About the Apps
Finding strong American history apps in the App Store is something akin to the old needle in the haystack search. Type in "history" and you will get about 2,400 responses. "American History" gets you 140 apps, for instance.
It gets even more confusing when you type in specific topics. "The Civil War" will get you many results not listed in the the other searches. After spending a lot of time teaching with a variety of apps from different eras, some patterns emerge.
An app might appear to be exciting, but the sources can be obscure. Is the app written by a programmer in Russia? Is it written by a corporation that is more interested in profit than educating students? Many of the apps are aimed at high school teachers and students. There are a wealth of AP exam preparation apps.
Teachers interested in finding pre-made apps that test their students may find using "clicker" apps the best bet. The final unique challenge of using history apps with middle schoolers is the Goldilocks dilemma. Some apps are too easy, some are too oriented to higher level learners, and some fit. Finding the right balance of reputable authors and content that appeals to the Middle School isn't easy. The good news is that those apps do exist and more are being developed. Here we showcase the five best available right now.
Students learn in many ways. Some are more visual, some auditory, and some do best reading. All of these apps offer multiple ways to learn. History teachers have goals of showing students how to choose good sources, use historical documents, think critically, and keep students engaged. All of these apps help teachers and parents in achieving those goals.
The best app on the market today is The Civil War Today by the folks at History (formerly the History Channel). It is dynamic and interactive, allowing students to get new content daily. Students can also access historical primary sources, see photos, play a game, and even send telegrams via Twitter (assuming they are old enough to do so). It will engage students of any age.
In a similar vein, from the American Revolutionary War Center comes the American Revolutionary War Interactive Timeline. Written by the group building the newest Philadelphia museum on the birth of our country, the app makes the timeline come to life. Students can view almost 90 objects, read details about them, and occasionally watch videos. It promotes serious historical inquiry.
You can't really learn history without understanding how it fits within the context of current events. The ABC News for iPad app is the best of the video news apps. The app produces three editions a day in huge range of news categories. ABC News has access to top news shows like "Nightline" and "This Week." The live news feature works well. Other apps in this space are plagued by too many ads and the cable ones often require a subscription for live news. A love of current events can be kindled with this app more easily than any other.
For apps that will appeal to the younger middle schoolers as well as the older ones, Disney American Presidents is a colorful and wonderful history of the men who held the office. The deep and entertaining videos are key. Students can enjoy a virtual DC visit through Washington, DC by Kids Discover. They will learn about all the sites and take a 3-D tour of the Capitol.
These apps show the future of this exciting new world in education. Tomorrow promises to be even better.
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.