A review of our favorite educational apps released or updated in the past month. (Read all of our Educational Apps series.) Below you’ll find a mixture of iOS, Android, and Web-based apps.
MINECRAFT (POCKET EDITION). We've written before about the educational potentials of Minecraft, the open-ended, world-building game. November marked a couple of important milestones: After being in alpha and then beta since 2009, the game had its official version 1.0 release this month. Minecraft also (finally) released an iOS app (iTunes). The "pocket edition" of Minecraft is missing a lot of the features of the PC version -- there is no mining and no crafting, for example. But the main function is there: You can still build structures in an incredibly creative and fun way. (iOS, $6.99)
uTALES. Like a library card you pay for, uTales offers a subscription service for digital picture books, such as The Ugly Duckling and Aesop's Fine Life for a Mouse. The startup offers Web and iOS apps for users to access e-books for $9.99 per month. That affords you unlimited access to the titles written and illustrated by a community of a 1,000 members. As Daniel Donahoo writes on Wired's GeekDad blog, uTales taps into its subscriber base to help crowdsource the types of stories that uTales should publish. "It is an interesting concept," Donahoo writes, "one step away from the growing number of iPad app bookstores out there. Worth considering, or at least trying out if you find yourself reaching for the tablet at bedtime." (Web, iOS, free app w/ monthly subscription)
KINDERTOWN. Kindertown aims to answer what is becoming a more common question among parents and educators: how do you find good educational apps? Kindertown is an app store (within the iTunes app store) that curates content aimed at kids ages 3 to 6 (iTunes). The app allows you to filter your search by platform (iPhone or iPad, for example), age-appropriateness, subject matter (such as math or language arts) and price. Once you find the app you're looking for, Kindertown will then prompt the iTunes App Store to open so you can download it. (Free, iOS)
AUDUBON BIRDS: A FIELD GUIDE. The National Audubon Society has updated the iOS version of its bird-watching field guide (iTunes). The app offers a number of new features, including eBird, the ability to locate birds in real-time based on recent sightings, locations of rare birds and maps to all the birding hotspots across North America. The app also offers a journal feature so that birdwatchers can track what they've seen and where. To help with identification, the app offers a rich image library with over 3000 images that help you recognize birds by gender, age and plumage. (iOS, $14.99)