The following is our list for the 55 best apps for learning we can find. Some are formal learning–math drilling and phonics, for example–while others are RSS readers, social media platforms, and the like. These are purposely not all purely academic, “training” apps that focus on individual skills, but rather the an array of apps students could use daily to improve their ability to think, connect, and use information.
A few notes:
1. Some may require in-app purchases, but we tried to limit these. We also tried to limit how many “lite/free” versions of more robust paid apps we included. We wanted the list to be as truly free as possible for you to use.
2. Some of these we included a brief statement of why you should use the app, while others we included developer commentary.
3. They are numbered, but are in no certain order.
4. We tried to included a wide variety of apps. It might be that 25 of the best 50 are phonics instruction, but we didn’t want the list dominated by any single grade level or content area.
5. We’ve got an Android version coming in the next few days.
The 55 Best Free Education Apps For iPad
1. Google Maps
Developer Description: View 360-degree panoramas of places around the globe with Street View; View high resolution satellite imagery of locations around the world.
Developer Description: “…explore more than 750 Science, Math, Social Studies, English, Engineering & Tech, Arts & Music, and Health subjects right on their mobile devices. All movies are close captioned, so it’s easy for them to read along.”
Developer Description: “This app is a fun way for parents, teachers, librarians, and readers to get more information about top rated books at the fifth and sixth grade level. Tag a book as “I want this” or “I’ve read this” to add it to your list. You can email your list out for an easy way to show which books you’re interested in getting and which books you’ve already completed.”
This app is a fun way for parents, teachers, librarians, and readers to get more information about top rated books at the fifth and sixth grade level. Tag a book as “I want this” or “I’ve read this” to add it to your list. You can email your list out for an easy way to show which books you’re interested in getting and which books you’ve already completed.
Developer Description: “(This) full body app, with its elegant design and nine layers of musculoskeletal, neurovascular, and internal organ visual content, contains over 70,000 words of learning material.”
Developer Description: “A growing library of over 80 hands-on Science lessons that are great for home and the classroom. These short videos demonstrate inexpensive and easy to recreate experiments that are designed to inspire and excite kids of all ages.”
Developer Description: “Evernote is an easy-to-use, free app that helps you remember everything across all of the devices you use. Stay organized, save your ideas and improve productivity. Evernote lets you take notes, capture photos, create to-do lists, record voice reminders–and makes these notes completely searchable, whether you are at home, at work, or on the go.”
Developer Description: See.Touch.Learn. to build custom picture card lessons and automatically track their child’s responses. Includes a starter set of stunning, high-quality images and 60 exercises created by a certified assistant behavior analyst!
Developer Description: “This app helps students learn sight words, the most common words in children’s literature. It covers a few words from both the Fry’s and Dolch lists. Words are presented in context in fun videos. This helps learners understand the meaning of the words, which aids in reading comprehension.”
Developer Description: “Instant access to all the media, news, events, and information you need.”
Developer Description: “When you find an interesting article, video or web page that you want to read, watch or view later, put it in Pocket. Once it’s in Pocket, it automatically syncs across to your phone, tablet and computer so you can view it anytime on any device, even without an internet connection.”
11. Adobe Inspire
Developer Description: “Adobe® Inspire Magazine is a free publication that contains original content geared toward informing, enlightening, and inspiring creative professionals and hobbyists. Documenting the best of web and interaction design practices for over 10 years, each bimonthly issue features articles, tutorials, and videos by experts about new and emerging technologies as well as best practices to help you excel at your job.”
Developer Description: “The NETS video library is a collection of video of actual classrooms, enriched by additional material such as lesson context, teacher handouts and even student work, accessible alongside the video.”
Developer Description: “What did Earth’s continents and oceans look like 250 million years ago, or 1 billion years ago for that matter? Can we say anything about Earth’s climate as far back as our planet’s origin? Use your fingertips to scroll through Earth history for the last 4.5 billion years.”
Developer Description: “At Cambridge University Press, we know that Phrasal verbs are complicated for non-native English speakers to learn and use. We also know that it’s essential to use them if we want our writing and speaking to sound natural. However, studying unending lists doesn’t seem to be the best way to learn and use them efficiently. Phrasal verbs are, more than anything, action. And action must be visual. The more visually stimulating the learning, the better we will understand and assimilate the phrasal verbs.”
Developer Description: “SkyORB features many functions as a 3D real-time representation of the planets position around the sun, the ability to hold your device and point toward a visible star and planet and reveal the name by tracking the GPS position, compass orientation, the elevation from the gyroscope, warn the user when a phenomenon is occurs as a full moon, a planet really visible, which is worth the observation.”
SkyORB features many functions as a 3D real-time representation of the planets position around the sun, the ability to hold your device and point toward a visible star and planet and reveal the name by tracking the GPS position, compass orientation, the elevation from the gyroscope, warn the user when a phenomenon is occurs as a full moon, a planet really visible, which is worth the observation.
Developer Description: “Edmodo makes it easy for teachers and students to stay connected and share information. Use your iOS device to send notes, submit assignments, post replies, and check messages and upcoming events while away from the classroom.
Developer Description: “Give a non-verbal child or adult a voice! TapToTalk turns an iPhone™, iPad™ or iPod touch® into an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device. TapToTalk makes communication fun, like another “game” on this cool device. Just tap a picture and TapToTalk speaks. Each picture can lead to another screen of pictures.”
Developer Description: “The Kindle app is optimized for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch, giving users the ability to read Kindle books, newspapers, magazines, textbooks and PDFs on a beautiful, easy-to-use interface.
Developer Description: “With Duolingo, you learn a language completely free, without ads or hidden charges. You have fun while you learn, leveling up and competing with friends. You have the opportunity to translate real-world texts in the language you are learning, and in doing so, help us translate the Web into other languages”
Why You Should Try It: Math with visual, digital objects that represent meaning!
Why You Should Try It: It’s among the most elegant and what-you’d-expect-a-kid’s-book-on-the-ipad-to-look-like examples of an “iBook” we’ve seen.
22. Google Earth
Developer Description: “Fly around the planet with a swipe of your finger with Google Earth for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Explore distant lands or reacquaint yourself with your childhood home. Search for cities, places, and businesses. Browse layers including roads, borders, places, photos and more. Visit the Earth Gallery to find exciting maps such as real-time earthquakes, planes in flight, hiking trails, city tours, and more.”
23. Google Chrome
Developer Description: “Sign in to sync your personalized Chrome experience from your computer, and bring it with you anywhere you go.”
Why You Should Try It: You probably already have, but this is native way to view a wide variety of documents on the iPad.
25. TED Talks
Why You Should Try It: TED Talks consistently delivers passionate arguments from people that love learning. Whether or not they’ve oversaturated the market or jumped the shark entirely, they’re a must-have resource for the progressive educator.
Developer Description: “Soar through the universe with the Hubble Space Telescope, exploring discoveries from dark energy to colliding galaxies. This highly interactive eBook features video, image galleries and more to reveal the record of scientific breakthroughs behind Hubble’s stunning images of the cosmos.”
Why You Should Try It: Great for letter recognition practice for pre-school and Kindergarten.
28. Fill The Cup
Developer Description: “Four math games allow children to experience math concepts through manipulation. Rods is an addition/subtraction game that uses different sized rods side by side to show how two numbers make up another one. The child selects the rod that makes up the missing piece.”
Developer Description: “View the Common Core State Standards in one convenient FREE app! A great reference for students, parents, and teachers to easily read and understand the core standards. Quickly find standards by subject, grade, and subject category (domain/cluster). This app includes Math standards K-12 and Language Arts standards K-12. Math standards include both traditional and integrated pathways (as outlined in Appendix A of the common core) and synthesizes Language Arts standards with the Corresponding College and Career Readiness Standards (CCR’s).”
30. History Line
Developer Description: “History Line is a collaborative learning game for the iPad focusing on US History. The game can be played by 1-6 players. As a single player game, a series of historical events are presented on the screen and the goal of the game is to place the events onto a timeline at the bottom of the screen in the correct sequence. When the event placed on the line is correct the date appears below.”
31. Nova Elements
Why You Should Try it: This is an extremely well-produced science show–typical for NOVA and their other media.
Why You Should Try It: It’s not exactly free, as it depends on in-app purchases, but for both students and teachers, these guides (at $2 a pop) are useful study companions.
33. Pass the Past
Why You Should Try It: A decent, free test-prep app that isn’t innovative or engaging in the least, but may prove easier on the students than teacher-led drill-and-kill.
Why You Should Try It: It’s a stunning and visually engaging RSS reader for the iPad–possibly the best.
Developer Description: “The Exoplanet app is a highly visual and interactive catalogue of all known exoplanets. Exoplanets are planets orbiting stars beyond our own Solar System. It is frequently updated whenever new discoveries are confirmed. An amazing model of the Milky Way lets you explore our universe all the way from the Solar System to the cosmic microwave background.”
Developer Description: “This app will help your child learn the sounds of the letters of the alphabet, which are necessary for reading. Learning the sounds of the letters gives your child the tools for reading and helps them become better readers. A matching phonetic photo image is matched with each letter to help your child learn the sound of each letter.”
Developer Description: “Easy, simple and intuitive, just write the mathematical expression on the screen then let MyScript technology perform its magic converting symbols and numbers to digital text and delivering the result in real time.”
Why You Should Try It: Grid-style RSS reader makes processing large amounts of information a breeze.
Why You Should Try It: Foundational document of the United States that’s surprisingly misunderstood.
Why You Should Try It: Don’t look now, but Google+ is not only alive, but just might be the social media platform out there. (Now, if we can just get everyone to start using it.)
Why You Should Try It: Skim, curate, share, and publish on the go.
42. Khan Academy
Developer Description: It doesn’t matter if you are a student, teacher, home-schooler, principal, adult returning to the classroom after 20 years, or a friendly alien just trying to get a leg up in earthly biology; Khan Academy’s materials and resources (over 3500 videos) are available to you completely free of charge.”
Why You Should Try It: Visual browsing of tweets. Not only cool, but adds additional function and meaning to the tweets as well.
44. iTunes U
Why You Should Try It: Probably the most underrated resource Apple provides.
45. NPR for iPad
Developer Description: “Experience NPR as a delightful magazine! The NPR iPad app presents our award-winning storytelling as a seamless mix of audio, text and images in a clean visual design. With a focus on News, Arts & Life, and Music, the app gives you content that’s broad, deep and timely.”
Why You Should Try It: Visual and social news browsing for the win.
47. PBS Kids
Why You Should Try It: Free PBS video content to your lap.
48. Google Search
Why You Should Try It: This is the quickest way to search the most powerful search engine on the planet from your iPad.
49. Motion Math Zoom
Developer Description: “Motion Math Zoom’s zoomable, stretchable number line is missing some numbers – it’s up to your child to put the numbers back where they belong. The new game uses concrete objects to represent abstract numbers: from dinosaurs in the thousands down to amoebas in the thousandths. Fun animal animations and sound effects help elementary school children master the number line.”
Developer Description: “Orbit Architect allows you to interactively design and explore satellite orbital geometry through the multi-touch interface of the iPad. You can manipulate a satellite orbit using pinch and rotate multi-touch gestures, see the effects on the orbit and its ground track in real-time, and animate the results. As you change the orbit, dynamic diagrams will illuminate the meaning of each orbital parameter.”
Developer Description: “Numbler is a game where players build math equations in a familiar crossword style board. All the mental fun of popular board and online word games, but with numbers instead of letters.”
Why You Should Try It: Foundational early learning skills through play.
Developer Description: TeacherKit is a personal organizer for the teacher. It enables the teacher to organize classes, and students. Its simple and intuitive interface enables teachers to track the attendance, grades and behavior of students.
Developer Description: “Get clues, analyze data, solve the case, and save lives! In this fun app, you get to be the Disease Detective. Do you quarantine the village? Talk to people who are sick? Ask for more lab results? The better your answers, the higher your score – and the more quickly you’ll save lives. You’ll start out as a Trainee and can earn badges by solving cases, with the goal of earning the top rank: Disease Detective.”
55. Too Noisy
Why You Should Try It: If you’re a teacher, you don’t need this one explained.