STEMpower

Free Apps for Education

Technology is dynamic, and so is learning in general. With increasing reliance on tablets and iPads to teach, there is thankfully an ongoing surplus of free apps available for kids to continue bolstering their knowledge of STEM concepts.

One such app is Fruit Plate Math. Designed to help students review certain math facts, Fruit Plate Math is actually a replication of plates and fruits which can be manipulated to create equal-size-group models of multiplication. This app allows users to practice using math properties (like the distributive property), create foundational concepts, and help develop fact fluency (Wall, Beatty & Rogers, 2015). This teaching and learning method can be especially impactful if it is used in third or fourth grade, but can also be adjusted to instill remedial concepts for students who struggle.

There is also the widespread availability of free instrument apps, which has great implications for use in the science classroom. Some of those instruments include a pro metronome (allows the user to set a time signature and hear any of seven metronome tones), the “Teslameter 11th” (measures magnetic pull by using the built-in magnetometer to monitor the strength of a magnetic field), or the “Thermo” by Apple (displays the present temperature in Celsius or Fahrenheit in a thermometer graphic for any location in the world while providing the previous day’s temperature and what the current day’s temperature “feels like”). While it may have been costly to introduce these kinds of instruments to students in the past, they can now be accessed freely using an Android or Apple devices (Heilbronner, 2014) .

As greater emphasis is being placed on student learnedness in technology, ongoing research has endeavored to reveal which apps are most beneficial for students. Gabrielle Cayton-Hodges, Gary Feng, and Xingyu Pan (2015) sought to uncover what might be best in assessing math via tablets; what could be learned from math apps? In the final analysis, these researchers concluded that, because assessments are moving away from the traditional paper and pencil method, it might be best for programmers and assessment developers to collaborate in creating apps. In this process, they advised such a team to “thoroughly review the mapping between concepts/operations and objects/actions early in the task design stage; start with what evidence is needed to make inferences about student performance, and design the interactions to collect the necessary data; create opportunities for students to self-reflect or explain their problem-solving process; keep the user engaged, on task, and moving forward to ensure that students are “in the game” enough to accurately assess content knowledge (Hodges, Feng & Pan, 2015).

PCS considers this information vital and has implemented its newest camp utilizing free apps, Video Production Camp, to keep student learnedness at the forefront. Video Production Camp incorporates a great deal of creativity with the use of editing techniques to create one of a kind feature films made by students. The camp teaches technical skills like recording and importing both video and audio files in addition to classical composition ideals. Art and apps truly create a beautiful product in this engaging, new product. With the ongoing availability of new and exciting apps used to get kids excited about STEM, the sky is the limit in terms of creation and exploration.


References

Heilbronner, N. N. (2014). THINK INSTRUMENTS, THINK APPS: Using App-Based Technology in the Science Classroom. Science Scope37(9), 42–49.

Jennifer J. Wall, Heidi N. Beatty, & Michael P. Rogers. (2015). Apps for Teaching, Not Just Reviewing. Teaching Children Mathematics21(7), 438–441.

Gabrielle A. Cayton-Hodges, Gary Feng, & Xingyu Pan. (2015). Tablet-Based Math Assessment: What Can We Learn from Math Apps?. Journal of Educational Technology & Society18(2), 3–20.