One of the most common questions I am asked as a teacher is for recommendations on iPad apps suitable for children. Many of the apps out there are branded (as are pretty much all childhood products, from cutlery to suitcases and everything in between) and most of these are games. Some are great fun for children to play, and come up easily when searching the app store, but some of the real educational gems are really well hidden. This article will show you some of the best apps I have found so far.
One of the major problems with the app store is that of the hundreds of thousands of apps, only a handful will come up with any search. Some of the very best apps have little chance to hit the top rankings, and for every Flappy Bird making headlines there are hundreds of good educational apps hidden away.
Recommendation is the key to providing your child with a range of excellent creative apps. All of the apps mentioned in this article are ones I have used either with my children at home or with a variety of classes aged 7-11 at school, and an increasing number of apps on my list have been introduced to me by colleagues in other schools I have visited, or indeed via a pupil running up to me excitedly and saying “Sir, I’ve got the best new app for you!”
Recommended Apps for 2014
This cool app is an excellent video production program that allows children to combine and narrate videos, photos, and drawings with relative ease. There is a bit of a learning curve but it is regularly updated by the makers and I’d say it has started to get easier to use in the last six months. Having said that, I have not had a pupil not grasp how to use this app with a little basic tutoring, and once learnt, the controls are logical and easy to understand. This is an imagination app; any manner of story can be created in an hour or so, and each project can be saved, exported, and emailed easily.
Doing a project on Shakespeare? Grab a portrait of the man online and use Morfo to make him speak to your class. I once had a class listen to a toilet seat for ten minutes using this app. Crazy but true! With Morfo you take any photograph, place eyes, nose, and mouth, and you instantly have a talking face. The app records your voice and maps your words to the mouth of your photograph, allowing you to create and export a video clip. It’s very amusing to use, and can really liven up an English or History project by creating a speaking, moving video character to present your child’s words.
Want something that isn’t a game but will relax your child? They can use this app to make their own games (There is no input needed from an adult. It does all the teaching work for you!) whilst Hopscotch will only entertain a child for a few days, it is a great introduction to programming, something which is making serious inroads into education as the National Curriculum for ICT is modernised. Children can also examine games other children have made directly through the apps home screen, and use these games as ways to grow their own knowledge of how various programming routines work.
If you happen to be a teacher, this is a brilliant introduction video to show a very confused class! Whilst it may not be in English, it conveys exactly how to use the app very succinctly – providing a real life lesson on overcoming language barriers via visual prompts. Something that is, at the same time, a bit fun to add in as a unique lesson starter.
This is an amazing introduction to iPad music creation. Prepare for headaches, or buy headphones in advance! The app has been produced by two professional musicians, including the very cool Boris Blank from the Swiss group Yello (hence the name). Although this app is incredibly simple, it manages to include many of the advanced features of professional level music apps, including sample splitting, reverb, delay, and sequencing. The music that a child can make from this app is pretty amazing. My three-year-old had created a cool little tune using her voice, a simple recording of her favourite song taken via the built in iPad microphone, a little help from Dad, and a bit of a play with the buttons to see what effect they have on the song. She loved doing this. It’s so much more than just using YouTube to hear her favourite song.
The TED talk from the app inventors is a brilliant way of introducing both ‘lecture style’ talks and the app itself to children. I’m a big fan of using TED talks to enthuse children, and to encourage them to ask questions about how the world works and how it is likely to progress in their lifetime.
One of the most beautiful apps I have ever seen. This uses a classic animation style to inspire storytelling and the use of several media styles to introduce useful iPad skills. In this one app children can animate cartoons, structure classical music, and make short films that tell simple stories. The quality of the video files produced is quite amazing.
Let a videogame character present your work to the class. This is a great storytelling device at home or in school, and can be used to help reticent public speakers make their initial engagements with an audience.
Tellagami uses a skill that many children have already developed. Many video games let the player create their own avatar or character. Tellagami mimics this procedure, allowing a child to create a character with their selection of hair colour, skin tone, clothing choices, and facial features. Once the character is created, a generic background, photograph, or image grabbed from the Internet can be used as a backdrop for the character to stand in front of. The child records their voice, or can type the words that they want the Gami to say, and the resulting product is exported as a video file. A good example of the sort of work that can be produced by this app would be a video of a Gami talking about Roman life while standing in front of a sequence of famous Roman ruins. The result would be an excellent and evocative project that could really grab a classroom and impress any teacher.
Mark Hulkus has worked in a teaching environment for many years. He has been a primary school teacher in a Preparatory Department in a 150-year-old boarding school in Wales; he spent several years as a Head of IT. He currently provides a range of IT services in schools, helping them gear up for the recently announced changes in IT requirements. He has three children, is obsessed with the 1980s, and runs a fun design website at www.retroboombox.co.uk.
If you have a question for Mark email us at firstname.lastname@example.org