Best Educational Apps For Students And Teachers

Derek Walter for

As the newest iPad launches today, odds are that it will become an even more popular tool for use in the classroom.

A wide range of powerful apps are distinguishing themselves in enhancing classroom instruction, managing student behavior, and organizing the unique chaos of planning for each school day.

Educreations (Free): This whiteboard app is one of the best for putting a whiteboard in your hand. The interface is much like interactive whiteboard software found on a Smartboard or Promethean Board. Those who prefer a styles could pair their iPad with one of the many third-party styluses available for a better writing experience.

Those who are tired of having their students ask, “what was that about again?” can record the lesson while teaching for later playback. These lessons can also be added to a gallery inside the app that other users have uploaded.

The app includes a gallery of pen colors or the ability to upload images saved on one´s iPad. Users that are really particular about their color choices can also customize the pen colors.

Class Dojo: While it does not have a native app for iPad, Class Dojo has become a strong alternative to traditional methods for improving student behavior.

What makes Class Dojo different from the usual, dry character-building program is the familiarity kids will feel with it. It uses icons, badges and pop-up notifications; all tech tools that school-age children know through their own smartphones or iPod touches.

Students are assigned a “dojo monster,” complete with a customizable icon. When paired with an interactive whiteboard or projector, teachers can initiate popup notifications to reward good behavior or chastise naughtiness.  The running tally remains on the board to encourage students to achieve higher levels of proper behavior.

Smartphone and tablet owners can install a web app onto their device from the Class Dojo web site.  By doing this, teachers can add or deduct points from the little monsters while away from a computer.

Class Dojo is the creation of entrepreneurs Sam Chaudhary and Liam Don. Chaudhary taught social science in the UK before joining with Don to launch Class Dojo.

The peculiar name Class Dojo comes from a brainstorming session when the team stumbled across the Japanese term “dojo,” which means “place of the way.” The concept was that the classroom could be a place of instruction for proper behavior and good character.

“We have 40 years of education research that shows behavior is a major indicator of academics, career success, or social ills like substance abuse and criminal prosecutions,” he said. “Self-control is the biggest predictor of lifetime success.”

Even better for teachers, Class Dojo accumulates the points into a document that is easy to print or e-mail to parents. Teachers can use the points for classroom rewards or goal setting. Those who sign up for a free account can also vote on future features they would like to see added. The developers said they are going to ramp up feature releases this year.

Star Walk ($4.99): Whether or not you are an astronomy teacher, Star Walk is an immersive app for allowing students to explore the universe. Star Walk fills the iPad screen with the location of the stars in real time.

For the best experience, take it outside at night and hold it over your head. Identify the stars and constellations overhead while moving it around to explore the sky. Or to explore the galaxies, swipe on the screen with your finger.

The app also includes a graphic of the moon and other planets with a variety of data. There is also some ominous music that plays in the background, though this can be muted if you wish.

Evernote (Free): Evernote has grown from a simple note-taking app into a powerful platform for educators. Users can write lesson plans, save files, and upload images and articles from across the web with its assorted range of clipping tools.

Evernote´s most compelling feature is its ability to sync across one´s iPad and other devices. There is an Evernote app for iPhone, Android, Mac, PC, and web browsers.

While Evernote is free, frequent users may consider opting for the $45-per-year premium account. This offers an unlimited amount of data upload, while the free accounts cap users at a specified amount.

Those that dig Evernote should also consider Skitch, an Evernote app that, like Educreations, allows users to ink up a page.

Math Board ($4.99): This app has the potential to be the math teacher´s best friend. It has a clever interface mixed with strong tools for enhancing math lessons. It is primarily geared toward elementary students who may be learning or strengthening skills in multiplication, division, subtraction, or division.

It supports output to a projector or interactive whiteboard with a VGA connection. For the truly geeky, output it wirelessly to an Apple TV to roam the classroom while continuing to use the app.

Users can also download a free eBook manual written by the developers from the iBookstore.

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