Apps, Programs and Websites
Apps, Programs and Websites for Parents, Teachers and Kids
Technology
Algodoo

Grades: 5-9

Level of Difficulty: Moderate to High

Bloom’s New Taxonomy: Creating, Evaluating, Analyzing, Applying

Costa: Level II and III

Schank’s Cognitive Processes: Modeling, Experimentation, Planning

Website: http://www.algodoo.com/

Algodoo is the perfect program for situations in which actual physics experiments are not possible. This program helps kids construct experiments using 2-d animation. Many of the physics problems involve density, refraction, mass, materials, magnetism, velocity, and motion. Those who are familiar with STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) will recognize this as something which easily will fit into those types of activities. The site has numerous tutorials and virtual demos to help kids understand how to manipulate the objects on the screen. Once kids understand how to manipulate the materials on screen, you may have a hard time prying them away from their project. This is a great site for tinkering and experimenting. Of course, there is a way for kids to share their projects, once they have completed making them.

Overall: This is a very good problem-solving program which will help kids intellectually think about physics and STEM integration. Five Stars ★★★★

CK-12

Grades: 5-9

Level of Difficulty: Low to Moderate

Bloom’s New Taxonomy: Applying, Understanding, Remembering

Costa: Level I and II

Schank’s Cognitive Processes: Evaluation, Diagnosis, Causation

Website: http://www.ck12.org/

This is advertised as a source of curricular information for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) but it goes beyond what many schools consider to be STEM activities. For example, the site has math and science areas but includes another called “more,” which basically can be anything from engineering to technology to American history. The math area includes familiar topics such as measurement, algebra, and geometry. The science area includes familiar topics such as earth science, chemistry, and life science. Teachers can access a wide range of lesson plans and can also add their own content. There are mechanisms for kids and teachers to share information back and forth and kids can take quizzes in addition to listening to audio and watching video. There also is a bookmarking feature for students, which is a plus.

Overall: Even though this is not an inclusive site of all possible curricular areas within STEM, there still is lots of good stuff on this site. This is a significant site for STEM teachers. Best of all—it’s free. Four Stars ★★★★

Code.org

Grades: 5-9

Level of Difficulty: Moderate

Bloom’s New Taxonomy: Creating, Evaluating, Analyzing

Costa: Level II and III

Schank’s Cognitive Processes: Modeling, Experimentation, Planning

Website: https://code.org/

Major educational and business think tanks are starting to recommend that American schools start teaching their students how to code. Code.org is the end result of some of this thinking and lots of their dollars. In Code.org the mantra is the “Hour of Code,” which simply means their goal is to hook kids on coding within sixty minutes. Consequently, the program chunks coding together to jump start kids learning how to code much faster than other popular coding programs like Scratch. The end result may be the same but this one probably takes less time with which to become familiar. With Code.org kids can make games, academic assignments, scenarios, and all sorts of other animations. This program has the support of major business figures, such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg and, of course, there are videos of them exhorting kids onward and forward into the world of coding. This program can also easily be done at home with the requisite normal level of parent supervision.

Overall: This program has been well received by teachers. And there is a reason for that. Five Stars ★★★★

GameMaker Studio

Grades: 5-9

Level of Difficulty: Moderate

Bloom’s New Taxonomy: Evaluating, Analyzing, Applying

Costa: Level III

Schank’s Cognitive Processes: Modeling, Experimentation, Planning

Website: http://www.yoyogames.com/studio

Do you dream about your middle school child or students saving the universe from the alien invasion or defending the princess in the castle from the barbaric hoard? Are you convinced you have the next Minecraft game designer under your roof? For all middle school wanna-be game designers this is the must have app for you. GameMaker Studio is the dominant game designing program for entry level beginners and those who have some experience. The primary use of this program is simple—learn how to design games. Students will have the opportunity to learn how to make objects, sprites, and rooms and to store these pieces in a library, where a hierarchy tree will help them understand the relationships between their creations. There are numerous tutorials and they can go to YouTube and find lots of additional videos on the finer points of game design. Once completed, games can be shared online through Steam. A very strong community of game designers exist online and the possibilities there are endless.

Overall: This is probably the #1 game coding application for middle school kids. It can be overwhelming at first, but their persistence will be well rewarded. Five Stars ★★★★

Jason

Grades: 5-9

Level of Difficulty: Moderate

Bloom’s New Taxonomy: Analyzing, Applying, Understanding

Costa: Level I and II

Schank’s Cognitive Processes: Prediction, Evaluation, Diagnosis, Causation

Website: http://www.jason.org/

This website is sponsored by the National Geographic Organization and is focused on middle school STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) curriculum. One of its blatant goals is to increase the number of students who are interested in and subsequently pursue careers in STEM. The primary advantage of using this website is that it incorporates the work of actual scientists and people working in STEM careers. Some of the curriculum is intended to replace entire textbooks while other parts are designed to be used only in a supplementary role. All of the units are designed to be related to current world issues, which is a unique and fresh approach. The units are designed with videos, missions, live chat, scenarios, and assignments which are given to the kids. An adult will have to manage part of this process and help fill in background information. Warning: This site does not have lots of games for kids. If you are looking for a place for your students to play, Jason isn’t going to get it done.

Overall: All STEM teachers should have this website in their list of the top five most helpful websites. Five Stars ★★★★

Scratch

Grades: 5-9

Level of Difficulty: Moderate to High

Bloom’s New Taxonomy: Creating, Evaluating

Costa: Level II and III

Schank’s Cognitive Processes: Modeling, Experimentation, Planning

Website: https://scratch.mit.edu/

Scratch is one of the more famous coding applications available to middle school teachers, parents, and kids. The format of Scratch involves a cartoonish type of dashboard and some older middle school kids may not be very excited about this part of the program. But this is about all they will be dismayed about. Either in teams or individually, kids can use the Scratch program to make animations, games, and models, complete with music, sounds, and other audio. Kids can also make more intellectual multimedia projects, although once you have coded a few objects, you will learn that making a fully animated scene takes a long time to create. The Scratch online community is extensive and there are numerous examples of completed projects for kids to look at. In fact, if you don’t understand Scratch or the coding process, you should look at a few of these projects to get an idea of what is possible and what is very difficult to accomplish.

Overall: Coding is hot right now and Scratch will help young coders get a head start on the competition. Five Stars ★★★★

Tinkercad

Grades: 5-9

Level of Difficulty: Moderate to High

Bloom’s New Taxonomy: Creating, Evaluating, Analyzing

Costa: Level II and III

Schank’s Cognitive Processes: Modeling, Experimentation, Planning

Website: https://www.tinkercad.com/

Tinkercad is a great way to learn how to begin using CAD (Computer-Aided Design) to create three dimensional designs. Tinkercad differs from other coding programs, such as Scratch and Code.org in that these programs teach kids how to code two dimensional objects. Tinkercad (which I think is the more interesting program) allows students to create three dimensional objects. If the school has a 3-D printer, kids will be able to print directly on site. If kids aren’t so fortunate to be in a school which as a 3-D printer—or making their designs at home around the kitchen table—there is a way that kids can have their completed products mailed and shipped to their home. However, just be aware that you might spend some serious money fulfilling your child’s wish to arrange for that 3-D castle they built using Tinkercad to be shipped Federal Express to their home. There are lots of mini-lessons in this program but this program has the potential to become difficult very quickly. However, kids who are new to CAD can borrow some already created designs and work off those to get started practicing. Kids will be excited to learn they can import their creations into Minecraft. Imagine that.

Overall: For the creation of 3-D objects, this is hard to beat. Five Stars ★★★★

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