apps story

6 new apps to know, love, and use


With powerful apps and a confident educator, students can get even more from lessons

Apps are fun and engaging tools for educators who have access to mobile devices and who want to use digital resources with students.

And sure, apps are great, but teachers don’t always have time to search through lists of apps and ensure they’re appropriate for students–and this means everyone misses out on what could be a memorable learning activity.

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.

Check out this list of apps, ranging from kindergarten through high school and touching on topics such as chess, geography, literacy, and more.

1. Magnus Kingdom of Chess: Gentle chess puzzle game ideal for young newbies
Teachers can use Magnus Kingdom of Chess as a fun but gentle introduction to the game of chess for even the youngest students. It can be used in math class or as a critical thinking lesson. It’s perfect for those brand new to the game, or even for those who have a little experience. There isn’t much reading involved, so it can be used with pre-readers or English language learners.

2. Vital Signs: ELA game set in a medical clinic shows the value of literacy skills
Teachers can use Vital Signs for ELA classes, especially if they’re interested in developing students’ scientific and informational literacy. Teachers can set up their classes in the teacher dashboard, either manually or as a “quick class,” which generates 30 anonymous student accounts. These can all be set individually for text-to-speech options, difficulty, and replay/retake modes. Episodes can also be turned off or on. The dashboard includes student performance reports and student progress.

3. Dystopia 2153: Fun graphic novel makes coding enticing for more students
With Dystopia 2153, the big choice for teachers is whether to have students read and code at their own pace or to use the site more as a class novel. The class novel option provides greater opportunity to have students code in small groups, collaborating not just on solving problems but also on debugging and troubleshooting. Partner work is an excellent way to learn to code, since different students use different problem-solving strategies, and everyone benefits from the discussion of concepts (e.g., how to use loops most effectively or to sequence logically).

4. Yousician: Appealing, feedback-rich tool helps kids build core musical skills
Teachers can enroll as a music teacher on Yousician and receive email instructions on how to best integrate the app into their teaching practice. Once you enroll, you’ll enable an Edu tab in the app, which lets you create a class and interact with students by creating assignments and tracking progress. The YousicianEdu page on the app’s website has tons of helpful ideas for private lessons, small-group instruction, and large classes. There are recommendations for games you can play with the app and ways to use its missions as an alternative tool for assessment and tracking progress.

5. National Geographic Education: Top geography resource site provides global exploration opportunities
Teachers can use the National Geographic Education site as a trusted resource for geography-based lessons, as well as lessons for other subjects that can be rooted in geography, such as weather, animals, history, and culture. Resources are available for pre-K to higher education in formats such as activities, videos, photos, interactives, maps, educator guides, and more. In fact, there’s so much on offer that teachers may need to browse before searching just to get a sense of the breadth of available resources.

6. Discovery Tour by Assassin’s Creed: Ancient Egypt: Popular game’s education mode offers stunning view of ancient world
With Discovery Tour, teachers are gonna face the same implementation challenges as with other commercial games. It’s going to require a modern console or PC. It’s also a bit pricey ($19.99 for the standalone PC version, or included with the purchase of Assassin’s Creed Origins). If you can manage that and get hold of at least one copy, Discovery Tour can be an exciting way to supplement a unit on ancient Egypt–especially the period the game covers (Ptolemy XIII’s rule).

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Laura Ascione

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