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Educational bloggers chime in with their favorite back-to-school apps


It's the start of a new school year, which means you've probably got a stack of new books on your desk, a drawer full of new pencils and an iPad that desperately needs some new apps. TUAW is here to help you build a new app list, and we did so with the help of some friends.

We consulted with students, teachers and some of the top tech and educational bloggers to generate this list. In this article, we highlight the top picks from educational bloggers whose job it is to evaluate this category of apps. Here are the apps that they prefer:

Daniel Donahoo, Core contributor to GeekDad

I have come to take a strong interest in apps that deliver great content to students. Teachers have a range of tools now to use on digital devices, but what apps are offering students information and new ideas in a way that speaks to the YouTube generation. Here are three apps, for three different age groups.

  1. Rough Science (by Deeper Richer) A terrific app with quality playful video content, a free teachers handbook to download and offers a great step into a flipped classroom model using 1:1 devices.

  2. Questimate! (by Motion Math Games) A clever app offering the ability to estimate against any number of things, it also offers collaborative learning options, Motion Math Games never disappoint.

  3. Sonnets (by TouchPress) A beautiful Shakespeare app, great for high school students with quality video and excellent extras in text and video.

Veronika Walshe, founder of The Appy Ladies

The Appy Ladies is a diverse group of ladies with various backgrounds and interests, who have a passion for apps and information. Veronika Walshe is a stay at home mum to 3 children, one with Down Syndrome and one with ASD.

  1. TOBY Playpad - a fantastic app, just amazing the content. There is nothing like it.

  2. iGetit Apps - featured in the REMLE project for Autism

  3. Wonkidos - brilliant series of life skills apps, supporting your child in many areas

  4. L'Escapadou - great apps, colourful and engaging

  5. Demografix - For those children slightly older

  6. Learning Touch - over and over again children with SN love and use all of their apps

  7. Tactus Therapy - Amazing all of them and how they work together in the growth of your child

  8. Good Karma - Just love their new app FTVS - HD

  9. Close 2 Home - So Much 2 Say - fantastic app for SN children at the initial stage of communication

  10. StudyPad - all their Splash Maths apps are just wonderful

John Wilkerson, founder of The Wired Homeschool

John Wilkerson and his wife have 7 children and have been homeschooling for 15 years. John has been a speaker at homeschool conventions and regularly podcasts and blogs about the use of technology in homeschooling at You can follow John on Twitter or like his podcast's Facebook page but please, no stalkers.

  1. Math Mathews: Getting your kids to remember their multiplication facts can be a real chore. With Math Mathews kids join Captain Mathews on a piratical adventure while learning multiplication. Your kids will have so much fun that they'll forget they're doing math!

  2. Stack the States: Geography can get a bit dull when you're trying to memorize state capitals and other mundane facts but if you add the challenge of building a Jenga-like tower out of states it becomes a fun way to learn things which states border New Hampshire.

  3. 5 Dice: Order of Operations: If you're looking for a way to solidify and reinforce math skills this is your game. Players roll dice and must use the numbers provided to get the solution. Using the correct order of operations is essential to be successful at this game.

  4. Cargo-bot: The objective of this game is simple: move crates from one stack to another. How you do this isn't always so simple. Cargo-bot is a great way to teach kids how to logically solve a problem and basic programming skills. Don't miss this one.

  5. Graphing Calculator+: No need to spend $50-$100 on a graphing calculator. Just buy this app. It probably won't get your son or daughter through advanced Calculus or Differential Equations but should suffice for a typical high school student.

Josh, founder of Homeschool Tablet

This year I am trying to reduce the apps I use and focus on specific areas I want to focus on this year. One of my sons needs to focus in reading so I am installing mostly phonics apps like Reading Raven and Abby Phonics - first grade. I am trying to stay away from sight word apps. Our new favorite letter app is LetterSchool.

For science, we are studying astronomy, so I plan on using Solar Walk and the Q Continuum Planets app (on my iPhone when we are outside). Spelling for my daughter will be mostly with Teach Me:2nd grade and Simplex Spelling Phonics 1. Math will be Khan Academy.

History will also be with Khan Academy and maybe some timeline apps. Reading will probably be exclusively on the Kindle. I hope to use iBooks Author to customize some of their learning but I don't know if I will have time. While the program is intuitive it still takes work to make a good book. Also my son started to use the free Mac program Typist for keyboarding. It's pretty basic, but he seems to like it.

iGameMom, founder of the iGameMom blog

iGameMom is a place for busy parents to discover good educational applications for kids, and to explore ways to stay engaged with kids in the new game world. Here is iGameMom's back-to-school list of recommended apps:

  1. Brain Quest (free): curriculum based trivia games for grade1 to 5. Each grade has 80 questions. With In-App purchase ($2.99 for each grade), you can buy the whole pack, which has over 600 questions for each grade. Kids learn while playing games.

  2. BrainPop Featured Movie (free): Kids get to see a new animated documentary every day. The range of topics is amazingly broad: science, history, Engineering & technology, Social Studies, English, Arts & Music, and Health subjects.

  3. TeachMe ($1.99 for each grade level): An app series covers Toddler, Kindergarten, Grade1, and Grade2. Each grade has spelling and basic math.

  4. Khan Academy (free): Free classes on various subjects. The topics include: K-12 math, science (such as biology, chemistry, and physics), finance, history, test prep (GMAT, CAHSEE, SAT math, etc). The level of the courses ranges from elementary school to college. Any student will be able to find somethingStraight A Back To School Apps

  5. Stack the States ($0.99): Learn US states via interactive games

  6. Stack the Countries ($1.99): Learn world geography while playing games

  7. NOVA Elements (free): Learn periodic table with multi-media materials, such as short videos, pictures, 3D models, and games.

  8. SplashMath ($9.99): comprehensive math app that is linked to US standard curriculum.

  9. Mathemagics – Mental math tricks ($0.99): teaches little tricks on how to do math quickly

  10. Mindsnacks Spanish (initial download is free with one level, $4.99 for the whole package with 50 levels): Learn Spanish with fun.

  11. Ice is Nice – Cat in the Hat Learning Library ($5.99): Learn animals and geography of North and South Poles. It is for kids aged 5-10.

  12. Grand Canyon (free): Kids 4 and up will learn everything about Grand Canyon, following ABCmouse.

  13. Horton Hatches the Egg ($4.99): Another Dr.Seuss's book app designed for pre-school and kindergarteners.

  14. Biography Comics (free for the first 3 books, $29.99 for all 29 books): 29 biographies in comics, including Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Hillary Clinton, Steven Spielberg, Warren Buffett, ... It is for kids 8 and older.

  15. Cool to be Clever (free): kids 6 and up who can read chapter-books will learn the story of Edson Hendricks and how he invented "connectionless" network design that is used in today's Internet.

  16. Brush of Truth ($1.99): A book app written for children age 8-12. It is a book app that the readers get to decide how the story unfolds...

  17. FeelElectric (free): designed for kids 6 and older, this app teaches kids recognize different emotions and express emotions with words

  18. Be Confident in Who You Are ($2.99): a graphic novel targeted at kids 8-14 years old. It addresses topics such as self-consciousness, stress, bullying, fitting in, body image, and sticky issues in friendships. All these issues are presented in an age appropriate manner.

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