Friday, February 3, 2012

Computer Instruction: What Apps can actually help children learn?

I admit that I usually limit my app shopping to three genres – news sites, photo manipulation and games.

So, when my cousin Jessica asked me to do some research on educational apps I decided to jump at the chance. A teacher and mother of three, Jessica is looking for apps that can be used at home and in the classroom.

Since I have no children, I’ve never had to take a look at the educational apps being offered. Imagine my surprise to find out that not only are there literally thousands of them – but they’re actually a burgeoning market in the tabloid world.

After perusing through some of the apps, I realized that I would have to narrow my efforts. There are a bevy of apps for different education levels, but I decided to focus on elementary level apps.

Even after narrowing my scope to that age group, there were still a dizzying amount of apps to look at. I decided the best way to get through them was go to people who were using them most often – mothers and teachers.

“I wasn’t sure when I first started shopping for apps, but I think there’s a decent learning curve when you start looking at them,” said Brandi Corrigan, a mother of two from Chesterfield Township. “I know a lot of parents don’t think it’s a very good idea to teach their kids on a tablet computer – but I’ve found it’s something that actually keeps their interest.”

Corrigan is part of a mothers’ group that meets once a month. She says that most of the mothers in the group have embraced purchasing a tablet.

“At first, I think it was just for me to read books,” said Sara Torrance, a resident of Clinton Township and a mother of a second grader. “It didn’t take me long to realize that my son as infatuated with trying to use that tablet. By purchasing educational apps, he actually wants to learn, and I think that’s a win-win situation for us as parents and them as kids.”

So, without further ado, what are some of the top educational apps out there for parents and teachers to utilize in the homes and classrooms?

10. Stack the States (.99) – This is a geography quiz game where players are asked trivia questions about U.S. states and their capitals. When a question is answered correctly, the state is then moved to the bottom of the screen where users try to stack the states on top of each other to surpass a line. There are a lot more boring ways to memorize states and their capitals.

9. Sight Words (.99) – There are different grade levels available for this app, which essentially is a reading and spelling program. There are four separate lists of sight words to help bring the repetition and familiarity kids need to learn.

8. History: Maps of the World (Free) – This one is exactly what it sounds like. You can basically peruse different maps from different times. The beauty of the app is that it’s an interactive way to show students how the delineating lines between countries can shift and change over the years. It also shows how once great cities and empires can fall and turn into new countries and cities. Actually, this is an app a lot of adults will find interesting, too.

7. Princess Math ($2.99) – This is an app that is primarily geared towards girls – but in a good way. It  features addition and subtraction problems for students up to the third grade. Since girls often lag behind boys in the math department – something like this app can only help the situation rather than hurt it.

6. Mad Libs (Free) – Yes, those Mad Libs. I know it may seem weird to think of Mad Libs as an education tool, but essentially it’s a fun way of creating a grammar lesson with a silly story. Sometimes the classics really don’t go out of style. 

5. Early Jamestown (Free) – Essentially, this is a social studies app that highlights one chapter from an interactive textbook series. In this case, it focuses on the early days of the Jamestown settlement. At the end of the chapter, there are even review questions. The app is full of interesting writing and fascinating photographs.

4. NASA (Free) – NASA’s official app is truly phenomenal. It has space images, videos, a calendar of missions and a launch schedule. You can also tap on satellites and learn about how and why they were launched into space. Being an astronaut is something that has always inspired children – so will this app.

3. Motion Math HD ($2.99) – This is a fun one that has users place numbers, fractions, percentages, etc., on the proper location on a number line using a gyroscope. You can then tilt the tablet left or right to make falling figures land in the appropriate spot on the line. The great thing about this game is that it gets progressively harder – so it makes the student actually think.
2. Math Board ($4.99) – I think a lot of parents can agree that math is one of those subjects that can cause them headaches. Multiplication, division, subtraction and addition are easy. It’s fractions, percentages, ratios and their ilk where problems start to surface. Instead of struggling, this app allows students to progress on their own level and their own time frame. It also makes math fun – which is the key when trying to make any type of learning interesting and effective.

1. Frog Dissection ($3.99) – Even I have to admit this app is pretty cool – and I’m the type of person who would rather take a failing grade than cut up a frog cadaver. The beauty of the app is that instead of handing kids a real scalpel and a dead animal, kids can operate on a virtual frog. The virtual frog even has pins to hold down the limbs and a marker to show you where to make incisions. You can even poke and prod the virtual frog.

Even though I’ve chosen to single these apps out, parents and teachers should be aware that there’s a virtual world out there that’s begging to be explored. Have fun on the expedition – you’ll probably find the time spent searching through them is worth it.

What do you think? Do you have any educational apps to add to the list?


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December 10, 2013 at 6:40 AM 

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