There are thousands of educational mobile apps available for English language learners, allowing learners to practice outside of the classroom in ways that can greatly enhance learning and motivation.
Because cost is a critical concern in most schools and for most teachers and parents, this article focuses mostly on free apps. When searching the app store, be aware of words such as “Lite” or “Free” or “In-App Purchases” in fine print underneath the download button. It can be very frustrating to find an excellent alphabet app, for instance, only to find that it only goes up to letter D before it locks and prompts you to purchase the full version. You may want to spend the money if the app is for one or two students, but when apps are purchased they are only licensed to a single device, so it may not be feasible for a class of 30 students.
The use of pictures, photos, drawings, diagrams, video, and actual objects facilitates language instruction because they strongly increase comprehensibility. For example, if a student is simply presented the word “карандаш” (krandash), no actual learning can take place because it means nothing to the learner. However, if the student is presented with a picture of a pencil attached to the new word, it becomes comprehensible.
When searching for effective apps for language learners, it’s important to keep the concept of comprehensible input and interactivity in mind. The app, Learn English with Johnny Grammar’s Word Challenge may be an entertaining game for more advanced learners, but is unlikely to be effective or engaging for learners at lower levels of language proficiency because there are no graphics or audio — just words and cloze sentences.
Bitsboard, in contrast, has beautiful photos with vocabulary words in different categories, and it allows students to record their voices. It contains games such as Memory and Bingo, and many others. The free version of Bitsboard contains five categories: action words, emotions, exotic animals, famous places, and first sentences. Although the free version includes only five categories, new custom categories can be created easily, with the ability to add photos, drawings, text, and sound recording. Bitsboard Pro costs $19.99 and includes all premium content, as well as teaching tools such as unlimited students, data tracking, and the ability to search for images. Bitsboard Pro was chosen the best educational learning game and flashcards app in 2016 by Teachers With Apps.