Best Apps for Teaching & Learning 2017

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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Radio Jones And His Robot Dad by Nexus Productions

Level: Elementary
Platform: iOS

Website external link icon

Radio Jones is a boy whose dad doesn’t have time to play with him, so Radio creates a robot dad who has time to do all the fun things with him.  However, Radio learns that a robot dad isn’t necessarily better than a human dad.

Quick Tip: The screen will indicate when there are interactive activities for the user.

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Shakespeare’s Sonnets by Touch Press

Level: High School
Platform: iOS money icon

Website external link icon

This app inspired the committee to step out of our pricing comfort zone. Experience Shakespeare’s Sonnets as read by Shakespearean actors and scholars. Dig deeper with commentaries by the Arden Shakespeare and Don Patterson. In addition to the performance videos, there are expert interviews that take closer looks at Shakespeare and the sonnets.

Quick Tip: Turn your device to a profile view to see the text highlighted as the performers read the sonnets. Also, take advantage of the Share-a-Sonnet to use email, Facebook or Twitter to share one of the readings, complete with video.

Heuristic Shakespeare - The Tempest by Heuristic Shakespeare Limited

Level: Middle School
Platform: iOS money icon

Website external link icon

Sir Ian McKellen and Professor Sir Jonathan Bate work together to pair text with performance. Illustrations, and three levels of notes accompany the text in order to meet the needs of a range of learners. The app also includes the history of The Tempest and information on Shakespeare and his times. McKellen and Bate intend to create apps for all of Shakespeare’s plays.

Quick Tip: Users can copy text, highlight text, and make notes that can then be exported.

Goldilocks and Little Bear by Nosy Crow

Level: Elementary
Platform: iOS money icon

Website external link icon

The classic tale of Goldilocks, but with a twist. The parallel story of Little Bear, the youngest of the bear family whose home Goldilocks is in, is also told.

Quick Tip: Turn your device upside down to see Little Bear’s story.

STEM

Swift Playground by Apple

Level: Elementary +
Platform: iOS

Website external link icon

From the developer site: “Swift Playgrounds is a revolutionary new app for iPad that makes learning Swift interactive and fun. Solve puzzles to master the basics using Swift — a powerful programming language created by Apple and used by the pros to build many of today’s most popular apps. Then take on a series of challenges and step up to more advanced creations. Swift Playgrounds requires no coding knowledge, so it’s perfect for students just starting out. It also provides a unique way for seasoned developers to quickly bring ideas to life. And because it’s built to take full advantage of iPad, it’s a first-of-its-kind learning experience.”

Quick Tip: Use during Hour of Code, Genius Hour or in your Makerspace.

Disaster Detector by Smithsonian Institution

Level: MIddle School
Platform: iOS | Android

Website external link icon

From the Smisthsonian website: “The citizens of Smithsonville are in dire need of a Disaster Detector! Help Smithsonville and other cities predict and prepare for natural disasters. Use tools to make predictions and save the city from damage by helping citizens prepare properly.” “Disaster Detector teaches players how to analyze and interpret data on natural hazards to forecast future catastrophic events and how to implement tools to mitigate the effects of those disasters.”

Quick Tip: Find 6-8 grade level curriculum on the app's website.

Cosmic Watch by Von Celestial Dynamics AG

Level: Middle School +
Platform: iOS money icon | Android money icon

Website external link icon

Both a world clock and an astronomical clock, this celestial watch is based on a beautifully designed 3D model of the solar system as experienced from earth. It shows time as what it really is – our position and motion in the cosmos. Students can learn more about astronomy and our solar system, watch the real time movement of sun, moon and stars or simply enjoy the beautiful design of the celestial sphere.

Quick Tip: Give students freedom to explore this app in your HS Learning Commons.

Lifeliqe by LifeLiqe, Inc.

Level: All
Platform: iOS

Website external link icon

Provides Digital Science curriculum that engages students with interactive 3D models. Aligned with NGSS and CCSS. Augmented, virtual, and mixed reality enabled.

Quick Tip: Use 3D models in lessons plans; create powerful, interactive presentations; excite students with AG, you can also pair with Dr. Carter’s Curriculum which is included. 

Desmos Graphing Calculator by Desmos

Level: High School +
Platform: iOS | Android

Website external link icon

Desmos Graphing Calculator is designed to help students understand advanced math concepts by graphing them to a coordinate plane (a graph with an x-axis and a y-axis). The built-in examples cover subjects such as lines, parabolas, trigonometry, conic sections, parametric equations, transformations, statistics, lists, and calculus. Additionally, students are able to manipulate variables manually, graph multiple functions at once, and save and share their work.

Quick Tip: Connect with your Google+ account to download or share graphs.

Organization & Management

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IFTTT by IFTTT

Level: High School +
Platform: iOS | Android

Website external link icon

If This Then That” is used to create applets (used to be called “recipes”), or the ability to link two services together as conditional statements to automate certain tasks.

Quick Tip: Use the “recipes” provided to connect services, or create your own - examples: get an email when a new bestseller appears on the NYTimes list; save your favorite tweets to a Google spreadsheet; get an email whenever the President signs a bill into law; back up photos to Google Drive...the opportunities are endless.

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Quizizz by Quizizz

Level: All
Platform: iOS | Android

Website external link icon

A game-based tool for class review or assessment; provides class and student-level data; works on any device with browser, or use the iOS app or Chrome app. You can find quizzes made by other teachers or create your own, and you can conduct “live” quizzes or assign a quiz as homework. Students play together but each at their own pace. There are gamification elements like avatars, memes.

Quick Tip: search for already-made quizzes or create your own; assign as homework for review.

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Google Keep by Google, Inc.

Level: All
Platform: iOS | Android

Website external link icon

Note-taking service developed by Google; can share notes with others; save/bookmark research; save photos, links, notes; works across platforms. Google Keep is now part of G suite (under Tools>Keep Notepad), and this integration can help save time with inserting comments for student feedback.

Quick Tip: Color code notes and use tags for the ultimate organization; set reminders for important lists.

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MeisterTask by MeisterLabs

Level: Middle School +
Platform: iOS | Android

Website external link icon

MeisterTask is a user-friendly, visual project/task management and collaboration tool, allowing students and teachers to create project ("Kanban") boards for group tasks. Upon creating a project, group members see the tasks that are in progress, as well as those that have been completed. Group members can assign tasks to members within the group, get notifications as tasks are completed or changed, and/or use widgets such as "due tasks" or "my tasks" to see a list of active tasks. For schools using Chromebooks, students and teachers can also use the Chrome extension to easily access their dashboards. If a school has purchased the mind mapping tool, MindMeister, maps can be exported directly into MeisterTask to create a connected project with task synchronization. MeisterTask is a wonderful, intuitive tool to help streamline collaborative projects, keeping groups organized and on task.

Quick Tip: Use the Chrome extension in school; integrate it with Mind Meister, a collaborative mind mapping tool.

Humanities & Arts

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NMAAHC Mobile Stories by Smithsonian Institution

Level: Elementary +
Platform: iOS | Android

Website external link icon

A story driven app, the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) Mobile Stories app allows the user to experience the museum virtually. Users can explore the museum exhibitions and artifacts through images, audio/text transcripts, and video clips. Designed to be used during a museum visit, students can virtually experience the museum by viewing the exhibitions online and seeing artifacts like Harriet Tubman’s shawl, James Baldwin’s passport, and a segregated railway coach. This app can be used in English, French, and Spanish. The text size can be enlarged and each item has the option to listen to the artifact’s description text. A dedicated section under Exhibitions discusses the inspiration for and the design of the museum’s architecture.

Quick Tip: The artifacts under the “For Families” section include questions and activities which could be used with students.

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Google Arts and Culture by Google, Inc.

Level: High School +
Platform: iOS | Android

Website external link icon

A website that has been modified for both Android and Apple devices, this incredible app offers a smorgasbord of art related topics for the “culturally curious”. From art stories to art exhibits, users can explore the world of art by reading the latest feature stories, or by going on a 3D tour of a museum. The app allows you to zoom in on individual artworks to explore brushstrokes or fine details that only an in-person inspection would ordinarily allow. One fun feature is the ability to browse art by time period or color; if you want to see artwork that features blue, you click the blue pallet and are treated to dozens of artworks. The app also gives users the ability to filter artwork by artist, movement, and medium.

Quick Tip: The app offers Experiments that artists and others have done as ways to explore art in more detail and in new ways. These experiments might be a casting off point for discussions on other ways to explore art.

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The New Immigrants: NYC 1880-1924 by Vanguard Direct/New York City Department of Education

Level: Elementary +
Platform: iOS

The New Immigrants: NYC 1880-1924 explores the immigrant experience through a carefully curated collection of over 100 artifacts that includes photos, documents, newspaper articles, political cartoons, oral histories, videos and much more. In partnership with four cultural institutions—the National Archives at New York City, the Museum of the City of New York, the Museum of Jewish Heritage, and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum,Sources are grouped together in searchable thematic collections and include bibliographic details and sample discussion questions to guide analysis. This is a comprehensive collection of primary and secondary sources and images related to the second wave of wave of U.S. immigration in The New Immigrants NYC 1880-1924.The “Teaching Immigration” section, found under the menu, provides sample lesson plans, teaching strategies to develop historical thinking skills, and document based performance tasks that are aligned with New York City Social Studies Scope and Sequence in grades 4, 8, and 11 and New York State Common Core Standards.

Quick Tip: Select any source within the app to create your own collection. Personal collections of sources can be emailed or saved as a PDF.

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English Central by English Central, Inc

Level: Kindergarten +
Platform: iOS | Android

Website external link icon

Learning to speak English using this free app is an engaging experience because of the thousands of videos that range from casual to formal speaking situations. Courses are offered for those entering certain professions, like hotel and service, and range from beginner to advanced. Although some of the videos are campy, they are effective at conveying relevant content. Specific skills can be focused on such as grammar, pronunciation, and useful expressions. Students can take assessments to gauge how well they are learning the material.

Quick Tip: Offer this to ESL students to take home to share with other family members who might be learning English, too.

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ChineseSkill by ChineseSkill Co., Ltd.

Level: Kindergarten +
Platform: iOS | Android

Website external link icon

This fun and easy to use language learning app makes Chinese, a notoriously difficult language to learn, approachable. Lessons are game-based, allowing users to play against the computer or their friends. Multiple tests throughout reinforce memorization of words and concepts. Users can practice speaking Chinese into the app, which gives instant feedback on pronunciation. Speaking, reading, and writing are all covered in each test, which makes it very comprehensive.

Quick Tip: Because writing Chinese involves involves multiple strokes done in a particular order, have younger students use a paintbrush dipped in water to write the characters on a table top.

Content Creation

Bloxels by Pixel Press

Level: All
Platform: iOS | Android

Website external link icon

A hands-on platform for kids to build, collaborate, and tell stories through video game creation. Video game creation, problem solving, character development.

It’s as easy as 1-2-3-4-5:

  1. Design your game board

  2. Take a picture

  3. Design your hero/character

  4. Take a picture

  5. Play your game

Quick Tip: The Bloxels Gameboard is not required, however some advanced features require the Bloxels Video Game Builder Starter Kit, available at bloxelsbuilder.com and at major retailers. Watch video tutorials - makes it so simple to follow. Instruction will vary based on grade-level. 

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CoSpaces by Delightex GmbH

Level: All
Platform: iOS | Android

Website external link icon

CoSpaces allows you to easily create your own virtual reality worlds from a collection of characters and objects which can be adapted and animated. Once your world is created it can be viewed with a mobile device and headset.

Quick Tip: Import your own 360 photos to create custom stages for your virtual reality world. For more advanced users, use Blockly code to bring your world to life.

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Flipgrid by Flipgrid, Inc.

Level: All
Platform: iOS | Android

Website external link icon

For many of us this social learning tool designed to amplify student voice is a true desert-island pick. Developed by a team at the University of Minnesota, Flipgrid offers a new type of strategy for the threaded video discussion or debate, for storytelling, or performance. There’s virtually no learning curve and teachers control the visibility of the videos.  Teachers post topics in grids and students respond in video of prescribed lengths under three minutes. Responses now include transcripts and individual responses have their own hyperlinks and may be embedded. Flipgrid is now free for teachers allows them to create one grid with unlimited questions and unlimited responses.

Quick Tip: Use Flipgrid beyond the simple response. Encourage simulations, music presentations, language practice, storytelling, art sharing, etc.

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Touchcast Studio by Touchcast

Level: Middle School +
Platform: iOS

Website external link icon

Touchcast is truly “a TV studio in your hands.” Produce broadcast quality projects on an iPad. The tool allows you to create interactive “smart, live videos” that you can annotate and layer elements from the web or the cloud-- websites, files, images, polls, surveys, other videos, maps, nearly anything else and record of live stream and share and embed.  You may also add quick start themes, titles, filters, sound effects, branding. Built in tools include whiteboard, green screen, a multi-camera switcher, a teleprompter and video editing features. Users interact with elements from within the video by touching or clicking without leaving the video. Analytics are available for interactive elements.

Quick Tip: The companion External Camera App turns your iPhone into an additional camera to feed video into the TouchCast Studio App on your iPad. This is a very easy way to do morning news or you are there history videos.

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Toontastic 3D by Google, Inc.

LevelElementary +
Platform: iOS | Android

Website external link icon

Toontastic 3D allows you to create animated and narrated cartoons. You can choose from a collection of existing characters and settings or draw your own. There is also a varied collection of background music to set the mood. Finished creations can be exported as video to your mobile device.

Quick Tip: By default characters are automatically animated when moved around the setting by dragging them, but in the settings, you can enable the ability to move both their arms and legs manually. 

Off the Beaten Apps

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Google Expeditions by Google, Inc.

LevelElementary +
Platform: iOS | Android

Website external link icon

Google Expeditions, in combination with a mobile device and viewer, gives teachers the ability to share immersive 360 degree virtual reality experiences with an entire classroom of students simultaneously. This free application from Google allows one device to be the “guide” and other connected  devices to be “explorers.” The students, or explorers, will all see the images from a vast collection of prepared expeditions. These expeditions also include detailed written descriptions of the 360 degree images being shared.

Quick Tip: On the guide’s device, the teacher can see where all of the students are currently directing their attention. The teacher, or guide, can direct students’ attention to a specific part of the image by holding their finger on that spot. Students will then see an arrow in their viewer indicating the direction they should look. 

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