Top Ten List of KId Tested and approved Cool Apps for School

This summer I taught a class along with another fellow star, Christine Scoby, called “There”s an App for That”. We opened the class to any student fifth grade through ninth grade. It was our thought that all of our students knew how to use an iPad and knew all the latest apps for gaming, networking and playing videos. However, had they ever looked at how to use the iPad as a way to be more productive with their school work?

With that thought in mind we set out to help students learn and rate which apps are really going to be useful tools to have on their iPad when they begin school this year.   We divided the class into sessions that would explore  home work and planning apps, note taking apps, flash card apps, research apps, creativity apps and collaboration/presentation apps. In addition, we took the students through all of the settings of their iPads so that they would know how to use their ipad more efficiently, use all the acesseibility features, and also teach them how to problem shoot their iPad by themselves.

We found out our suspicions were correct, all of our students knew how to use an iPad and knew all the latest apps for gaming and networking but most of them had they not bothered to  look at how to use the iPad as a school tool. Many students had never explored the settings of their iPad, nor did they know how to organize their apps and therefor were missing a lot of the tools and options that make a mobile device such a great tool for their school work.  With that in mind we set out to take our digital natives to the next level and actually learn to use an iPad as a productivity tool for school and work.

Keeping in mind the rule, “show don’t tell” we had students work collaboratively in small groups to explore one of the apps from each day’s session category. For example one category was student agenda apps for copying homework  and keeping track of long term assignments and projects.

Each day we would chose a different category of apps to explore. We then  wouldvdivide into groups and put up a menu of 6 apps to explore for that sessions category. In choosing apps, we tried to use free apps as much as possible, but did sometimes include apps that cost money. The groups would then choose from the list one app that  their group wanted to explore.   The kids had to learn how to use the app and then actually use it to do a task. For instance , the students had to copy a day’s worth of homework or make a set of flash cards. At the end of the app exploration session, we would come together and the group would then teach the other students how to use it. They would rate each groups app on ease of use and worthwhile features. After the student presentations,  the students would download the app they liked the best for each category on their own iPad or other mobile device. We also had them spend a session finding 3 tips and hidden tricks that you can do with the ipad. Then using cooperative learning strategies we used a Team Carousel approach to share their favorite ipad trick to the other students. Every night the students left with an assignment. The assignment was to bring in a favorite app for music, games, photography When they came in they would add their app to a google doc of the apps we learned together and the apps they brought in that they liked.  At the end of each day we closed with sharing time where the students  could show off  their favorite app or iPad trick.

Two of the most interesting days were the days we spent on research and presentation apps. The students explored how to use tools like Discovery Streaming, Easy Bib, Rover,  Nearpod, Pages and other tools. The students were amazed that you can download Discovery Streaming videos to your iPad and that the citations were already there for them to cut and paste. Using Rover or road show they figured out how to save the clip to their iPad to view later.  One student, exclaimed, “This will make writing paper so much easier!”. Equally important to the students were how to use tools like drop box, good reader and bump to share data.

At the end of the class every student came away with a good knowledge of what school tools were available on their iPad. More importantly  they  now know how to select the right tool for each school task they need to accomplish and know how to use it. Our digital natives had moved to a new level of digital proficiency by becoming not just a savvy consumer of digital material , but a savvy producer of digital information.

What Apps made the Top Ten  list of  cool  Apps?

Category 1: Settings  all kids shoud know

Accessbility features  under the general settings that control voice, size of font, gestures, etc.

Category 2: Homework agendas

My homework

iStudiez pro (there is a lite version, but the kids thought the pro version was worth paying for)

Category 3- Note taking and graphic organizer Apps

 3 way tie for note taking– Evernote, Notes, Noteability

graphic organizers


popplet lite

Catergory 4 Flash cards

Study Blue (loved that it works with Quizlet)

Notecards lite

Category 5 Research

Discovery Streaming (loved that the clips  already had citations and loved all the images for reports)

Easy Bib (how cool that you can take a picture of the bar code on the book and it creates a citation in MLA style)

Bump ( yes, it works with iPads and is a great way to share pictures for a group presentation

Category 6 collaboration and presentation


Google Docs

Drop box

screen chomp

Good reader




quick graph


Explain everything

Category 7 – study help

Discovery Education Streaming (loved the homework helper and motivation station)

Shakespeare in bits

Kahn Academy

Replay notes


Category 8 Creativity






Category 9 –  A game for down time

Kick my Buddy ( not our pick but the kids love it)

On the last day of the class, the students had their ipad loaded and organized with tools they knew worked for them and also a google doc of other student app recommendations. If your school is going digital this year or you’ve just received a set of class iPads, I hope our student’s choices and kid approved school apps will help make your planning and  school iPad app selection easier. Good luck, and we wish you a good start to the new school year.








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  1. Cathy R said:

    I cannot thank you enough for this! My school just initiated “Bring Your Learning Device” to allow students to use their IPhones, IPads, etc. I have a “dumb” phone and don’t have a clue how to use apps or which ones I could use to help my students. One question: can these be used with “smart” phones, or are they specifically for IPad usage? Thanks again!

    • Tracie said:

      Hi Cathy,
      Our class had one student who only had an iPhone and she could do everything in the class. If your students have a smart phone there is usually the same or a similar app that will work.

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