2015 was another great year for learning apps. Of the hundreds of apps reviewed on Common Sense Education this year, these 12 stood out as some of the most innovative, effective, and enjoyable tools for mobile platforms. They span grades and content areas, and though we are classifying them as apps, many of these tools are available across platforms as mobile apps, online resources, desktop applications, and iBooks. Find a new tool to try in 2016 with this list of our recent favorites:
Price: Free; Platform: Web, Chrome, iPad; Grades: 4–12
Canva is an accessible way to get kids -- especially design novices -- creating digitally in your classroom. The flexible features for creation and for export make this an excellent tool for helping even the most novice designer create and share slick, simple graphic design.
Price: $3.99; Platform: iOS; Grades: K–2
With Easy Studio, kids can learn basic animation skills, along with sequencing, following directions, and how geometric shapes can interact to create objects and designs. This introduction to digital animation offers lots of opportunities for creativity for young kids.
Price: $9.99; Platform: iPad; Grades: 4-9
Hopscotch introduces computer science and its underlying principles in a highly accessible way. Kids drag and drop blocks of code to create mini-programs. They can browse through posted projects or templates for ideas of what's possible or watch how-to videos.
Price: $2.99; Platform: iPad; Grades: 4-8
This smartly designed environmental sim lets kids explore three wetland habitats. By drawing connections between different species and creating a web, kids learn about producers and consumers and about predator/prey relationships.
Price: $2.99; Platform: Android, iOS; Grades: Pre-K–2
MarcoPolo Weather is a digital sandbox tool that emphasizes exploration and open play with colorful characters, fun sound effects, and lots of interactivity. Kids can learn how weather conditions affect the environment while building key science vocabulary.
Price: $13.99; Platform: iPad; Grades: 6–12
The Orchestra is a multimedia tool for exploring classical music, the orchestra, and orchestral instruments. Deepen students' appreciation of classical music with video, interviews, live performances, and eight music selections.
Price: $3.99; Platform: iOS; Grades: K–8
This sandbox app lets students design robots, leveraging play to spark interest in engineering. Kids direct their own creation ideas and styles by choosing robot parts such as the torso, head, arms, legs, hands, facial features, and color scheme.
Price: $19.99; Platform: iPad, Mac Apps; Grades: 9–12
Romeo and Juliet (Enhanced Edition) is an iBook, accessible through Apple's App Store or from within the iBooks storefront. Excellent side-by-side dramatization and text allow students to read and watch simultaneously, boosting engagement and learning potential.
Price: Free; Platform: Android, iOS, Chrome; Grades: K–5
Seesaw is a digital portfolio that allows kids to save and submit a variety of work, including videos, photos, text, and drawings. This flexible tool makes it easy for teachers to deliver differentiated assignments to specific students, and it gives students the opportunity to reflect on their work.
Price: $2.99; Platform: iOS; Grades: K–5
Simple Machines lets kids manipulate tools and see how they help us do work. Plus, excellent elementary NGSS engineering practices are embedded in fun gameplay.
Price: Free to Try, Paid; Platform: iPad; Grades: 4–12
The Waste Land is a rich resource filled with supporting materials for teaching and analyzing the poem. Stellar performances and great media bring Eliot's masterpiece to life.
Price: Free; Platform: iOS; Grades: 2–8
Learn, create, and share in a safe, stimulating, and inspiring environment with this wonderful collection of curated Web content and creative challenges that take learning to the next level. WonderBox's curated videos and creative challenges will ignite active learning.