About the Apps
As students begin secondary science topics like earth and space science, there are fewer 'game' type apps that are appropriate for this age level. The best we can hope for in entertainment value is found by nurturing the natural curiosity students have about why there are mountains in one area and not in another, or what lies out in outer space.
Instructional time in the earth and space sciences are devoted to making sense of patterns, providing a common (formal science) language to events, features, and objects. The iPad's clever use of multimedia, unique technologies such as the accelerometers, compass, mobile cameras, and gyroscopes make exploring this discipline much more engaging than the standard paper-bound Earth Science Textbook permits. Our favorite apps in this category all take advantage of the cutting edge technology found within the iPad.
For instance, one of our favorites in this discipline is SkyView. This app is consistently is at the top of the list. Sky gazers are finding it an indispensable companion tool to their high end telescopes as they use it to dial-in location coordinates for specific celestial bodies. It actually combines the time of day, location, angle, and direction the iPad is pointed - north, south, east or west - to overlay appropriate celestial, planetary, and even satellite data over the top view through the camera. This type of data overlay is called Augmented Reality, and SkyView does this with honors! Note that a network connection - WiFi or cellular data-capable iPad is required for location accuracy.
If you want a standard planetarium app that doesn't utilize the camera view, there are many to choose from. An app that is rather limited in scope of the concepts it teaches can afford to be more effective at teaching a very focused subject. Such is the case of Ptolemy Universe. This app is another piece of the puzzle for comparing various theories of orbital movement as science students frequently had models or diagrams showing Ptolemy's theory of orbital movement to that of Copernicus.
Back on earth, plate tectonics are driving continents together and apart. There are many complex dynamics at work here and a structural geologist who is also a pilot and photographer has taken to the air to look back at earth. His interactive book app, Wonders of Geology An Aerial View of America's Mountains, is a marvelous way to teach students how to draw inferences from photographs of the earth's surface. It's a whole new way to read the earth's surface.
Every classroom with an iPad can monitor and measure the movement of the earth beneath their feet using the app iSeismograph. Even if they are not in an earthquake-prone zone, this app is an effective tool for teaching X, Y, and Z axis movement and the relative sensitivity of crust vibrations.
Finally, SkySafari 3 arguably offers the best bang for your buck. The interactive planetarium has an extensive database, and serves as a great companion to your telescope.
Comments & Suggestions Have a suggestion for an educational app for this category you think we should feature? Let us know.
How are apps scored?
Apps are scored using a proprietary evaluation rubric to judge Educational Content, Kid Appeal, Assessment, Features and Design, Value, and Safety and Privacy.