Like everything else, technology has transformed our education system, and the future success and leadership of the United States relies on it. Since we are always connected with each other through devices, students’ backpacks don’t just include pencils and notebooks anymore, but also laptops and tablets. Although some parents might argue that these gadgets are, in fact, distracting, there is no denying that technology is also enabling greater learning for kids of all ages.
There are hundreds of apps on iPhones and Android devices that make science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fun for kids. Although smartphone applications can’t replace traditional teaching, they do, nonetheless, represent the kind of self-paced learning that’s guided by technology. By permitting interactive learning, apps can spark an interest in young students for STEM-related careers.
Here are five mobile apps that are enabling STEM education. Some of the apps listed follow a game-based approach, while others rely on videos and/or quizzes as a means of teaching STEM concepts. There is one thing, however, all these apps have in common; they make the learning experience interactive and engaging for kids.
Cargo-Bot is a game that teaches kids coding skills. On each level, the objective remains the same: move colored crates from one place to another by programming a claw crane to move left or right and drop or pick up. Once students start interacting with the game, they’ll learn the logical thinking skills required to eventually do “real” text-based programming by using a coding tool called Lua-Lua. However, Lua-Lua isn’t really user-friendly for kids. For elementary students, it’s best to stick with Cargo-Bot.
Designed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) students and staff back in 2003, Scratch is a free visual programming language used by parents, students, and teachers to help create animation. Since its development, the game has become one of the first programming languages that were created specifically for 8 to 16 year olds. Students use a visual programming language to make bricks they can drag to animate sprites. The various types of bricks triggers loops, create variables, play sounds, and more. Teaching guides, communities, and other resources are also now available online to help parents and instructors get started. The good news is you don’t have to be a programming expert to introduce this fun game to your child.
This game looks a lot like Scratch, and even uses similar controls to drag-and-drop programming blocks into a work space, but the game only works on an iPad. Students can learn coding and programming with the game’s user-friendly software. With coding tutorials, young students are able to create art, games, and simple websites. They can also play the games they’ve created with other students and share their codes with other iPad users. With the Hopscotch curriculum, parents and teachers can supplement learning with interactive lessons that discuss core-coding concepts.
4. The Chemical Touch
This simple, yet information-packed smart app lets users explore properties of elements, amino acids, and nucleobases. Students will learn about the various elements using a touch-sensitive periodic table, which you can organize by color depending on the properties. If the student wants to learn more about each element, amino acid, or nucleobase, the app will take them directly to the Wikipedia page for each element.
5. Solar Walk
Solar Walk allows students to explore outer space right from behind their screens. The apps feature an interactive model of the solar system and of the Milky Way galaxy. The time machine function allows users to travel through space and time, and they can even see real-time trajectories of the most interesting artificial Earth satellites. This game also helps kids learn more about planets; their names, mass, radius, and their internal structure. If you have a space-loving child, this app is a must.
What are some other applications that can help improve a child’s STEM skills? Feel free to leave a comment below.
H. Davis is a writer who loves being active. If you can’t catch him online, you might be able to catch him watching sports or reading up on new gadgets. Follow him on Twitter at @Davis241.