Best Apps for Teaching & Learning 2016

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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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Epic! Unlimited Books for Kids by Epic! Creations, Inc.

Level: Elementary
Platform: iOS | Android

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Thousands of e-books and audiobooks are available to students in the Epic! app. Books include picture books, graphic novels, biographies, nonfiction, mysteries and more. Educators may set up free accounts so their students may easily access the books on their devices. Educational videos are also part of Epic! Families may subscribe to Epic for a low monthly fee.

Tip: Teachers may set up individual profiles for their students for creating digital reading logs and to keep track of students' reading preferences. 

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Ryan North’s To Be or Not to Be by Tin Man Games

Level: Middle and High School
Platform: iOS money icon | Android money icon

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Ryan Noth gives Shakespeare a steampunk twist in this humorous and appealing story that is loosely based on Hamlet with lots of extraneous pirates thrown in and totally twisted alternative story lines. Readers can choose to experience the story from the perspective of Hamlet, Ophelia or King Hamlet’s viewpoint. If the reader follows a skull icon when making plot choices, the reader will come close to following Shakespeare’s original plotline. This app was funded by a record-setting Kickstarter campaign.

Tip: Use this app to help frame a discussion of how Shakespeare’s works have been adapted over time and how viewpoint and setting impact a story. 

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The Voyages of Aladdin and Sinbad by Belmontis Publishers

Level: Upper Elementary and Middle School
Platform: iOS money icon

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Readers will be mesmerized by this interactive choose your own adventure app. Readers may choose from three languages: Chinese, Spanish or English.Using nonlinear storytelling, readers use a map to move around the stories of Aladdin and Sinbad with the goal of locating the magic lamp. Beautiful collage illustrations along with music and sound effects make this an exciting read for upper elementary and middle school students.

Tip: Read the book app with ELL classes or as a part of an English unit on traditional literature.

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Metamorphabet by Vectorpark

Level: Elementary
Platform: iOS money icon | Android money icon

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The alphabet “comes to life” and will capture the attention of readers of all ages in this animated alphabet book. As readers interact with the images, letters “morph” into engaging animations, depicting often rich and challenging vocabulary words. This is a book readers will not want to put down.

Tip: While suitable for elementary students, this sophisticated book could also be used with older ELL students to build and enrich vocabulary. 

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Professor Astro Cat’s Solar System by Minilab Ltd.

Level: Elementary
Platform: iOS money icon | Android money icon

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Blast off with Professor Astro Cat and learn about stars, planets and outer space. Readers may test their knowledge in "jetpack challenges." Earn medals and parts to build a rocket for correctly answering questions and completing tasks. Bold, retro illustrations and the lovable character of Professor Astro Cat make learning about science fun for kids in this interactive book app.

Tip: Use this app to reinforce ideas in science class or to kick off a study of the solar system.

STEM

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The Foos by codeSpark

Level: Elementary
Platform: iOS | Android

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Play a game while learning how to code. The Foos teaches younger students concepts such as sequencing, loops, and conditionals in an interactive, engaging game format - no reading necessary. The Foos are fun little characters that follow series of commands to instruct them how to move (jump, walk, etc.). The game teaches a way of thinking that increases problem-solving skills, and students can design their own game in the Foo Studio. Even though it’s designed for ages 5 to 10, older students love it too!

Tip: Video tutorials available to help students make their own games, and offline activities available too.

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The Everything Machine by Tinybop

Level: Elementary
Platform: iOS money icon

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The Everything Machine gives young thinkers the ability to visually program their devices' sensors to perform a variety of actions. Drag and drop input and output elements to create all kinds of creations including a light switch, stop-motion camera and a color-sensing musical instrument. The Everything Machine by Tinybop is perfect for exploring beginner coding concepts and for harnessing the power of the camera, mic, speaker, screen and more!

Tip: Multiple users can be created within the application. Also be sure to watch the built-in video tutorials.

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Attributes by Math Doodles by Carstens Studio Inc.

Level: Upper Elementary
Platform: iOS money icon

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Atrributes by Math Doodles includes seven hand-illustrated games that help students understand patterns, classification, combinations, and more. Examples include comparing and contrasting items in Venn diagrams, sorting based on characters’ attributes, and using if/else logic to identify a sequence of steps. Each of the seven games is scaffolded (up to ten levels per game), and students can also adjust the challenge level.

Tip: Use this app to engage students to understand that math is more than just numbers, and patterns are all around us.

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Earth Primer by Chaim Gingold

Level: Elementary and Middle School
Platform: iOS money icon

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Earth Primer is a cross between an intro to earth science textbook and an interactive sandbox game. This creative application allows students to play with the powerful concepts that make up the physical aspects of our planet. Manipulate glaciers, volcanoes, biomes, weather systems, and more and experience how all of these structures combine to affect the makeup of our awesome planet.

Tip: Use Earth Primer to reinforce content in an earth science class. 

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Map of Life by Map of Life

Level: Middle School, High School
Platform: iOS | Android

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Map of Life is a field guide applicable to anywhere in the world. Search species by category and/or location, and contribute to the map by recording your sightings in your location. Several categories of species are represented, such as trees, mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles. Choose a type of species and view images, read about characteristics and habitat, and view a map showing range. Helps with conservation efforts worldwide!

Tip: Great application for classes using GIS data. Use Map of Life on science field trips to report wildlife and to identify plants and animals.

Organization & Management

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OneNote by Microsoft

Level: Elementary, Middle, and High School
Platform: iOS | Android

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OneNote is a mobile and tablet digital note-taking app. The pages, tabs, and notebooks features will remind most users of a traditional physical notebook. Users can invite and share notebooks with others via email or link. This app also has a full desktop version for Windows and iOS, which allows students to work across multiple platforms and devices. Users can use a finger or a stylus to utilize the handwriting feature in this app. Additionally; you can record audio, capture images, and annotate text. You can even use the app on Apple and Android wearable technologies.

Tip: Create notebooks to share assignments and feedback with students.  

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Three Ring by Three Ring Inc.

Level: Elementary, Middle, and High School 
Platform: iOS | Android

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Three Ring is a mobile and tablet app that allows the user to capture student work via a mobile device then manage and organize these artifacts online. Students can use this app to create digital portfolios. Three Ring allow the user to take photos and record video and audio.  Once an artifact is a capture via the mobile app, it is automatically uploaded to the Three Ring Website. From the website, the user can tag, organize, and share their artifacts. These documents can all be shared with parents via email.

Tip: Three Ring is ideal for creating student portfolios.

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Postit Plus by 3M Company

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

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The Post-it Plus App is an application for your iOS device that enables you to take your square Post-it Notes from the analog world to the digital, seamlessly and easily. Use your device's camera to scan and catpure sticky notes, users may then arrange, organize and interact with the notes and share the notes across platforms. Save your notes in Evernote, Dropbox or OneDrive. You may also share notes via social media or export as a PDF or spreadsheet.

Tip: Use Post-It Plus to capture brainstorming sessions in the classroom. Teachers who use post-it notes as exit slips may save and organize the notes for future reference.

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Google Classroom by Google

Level: Elementary, Middle, and High School
Platform: iOS | Android

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Classroom is a free web-based platform that integrates your Google Apps for Education account with all your Google Apps services, including Google Docs, Gmail, and Google Calendar. Classroom saves time and paper, and makes it easy to create classes, distribute assignments, communicate, and stay organized. Teachers can quickly see who has or hasn't completed the work, and provide direct, real-time feedback and grades right in Classroom. 

Tip: Adding an announcement a good way to communicate with your class and give them up-to-date information. Click the “Announcement” button to display a message to your class. You can even attach files (from Google Drive and otherwise), add YouTube videos and provide links. If you assign an activity outside of Classroom, you can link to it in an announcement so there’s a record of it in your class.

Humanities & Arts

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Newsela by Newsela

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

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Providing news to students at their reading level is a snap with the Newsela app. This very easy to use app allows users to filter the most current news to 5 different reading levels, from 2nd to 12th grade. The high-interest articles range from arts to astronomy to politics, and come from well respected sources such as The Associated Press, Scientific American, and The Guardian. Each article comes with a quiz to test for comprehension, and student progress can be tracked. This app will engage even reluctant readers with its fascinating subject matter.

Tip: Articles can be a launching off point for deeper discussion of current affairs.

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StoryCorps by StoryCorps, Inc.

Level: All
Platform: iOS | Andriod

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Record the memories of your loved ones and archive them with thousands of others. Storycorp has been recording the voices of over a 100,000 people since 2003. These stories have traditionally been recorded in StoryBooths using facilitators, but with the app, anyone can record their relatives or friends stories anywhere and anytime. The app comes loaded with great questions to help get started, or you can add your own questions. Stories can be saved on the device or uploaded to the Storycorp website, where they can be shared with thousands of others. A great way for students to practice interviewing skills while getting to know their grandparents or neighbors.

Tip: Have students interview older alumni of your school about their experiences going there.

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Homes by Tinybop

Level: Elementary
Platform: iOS

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Take an open-ended interactive tour of homes from around the world. Learn how people in a Yemeni tower house, Mongolian ger (yurt), Guatemalan adobe and Brooklyn brownstone live, eat, sleep, and play. Each house has a story to tell both inside the house and directly outside the house. With more than twenty spaces to explore, many items provide a glimpse into life in that home such as feeding the goats in Yemen or making dumplings in Mongolia. Use the slider to see how electricity and water are routed in the building. The app also has a labeling feature to identify objects in the home. Available languages range from English, Spanish, French, Chinese, or German, with more than 50 languages available in Preferences. Explore this digital, international dollhouse to learn about different cultures.

Tip: Use the parent guide to learn about the features and questions to support learning. 

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Spies of Mississippi: The Appumentary by Joe Zeff Design

Level: Middle and High School
Platform: iOS money icon

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Spies of the Mississippi was first a book by Rick Bowers and then a PBS documentary. The app, or appumentary, brings the story of the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, established in 1956 to preserve segregation and spy on the civil rights movement. Rich with primary resources, the appumentary includes videos from the author, filmmaker, and Freedom Riders, timeline, interactive map, photographs, and documents. There are lesson plans for middle and high school that are aligned with Common Core State Standards as well as discussion questions for book groups, students and teachers.

Tip: You do not need to be familiar with book or movie for app to be useful. The app includes much information from film and book.

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MoMA Art Lab by MoMA, the Modern Museum of Art

Level: Elementary and Up
Platform: iOS

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MoMA Art Lab introduces children ages 7 and up to modern art and gives them tools to create their own. Children can start with a blank canvas that includes free form drawing that can incorporate lines and shapes like Color Form. Activities inspired by works of art include create a mobile, experiment with paint, draw from instructions, create a sound composition, draw with scissors, make a line design, create a shape poem, and make a chance collage. Any artwork made is stored in a private gallery or it can be shared, a parental is setting available. Artists featured in the MoMA Art Lab app include Henri Matisse, Alexander Calder, Elizabeth Murray, and others. Audio for pre-readers. Children of any level art experience can explore this app, become inspired and learn at their own pace.

Tip: Create a Shape Poem activity is a connection to literacy skills for early elementary students, connecting adjectives to identify the different parts of a free form drawing.

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MusiQuest by Edify Technologies

Level: Elementary
Platform: iOS

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MusiQuest is an engaging and interactive app that teaches children music theory. Users may choose from a variety of instruments as they compose their own songs. Animal characters and colorful illustrations provide lots of kid appeal while teaching about chords, melody, harmony, and music styles from classical to hip hop.

Tip: Students in primary music classes (grades K-2) can compose and share their own songs.

Content Creation

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Canva by Canva

Level: Middle and High School
Platform: iOS

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The serious favorite go-to design tool is now just as fabulous, and more convenient, as an app. Canva provides beautiful templates for all your social media needs and will definitely upgrade any student or teacher’s slide presentation game. Use the many beautiful fonts, palettes, design templates, layouts and images--many of which are perfect for infographics.  Incorporate your own photography from your iPad camera or camera roll or choose from literally more than one million beautiful images. (Some are free; others cost a reasonable $1.00)  Create one-page images, banners or buttons, or multi-page stories. Creations may be downloaded or shared via email or on social media. This utility tool will be used to create final products and will be used to create the components of so many others! 

Tip: Great for school websites, presentations, flyers, social media branding! Don't miss the design tutorials on the Canva site.

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Plotagon by Plotagon

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

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Reminiscent of Xtranormal (now called Nawmal), Plotagon allows users to script a story--selecting locations, dialogue, emotions, attitudes and postures, sound effects and music. Choose either text to speech computer voices or record voices personally to bring life to student writing. Stories may be built with multiple scenes. You may save and reuse the characters (avatars) you create. The library offers a lovely selection of customizable and stock characters, settings, emotions and sounds. Plotagon Education allows teachers to manage accounts and control the digital space and student privacy. This is such an effective tool for learning to craft dialogue!

Tip: Consider using this one to script animated debates or argumentative speeches.

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Spark Page by Adobe

Level: Middle and High School
Platform: iOS

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This elegant web publishing tool allows design novices to create and publish polished digital magazines with motion. Combine the array of beautiful fonts, colors and design templates, and add elements from your camera, camera roll, Dropbox, or Creative Commons licensed images. Spark will quickly become a class and faculty favorite for reports, newsletters, fliers, photo essays, science fair projects, portfolios, yearbooks, invitations and for archiving events.  It’s easy to share your creations on social media, or choose to email, text or embed them. Action buttons allow for interactions for fundraising or registration. Slate prepares learners for visual storytelling and effective web writing.

Tip: Create on the spot digital records of the fieldtrip, game or gallery opening. 

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Office Sway by Microsoft

Level: Middle and High School
Platform: iOS

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Sway is a quick and easy tool for creating and sharing interactive reports, presentations, personal stories, and more. Users can easily add videos, links, interactive charts, etc. to engage their audience. Sway suggests searches to help you find relevant images, videos, tweets, and other content that you can drag and drop right into your creation, so there is no need to juggle apps and web pages. You don't even need to worry about formatting because Sway's built-in design engine takes care of it. If the first design isn't right for you, simply “Remix!” it or customize it to make it your own. Sharing is super easy with Sway -- it is accessible online, with no sign in or download required, just the URL. Additionally, you have the option to change privacy settings for more control.

Tip: Students can use Sway to create and share interactive reports and presentations. Teachers can use Sway to design an interactive newsletter to share with parents.

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Comic Life 3 by plasq LLC

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

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Now an app, Comic Life 3 is the ultimate tool for turning your images into a comic. It has everything you need to make a stunning photo comic -- fonts, templates, panels, balloons, captions, photo filtering effects, and lettering art. It is easy to use - just add photos, some text, and quickly you’ll have a finished story. Comic Life 3 is great for doing school projects, storyboarding, making professional flyers, and more. It is easy to create original work with the new Script Editor, which recognizes keywords for text, balloons, captions and panels, and allows you to drag and drop them onto your comic. When you’re done you can share your masterpiece with your fans in a variety ways.

Tip: Writing and creating comics is not just for the Language Arts classroom. Use the Comic Life 3 App in your Social Studies, Science, or other classrooms. In Social Studies, use Comic Life 3 to condense historical information into memorable tidbits couples with historical images. In Science, use Comic Life 3 to create reports and demonstrate understanding. For more classroom ideas, visit their blog, "Meanwhile...external link icon

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