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Best Apps for Teaching & Learning 2013

posted Oct 21, 2013, 2:57 PM by Julie Alonso   [ updated Oct 21, 2013, 2:57 PM ]

What are the best new apps for teaching and learning?  With new apps coming out every day, it's hard to stay on top of what's available. Luckily, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) keeps up with new apps and put together a great list of some of their favorites! (

"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."


Bats! Furry Fliers of the Night (available for iPad) 

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 learning standards 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 (available for iPhone & iPad) 

Al Gore's Our Choice is a rich, multimedia app that examines the climate crisis. It will engage both teens and adults alike. Gore published "Our Choice: How We Can Solve the Climate Crisis" in 2009 as a young readers’ edition of "An Inconvenient Truth" (2007). This app, released in September 2011, updates the books content, incorporating a variety of compelling information. School librarians will want to use this app as they explore Common Core State Standards persuasive nonfiction. 
Tip: In-depth material on climate crisis provides great point of view exercises in Common Core State Standards aligned instruction. Pair this app with a fictional piece on climate crisis such as "State of Fear" by Michael Crichton, as well as other nonfiction on the subject matter.

Cinderella (available for iPhone & iPad) 

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: The app utilizes tactual experiences to immerse the reader, which includes: tapping, swiping, dragging and dropping. It is perfect for close reading as the reader will find something new almost every time they read it over and over again.

Shakespeare In Bits – Hamlet (available for iPad) 

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. Each scene is broken into manageable chunks, helping students absorb the original language.
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 (available for iPhone & iPad) 

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: A great multicultural app about respecting others' choices and having fun together.


Science 360 (available for iPad) 

Science 360 is a science and engineering news app designed to engage the user in visual explorations through photos, videos, and text. New content is added weekly by scientists, engineers, and the National Science Foundation. Teachers can email image and videos to save for classroom room. A built in news feed keeps students and teachers up to date with the latest scientific discoveries. It 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 of a very high quality. All information is very well organized, easy to find, and easy to use. 
Tip: Click the icon with 3 dots to see related videos. Use a two-finger touch to start a keyword search.

NASA (available for iPhone, iPad, & Android devices)

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. Users can 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.
Tip: Be sure to check out NASA TV and videos as well as Tweets from astronauts.

Operation Math (available for iPad & Android devices)

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

SimplePhysics (available for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices)

SimplePhysics lets you design complex structures for everything from tree houses to Ferris wheels. Verify the structural integrity of your design with a stress test. Great engineering is not enough, however - keep your project under budget to win the game!
Tip: Familiarize yourself with the app by using the online walkthrough, cheats, and strategy guide.

Tinkerbox (available for iPad,  iPhone & iPod Touch)

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 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.
Tip: To get familiar with how it works, master the puzzles mode.

Organization & Management

EasyBib (available for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, & Android devices)

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! 
Tip: Build a list of books you have read or want to read by scanning the barcode. 

Dropbox (available for iPhone, iPad, & Android devices)

How many times have you had 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. 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. 
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 (available for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, & Android devices)

If organization is not you or your student’s strongest characteristic, the Evernote app is the solution. The 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.
Tip: Tag your notes for easy search and discover ability.

Schoology (available for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, & Android devices)

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. Also teachers can create messages, task lists, and keep everyone informed.
Tip: Students can view assignments, collaborate with their peers, and get assistance on a variety of mobile devices.

Socrative (available for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, & Android devices)

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.
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 (available for iPad) 

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

Barefoot World Atlas (available for iPhone, iPad, & iPod Touch) 

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. Languages: English, Catalan, French, Japanese, Spanish Rated: 4+
Tip: This app can be used with different grade levels, depending on the depth of wanted information.

Britannica Kids: Ancient Egypt (available for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, & Android devices)

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.
Tip: Check out the entire set of science and social science apps in the Britannica Kids suite of apps.

MyCongress (available for iPad) 

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.
Tip: Use the auto-locate feature to easily find your own congressional representative.

News-O-Matic: Daily for Kids (available for iPad) 

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.
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 State Standards. 

Content Creation

Educreations (available for iPad) 

"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.
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 (available for iPad) 

Characters and backgrounds come to life while students record their stories with Toontastic. Original drawings and art can also be animated and turned into cartoons and then shared with classmates, friends, and family members.
Tip: Students can create their own animated cartoons to write stories, animate concepts, and share their ideas.

Kidblog (available for iPhone, iPad, & iPod Touch) 

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

GarageBand (available for iPhone, iPad, & iPod Touch) 

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.
Tip: Have students create a musical podcast with GarageBand using these simple instructions.

Videolicious (available for iPhone, iPad, & iPod Touch) 

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