13 apps that promote higher-order thinking standards


The most well-known presentation program is Powerpoint, but free apps exist that are easy to use on mobile devices. One of these apps is Haiku Deck, which can also be accessed on computers. Students can create attractive slideshows for research reports, persuasive speeches, poetry, or other written work and present them to the class with their own narration.


Mobile devices make it possible for students to have an almost infinite number of research sources available right at their desks. Safe search engines designed for K-12 students are available such as Kidtopia, which has content area buttons to help focus research. Many other safe search engines and research websites can be accessed at symbaloo.com/mix/searchjr. Notability allows students to make notations and highlight PDF files while EasyBib helps students cite their research sources correctly.

Art, music, & photography

Art, music, and photo apps provide opportunities for students to use mobile devices in constructivist, student-centered ways, allowing them to create original products. A camera capable of taking photos and recording video comes standard with most mobile devices. This feature could be utilized in science units in which students take photos of science experiments, plants, insects, or other objects in nature. The recording feature can be used by students to record dramatic skits, musical presentations, interviews, and other creative projects.

The Autorap app turns students’ voices into raps with melodies of popular rap songs. Students can retell stories, recite poems, or create their own songs without having to sing. They simply read and record into a smartphone or tablet, and even the most hesitant reader’s voice is instantly turned into a catchy tune. A link is created to students’ creations that can be shared with friends or family members. Other musical apps enable students to create their own tunes with drumbeats, sound effects, digital guitars, and pianos.

Drawing and painting apps allow students to create artwork or illustrations to accompany their writing. Drawing Desk and Doodle Buddy have drawing and painting tools, colors, textures, and stamps that are easy for even young students to use.

A search of any famous artist’s or musician’s name in the app store or at appolicious.com will result in many apps to enhance a lesson or unit. For example, a search for ‘Van Gogh’ results in animated storybooks about Van Gogh, interactive art museums displaying his works, and a painting/drawing app called PlayART by Tapook that allows students to create their own works of art with paintbrushes and stamps in Van Gogh’s style.

Formative assessment

Audience response systems that enable all students to respond to questions simultaneously allow all students to demonstrate knowledge or express opinions, and allowing teachers to quickly check for understanding. Prior to websites and apps such as Socrative, Kahoot, and Quizzizz, expensive sets of devices known as clickers had to be purchased. Students can now use any mobile device or a computer as a response tool with all the advantages of audience response systems without the cost. Quizzes or surveys can be administered anonymously or with identifying information. Results can be saved and downloaded as spreadsheets for teachers to review, facilitating assessment and grading.

Using what you have

Teachers without mobile devices in their classrooms can start by connecting their own personal device to a classroom projector. As devices are purchased and made available in more classrooms, a full class set of devices is not necessary; just a few can greatly increase engagement and enhance instruction and learning in ways that promote critical thinking skills and creativity in ways never before possible.

Want to share a great resource? Let us know at submissions@eschoolmedia.com.