Common Sense Media


Age Scale: Adult

Device: iPhone or iPad

Bottom Line: Digital Literacy Support

What Educators Need to Know:
Say your little learners are looking for new books to read. Say you want to incorporate some new websites into your lesson plans. Say you want to show an episode of an educational show to your high school class, but you want to be extra careful about what you select. Where should you turn? Download the Common Sense Kids Media app.

Common Sense Media is an organization that reviews movies, games, app, websites, tv, books, and music. Each review contains an age range, quality rating, and learning rating. Quality is based on a number of categories including ease of use, consumerism, and privacy and safety. It considers a child’s exposure to sex, violence, language, and drinking, drugs, and smoking. Short narratives explain a resources “learning potential” including skills and subjects. Parents will appreciate “things to discuss, explain, and enjoy” after using the reviewed resource.

How can classroom teachers use this website and app? The reviews themselves are a terrific resource for educators. Use the slide to select an age range, and the best of each category are listed. Click on each for the full reviews. In addition to the app, Common Sense offers a number of programs including classroom curriculum, parent education, and professional development via its website. Teachers can use the curriculum as a whole or consult the scope and sequence for individual components that meet their needs. The overall goal is to create responsible digital citizens. Who can argue with that?

How can parents use this website and app? Both are designed with parents as the target audience. Particularly helpful are the “Top Picks”. The number of lists is mind-boggling! Your son is a baseball fanatic. Check out the list of Best Baseball Movies! Seeking a list of nonviolent video games? It’s there! Looking for books with strong female characters? You’ve got it! I subscribe to the weekly newsletters and recently received “100+ Summer Learning Ideas”. Perfect!

Click on the link below to access the website, or visit the App Store to download this terrific FREE app!

Kids Media - Common Sense Media

Khan Academy

Age Scale: 10-adult

Device: iPad

Quick Line: Help! (At Your Fingertips)

What Educators Need to Know:

A few months ago, I saw a 60 Minutes piece on Salman Kahn, an American educator who had started an organization called the Khan Academy.  His resume boasted an education that included MIT and the Harvard Business School, and watching him create tutorials for his website indicated that this man was pretty close to a genius-level intellect.  Since that time, the Khan Academy app has been brought to my attention over and over again. Users have access to thousands of videos/tutorials on topics including K-12 math, sciences, humanities, history, and finance.  Now, don’t expect bells and whistles here.  The simplistic lessons are created on an online whiteboard with audio, but what I love is the portability.  Students can download their own playlists and replay them easily whenever needed.  Tutors can brush up on topics before sitting down to remediate.  While it is, by no means, a replacement for teacher/student interaction, it is yet another tool to lead our students to mastery.  I want to teach my students life lessons including seeking help when needed and using available resources.  Khan Academy is a great one!

Price:  FREE

Khan Academy - Khan Academy


Age Scale: 8-adult

Device: iPad

Quick Line:   Share What You Know

What Educators Need to Know:

Want to explain how to multiply fractions?  Feel the need to share the proper way to eat an Oreo?   Educreations will help you do these things, and it is FREE!  Educreations by Educreations Inc. is an extremely easy-to-use interactive whiteboard that allows users to record and replay voice recordings, handwriting, and drawings.  The app has many valuable features like allowing you to embed your videos on a blog or website and share them via email, Facebook, or Twitter.  While I can think of multiple ways  to share my expertise, I can almost think of more ways for the students to demonstrate their learning with this app.  In math, you could have students record their solutions to a problem and bring it to you for evaluation.  In history, you could have them make a timeline of an event, and record their explanation of each date.  Would it take some planning?  Absolutely.  But in an age when students should be demonstrating learning and explaining their thinking, Educreations is a must.

Price: FREE

Educreations Interactive Whiteboard - Educreations, Inc

Britannica Kids: Solar System

Age Scale: 8-12 (great reference for all)

Device: iPod, iPhone, or iPad

Quick Line:  Solar System Information Overload

What Educators Need to Know:

To be honest, the idea of downloading an encyclopedia did not really excite me.  But this app was a pleasant surprise!  Encyclopedia Britannica has developed a superbly-organized reference tool that will appeal to learners and teachers alike.  The content is extensive, and as suspected, there are many articles to use as reference for projects and writing assignments.  Outstanding pictures and videos are embedded throughout, but they are also accessible on a separate page. Students can watch Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon!  How cool is that?  There are also many diagrams and charts that illustrate a number of difficult concepts that simply aren’t clear by using words alone (birth of a planetary system, anyone?)  Fast finishers need not go to another app as there are various games and quizzes built into the program.  The reading level is a bit high for eight-year-olds.  Do I wish it had a read-aloud capability?  Yes.  Do I hope content updates occur frequently?  Yes.  But really, it is a very well-designed app.  I recommend downloading others in the series including Rainforests, Dinosaurs, Ancient Egypt, U.S. Presidents,  and Volcanoes.

Price: $4.99

Britannica Kids: Solar System - Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc

Motion Math HD

Age Scale: 7-14

Device: iPod, iPhone, or iPad

Quick Line:  No, Really!  Fractions Can Be Fun!

What Educators Need to Know:

Fractions can be tough.  Many of us, including adults, can function on paper, but fractions are rarely intuitive.  This game attempts to make fractions concrete and automatic.  Created by the Stanford School of Education, the goal of the game is to help the star reach its far away galaxy.  A number line is present at the bottom of the screen.  The player must tilt the device to allow the star to bounce on the correct fraction shown.  If it says, ½, you bounce right in the middle.  If it says, 8/10, you make it bounce closer to the end.  There are three levels:  easy, medium, and hard.  Once you show proficiency at a level, the game changes to indicate a pie chart and later a percent.  The number line also changes and requires users to decide if a fraction is more than, less than, or equal to a target fraction. I chose the easy level, and the game was deceptively difficult.  I suggest all learners start at the Easy level to learn how to play the game.  Mixed numbers and improper fractions are featured as the game progresses.  Add this game to your fraction unit.  Would a highly prestigious university lead you in the wrong direction?  I think not!

Price: $2.99 (iPad version)

Motion Math - Motion Math

Operation Math

Age Scale: 5-12

Device:  iPod, iPhone, or iPad

Quick Line:  Mission Quite Possible

What Educators Need to Know:

Spinlight Studio, creators of AlphaTots and TallyTots, have done it again!  Operation Math is a slick, entertaining math game that combines James Bond-style missions and computation skills.  Depending on the needs of their learners, teachers can tier instruction by selecting addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and a number of combinations of each.  After completing five levels, where the problem difficulty and their frequency increase, users receive a new uniform and/or watch.  Collect all of the uniforms and you win!  I’ll be honest; I don’t know what you win because I haven’t had anyone win yet.  Even though each mission is limited to a minute, this game takes TIME.    We also have not figured out how to erase all player data (records and missions).  It says we have the ability to delete, but I have not found that to be true.  This could be a problem if you are sharing devices within a school.  Overall, this is a great game that certainly beats traditional flash cards and drill and practice worksheets!

Price: $2.99 (a bargain, if you ask me!)

Operation Math™ Pocket - Spinlight Studio