10 Educational Apps for Your Kids This Holiday Season
You’ve gotten your child a new tablet for the holidays, or maybe you want to clean the clutter off her old hardware and breathe some new life into it for the new year. The big question is: what should you put on it?
The app stores at Apple, Google and even Microsoft are increasingly full, bursting at the seams with the very latest digital ideas. From utilities and productivity apps to whimsical diversions and games, from learning tools to emerging social media platforms, the variety is stunning.
Separating what is and is not worth installing isn’t easy. Finding what’s worth installing and keeping for your children pushes things even further, as we tend to have a more critical eye for the media our children consume. Ideally, you want to find apps that aren’t just useful, but actually teach them something along the way.
In addition to the stalwarts like Evernote, Google Drive and YouTube, what other apps are worth their weight in educational gold? The 10 apps below are good places to start.
1. Bitsboard. Bitsboard is an app that is part discovery tool, part multimedia flashcard system. Think of it as a dynamic and gamified index of educational topics. Bitsboard engages learners by making a game of the learning process, and has more than two dozen variations on those approaches, from basic matching and true or false, to memory games and word searches. You can make your own boards or download from existing boards created by others. Bitsboard is available for both iOS and Android.
2. Pocket. Pocket is what it sounds like—a digital pocket to save what’s worth saving for later reading and reference. Articles to read for pleasure, research sources, ideas for projects, and more can all be saved. Files can be curated through browser extensions, “send to” options within other apps, email and more. It’s the best curation tool we’ve used, functional, elegant and designed to interface with many of the other apps you use on a daily basis. Pocket is available for both iOS and Android.
3. Sandbox. Sandbox is an educational game that allows children to experiment with the elements of the universe in digital form. Combine water and heat to make steam. Use an earthquake to cause a tsunami. Complete electrical circuits. Through hands-on (if we can count the digital screen as “on”) interaction, students have a chance for experiential learning with STEAM and Maker concepts. They literally play with the elements, as pixels, right there on the screen. Sandbox is available for both iOS and Android.
4. Storehouse. Storehouse is a visual storytelling app for iOS that allows your child to quickly build elegant and engaging digital media “pages.” In a simple drag-and-drop format, your child can embed videos, pictures and text to tell stories, express ideas, document processes, and more. And if she gets just a little bit creative with the text features and images and video, when she's done she'll have something better than the sum of those individual parts. Storehouse is currently available for the iOS platform only.
5. Today’s Doc. Today’s Doc is a series of 365 important documents in American history. From the Declaration of Independence to the Emancipation Proclamation to various presidential inaugural addresses, this app allows children to see important milestones in the relatively short and tumultuous history of the United States one document at a time. Even for international students, this compressed history of the United States can be a revealing study in how nations form. Today’s Doc is currently available for the iOS platform only.
6. Knowji. Knowji is a series of vocabulary learning apps that introduce children to new words in context. Words have pictures, sentence usage, synonyms, antonyms, and more to help children make sense of unfamiliar language. Most useful, however, is the adaptive component of Knowji apps that help tailor the experience for individual users, making it a more authentic learning experience for your child. Knowji is currently available for the iOS platform only.
7. Duolingo. Duolingo is widely accepted as the best free language learning app available. Duolingo introduces children to a carefully scaffolded sequence of learning opportunities, starting with simple vocabulary, and eventually working up to conversational foreign language use. It’s also gamified, and lets users compete with others as they progress. Duolingo is available for both iOS and Android.
8. Brainfeed. Brainfeed organizes the chaos that is YouTube into interesting, and often compelling channels that children can browse to see what strikes their fancy. YouTube is an extraordinary source of useful content, but it can be hard to find what you’re looking for. Brainfeed is an attempt to make that process easier, and it succeeds phenomenally at that task. Brainfeed is currently available for the iOS platform only.
9. Kindle. You’re probably familiar with the concept of Kindle; now, what used to be hardware to read books is also an app for iOS and Android. Your child may think he hates to read, but it’s far more likely that he's simply a picky reader. With literacy the foundation of almost all formal learning, reading is crucial. Apps like Kindle and iBooks offer an enormous digital library available at a single click, and samples for almost every single one. This makes reading more accessible than ever, and apps like Kindle among the most important additions to your tablet of choice. Kindle is available for both iOS and Android.
10. Summary Pro. Summary Pro is one of the most useful PDF tools available. Assuming they’re old enough to seek out, work with, create and save PDF files, Summary Pro will allow kids to take digital content from other apps and create summaries, notes and other useful “idea forms” for saving, sending or publishing. It also works with Microsoft Word, Apple Pages and other software they’re accustomed to using. Summary Pro is currently available for the iOS platform only.