What’s an App? What Are Some Good Ones?

Tablets, Smartphones, iPods, Kindles, Nooks, oh my… Some students have had an electronic device for a while, others have access to a parent’s or friend’s device, and some just received one during the holidays. Whether you personally like all this technology or not, it’s important to understand what apps are and how they are already helping to change how students learn both in and out of school.

First of all, a little tutorial on the devices students might be using. Every device runs on something – the thing it runs on is called the platform. This is kind of like the engine under the hood. If you have a Smartphone, the “engine” is most likely an Android or an Apple. If it’s not an iPhone, iPad, iPod – you know, anything that begins with an i – it’s probably an Android. (Blackberry and Windows Mobile platforms exist as well, but compared to Android and Apple, they’re a rarity.) The pictures below show the Android and Apple symbols you’d find on your device(s).
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If you have an Apple product and want to download an app (short for “application” – a piece of software) you have to go to the iTunes Store which comes free with any Apple Device you own. Apple is very, very picky about which apps end up in their store – this means less chance of viruses. If you own an Android device, there are a few places to buy apps. The most popular is the Google Play Store. It’s Google because Google owns Android. It will come free on your Android device as well. Android is not picky about what apps are in their store. If you have the skills to create an app, you can make it end up in their store. This means that there are some apps out there that could contain viruses. The best way to tell if an app is safe is to just read the reviews when you are looking at it. I would always read the reviews before buying any kind of app though.

As for educational apps, there are literally thousands to choose from. In any of the app stores, you could do a search specifically for educational apps, multiplication apps, reading apps, etc. and find both free and pay apps. The way many apps work is to offer a free version to get you hooked and then you’d have to buy the full version to utilize all the features. In general though, apps are cheap. Usually only a couple dollars so if you find one you would actually use more than a few times, it’s worth it.
I would suggest that students choose apps that work on areas of weakness (for example, multiplication facts) or apps that can challenge them. Parents could even download some on their phone and just hand in over if they’re ever playing the waiting game, like waiting for a doctor’s appointment or haircut. If a child is just going to sit there bored, why not get them to learn…
Here are a few to get you started:

Best Fifth Grade Apps

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Posted in Apps, Language Arts, Math, Tech Toys

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