd from his quest to eliminate the world's even numbers by finding his secret bases and destroying his computer mainframes. To complete a mission and unlock rewards the player must answer a certain number of math questions in 60 seconds. Training rooms’ help students prepare for their timed mission.

Quick Tip: Utilize the training area to help students build skill and confidence before going on a mission.

Simple Physics by Jundroo, LLC

Level: Elementary & Secondary (grades 5-12)
Platform: Android, iOS

Website

SimplePhysics lets you design complex structures for everything from tree houses to Ferris Wheels. Verify the structural integrity of your design with a stress design. Great engineering is not enough, however - keep your project under budget to win the game!

Quick Tip:  Familiarize yourself with the app by using the Walkthrough, Cheats, and Strategy Guide available online. Apply your learning and build a model of your Simple Physics structure. 

Tinkerbox by Autodesk Inc.

Level: Grades 3-9
Platform: iOS

Website

If you can imagine it, you can build it with TinkerBox. TinkerBox is a free, fun, educational engineering and physics puzzle game. It is full of interesting science facts and teaches basic engineering concepts. In Puzzle mode, players are given a task to complete. In Invent mode, students use trial and error to arrange and re-arrange elements until they design a successful solution. Students are encouraged to explore their creativity and imagination to build outrageous machines (think Rube Goldberg), and share them with friends. Students can also email their inventions to the developer to possibly be included on the game's website. This is a very engaging app that stimulates creative problem solving.

Quick Tip: Build your familiarity with TinkerBox by mastering the Puzzle mode.  Once you are an expert, what is the most outrageous machine you can think of??? Will it solve a real-life engineering conundrum?

Organization & Management

EasyBib by Imagine Easy

Grade Level: Grades 5 and Up
Platform: Android, iOS

Website

Citations can be the bane of existence for some. The EasyBib app provides students and teachers with a tool allowing them to create properly formatted MLA, APA, and Chicago style citations. Users can build, organize and manage their works cited by simply scanning the barcode on a book or typing in the title.  The agony of remembering where that comma or period goes is finally over.  Hooray!   

Quick Tip: Build a list of books you have read (or want to read) by scanning the barcode. Great way to explore the publishers of ALA!

Dropbox by Dropbox

Grade Level: Grades 3 and Up
Platform: Android, iOS

Website

How many have issues sending files via email?  PowerPoints that crash your mailbox; photos your mother sent to you…now that she has finally learned how to add an attachment; PDF’s of the manuscript of the next War and Peace.  The Dropbox is the answer to your prayers to the email box gods.  This app allows you to save, access, and share photos, documents, and videos digitally on a variety of mobile devices.

Quick Tip: Dropbox is great tool for students to use during collaborative projects; it is private and can sync with accounts on both mobile devices and online.

Evernote

Grade Level: Grades 5 and Up
Platform: Android, iOS

Website

If organization is not you or your student’s strongest characteristic, the Evernote app is the solution.  The Evernote app helps students stay organized by quickly adding notes, creating to-do lists, and reminders.  The app also has the ability to capture photographs and voice recordings.  Evernote is fully integrated with the most popular social media tools including Facebook, Dropbox, Pinterest, Skype and even Linkedin making sharing resources simple.

Quick Tip: Organize your life! Tag your notes for easy search and discoverability. 

Schoology

Grade Level: All Grades
Platform: Android, iOS

Website

The Schoology app allows teachers and students to stay connected 24/7 to their learning management system. Assignments can be assigned, submitted, graded, and returned on-the-go.  Teachers can create messages, task lists, and keep everyone informed. An ideal tool for organization in today’s education environment.

Quick Tip: Students can view assignments, collaborate with their peers, and get assistance on a variety of mobile devices.

Socrative

Grade Level: All Grades
Platform: Android, iOS

Website

The Socrative app turns devices into student response clickers providing an engaging way for students to participate and interact in the learning experience. Socrative provides teachers real-time feedback and allows assessment to be an integral and immediate part of the instructional experience.

Quick Tip: Teachers can use the Socrative app to collect assessment data that can be sent to them as a Google spreadsheet or an Excel file.

Social Sciences

Ansel & Clair’s Adventures in Africa by Cognitive Kid, Inc.

Level: K-5
Platform: iPad and iPhone

Website

This game-based app takes players on an African adventure. Led by inter-galactic explorers Ansel and Clair, participants explore the Sahara, Serengeti, and Nile Valley regions. While on a mission to take pictures and locate pieces of their broken spaceship, Marley, the team learns about the geography, ecosystems, history, science, and animals of Africa.

Quick Tip: Explore the ecosystems in the daytime and nighttime to experience different animal encounters.

Barefoot World Atlas by Barefoot Books

Level: Elementary (grades K-6)
Platform: iPad and iPhone

Website

This app, is based on the book of the same name, allows users to explore the globe and learn interesting facts about various countries. In a colorful cartoon-like globe with attractive animated icons, children can use pinch and swipe motions to zero in on select parts of the world. As they zero in on specific countries, regional music begins to play. Users can access country statistics and other information, such as the current time and weather, currency conversion, and distance from one's location.

Quick Tip: This app can be used with different grade levels, depending on the depth of wanted information.

Britannica Kids: Ancient Egypt by Britannica

Level: Elementary (grades K-6)
Platform: iOS

This app combines reference information about ancient Egypt with engaging learning activities. Topics include information about the everyday life of ancient Egyptians, their beliefs in religion and the afterlife, the importance of the Nile River to their culture, hieroglyphic writing, and the Dynasties of Egypt. Gamification elements include interactive jigsaw puzzles, maps, memory games, brush-off guessing games, and Magic Square mixed-up images.

Quick Tip: Kick off an inquiry unit of Ancient Egypt; Have students build their own background knowledge using Britannica Kids. And, do not forget to check out the entire set of science and social science apps in the Britannica Kids suite of apps.

MyCongress by ObjectiveApps, LLC

Level: Secondary (grades 6-12)
Platform: iOS

This app provides in depth information about Congress. It allows students to research the latest issues in Congress or follow Congress members through Twitter feeds, news articles and You Tube videos. It links to each member's website, contact information, and Open Congress, a resource for following the voting patterns of Congressmen.

Quick Tip: Use the auto-locate feature, if you are at home, to easily find your own congressional representative.

News-o-Matic, Daily for Kids by Press4Kids

Level: Grades 2-6
Platform: iOS

Website

This news app provides images, videos and maps to accompany five daily news stories. An interactive map with quirky facts, puzzles, games, and the NewsRoom are all features that engage students in current events. Articles are reviewed by child psychologists before publication to ensure content is age-appropriate.

Quick Tip: Expose students to current events; help them develop critical thinking skills, understand point of view, and provide opportunities to read variety of informational text…all features of the Common Core Learning Standards.  

Content Creation

Educreations by Educreations, Inc.

Level: K-12
Platform: iOS

Website

"Teach what you know. Learn what you don't." is the motto of Educreations. Turn your iPad into a recordable white board to teach concepts from all areas of the curriculum. Lessons can be saved and shared via multiple platforms after they have been created using the iPad app or your browser. Lessons that other educators and students have created are available as well.

Quick Tip: Engage students in your content by having them explain concepts using the Educreations whiteboard. They can teach one another, review concepts, and create book talks using this interactive app.

Toontastic by Launchpad Toys

Level: K-5 (ages 5-10)
Platform: iOS

Website

Characters and backgrounds come to life while students record their own stories with Toontastic. Original drawings and art can also be animated and turned into cartoons and then shared with classmates, friends, and family members.

Quick Tip: Students can create their own animated cartoons to write stories, animate concepts, and share their ideas.

 
KidBlog by Kidblog
 
Level: K-12
Platform: iOS
 
 
Kidblog is designed for K-12 teachers who want to provide each student with an individual blog. Students publish posts and participate in academic discussions within a secure classroom blogging community. Students can write for an authentic audience in a safe environment. The interface is easy to use and student-friendly with choice of themes. Posts can be kept private within the "class" or made public. This blogging platform allows teachers to monitor all publishing activity within the classroom blogging community.

Quick Tip: Students become authors with Kidblog. They can share content, communicate with one another, and work cooperatively to publish their ideas.

 
GarageBand by Apple
 
Level: K-12
Platform: iOS

Website

Using GarageBand, your iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch turn into a recording studio with a variety of touch instruments including pianos, organs, drums, guitars, and basses. This app also allows the user to record a performance and then mix the tracks to create and share songs.

Quick Tip: Simple instructions for making a podcast with GarageBand can easily be found online. 

Videolicious by Talk Market, Inc.

Level: K-12
Platform: iOS

Website

This easy-to-use video editing app allows users to easily create a polished video in three steps, Choose content [photos or video clips from your camera roll], record your own narrative to elaborate on the images/video, select music from the Videolicious copyright-free library and the software will automatically trim, layer, and mix your shots into a professional-looking video.

Quick Tip: High-resolution, horizontal photos work best.