School supplies are no longer restricted to pens, folders and anything else you can find in a stationary store. In fact, many of the best learning tools around can comfortably fit into your pocket. There are mobile applications for smartphones and tablets that can do everything from teaching your young child how to hold a pencil to keeping your older kids on top of deadlines and extracurricular activities.
Here are five back-to-school apps you should download right away.
Chalk Walk (iPad) Free
It’s not without irony that one of the best ways to teach kindergarteners how to hold pencils with a proper pincer grip requires the use of a touchscreen tablet computer. That is exactly the mission of Chalk Walk, an iPad game that has young learners practice drawing and tracing lines while holding their thumbs and index fingers together. Developed in part by Frances Judd, a veteran kindergarten teacher and digital education advocate, Chalk Walk also includes a basic word construction game in addition to offering challenges that develop motor skills. Other iPad apps for toddlers and early elementary students created by Mrs. Judd’s Games include Left Right Pup (which teaches direction awareness) and the symmetry-oriented game Snowflake Station.
iStoryBooks (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android) Free
iStorybooks is like an e-reader for small children, with the added option of having a narrator read the books for you. Selections include classic tales like The Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood. Further, there are several educational books for children that teach everything from ABCs to geography to sound association. Parents have the option of choosing what books kids can find within the app’s library. iStoryBooks also introduces a brand new story every two weeks, and provides up to 25 free selections.
Number Line (iPhone) Free
While Number Line in theory targets elementary school students between second and eighth grade, the fun and mildly addictive math game will challenge most parents as well. The premise is simple enough. A row of fractions, percentages and decimals are presented in random order. It’s up to the player to arrange the figures in order from smallest to largest. On its own, this isn’t that hard. But with a ticking clock in the backdrop that measures how many bonus points a player receives at each level, it becomes a little more difficult to quickly and accurately determine if 45 percent is indeed larger than 3/7. The game’s difficulty only increases the more levels you and your kid advance. In many ways, Number Line puts traditional flash cards to shame.
Wikipedia Mobile (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android) Free
For parents cringing at the thought of their middle and high school students using Wikipedia to help write term papers, hear me out first. Yes, Wikipedia’s database of information is in large part curated by amateurs rather than historians. However, as long as Wikipedia research is complemented with other sources, there is immense value in the service that is also available as free applications for most smartphones and tablets. Most of the information published in Wikipedia is community-vetted, which isn’t always the case with Google search results. The app also includes professionally-produced stories and historical tidbits of the day.
iStudiez Pro (iPhone, iPad) $0.99
Help your high schooler stay on top of term paper deadlines and exam preparation with this productivity application designed specifically for students. Entries are color-coded based on subject, and information entered into iStudiez also syncs with your calendar. The app provides push alerts when assignments are due, and includes a GPA calculator. While there is also a free version, it pays to invest the 99 cents in iStudiez Pro.