Last week, Khan Academy announced its partnership with NASA to create a new set of tutorials and games about astronomy and outer space. While the project is now available for free on the Khan website, it's far from the only free educational tool out there.
Every day, companies release new tools to help facilitate learning for students and ease instruction for teachers. With that in mind, here are the top 10 freely downloaded education apps in the iTunes store.
Introduced in February, Typist is a typing tutor that helps students and adults learn to type without having to constantly look down at the keyboard. While Facebook, Twitter, and various other social media outlets have integrated typing into the everyday, the assumed speed and skills necessary to write a longer essay don't always translate. There is a massive difference between typing a 140-character post and a research paper, and many students are unfortunately not equipped for the latter. Typist acknowledges that learning how to type well is not difficult, but takes a lot of patience and practice — patience and practice that one may not get with a status update.
How schools can benefit from this app: With a simple and intuitive layout, Typist is perfect for schools that have the time and resources for a computer class. This is typically not the case in many schools, but probably should be as educators work to prepare students for the 21st century.
2. PDF Reader
PDF Reader is similar to Preview in that it allows users to view PDFs, take notes on those PDFs, and also convert them to other image documents. As an increasing number of rare and important texts, speech transcripts, and documents are put on the Internet, downloading PDFs has become more commonplace. Being able to open them easily is key.
How schools can benefit from this app: This app is great for teachers who want students to read many important documents or speeches found on the Internet. Instead of sending students a link, a teacher can send a PDF of the document that students can then annotate and send back. In schools with 1:1 tablet deployments, this can also prove beneficial in saving paper with handouts scanned and converted to PDF format.
3. Flashcard Hero Free
Speaking of saving paper, Flashcard Hero allows users to create digital flash cards to ease the studying process. Whether it be 5th grade spelling words or AP biology terms, Flashcard Hero allows students to quiz themselves without having to be too dependent on others for studying help. With younger kids, who may be more prone to lose a pile of note cards, the app is great because it eliminates the excuse of "I can't find my flashcards!" Users can download pre-made cards, create their own, or use the app to take notes in class that are later converted to cards. The free version of Flashcard Hero includes up to 20 cards per deck.
How schools can benefit from this app: If a classroom utilizes centers or stations (or has a computer lab day), Flashcard Hero is the perfect activity, as it can be used independently or in groups. Flashcard Hero can also be used beyond the classroom as a recommended study aid for students at home, especially in schools with 1:1 deployments.
GeoGebra is a math app that specializes in a plethora of topics including geometry, algebra, spreadsheets, graphing, statistics, and calculus. The STEM-focused app also has various levels, so students can work on problems that match their needs. In addition to learning centers, the app includes assessments so teachers and students can evaluate progress.
How schools can benefit from this app: This app is a great secondary resource for students who may be struggling in class. Educators should always be the first resource for students, but if they are still struggling, GeoGebra is great for remediation. Additionally, if there are students who are ahead of the class, letting them move ahead with GeoGebra would be beneficial in holding their interest.
5. Typing Fingers LT
Similar to Typist, Typing Fingers provides free games and activities to help teach children how to type faster without getting tripped up over the keyboard. Adults will enjoy the app's soothing music, and children will revel in the fact that they can earn a "Typing Finger Diploma" after completing various levels. The program takes users through 32 lessons, all with the help of "Dennis" — an animated tutor.
How schools can benefit from this app: Typing Fingers would benefit schools wanting to instill proper typing technique in students. Many schools have ruled out cursive in elementary schools, saying it's a skill no longer necessary to be successful in the 21st century. As a result, schools should hopefully be replacing this work time with typing instruction.
6. 50 States and Capitals
50 States and Capitals can be used with students of all ages. For younger children, the app introduces them to the concept of "learning" and keeps them entertained with something educational. For old students, the app is great for the actual memorization and understanding of the nation's geography.
How schools can benefit from this app: The app is a great resource to help students visualize and understand the United States' layout. It is most likely not going to be a core curriculum necessity, but is still great as a digital visualization of America.
7. World Explorer
In the same vein as Google Maps, World Explorer allows users to take virtual walks in streets around the world while learning about the monuments and other sites they may see along those "walks." The app has information on over 350,000 locations and bills itself as "traveling around the world from your sofa!"
How schools can benefit from this app: World Explorer is wonderful for a history teacher wanting to give context about a monument, site, or city they are teaching about. It is also great for language teachers wanting to cover more about a language's native country, and even math teachers, who can make use of its ability to measure distances in miles and kilometers. This is the kind of tool that can make math prompts like an infamous "a train traveled from ..." question suddenly come to life.
8. Preschool Animal Match
Preschool Animal Match is a memory game for 3- to 5-year-olds. While learning to recognize animals by name, children will also be strengthening their memorization skills.
How schools can benefit from this app: As pre-K education is stressed nationally, Preschool Animal Match is an awesome activity for educators (and parents) to utilize with early childhood students.