Back to School: Essential Apps for Middle Schoolers
Seven apps for smoothing the path from elementary to high school.
Typically spanning grades six through eight, middle school is a transition zone for kids crossing over from the relatively protective space of elementary school to the challenging world of high school. Kids attending middle school try to solidify their basic academic skills while also preparing for more-advanced course work. In addition, they're meeting new people and getting busy with social activities. Here are seven apps that can help simplify and improve the life of a middle schooler.
1. Middle School Confidential 1: Be Confident in Who You Are
Presented in a comic-strip layout with cool extra features, Middle School Confidential 1 is all about building kids' self-esteem. The app deals engagingly with social issues that are common in middle school, such as peer pressure, teasing, and bullying. Typical chapter headings include "Sometimes I Worry What Other People Think" and “I Like Who I Am.”
Kids can read the whole comic book from start to finish, or they can jump between chapters. They can zoom in and out of specific frames and turn sound effects—such as basketballs bouncing and people clapping—on or off. The app also includes a "Cast" section that contains descriptions of the characters. If kids email these cast members, they'll receive email messages in return. The first title in Free Spirit Publishing’s three-app Middle School Confidential series, this app is available for either iOS or Android for $2.99.
2. My Study Life
In elementary school, kids generally stay in the same classroom with the same teacher for most of the day, leaving only for activities like music and phys ed. But in middle school, students shuffle between different rooms for math, language arts, science, social studies, and other classes, each with a different instructor. And each teacher gives out different assignments.
Managing this course load can be difficult at times, but a student-oriented calendaring app can help. My Study Life is a good match for middle school students, particularly because of its notification features and its dashboard with multiple views. In one of the views, a kid can see a summary of all of the day's classes, exams, and assignments in a single glance. The app also features extensive calendaring with task integration and daily, weekly, and academic year or term views. A kid might notice, for example, that a math exam and science project due date are scheduled to happen on the same day—and plan accordingly. The app is available for Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Windows 8, and web browsers, all free of charge.
3. iTooch Middle School
A solid grounding in math and language arts is essential to all-around academic success. This app contains hundreds of chapters of course materials for sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. Already in classroom use at many schools, the app can also work as a marvelous supplemental or enrichment tool for kids in other schools.
Each chapter of iTooch Middle School contains lessons, images, questions, clues, and detailed explanations. Students can also play games and earn rewards. Special features include speech synthesis, adjustable fonts, and an embedded calculator. Course materials comply with the US National Common Core Standards. Priced at $5.99 per title, the app is available for both iOS and Android.
Kids might start taking notes in earlier grades, but the skill becomes important in middle school. WritePad is a great app for kids who haven't learned touch typing, or who can't type quickly yet. It converts notes written by hand on the screen into text. Unlike most other handwriting recognition apps, which are designed exclusively for either iOS or Android, WritePad works across both platforms.
If your kid’s school doesn't allow students to bring mobile devices into classrooms, this app can still come in handy for taking notes from books at home or at the town library. WritePad may take a while to learn an individual's handwriting style, so kids should check the text for accuracy. The app includes a calculator, too. The iPhone version is priced at $1.99. Versions for iPad and Android are $4.99 each.
5. Middle School Vocabulary Prep
Owning a big vocabulary can help kids to spice up their written work, understand tough course materials, and hold their own in conversations—even with adults! Middle School Vocabulary Prep teaches the meanings of more than 300 specially selected middle-school-level words (including abridge, absolve, and bewilder).
Students can learn the definitions wherever they are, at their own pace, through a flashcard-like user interface. Offered for iOS only, the app is priced at $1.99.
6. Robot School
Even if it isn't part of every school's curriculum, computer programming is an essential skill. Whether your middle schooler is destined for a career in IT (informational technology) or not, learning how to use software code provides insight into how computers work and helps sharpen logic skills, problem solving abilities, and attention to detail.
In the Robot School app, software developers Next Is Great teach coding through a fun and intriguing game. Having survived a spaceship crash in another galaxy, R-obbie the Robot is stranded in a 45-level maze. At each level, the robot needs to reach an area containing a battery in order to collect energy to help fuel a journey back home.
Kids playing the game try to rescue the robot. They drag and drop cards containing commands to move forward or turn around in attempts to get the robot to perform tasks such as opening a door to get to a battery. R-obbie obeys whatever code input he is given, and kids can test the results of a program to find out what the robot actually does. The game developers help players along with abundant hints. After completing a level, students can see the code that's been produced in Apple's Swift program. The app costs $4.99 for the Mac edition, $3.99 for iOS, and $2.68 for Android.
During middle school, kids often get their first assignments for long, detailed written reports. Unfortunately, many students find it hard to organize large amounts of material for such reports.
EDNA can help students get off to a good start on reports. This $1.99 mind-mapping app for iOS lets users quickly create a graphical organizer for their ideas by placing the device in landscape (horizontal) mode. They simply type content into various bubbles on the chart that represent topics, subtopics, and details. Then, when they flip the device to portrait (vertical) mode, kids can see the ideas in traditional outline format. Just like that, a rough draft is born, and students can even send it by email to a teacher (or anyone else). Every mind map can accommodate as many as 12 topics, 72 subtopics, and 288 details.