Next Friday is Earth Day, a time we stop and thank mother nature as we try to help clean up our planet. With help from E.O. Wilson’s Biodiversity Foundation, Apple has a lot of content that you can build a lesson around with everything from conserving water and understanding ecosystems to climate change and how important keystone species are. It all comes together with the backyard Bioblitz, an activity where kids investigate and document the fauna and flora all around us.
Learning the state capitals, shapes and locations is now a matter of playing rather than rote memorization. That’s because Stack the States makes it into a game with a state-shaped avatar to help kids learn the ins and outs of the 50 states. In addition to animations and interactive elements the app has high-resolution images of the important landmarks for everything from Alaska to Wyoming. There’s a free Lite version, but the full app costs $1.99 and works with Android and iPads.
Few educational apps fulfill the promise of the iPad more than Osmo, which just gets more and more interesting as time goes on. Aimed at the smallest learners in a school, Osmo works with all iPads and includes a reflector stand that works with the software and small manipulative materials that help to integrate the lesson. The kit comes with Numbers (to explore early math concepts), Tangrams (making shapes from small geometric figures), Words (which lets you write out things with small characters), Newton (that turns anything into a digital pachinko machine) and Masterpiece (for creating artwork). The Starter kit costs $79, which the Genius kit goes for $99.
The latest version of Reading Rainbow, the Skybrary School Edition is perfect for teaching and motivating kids to read. Aimed at elementary school early learners, the school edition includes access to more than 500 books as well as video clips, classroom lesson plans and assessments with open-ended questions that probe reading comprehension. It lets students read when they want to while teachers can sneak a peek as to how often kids are actually reading. An annual license costs $179 per classroom (for up to 35 students) or $1,450 (for up to 350 students), but there’s a 30-day trial.
With a slew of dynamic and interactive classroom devices, why use boring static documents? Knomadix can liven them up, transforming flat into multi-layered interactive material that can help get and keep a child’s attention. The Android apps can help create everything from interactive worksheets that self-grade to educational games that can help with instruction and deepen understanding. There’s a free trial with sample lessons.
DimensionU’s online edu-games are now available on Android slates and smartphones. The company continues to focus on math and literacy skills aimed at third-through-ninth graders, but the new software opens a new, well, dimension for teachers at Android-centric schools. At the moment, DimensionU has hundreds of games for individuals and groups and teachers can get a trial account.
Dissecting is becoming a virtual task, but the Antomage Table takes this to its logical conclusion with a full-body imaging system that uses a pair of 35-inch display panels to show a virtual cadaver. They add up to an 87- by 28-inch work surface that shows 3,840 by 1,080 resolution and lets students see the difference between a pancreas and a gall bladder. At $70,000 with a digital library of more than 500 clinical examples, the Anatomage Table isn’t cheap, but it has everything for digital dissections, except the smell of formaldehyde.
Turnitin’s Revision Assistant takes advantage of a very important part of the writing process: revising an original to polish and finish it. Aimed at sixth through twelfth graders, Revision Assistant provides valuable feedback that appear in the margins next to highlighted text. The most interesting aspect of the program is the unique Signal Check that provides a visual record of the work’s language, focus, use of evidence and organization.
The latest online curriculum comes from Kids Discover Online, a repository of online science and social studies content. Because it’s browser-based, Kids Discover can work with just about any recent computer and delivers 100 common topics with material at three different reading levels that range from ancient Greek to ecology. Aimed at K-through-8th grade, the service starts with the latest news items in each area and the content is chock full of interactive elements, infographics and visual representations of the relationships between topics.