Stuff We Like: Back-to-School Apps
The new school year has officially begun! Whether your little students are thinking “hooray!” or “nay” after their first day, they’re sure to go straight for the technology when they get home. Keep their brains turned on after school with these educational apps that make learning fun.
Though the beloved kids’ show ended its 26-year run on PBS in 2009, it returned with the best of technology and storytelling combined on June 20, when it made its debut in the digital world. The app’s setting is an ocean in the sky, where users direct a hot-air balloon to several islands, each with a different theme. On these islands, kids ages 3-9 can choose from a variety of books that complement the theme and take video “field trips” led by LeVar Burton, former host of the television series. At launch, themes included: Animal Kingdom; Genius Library; My Friends, My Family; Action Adventures; and Magic Tales, but new islands and books will be added often. (FREE)
The MindSnacks language learning apps help users memorize and retain French, Italian, or Spanish words and phrases. The integration of video clips provides a model for pronunciation. The characters and game format is fun and engaging. MindSnacks also responds to the user’s performance and alters the difficulty level. Using a spiral method of teaching, they constantly review previously taught vocabulary. The account profile reports on the users current level, weekly activity, accuracy, and the number of challenges and items mastered. There can be only one user account per app. In order to create a profile it is necessary to enter an email address. (FREE)
Project Noah connects kids to real-world learning while promoting environmental stewardship. With this app, they can join the forces of other nature lovers across the world and collect photographs of local plants and animals. Children can collect photographic evidence on their own or for organized projects, or “missions,” set up by scientists. Each time users take a photograph, they are documenting that particular species. They will need to be able to classify, describe, and create search tags for every image they submit. Project Noah can automatically access a mobile device’s location and include that data with each sighting, or users can choose to enter it manually. Geography studies quickly transform from an exercise in memorization, to purposeful understanding of how different locations support unique life forms. With this project, your children will need an understanding of Life Science classification systems and be able to observe and describe the similarities and differences of a species. (FREE)
Learn fractions and decimals while tilting and turning the iPad. This app definitely wins the “Fun Factor Award.” Perfect for the kinesthetic and visual learner, Motion Math intermingles a variety of ways to recognize fractions. The graphic representations of the fractions alternate between numerator over denominator, pie charts, decimals, and percentages. The goal of the game is to identify the correct answer by bouncing a flaming star at the correct point on a number line. Users need to constantly correlate a wide selection of fractions to a continually varying sequence of numbers. The diverse representation of fractions is a great way for children to make connections between separate areas of prior knowledge. With its constant translation of one symbolic form of a fraction to another, this app is prompting users to develop a deeper understanding of fractions. The app also responds to user performance and will automatically increase or decrease the level of difficulty. ($1.99)
Picture cards are an integral part of an effective learning program and are used to help teach new words and concepts and foster self-expression. Brain Parade’s See.Touch.Learn. app combines the effectiveness of picture cards with the power and interactivity of the iPad. Parents and teachers can create custom lessons with this easy-to-use app that’s designed by professionals specifically for those with autism and other special needs. (FREE)