Mobile Computing

6 Must-Have Apps for Teachers' Back-to-School Toolkit

Common Sense Media’s service Graphite, which offers independent ratings and reviews of learning apps and websites, has compiled this list of apps to help teachers make their classrooms interactive, creative and productive in the new school year. For complete reviews, and for each app’s "Learning Rating," visit the Graphite website.


Grades: K–12
Price: Free
Concepts: Using and applying technology, identifying strengths and weaknesses, applying information
Nearpod is a terrific tool for interactive presentations and assessments. On Nearpod's website, teachers create their own multimedia presentations or use a growing library of premade offerings (many CCSS-aligned, and some at a cost). Teachers can upload videos, images, audio clips and PDF files and can embed multiple-choice quizzes, slide shows, polls, draw-its (where students write directly on a slide) and open-ended questions. Teachers launch the presentation and monitor progress either from the website or through the app. For situations in which direct instruction is necessary, Nearpod offers a fantastic way to increase student involvement. Read the full Graphite review.


Grades: 5–12
Price: Free
Concepts: Using and applying technology, deduction, identifying strengths and weaknesses, digital creation
eduCanon is a simple yet powerful tool that gives teachers the ability to enhance video lessons with interactive assessments. Its stripped-down interface provides an inroad for those who may not be experienced with digital media. At the same time, advanced options will please techie teachers who want to embed rich interactive content. In a flipped-class model, where it can be tough to know whether students have actually watched assigned videos before class, a tool like eduCanon could be the perfect solution. With useful features ranging from basic to advanced, eduCanon offers an interactive method of formative assessment by way of engaging video content. Read the full Graphite review.


Grades: 6–12
Price: $2.99
Concepts: Using and applying technology, deduction, applying information, digital creation
EdPuzzle allows teachers to customize, remix, crop and enhance existing online videos to match their teaching needs. Videos can be enriched with voiceovers and audio comments, as well as embedded assessment questions. EdPuzzle also supports an active community of teachers for sharing creations and finding inspiration. In the classroom, teachers can turn control over to their students, letting them find high-quality video instruction and customize it in a way that demonstrates their learning. By using videos already on the Web, EduCanon not only saves time, it engages students in self-paced, interactive learning while maintaining simplicity and ease of use for busy teachers. Read the full Graphite review.


Grades: 6–12
Price: $3.99
Concepts: Productivity, working efficiently, academic development, using and applying technology
Notability equips students to take notes that they'll want to review, revisit and actively use. On a single page of notes, students can type, write, draw, highlight, record audio and even insert Web content. By offering an array of recording and organization techniques, Notability pairs well with all different learning needs and note-taking preferences. It's also great for collaborative learning and group projects, as students can use it to brainstorm ideas and quickly share them with others. And it's useful for teachers, too. Overall, Notability's flexible, multimedia approach to note-taking makes it an invaluable classroom tool for both teachers and students. Read the full Graphite review.


KnowmiaKnowmia Teach
Grades: 6–12
Price: Free
Concepts: Conveying messages effectively, presenting, digital creation, using and applying technology
Knowmia Teach is a dynamic tool for capturing teacher- or student-created video presentations on an iPad. Users can create slides that include images, diagrams or text and then record themselves as they speak, use a pointer and otherwise walk viewers through their slides. Teachers can create video lessons on any subject and then publish them on, which features an active community for feedback and inspiration. Knowmia Teach not only saves teachers time, it gives them instant visibility into what students are learning — and not learning. The app is a great choice for iPad classrooms in need of a versatile screencasting tool with a secure online space for video-sharing. Read the full Graphite review.


CollaborizeCollaborize Classroom
Grades: 7–12
Price: Free
Concepts:  Discussion, forming arguments, brainstorming, asking questions, teamwork, academic development
Using a social media-like approach, Collaborize Classroom offers a secure online antidote to uninspired, disengaged classroom discussions. Teachers can post discussion questions and set specific response options like multiple choice, yes/no or poll-based. Multiple response options help all students feel empowered to participate during in-class discussions, regardless of their learning style. At the end of a discussion, teachers and students can review the results, and students can quickly see proof that their opinion matters. Collaborize Classroom offers an engaging, secure platform that complements in-class instruction and gives everyone a voice in classroom discussions. Read the full Graphite review.

About the Author

Common Sense Education helps educators find the best edtech tools, learn best practices for teaching with tech, and equip students with the skills they need to use technology safely and responsibly. Go to Common Sense Education for free resources including full reviews of digital tools, ready-made lesson plans, videos, webinars, and more.