Homeschooling With Technology
by Jen W.
Each day seems to bring more education-related apps for the iPhone, iPad, and Android platforms. However, not all of these are created equal. Here are some apps that my kids and I have found to be of great use as study tools or as methods of demonstration. It’s worth noting that there are many science apps that serve as little more than vehicles for flashcards or quiz questions; all of the apps on this list have more substance than that.
- HudsonAlpha iCell (iPad, Android): This app gives students a 3D, easy-to-rotate view inside the three basic cell types: animal, bacteria, and plant. While viewing a specific cell type, students can tap the parts of the cell, which both zooms in on the part and provides a brief description. It provides three levels of knowledge: basic, intermediate and advanced. Basic is good for elementary (or lower level readers) while the intermediate and advanced are good for middle school through very basic college-level biology. I highly recommend this app as part of learning about cells and/or while working on microscope skills. It could use more information, such as the fact that a cell might contain thousands of organelles or show the internal structure of the mitochondria.
- D. Bones (iPad, Android): This is a great app for learning all about the skeletal system. It has three modes: a text that provides information about each bone in the body; in puzzle mode, students drag and drop parts of the skeleton with three different levels of difficulty; finally, quiz mode tests students on their knowledge base using two different levels of difficulty. My only complaint is that it can a little hard to tap exactly where the app wants you to.
- Biology – Plant Handbook HD (iPad, Android): This is a wonderful high school level app designed to teach students about the biology of plants. It teaches about leaves, dissection types, flowers and more. There is also a free version that gives limited access, but could give you an idea of what this app is like before paying for it. Biology – Plant Handbook (free)
- Froguts Frog Dissection HD (iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire): This is a very realistic view of a frog dissection. It has male and female specimens and provides both dissection and 4 different practicum modes. It can be used either to help walk a student through a hands-on dissection (which is preferable to my mind) or could be used as an alternative to actual dissection (especially for those students for whom dissection might cause an ethical dilemma).
- DK The Human Body App (iPad): This multi-award winning app is an amazing reference guide containing over 270 zoom-able illustrations, detailed videos, story pages and a testing tool. It covers all 12 systems of the human body: “integrated body, skeletal, muscular, nervous, endocrine, cardiovascular, respiratory, skin, hair & nails, lymphatic & immune, digestive, urinary and reproductive.”
- Back in Time (iPhone, iPad, Windows 8): This app gives an astounding view of the universe, allowing students to travel back in time to the moment of how scientists believe the Big Bang happened, through the vast stretch of time until the present day. There are animations, videos, timelines, and articles that discuss various phenomena. The one drawback to this app is that it takes up a lot of memory (over 600 MB), but the upside is that you don’t need to access the internet for the app to remain functional.
- Folds and Faults (iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire): This is a simple app that teaches students about the various types of folds and faults found in rock layers. It is a great little geology tool, especially if you are visiting an area that allows students to observe these in real life. It doesn’t have incredible depth or substance, but that is probably expected with its low price point.
- Water Cycle HD (iPad): This is an audio-visual presentation of the water cycle. It includes photos, videos, and a Bloom’s taxonomy-based quiz function. This is one of the few apps in this list designed with younger students in mind.
- Solar Walk (iPhone, iPad): This is another multi-award winning app. It serves as a 3D model of the solar system. You can view the galaxy as a whole, moons of other planets, interesting artificial satellites orbiting the earth, or a host of other databases. There are so many features available within this app that they are impossible to list in this short blurb.
- Monster Physics (iPhone, iPad): This app allows students to build and operate various types of vehicles. They must use their vehicles to complete over 50 different “missions.” Monster Physics Lite (free)
- Building Serial Circuits (iPad): Students will learn about circuits via 3D graphics and 2D symbols. They will build various types of circuits using wires, switches, batteries and light bulbs. This would be a great supplement or prelude to a similar hands-on activity. Building Serial Circuits Lite (free)
- Building Parallel Circuits (iPad): Using 3D graphics and 2D electronic symbols, students will build simple parallel circuits by using wires, batteries, switches, and light bulbs. By constructing their own closed circuit with two light bulbs, they will develop a deeper understanding of series and parallel circuits and discover that electricity follows the path of least resistance. Building Parallel Circuits Lite (free)
- Coaster Physics (iPhone, iPad): Students learn about physics while building roller coasters. You can create and ride all sorts of roller coaster tracks while learning how speed, acceleration, energy and g-force change at different points in the track.
- The Elements: A Visual Exploration (iPhone, iPad): This is a beautiful reference that takes students on a visual journey through the period table. You can read about each element and see a visual sample.
- Molecules (iPhone, iPad): This app allows students to view and manipulate 3D models of various molecules. They can download simple or complex molecules as they need to view them. The one downside to this app is that it would be nice if there was a better catalog of available molecules that students could explore.
- ChemLab (iPhone, iPad): This app tests students’ knowledge of chemical compounds in a fun setting. If you are creating carbon monoxide, then you must add one carbon and one oxygen to the formula. Get it wrong and things go “boom!” While formulas are given after the fact, a pre-knowledge of chemical formulas would be useful.