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Your iPad or Mine?

6/30/2010 by Brian Nadel, Tech Tools

It’s clear that the iPad has the power to transform education from stationary learning to a process that can be performed anywhere. With a starting price of $500, it’s on a par with netbooks and a lot easier to swallow for a class than notebooks that cost 50 percent more. The iPad is also thinner, lighter and has a touch screen that kids can’t keep their fingers off of.

The key to any computing platform is the software that runs on it and the iPad has 150,000 programs available with many more on the way. On top of newspaper and magazine content, there are thousands of iPad programs designed for education. Some are free, $10 goes a long way with these programs and $50 is about as much as you can spend on a single education app.

Here’re more than dozen of my favorites of iPad apps for students and teachers. Send me yours.


School zone The latest iPad learning app is School Zone’s First Grade Pencil-Pal Learning Game, a $10 program that’s now available at the iTunes online store. With a nautical theme, Captain Bingham Bear shows first graders letters and numbers as well as starting the process of teaching sight reading. With 8 videos, lots of music, jokes and riddles the game teaches kids about money, telling time and the rudiments of adding and subtracting – all without it seeming like learning.


U.S. Geography by Discovery Education is an innovative program that makes learning about our country as painless as possible. Developed with Phunware, U.S. Geography is as much fun as it is challenging with videos, games and quizzes with curriculum that’s aligned to national middle school standards. Kids can get to know about things like bodies of water or culture in the 7 American geographic regions (Pacific, Mountain, Southwest, Midwest, Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, and New England). It’s available for $4.99 at Apple’s App Store.


Clint Bagwell Consulting has a trio of apps for iPad-centric social studies classrooms. Declaration and Constitution are must-have apps for social studies teachers and one of my absolute favorites. The two apps can help bring the text of these founding documents of the United States into focus. On top of an image of each document, the app has the full text along with the biographies and historical notes that can help provide the perspective that kids need. There’re both free-bees for the iPad aware school.

Although the Manual of the United States costs $1.99, it is priceless for middle- and high-school students. On top of the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation and Constitution, the app includes texts of Washington's Farewell Address, Lincoln’s second Inaugural and Gettysburg Address, plus a dozen more key American documents. It shows how laws are made and has biographies of all the Presidents and Supreme Court justices.


With ABCya’s Bingo, kids can play their way to a better understanding of math. Inside there’re four games for helping students master adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing. Kids can assume any of 8 different avatars and play games that help hone their skills collect Bingo Bugs and compare how they’re doing.


There’s nothing like finger painting and the iPad along with OmniSketch can turn anyone into an artist. OmniSketch turns the iPad into an artist’s easel for anything from quick sketches to detailed art projects. On top of a variety of 18 brush types and the ability to mirror your work to create hypnotic symmetrical pieces, OmniSketch has a digital eraser. The software can store a virtually unlimited number of art projects in its gallery so that many classes can use the same iPads. Best yet, it costs $1.99.


Advanced Placement biology students will love Modality’s Netter’s Anatomy Flash Cards because it brings human anatomy to life. There are more than 300 illustrative animated cards that explain all the body parts from head to toe. There are 7 sections on the Back and spinal cord, head and neck, abdomen, thorax, pelvis and the limbs. At anytime you can zoom-in or –out or put a digital pin in to create a custom label or mark a place of interest. When you think you’ve got it all down, take the anatomy quiz. While at $40, it’s among the most expensive iPad school apps, Netter’s Anatomy is a great way to learn what makes us go.


On top of SPARKvue software for collecting and analyzing sensor data for science classrooms that works with PCs and Macs computers, Pasco has an app for the iPad as well, making it a more visual experience. It features real-time collection of data from a number of sensors, visualization of the data in graphs and new analysis tools. On top of reading the iPad’s built-in accelerometer readings, the software works with Pasco’s Passport sensors through the company’s Airlink2 Bluetooth interface. Best of all, it’s a freebee from the iTunes site.


ThumbJam make beautiful music without a piano, guitar or xylophone in sight. In fact, the app can transform any space into the music room with more than 30 digital instruments, including violin, cello, piano and even a Theremin. There are more than a dozen drum loops for a variety of different musical styles. Anything you do can be recorded and looped for use in other programs and creating more complex compositions. It costs $6.99.


If you have a class of early learners who are having trouble turning their thoughts into complete, grammatical sentences and essays, Sentence Builder can help by adding a visual approach with 100 different images to build writing around. Good for elementary students, Sentence Builder lets students pick words from a rotating dial that’s like a slot machine. After a while they have a full sentence written. The software has 60 audio and video clips to encourage the kid and a voice tells them whether it’s correct or not, and it keeps track of how often the student gets it right on the first try.


Sometimes all kids need is a little help organizing their thoughts and material, and CarbonFin Outliner can help them get their act together. Regardless of whether it’s for a report on the causes of the Civil War or a fund raiser for the football team, Outliner does everything from a daily to-do list to the ability to track a complex project to fruition. Kids and teachers can share their outlines, add notes to them and visually view how many of the items are finished. It costs $4.99 at Apple’s iTunes store.


While the Elements interactive Periodic Table app is a keeper, Sunset Lake’s Molecules takes it to another level. The software creates a 3-D rendering of molecules that you can rotate, pan or zoom-in and –out of by using your fingers. Images of a variety of chemicals can be directly downloaded and then visualized and manipulated on the iPad’s display. It’s a free-bee that any science teacher will appreciate.