, ,

a piece I wrote for the Home Study blog @ http://www.trhs.us

Recently, eSchool News published its “New: 10 of the best Apple and Android apps for education in 2013.” Always eager to find new and interesting ways to learn and to create, I decided to try a few of the free apps suggested. I also decided to review some free and low cost apps that I like. As of this writing, I have tried the apps on my iPhone 4S.

Here are my reviews of the apps in no particular order:

Animoto: The free or “lite” version of this app allows the user to create videos of up to 30-seconds each from your photos. Accessing iPhone photos is relatively easy. You may use up to 12 photos per video. A notification lets you know when the photos have been uploaded to Animoto’s servers. You are now ready to edit your content. You may choose to use music from your device or access Animoto’s library to create a soundtrack to your images. I created two videos. The first one consists of snippets of two videos with sound that I recorded at the beach. I did not use music for this one.

Next, I created a video using still photos and music from Animoto’s library.

The process is easy, but, in the lite version, a bit frustrating since you can only create a short video. I think it would be a fun on-the-go tool for a young student exploring photography and video for the first time. The app allows you to share your video on Facebook, Twitter, via email or text. You can upgrade to a “plus” account for $4.99/month or $29.99/year. The app works on the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad with iOS 5.0 or later.

POETRY from the Poetry Foundation: This app is one that I have been using for some time in the home education of my own son as well as for my personal enjoyment. The age level for this app is suggested 12 years+ because poetry can contain topics that may be considered controversial to sensitive readers. However, the treasure trove of poetry selections is vast and covers many themes of poets from Shakespeare to E.E. Cummings. When you open the app, you may “spin” to match up two themes. For instance, I spun and matched “Joy” and “Youth.” That action delivers a number of poems with content matching those two themes. I chose to look at Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Children’s Hour.”

Poetry photo1
Poetry photo2

Next, I decided to “slide” the second theme from “Youth” to “Nature.” So now my themes returned poetry with the elements of “Joy” and “Nature.” The app returned a series of poems that related to the search. I chose “Said the Toad” by J. Patrick Lewis.

Poetry photo3
Poetry photo4

You may also tap the “Find Poetry” icon and search for poems based on mood, subject, poet and audio. Often, children respond more readily to poetry read aloud. You may gain a different perspective than when reading silently to yourself. I chose audio and listened to a reading of Ezra Pound’s brief poem “In a Station of the Metro.”

Poetry photo5
Poetry photo6

Overall, I love this app. Parents may easily monitor what their children read by exploring poetry with them. We enjoy spinning the themes to see what poems are returned. It is a great way to find poetry you have never read. You may choose to share poems via Facebook, Twitter, or email. The app works on the iPad, the iPod Touch and the iPhone with iOS 4.3 or later.

Instant Poetry: Although not a free app—it costs $1.99 in the iPhone app store—my son and I have enjoyed this app thoroughly. Easy to use, it mimics magnetic poetry for refrigerators. The interface is easy to manipulate. Choose a photo you have taken and click on the plus sign on the lower left to load random words. When you find a word you wish to use, move it to the body of the picture. Keep clicking the plus sign until you get all of the words you wish to use. Tapping on each word will change the color or outline of the words. Arrange the words to create “instant poetry.”

Silly Sea

You also are able to change the font of the words and insert a word or punctuation by tapping the plus sign twice. Also, each time you tap the plus sign once, new words are loaded from which to choose.


Instant Poetry is a fun app that can foster creativity on a car ride or while waiting. Kids and parents can get silly or serious with poetry creation coupled with their pictures. Images may be shared directly from the app on Facebook or by email. The app requires an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch running iOS 3.2 or later.

Star Walk: This app is another gem I have used for some time. It’s great for backyard stargazing! The app costs $2.99 but is well worth it. On start up, the app uses the GPS in your phone to pinpoint your location and display relevant sky gazing information for you. Sweep across the sky and see what stars, constellations, planets and even satellites are currently overhead.

Star Walk Screen
Star Walk Screen 2

You can also see what is on the other “side” of your current horizon. Clicking on the points for stars, planets, etc. will display information. Additionally, you can click on “Sky Live” and see relevant information on the length of daylight, rise and set times of planets, and the phase of the moon.

Star Walk Screen with Satellite
Star Walk Sky Live

The app provides “Picture of the Day.” These pictures come from space agencies from around the world or from photographer or artist renditions of celestial images.

Star Walk Sean Parker

“Best Western” by Sean Parker

Large Magellanic Cloud

Large Magellanic Cloud

You can access images from Hubble, the European Space Agency, NASA, and other organizations.

The Bug Nebula, ESO/IDA/Danish

The Bug Nebula, ESO/IDA/Danish

Hubble Image

Hubble image of the star IRAS 10082-5647, ESA/Hubble & NASA

The Star Walk app provides videos and other image opportunities for the budding astronomer. Look into deep space, into other galaxies outside of the Milky Way.

Andromeda Galaxy

Andromeda Galaxy

Spiral Galaxy

Hubble image of Spiral Galaxy NGC 3190

Check out this cool video from the European Southern Observatory: Zooming in on the HAWK-I infrared image of the spectacular barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365.

The music that accompanies the app is great too! Star Walk works with the iPad, the iPhone and the iPod Touch using iOS 4.3 or later.

These apps can be helpful tools to enrich your student’s learning experience. They can also be a construction distraction on summer road trips. Let me know what apps you like.