Karin has three kids, two in middle school. Like most people who live with or teach kids this age, she knows that what’s in now will be passé in a day, and that few kids want to admit that school can be cool. So when her daughter came home from a friend’s house chattering about life in Jamestown in colonial days, Karin was eager to know what sparked this enthusiasm. Perhaps she should have guessed: It was an iPad app. Karin looked up the Early Jamestown history app in the App Store (it’s free), and she found other interactive history apps there as well. Maybe one of them will also interest her kids.
Maureen and Jimmy homeschool their twin sons, who have just turned thirteen. One boy struggles with math; the other dreams of flying spaceships to the stars. Through their homeschool co-op, the parents found apps for both boys. Now the future astronaut spends much of his free time exploring the universe on Star Walk HD, finding cool space information and pictures on the NASA App, or wandering around the moon via NASA’s Lunar Electric Rover Simulator. His math-resistant brother is mastering fractions with the game 4 Dice: Fraction Games. They are researching introductory algebra apps together.
Pao teaches social studies in a large middle school. The iPads used in his classroom are loaded with maps, cultural stories, demographic information, and online news feeds. But students bring many suggestions to him as well, and that is how he discovered Fluent Reader, a customizable news aggregate, which has become a favorite resource for class projects, such as making current-events presentations on iMovie
Just like in elementary classrooms, apps are fast changing how middle school students gain information, memorize dates, and drill on math or spelling. Many apps designed specifically for kids in middle school are increasingly interactive and made to engage even resistant students.
Keeping up with the technology can be a full-time job. Many schools have media and technology specialists to support staff and help maintain the equipment. For those who don’t have a specialist, Apple’s App Store makes it easy to find appropriate apps with their extensive education sections covering a wide range of topics. Families who teach at home can find resources like Homeschool Tablet to help them sort through the options. That site also offers tips on managing memory and batteries on your equipment. Sites like Edudemic and LiveBinders offer resource suggestions and reviews for teachers and parents. A simple Web search can find more apps for nearly any topic and many platforms, but the widest availability is still for Apple products like iPads, iPods, and iPhones.
With all the variety out there, many free or low-cost, teachers, parents, and students should be able to find something appropriate for their classes. Here is a small sampling of apps for middle-schoolers that they will actually use.
Social Sciences and History
Civil War Today
Early Jamestown history app
Map My Globe
Knowledge Nova, memorization of U.S. history facts and geography, world geography
Britannica Kids history series
Physical Education and Health
Spark PE to track physical education activities
Discover Your Body HD
Teaching Table’s Math Manipulatives for iPad can create custom work for individual students
Best Apps for Kids: Middle School
Best 100 iPad Apps for Middle School Students
iBooks, the Kindle app, and other tablet readers have books on, well, everything!
We would love to hear what apps you find useful with your own students and encourage you to comment below.
We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.