12 Great Free Apps for Learning

January 31, 2014
Ellen Holderman
Common Sense Education

CATEGORIES In the Classroom, Out-of-School Learning, Tools, Technology Integration

For this week's Top Picks List Friday, we're featuring free apps for learning. Getting new tablets is a big expense in and of itself. Pairing these expensive devices with free apps is a great way to keep costs down. You'll find an array of free and "free to try" apps that cover a variety of subjects. The best part: If they're not the right fit for your students, it won't have cost you a dime and you can try other ones.

To see the rating of each app, game, or website, visit the Top-Picks List, Great Free Apps for Learning


NASA App is a place where kids can learn basic astronomy facts, and about NASA's specific missions, by navigating through videos, photos, live feeds, and loads of text. The most impressive elements on this app are, by far, the stunning visuals, with more than 150,000 and still more added daily. Read full review.

Doodle Fit
Doodle Fit is an engaging geometric puzzle app with cool features and awesome flexibility. With 110 levels and multiple solutions for many of the puzzles, Doodle Fit will keep kids solving problems for quite a while. Read full review.

Slice It
Slice It! delivers 200 brain-teasing puzzles that challenge kids' understanding of core geometry concepts including shapes, symmetry, area, and measurement. Kids will like the fun look and feel, with colorful shapes that appear hand-drawn on graph paper. Levels ramp up quickly, but built-in tips and hints can reduce frustration. Read full review.

Alien Assignment
The storyline of the stranded Gloop family draws kids in, and they'll be engaged in helping the family repair their spaceship using their unique ideas. The pass back-and-forth aspect of Alien Assignment is innovative and encourages kids to interact socially. Read full review.

Educreations Interactive Whiteboard
With Educreations Interactive Whiteboard, it's easy for students and teachers to create a multipage presentation or lesson that can easily be shared with other students, teachers, or parents. You begin creating a whiteboard-style slide by adding images from the choices in the drop-down menu, or by writing. Read full review.

With a history of rave reviews on the business, personal, and home-management fronts, Evernote has moved into the classroom. A cloud-based storage system, it allows teachers and students to access information from multiple devices and locations. Read full review.

Google Maps
Google Maps is essentially a navigation tool based on Google Earth with some very cool bells and whistles. Along with map layers like traffic, transit lines, Wikipedia, nearby services, and friend location, there's solid navigation for driving, walking, riding the bus, or bicycling. Read full review.

Project Noah
Project Noah is a crowdsourced online database of plants and animals that lets kids become citizen scientists. Kids use the camera on their mobile device to capture images of their local ecosystems, then share them through the app or by uploading them to the Project Noah website. Read full review.

The FREE Dictionary by Farlex
The FREE Dictionary by Farlex is a comprehensive dictionary app that includes standard definition info as well as audio, multiple definitions, translation, origins, and thesaurus entries. Right off the bat, this dictionary can be toggled into 14 of the most common world languages, not to mention translation for individual searches! Read full review.

Springpad is a robust app that's Facebook, Amazon, Pinterest, and Google (somewhat) all rolled into one. Users "spring" –- that is, add Web-based items to notebooks via category-restricted searches or exploration of public notebooks. Read full review.

Toontastic is a digital storytelling tool that teaches kids how to organize and present story ideas through cartoons. It employs a "Story Arc" that contains five sequential scenes to guide story structure (Setup, Conflict, Challenge, Climax, and Resolution). Each scene in the arc drives the story forward, and kids can even change the order of the arc elements. Read full review.

Solar (System) Explorer
Solar (System) Explorer is a planetarium-quality, high-definition app whose 3D images let kids experience our solar system up close. Examining all the quality photos, kids will truly feel like they're in space. This is a well-produced app that will fascinate kids even remotely interested in space and provide plenty of facts to those who just need information. Read full review.


What free apps do you enjoy using in the classroom? Sign in to comment below.


Patricia Marcino
Classroom teacher
Everitt Middle School (Panama City, FL)

This is my first year as an IB/MYP Technology instructor at my middle school. However, I have 8 years experience integrating technology into the curriculum and teaching technology specifically. Since this is the first year of IB and technology for my middle school, many apps are blocked; however, those we do use on a regular basis are: Google Earth; Prezi; Solar System Explorer; The Free Dictionary; NASA app; and Google Maps. I bring my iPad to school and share apps that I have so that students who have iPads or iPhones can communicate with me through these, such as: ScreenChomp; Dropbox; Discover; Comic Book; SmartNotebook (to be used in conjunction with our SMART Boards as well as a few interactive games which are teaching students as well as they enjoy playing: Native Numbers; Flip and so many more. I use (many of the games and puzzles help to prepare students who are planning to advance in technology to become computer scientists). Students who do not have access to Apple products can communicate with me through the Google apps via school e-mail, as I require many assignments to be sent to me electronically. Those students who do not have access at home are given class time to prepare and send assignments while at school. This is an exciting year as many students' eyes are opened to the world of technology which if they did not have the opportunity to take my classes, they would still be in the dark. I am sure it will be a successful year, as I have so many on the waiting list to take the courses next year. I love technology and try to keep up with the changes occurring daily so as to keep my students abreast of all things technology in preparation for their future. Gaming is a great tool to introduce technology curriculum for those students who tend to shy away from educational expectations. Hopefully, our district will unblock many apps for students' use once they have been reviewed; which, takes time. Until then, I will do the best I can to show students a whole new world of which they can become a part of for educational and personal benefits.