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How to Find the Best iPad Apps for Education

Some educational iPad apps are incredibly imaginative, well designed, and productive. With hundreds of thousands of educational iPad apps to choose among, you’d be well advised to learn how to sort the wheat from the chaff. Here’s some advice from someone who has had to battle a fair share of chaff.

Search for iPad educational apps

If you have an idea of what you’re looking for, get right to the point by using the Search field in the top-right corner of the App Store screen. Search by typing any portion of the app title or an associated keyword and then tap the Search key on the keyboard.

Refine your search by using filters. Enter your search term in the Search field, and tap the Search key on your keyboard. The iOS 6 App Store features three filters Price, Categories, and Relevance along the top of the results. The filters help sort your search results.

Tap any one, and a menu of choices will drop down. Suppose you’re looking for a free app to help you learn algebra. If you type algebra in the Search field, you’ll get a wide range of apps from puzzles and arcade games to utilities. Instead, apply filters that set the category to Education and the price to Free. The results will be a more meaningful list.

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Once you’ve found an app that could potentially serve your purpose, tap the app name or icon to get more information about it. The information page will detail the app’s features and include some screen shots to give you a taste of the interface. The description is written by the app’s developer.

The editors at the App Store try to keep hyperbole to a minimum, so when app descriptions use adjectives such as fun or exciting, just keep in mind that they are likely somewhat biased. That’s when you scroll down to the bottom of the page and scan the user reviews. Reviews will show an average star rating from 1 to 5, along with individual ratings and comments.

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Reviews are tied to a specific release of an app. Earlier releases may have been buggy and even crashed, so make sure you check the ratings and reviews of the current release for the latest information. Also, don't rely solely on the star ratings. Read the reviews of the app, especially if it doesn’t have a lot of ratings.

Ask educators which apps they use

Thousands of educators, bloggers, and technical reviewers are trying out and recommending apps all the time. The better approach to finding apps is often to identify your objective and then see what others are recommending. Some paths to consider might include the following:

  • Search Google. Try a Google search using the app name; you’ll often get a host of reviews from magazines, websites, and blogs. Sometimes those blogs may even be from teachers explaining how they use the app in their classes.

  • Keep reading. After searching for and reading some information on blogs and websites that review educational apps, follow the ones you like, and see which apps they recommend.

  • Join an online learning community. iPads in Education is a place where you can connect with like-minded people and learn from them.

  • Follow educators on social networking sites. Twitter and Google+ are the obvious choices here. See which apps educators are using in their iPad classrooms and how those educators are using those apps.

  • Take an online course or webinar. Dozens of companies and professional organizations offer online learning opportunities all year long.

  • Attend educational conferences. Conferences are good opportunities to learn about effective practices and network with others.

Purchase iPad educational apps

After you’ve decided on an app, it’s fairly simple to purchase and download it. With your iTunes account information handy, follow these steps:

  1. Tap the Price or Free button.

    You’ll find the Price button under the app icon on the top-left of the details screen. It may also say Free if there’s no . . . uh . . . price.

  2. Tap the Install button.

  3. Enter your account information and then tap the OK button.

    Your home screen appears, and the app is downloaded to your iPad. The app icon will be placed in the first open slot available. You can rearrange icons on your iPad screen as you like.

There’s an app for finding apps

They say there’s an app for just about anything you’d want, so why not think about using an app for finding apps? Several apps recommend apps based on your preferences, and some will notify you when particular apps are being offered at a discount. Here’s a small selection:

  • AppGrooves recommends apps based on your tastes. AppGrooves looks at your installed apps and learns about your preferences by asking you to compare and rank them. Based on your selections, it recommends apps that have similar features but have been given higher rankings.

  • Appsfire Deals notifies you of daily specials. Set your preferences, and Appsfire Deals will notify you of the best rated apps that are either free or on special on any given day.

  • Moms with Apps recommends kid-friendly educational apps. Recommendations are grouped by category.

There is no lack of websites that review and recommend apps. Try a Google search for iPad app reviews, and you’ll get a list of websites.

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