Best Apps for Teaching & Learning 2015

aasl best app 2015 logo

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

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David Wiesner's Spot by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt / David Wiesner

Level: Early Elementary (K-2)
Platform: iOS money icon

Website external link icon

Three-time Caldecott Medalist David Wiesner turns users into explorers – explorers of the many complex layers of Spot as they zoom closer and closer into the illustrations and discover unseen worlds, which, in turn, beg to be further investigated. They will delight in dust bunnies that hop when touched, welding ladybugs, a family of insects enjoying a winter day, and a host of other unexpected surprises.

Tip: Spot is full of story starter after story starter. Students can explore an island and then write a story explaining what is occurring in this imaginative environment. 

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Incredible Numbers by Ian Stewart / Touchpress Limited

Level: Middle School, High School
Platform: iOS money icon

Website external link icon

Professor Ian Stewart guides students through an amazing variety of mathematical concepts and topics. Included are 23 articles and 71 interactive demonstrations that bring mathematics to life. Students will learn about fascinating topics suchs as breaking codes, the mystery of Pi, and how numbers work in nature.

Tip: Use Incredible Numbers to enrich math learning as students work to complete on of Professor Ian Stewart's famous puzzles.

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Loose Strands by Darned Socks Production

Level: Upper Elementary (3-5) 
Platform: iOS money icon |  Android money icon

Website external link icon

Loose Strands will appeal to fans of Choose Your Own Adventure books. A wry story is created as readers follow along and choose their desired outcomes. Strands of hair guide the way through the story and branch off when choices must be made. A fun feature is a map that shows the path that has been taken as well as outcomes blocked by the choices already made.

Tip: Encourage students to refer to the map when making decisions and in order to keep track of where they have been. 

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Seamus Heaney: Five Fables by Touchpress Limited

Level: Upper Elementary (3-5) 
Platform: iOS money icon

Website external link icon

Scot poet Robert Henryson's adaptations of five Aesop fables are brought into the modern age with this app. Students will be able to look at the original language, as well as modern English while at the same time viewing animations of the fables.

Tip: Students can compare Aesop's version of each fable to the Scot version and the modern language version to learn more about changes due to culture and how storytelling varies from country to country.

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The UnStealer by The Happy Dandelion

Level: Early Elementary (K-2), Upper Elementary (3-5)
Platform: iOS money icon  |  Android money icon

Website external link icon

The Unstealer is a creative story that teaches the meaning of the prefix un-. Follow along as a stealthy thief turns an unhappy day around and makes an unconfident girl confident again.  Interactive features make this app unbelievable and one that shouldn’t be unintentionally ignored. 

Tip: What stories can students create using other prefixes? Challenge them to write their own!

STEM

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Algodoo by Algoryx

Level: Upper Elementary (3-5), Secondary (6-8), High School 
Platform: iOS

Website external link icon

Algodoo uses 2D simulations to create scenes and allow users to experiment with physics concepts through the building of interactive inventions or games. Algodoo has great video tutorials to help beginners explore and understand the tools and menus. Algodoo has a large community of online users share their projects and teachers can register for access to physics lessons.

Tip: The online videos are a great help for beginners. Also be sure to check out the "Learn It" tips on the Algodoo website.

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iBiome-Wetland by Springbay Studio

Level: Upper Elementary (3-6)
Platform: iOS money icon

Website external link icon

This app allows students to explore 3 different wetland habitats (mangrove swamp, saltwater marsh, freshwater marsh) by building bio domes. Within each bio dome students learn about food webs and the interaction between plants and over 50 species of animals. The goal is to build the optimum environment for the survival of both plants and animals.  Students are rewarded with badges as incentives. This app is highly interactive with hand drawn animations.

Tip: See what happens when you add extra of one species to your biome. Students will see right away how species depend on one another and how easy it is for an ecosystem to get off-balance.

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Motion Math Educator Suite by Motion Math

Level: Elementary (1-5)
Platform: iOS money icon

Website external link icon

This suite of 6 games covers elementary math skills from addition & subtraction to multiplication & division, to fractions and decimals. My students’ current favorite is Motion Math Pizza, where they build and sell pizzas to hungry customers, setting the prices and seeing how basic economic principles work.

Tip: Students can adjust the level of the each game to make it challenging but fun. Click on the pause button and adjust the level. This makes a game like Hungry Fish great for young 1st graders just learning addition facts and older 3rd graders needing to work on increasing their mental math speed.

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My Incredible Body by Zybright / Visible Body

Level: Upper elementary (3-5), Secondary (6-8)
Platform: iOS  money icon |  Android money icon

Website external link icon

My Incredible Body lets kids learn about human anatomy through the exploration of medically accurate 3D models and animations. The models can be “dissected” for more in-depth study. Explanations are kid-friendly - using language and comparisons that younger students can understand. Short animations are used to explain the body systems in greater detail. Very engaging app - you can even “fly” virtually through the body systems.

Tip: 

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WWF Together by World Wildlife Fund

Level: Upper Elementary (3-5), Secondary (6-8)
Platform: iOS  |  Android  |  Kindle Fire

Website external link icon

WWF Together is beautifully designed app to help teach students about different endangered animals. It uses high-quality photographs, interesting interactive design elements to help students discover different information about specific animal species. It provides both a way into launching a study of endangered species, as well as a way to learn more detailed information.

Tip: Have students explore WWF Together as part of animal research reports. The blend of multimedia resources will engage many students.

Organization & Management

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Kahoot by Kahoot

Level: All
Platform: iOS  |  Android

Website external link icon

On Kahoot you can create a quiz or a survey that your students respond to through any device that has a web browser (iPhone, iPad, Android device, Chromebook). Your Kahoot questions can include pictures and videos.

Tip: As the teacher you can control the pace of the Kahoot quiz or survey by imposing a time limit for each question. As students answer questions they are awarded points for correct answers and the timeliness of their answers. A scoreboard is displayed on the teacher's screen.

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Remind by Remind 101 Inc.

Level: All
Platform: iOS  |  Android

Website external link icon

Remind offers teachers a free, safe and simple way to instantly text students & parents. Teachers, coaches, or administrators can send reminders, assignments, homework, assessments, or motivational messages directly to  students' & parents' phones. Including: regular text messages, voice clips and attachments. You can also schedule texts. Messaging is safe because phone numbers are kept private

Tip: Use Remind daily to brief parents on whether their children did well in class and what their homework is for the night. 

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Seesaw by SeeSaw Inc.

Level: All
Platform: iOS  |  Android

Website external link icon

Seesaw is a student-driven digital portfolio that empowers students (as young as 5!) to independently create, capture, and store artifacts of learning. Seesaw allows educators to collect and Organize digital and physical work in one place.

Tip: Give students ownership of their own space to create & record what they learn. Students can add text and voice recordings to journal items to reflect, explain, and develop their academic voice. A great teacher resources section is available on the Seesaw site.

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Skitch by Evernote

Level: All
Platform: iOS  |  Android

Website external link icon

Skitch is a free app that helps you communicate visually with friends, co-workers, and the world. Can markup and edit images.- can add text, highlight, blur, arrows, sticker to mark images.

Tip: Share a diagram of the earth’s layers and have students label it with you.

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Spider Scribe Jr. by 5pm

Level: Upper elementary (3-5) and Up
Platform: iOS

Website external link icon

SpiderScribe Jr. is a mind mapping and brainstorming tool. It lets you organize your ideas by connecting notes, images and geographic locations in free-form maps.

Tip: The app can be used offline - it does not require internet connection, unless you need to email your map to someone.

Social Sciences

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Amazing World Atlas by Lonely Planet

Level: Elementary
Platform: iOS

Website external link icon

Amazing World Atlas is created by Lonely Planet to explore and learn about world geography. It includes flag and capital information in interactive games, quizzes, and exploration tools.

Tip: Use Amazing World Atlas as a more interactive way to do research on world geography, including continents, countries and cities. You can also use this app to review world geography unit, playing games and taking quizzes.

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Digital Public Library of America (DPLA)

Level: Middle and High School
Platform: iOS  |  Andriod

Website external link icon

Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) brings together the riches of America’s libraries, archives, museums, and cultural heritage sites making them freely available to students and teachers. 

Tip: DPLA is project-based learning at its best. Use the open DPLA API and have your students develop apps.

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Ripped Apart: A Civil War Mystery by Smithsonian Institution 

Level: Upper Elementary and Middle School
Platform: iOS

Website external link icon

Ripped Apart is developed by the Smithsonian and uses an inquiry-based approach to teach students about the Civil War.It incorporates primary documents and photographs. Users must solve puzzles to unlock clues and add notes to their journal.

Tip: Use this app as a fun way to introduce upper elementary-high school students to the resources available through the Smithsonian Institute, while also reinforcing Civil War content. The app makes students use the resources to solve a mystery.

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Think Like Churchill by TouchPress Limited

Level: Middle and High School
Platform: iOS money icon

Website external link icon

This high interest history app gives students an opportunity to see events through the eyes of Winston Churchill. After an introduction from London Mayor Boris Johnson, readers may select from six pivotal events from the life of the Winston Churchill. At the end of each story, readers are asked to weigh options and make decisions based on what they think is the right. Students receive feedback and their choices are analyzed compared to Churchill’s actions and character traits such as humility, judgment and belief in others.

Tip: Think Like Churchill is perfect for role playing and decision making in middle school or high school history classes. Use the app to lead to rich discussions.

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Touch Van Gogh by Stichting Van Gogh Museum

Level: Upper Elementary, Middle, and High School
Platform: iOS

Website external link icon

Touch Van Gogh is a multi-layered art history app that examines six paintings by Vincent Van Gogh. Users may explore the location, history, style and composition of the paintings. Students will enjoy rubbing the screen to reveal art hidden under some of the paintings as they discover that Van Gogh recycled his canvases.

Tip: This is an an excellent app for art classes studying composition, color, style, media and Van Gogh's works. Tap on the arrow on the right side of the screen to open up a window containing information about the painting. 

Content Creation

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Adobe Voice by Adobe Systems

Level: All
Platform: iOS

Website external link icon

Simple, elegant tool for creating stories by recording voice over your own images or a library of themes, images, fonts and music. Anyone can create beautiful presentations with virtually no learning curve.

Tip: Going on a field trip? Have a big event in the library or at school? Ask students to take pics and have a camera roll ready for the storytelling to come.

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Buncee for Edu by Buncee LLC

Level: Early Elementary and Middle School
Platform: iOS

Website external link icon

Create beautiful digital stories using audio recordings and libraries of background and stickers. Wizards support beginners' efforts.  

Tip: Record your voice and share a model project as a way to explain assignments to parents and with younger students or use for announcements. Check the buncee blog for loads of ideas for integrating buncees into curriculum. 

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Glogster by Glogster

Level: All
Platform: iOS

Website external link icon

This favorite web-based interactive poster tool is even better as an app, because of the drag-and-drop Glog canvas. There's an impressive library of educational graphics, categorized by subject, as well as handy templates and a sweet collection of text displays. Finished Glogs are sharable on Pinterest, Facebook, or may be tweeted, emailed or exported.  Saved glogs are instantly synced and available online. A button links glog creators to Glogpedia, a template library of thousands of categorized Glogs from classrooms around the world. 

Tip: Inquiry projects can be enhanced by creating a network of linked Glogs--one might be devoted to the thesis, others--the evidence, another--the conclusion.

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LEGO Movie Maker by The LEGO Group

Level: All
Platform: iOS

Website external link icon

Create your own stop-motion movie with this intuitive app that makes it easy to stage LEGOs and other objects, take multiple pictures and bring them to life as a sophisticated animation.

Tip: Have your students use this app to set up stop motion films. Have students place characters in historic or book character scenes.

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Pixel Press Floors by Pixel Press

Level: Intermediate, Secondary
Platform: iOS

Website external link icon

This social gaming/problem solving app inspires kids to create (literally draw) and share their own video games. Drawings, build on the 14 creator elements, are captured by the app and immediately transformed into playable games. Creators get feedback about how often their games are played.

Tip: Check out the one- or five-day Design Thinking curricula, complete with rubrics and brainstorming handouts. Keep sketch sheets around for spontaneous maker activity!

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