9 Popular Apps Recommended by Teachers

K-12 teachers share their favorite smartphone and tablet apps that make learning fun. Here’s what’s working well in classrooms like yours.

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by NEA Member Benefits

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Only recently, mobile apps for smartphones and tablets were experimental new classroom tools. But today, many teachers rely on them to the same extent that they once did flashcards and textbooks.

While the earliest mobile apps for classrooms often focused on a single function (such as note taking) — newer apps are often loaded with several grade levels’ worth of learning content, giving teachers a (fun!) tool to help them engage students and differentiate instruction. Here are nine mobile apps recommended by teachers.

Apps are available for both iOS and Android unless otherwise noted. Most have a free version (although some offer more features for an additional fee).

1. Kahoot! Kahoot! lets teachers (and even students!) create learning games based on their own class content. Students love using the apps for test prep and review, and you can create your own “kahoots” with multiple choice questions, images, videos, and diagrams. Kahoots can also be assigned for homework, giving students a fun, interactive way to review key concepts at home.

2. SeesawOverwhelmed by the thought of putting together portfolios of student work before parent-teacher conferences? Seesaw has you covered. The app is simple enough for students to use, and lets them create digital portfolios to show off their learning. Parents can see the portfolios whenever they want (instead of just at conference time or the end of the year), and both parents and teachers can leave feedback for students within the app.

3. Google EarthAlready an old standby, Google Earth is a great way for students to explore the world without ever leaving the classroom. Children (and adults, too!) love the way the app allows them to “fly” from one location to another, explore the street level of both familiar and unfamiliar places, and see 3D views of skylines and topography. In addition to geography lessons, Google Earth can help students virtually explore the places they’re reading about in fiction and history textbooks.

4. ScratchJrWith today’s tools, almost no child is too young to start learning basic computer programming skills. ScratchJr is aimed at kids between 5 and 7, and lets them program their own interactive stories and games by snapping together graphical programming blocks. By using their new skills to make characters move, jump, dance, and sing, kids learn to solve programs using a basic programming language, while also applying their math and language skills in a fun, practical setting.

5. One Minute Reader (iOS only). One Minute Reader offers access to high-interest books across a range of reading levels, and is aimed at early readers through fifth graders. The app includes features and activities designed to promote fluency and comprehension, while also building vocabulary. Kids read along with a recording of a fluent reader, helping them learn how to pronounce new words and read in a naturally expressive voice, and they can practice reading each story several times until they’ve mastered it. The app also includes quizzes and optional activities like vocab-centered crossword puzzles.

6. StarfallStarfall has a number of free apps—including Starfall ABCs, Starfall Learn to Read, and Starfall I’m Reading—aimed at young children, as well as a number of paid stand-alone apps. The free apps use an interactive environment to teach basic phonics concepts to emerging and struggling readers, and then develop comprehension and reading fluency skills as readers advance.

7. QuizletThis app lets teachers and students create study sets for on-the-go, mobile review of any subject. The app works offline, so kids can use their mobile devices to learn everything from state capitals, to U.S. presidents, to chemistry and physics terms—no matter where they are. The app already has nearly 300 million study sets created by existing users. So, if you’re teaching “Hamlet,” you can search for the play and quickly find an already-made study set to help your students review the main characters.

8. ProdigyProdigy lets students in grades 1 to 8 play games that help to teach and reinforce math concepts. In addition to engaging students around math in a fun way, the app gives teachers the ability to deliver diagnostic and ongoing assessments, allowing them to instantly see which students have mastered certain skills, and who needs additional support.

9. Box Island. Kids learn to code through gameplay with this app, which takes them through an exciting adventure that requires them to master programming fundamentals along the way. Students will apply the basics of algorithms, pattern recognition, sequences, loops and conditionals as they explore a mysterious new island. The first 10 levels of the 100-level coding game are free, and the app is designed for kids ages 6 and up. Box Island was specifically designed for the Hour of Code campaign, making it a great option if your school is participating in the annual December event that celebrates Computer Science Education Week.