Apps are often a great way for educators to leverage classroom mobile devices and engage students in different concepts.

And by now, “there’s an app for that” certainly rings true in most situations. But educators don’t necessarily have time to sift through lists of apps and vet their functionality and content to ensure the apps will actually benefit students.

The editors of Common Sense Education review and rate apps for students of all ages. Common Sense Education helps educators find the best edtech tools, learn best practices for teaching with tech, and equip students with the skills they need to use technology safely and responsibly.

10 great apps for coding, VR chemistry, social studies, and more

1. Grasshopper: Learn to Code
Grasshopper is designed for individual learning rather than classroom implementation, so there’s no dashboard or central place to monitor student progress. This makes it better suited for students to learn and practice at their own pace with teacher support. Teachers with some coding experience can advise and coach students as they encounter complex problems, while teachers without much coding experience can encourage students to work collaboratively and/or use the available help in the app. 

2. Community in Crisis
Community in Crisis is ideal for ELA, ESL, or Social Studies classes, but could be handy for summer or after-school classes, or even homeschool. Teachers should first orient themselves to what’s included in the game episodes. To do so, you can play through, or just check the episode’s goals, Common Core standards, assessments, and before/during/after suggestions.

3. Amplify Fractions
Amplify Fractions is a website that focuses on helping students learn all aspects of fractions through adaptive instruction and storytelling. Students are guided by a virtual tutor, making the program an ideal math center. In addition to independent classwork, students can also complete problems for homework.

4. Tyto Online
Tyto Online is great for practice and review of basic content and vocabulary, but it doesn’t stand alone as a curriculum — teachers should still plan on using their typical ways of teaching new material. There are lots of tools that exist (or are planned) for teachers. These include the ability to track student progress, easily create or import rosters, and assign student usernames and passwords. There are Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) correlations and summaries of the storyline and activities in each module, as well as additional quests that can be assigned for extra practice.

5. A History of Ideas
A History of Ideas is a podcast that provides valuable material for lessons on philosophy, history, or culture, but you’ll need to provide the lessons, as there aren’t any curricular resources.

6. Coral Reef by Tinybop
Teachers can use Coral Reef by Tinybop as a fun and somewhat realistic introduction to life in a coral reef. Begin by familiarizing yourself with the user manual, which includes a thorough background on a coral reef ecosystem in addition to instructions on how to use the app. Then base some classroom lessons on this material, giving students a helpful context and background for what they can expect to encounter in the app.

7. TapCoding
TapCoding is for individual students who want to learn how to program using Swift. It’s possible to have students collaborate using an iPad, but this app is really best suited to individual learners. For students who are learning any coding language (but especially Swift), it’s an ideal option for those who want to accelerate their learning or who just need additional practice.

8. HoloLAB Champions
Teachers can use HoloLAB Champions and the accompanying classroom guide to give their students a solid and fun set of VR chemistry activities. One of the big positives about a VR experience like this is that there’s no lab equipment and no supplies to set up. Once students select an activity, the needed equipment and chemical substances appear in front of them.

9. Google Earth
Teachers can use Google Earth as a supplement to all kinds of lessons, bringing the geography and topography of different locations to life. Students can perform searches, zoom around the Earth, study layers of weather, and study eye-level photos. It’s a highly engaging and interactive way to juice up lessons, and the Google Earth Community online (accessible via one’s browser) has a plethora of user groups, teaching ideas, and classroom learning resources.

10. Siftr
Siftr is a simple way to collect images from a group of collaborators. This tool would work for any project where you want to send students out to look for things. For example, collect pictures of flora and fauna for a citizen science project.

About the Author:

Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura http://twitter.com/eSN_Laura