U.S. Presidents by Socratica, LLC

The app is a very simple presidential study guide. Each president has its own card with really basic information like: years he was president, the vice-president, and a picture. The app also provides a link to the wiki page of that particular president.

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Of little value, the app has a parade of presidents that consists of the president’s pictures being presented one by one in order of service. It also has a configurable quiz: you select the type of question from the data provided on the presidential card.

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The app is free, and although not rich in content it does have some value. If your child needs help learning basic president facts, this app is useful. Available on Google Play and the Amazon App Store.

Dictionary.com by Dictionary.com, LLC

Available from the Apple App Store (version reviewed), Play, and Amazon. This $2.99 version of this dictionary is all the dictionary you might need. Like any good dictionary, it provides  a detail definition of the word, idioms, origin and even sample sentences.

Although I have not reviewed any other dictionary app, two features really stand out. The first one is the ability to do searches when offline. When I place the iPhone in Airplane mode, I am still able to search for words. Although I was no able to test it, it should work great for devices that don’t have permanent internet connections or where it is not permitted.

The second feature that I really liked (and probably not the intended purpose) is the ability to make a list of favorite words. My daughter receives a list of words weekly for a test at the end of the week, and it would be useful to have those definitions handy and quickly accessible throughout the week.

 

It also has many other features of various value. It has a built-in thesaurus, able to hear the word spoken out loud, search by voice (worked great for me), share the word via e-mail, twitter or Facebook (limited value), and word of the day in Spanish and English (not bad to increase your vocabulary).

My only complaints are that on the iPhone 4S it is slow sometimes especially clicking between the button navigational buttons, and that although I like the extra features the interface seems cluttered.

The $2.99 version has no ads except a more page where it promotes other apps.

Shakespeare In Bits By Mindconnex Learning Ltd.

Works of Shakespeare abound for free from online booksellers. You can get them in paperback for less than $8. Plenty of people reading them can be found on YouTube. So why would anybody buy these same works for $14 each on the Apple App Store?

Shakespeare In Bits is beautifully animated, provides a space to write notes as it is read to you, is annotated, provides clarification (in the way of synonyms) for certain words, summary for each act/scene, character relationship map and you can even show the animation on a monitor (via AirPlay). Sure you can cobble together all this information for free on the web, but it wouldn’t be as polished and as enjoyable as this app.

My complaints are minor: No Android version exists, although technically you can use the web browser (I did not test this). In a couple of the scenes it was hard to hear the words over the background music. Perfectly read, but I felt some of the characters didn’t act it out as well as they should have (but this is subjective, and for $14.00 you can’t expect Claire Danes).

For a child struggling to understand any of these great works, I think Shakespeare In Bits is a great addition to the learning tool kit.

It is also available for teachers and teaching institutions online.

Toontastic By Launchpad Toys

Using a simplified story arc you set up a scene, the app guides your children through the creation of an animated story. You build the stories using scene, characters, music and your children recorded voices and sounds.

Some scene are pre-made, others you can buy, and you can even draw your own. So far the animated stories my children have created have used a combination of the provided scenes and their own creation.

Same as the scenes, you have many choices for the characters including creating your own.

The music you select by defining the mood of the scene.

After that: you drop the character on the scene, animate them with your fingers, and tell your story. You can save it locally or share it in multiple ways.

You can see great videos of kids creating movies at the publisher website.

My gripes are small: the time limit of one minute per scene (my daughter’s only complaint), no transitions between the scenes, not available on the Android platform (currently available on Apple App Store.

As an aid to teach/learn the story arc, I don’t know of any app that is this much fun.

Scribblenauts Remix

Immersed in virtual world you create objects to solve puzzles: need a rope to get a star, type the word rope and it appears. As the level progress, the objects you need to type and the puzzles get harder and harder. It was a great game on the Nintendo DS, and it made the transition to iOS devices beautifully. It is also a fraction of the cost of the Nintendo DS game.

Although targeted to children that can spell, it also has playgrounds that younger children with a help of an adult can create objects to play with. The publisher continues to update the app with different playgrounds. The latest involves a classroom for the back to school season.

Only complaint I have heard from my daughter: limited selection of girl players and you have to buy them. I would also love to see it for Android devices.

It is a spelling puzzle game that my kids enjoy playing again and again again.

Available only on Apple App Store for .99.

AJG

Minecraft – Pocket Edition

In creative mode you can build anything you want out of blocks. In survival mode there are animals, zombies, and mummies and you try to survive.

You can build anything you want, there is no limit. You can go into the same world as other people and build with them.

I wish that you could customize your character and that you can see people connected to a different wifi.

LMG

Additional Notes from AJG:

Allows you to build structures of any sizes. Houses, Tunnels and basically anything else you can imagine in a 3D world.

Other than the educational building aspects (think of Lego blocks), some school districts (at least in North Carolina) are using the full version as a way for children to build items that they plan and design.

Available on Play and the Apple App Store for $6.99.

Stack the States

States drop from top of screen, and the player is prompted to touch the correct state. Doing it correctly enough times clears the board and you are awarded a particular state. The awarded state is displayed on the USA map.

Even as an adult I enjoy the game. Great sound effects, graphics, and addictive elements make it a game you and your children would come back to again and again. My children love the game and all of them get something out of it (even the youngest, who can’t read).

At a price of 99 cents it is a bargain. A free version is available (not reviewed). The game is available on iOS and Windows phones, and works perfectly well when not connected (perfect for road trips). An outstanding educational game for the entire family. You are never to old to learn your states.

Review by AJG.