10 Awesome Apps for Learning About Music, Nature, History and Math

Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

This article is more than 9 years old.

Continuing our monthly Educational Apps series, a mixture of iOS, Android, and Web-based apps.

  • STORYLINES: The educational games-maker Root-1 has released its latest app into the iTunes store this week. StoryLines (iTunes) is a bit like the game of "Telephone." Players are given a sentence or phrase to illustrate using the touchscreen on the iPad. That illustration is given to the next person, who writes a sentence, captioning the drawing. You can determine how many "links" in the story you'd like to see, and when you're done, Storyline replays the illustration and writing process. The tool could be an interesting way to get students thinking about the meanings of words and phrases and about illustration and interpretation, as well as a good launching point for creative writing exercises. (Free, iPad/Web)
    • IFTTT: ifttt is a new website that lets you hook up and automate some of the most popular Web 2.0 services -- sending your Instagram photos to Dropbox, for example. Sending starred items from your Google Reader to Instapaper. Sending Tweets to Evernote. Posting an RSS feed to your Facebook Page. Text messaging you with a weather forecast. "ifttt" stands for "If This, Then That" -- the conditional thinking that's fundamental in programming. ifttt lets you create tasks, triggered when a certain thing take place. Set up the trigger; choose the resulting action. The tool can be used to help students think about programming and computational thinking; but it's also a smart little tool for helping automate your own Web processes. (Free, Web)
    • TONARA: Tonara is a new app aimed at music lovers and music students. It's described as the "world's first interactive sheet music app." With Tonara, you can download sheet music and as you play, you'll be able to see your exact place on the music score. The app recognizes when you fumble -- when you miss notes or change the tempo -- and it turns the pages of the sheet music for you automatically. Tonara also lets you record and share your performances. The app is free, with a small selection of royalty-free sheet music available, and the startup plans to sell other songs soon. (iTunes) (Free, iPad)

  • BIRDS OF AMERICA: John James Audubon's illustrated The Birds of America holds the distinction of being the most expensive book ever sold. (Last year, a copy sold at auction for £7.3 million.) Only 200 sets of the book were created from Audubon's hand-painted illustrations, and just 119 are known to still exist. But the British Natural History Museum, which holds two of those copies, has released the book as an iPad app for the bargain price of £9.99, with a "digital Highlights edition" featuring 85 illustrated plates, for £3.99. Unfortunately, the app is only available in the U.K. and Europe at this time (iTunes). (£9.99, iPad)
  • PAPERCUT: Describing itself as an "enhanced reading experience," Papercut is a new iPad app containing three short stories from three well-known British authors: Richard Beard's 'James Joyce, EFL Teacher,' Nadifa Mohamed's 'Summer in the City' and Laura Dockrill's "Topple" (iTunes). These stories aren't aimed at children, although they'd probably be suitable for young adults. But as a lot of enhanced and animated e-books are aimed at kids, it's interesting to see how the concept of enhanced e-books is applied to other forms of literature. In these short stories, different sounds and animations are triggered as readers swipe through the "pages." ($5.99, iPad)


  • BACK IN TIME: Back in Time is an animated e-book that, as the title suggests, chronicles the history of the universe. The app takes readers through various events in history -- the extinction of the dinosaurs, for example, through to the foundations of human civilizations. The app uses a 24-hour clock as an analogy to help readers grasp time -- the dinosaurs' extinction occurred seven minutes ago, and Homo sapiens have been in existence for a little under a second. (iTunes) ($7.99, iPad)
  • METEOR MATH: Meteor Math is the latest app by educational app maker Mindshapes (iTunes). It's a blend of classic video arcade game play and math drills in multiplication, addition, subtraction, and division. As you level up, the game becomes increasingly challenging, both in terms of your math knowledge and your spaceship skills. ($2.99, iPhone/iPad)



  • BOBO EXPLORES LIGHT: Bobo Explores Light is an interactive iPad app that helps explain scientific concepts about light (iTunes). The app is wonderfully animated and the content is engaging and rigorous, covering a fairly expansive range of topics. These include, for example, how mirages, reflection, refraction, lasers, photosynthesis, and telescopes all work. Users are guided through the app by a robot named Bobo and the app allows users to interact with the animations and virtual experiments, including manipulating holograms ($6.99, iPad)
  • MAGIC OF REALITY: Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins' latest book The Magic of Reality is now available as an interactive app for the iPad (iTunes). The app contains the full text of the book, as well as illustrations, audio, and animations -- all of which are aimed to engage the reader in thinking through some of the scientific questions that Dawkins examines. Dawkins' explanations are simple and engaging enough for children, but the book is likely to be enjoyable by adults as well. ($13.99, iPad)

  • GLITCH: I can't really come up with a particular area of the curriculum that Glitch supports, and perhaps it's a stretch here to even include it as an educational app. But the game, with its official release just this week, is simply beautiful and I think it offers an interesting entry point for those parents looking for a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG) for kids that doesn't involve killing things. MMOs can, of course, teach digital citizenship and cooperation, as well as promote imaginative play. Glitch is the first game released by Tiny Speck, the latest project of Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield. A free, Web-based game, Glitch describes itself as set "inside the minds of eleven peculiarly imaginative Giants. You choose how to grow and shape the world: building and developing, learning new skills, collaborating or competing with everyone else in one enormous, ever-changing, persistent world." (Free, Web)