The iPad is ushering a revolution in the world of education. Now, not only can you read about information, you can interact with it as well, even if you’re nowhere near lab or can’t perform hands-on experiments. It also allows you to gain access to a museum’s exhibits without ever having to leave your desk (or bed, or bench, but possibly not your bath).
We’ve collected nine of the best science-based education apps out there, from old classics to brand new additions. Together, they will show you what you can achieve with today’s technology and perhaps open your mind to what will be possible in the future.
Universal – £2.99
If you like Night at the Museum, you’ll love Sir David Attenborough’s idea of bringing ten of the Natural History Museum’s most famous extinct animals to life in this fun and instructive app. The information is divided into two sections. In day mode, you get a photo of the exhibit along with a wealth of information about it, but switch to night mode, grab your flashlight (ie, tab on the screen), and you’ll see that animal come to life while Sir David talks you through the basics. If you’re visiting the museum itself, you can look for special codes to unlock additional audio content. It’s a great and fun way to learn about some species that no longer exist.
Journeys of Invention (TouchPress)
iPad-only – free (in-app purchase for full experience – £6.99)
Just next door to the Natural History Museum is the Science Museum. Some of its greatest exhibits have been gathered into this app, and grouped into journeys, showing you how one invention evolved from another. This free app only contains a single such journey, but a simple in-app purchase of £6.99 will unlock the rest. With it you can learn about 80 different objects, read about and manipulate them at any time, or follow those journeys for a fuller experience. Want to work the Enigma machine or see the inside of the Apollo 10 command module? You’ve come to the right place.
The Elements: A Visual Exploration (TouchPress)
Universal – £9.99
The basics of chemistry, of our entire universe for that matter, can be broken down into its individual elements and placed on the Periodic Table, and it’s that table that The Elements: A Visual Exploration focuses on. It’s one of the first apps to appear on the iPad and it’s remarkably interactive and full of information to keep you busy for weeks on end. What’s even better is that it’s now compatible with iPhone and iPod touch. The info within the app is clear, concise, and filled with interesting trivia and interactive objects to play with, bringing all elements to life.
Elements In Action (TouchPress)
Universal – £2.49
Speaking of bringing elements to life, this is exactly what Elements In Action does. It acts as a companion to Elements: a Visual Exploration, and if both apps are installed on the same iOS device, a button will reveal itself, enabling you to switch from one app to the other, and more importantly take you directly to the same elements page on the other app. So what does Elements in Action have to offer? Put simply, every element that can be demonstrated, are shown “in action” in an original short video, along with a very short description. It’s a great introduction to understanding how our universe works.
Chemist – Virtula Chem Lab (Thix)
iPad only £2.99
Reading about elements and seeing them in action is one thing, experimenting with them is another, and this is where Chemist (and its simpler sibling Chemist Free) comes in. The idea is brilliant: you no longer need a lab to play around with potentially hazardous material. Instead, you can do it all virtually: add a beaker, mix some solutions, stir it up, warm it up, check the temperature or pH, it’s all there. The app is incredibly easy to use, as long as you know the chemical formula of the substances you wish to work with. Some reactions don’t… react as you’d expect, but on the whole, it’s a great app for the budding chemist in you.
Bobo Explores Light (Game Collage)
iPad only £2.99
How to you get children to learn about science without making them realise they’re doing any learning at all? By letting a cute, funny robot show them the way. Bobo Explores Light is a fantastic app, designed to teach children everything about light, where it comes from, how plant life harnesses it, and how we make use of it. You’ll learn about reflection and refraction, lasers, electricity, the sun, photosynthesis, and more with this friendly and approachable app. It’s incredibly thorough and a lot of fun to use – and not just for your children!
Solar Walk™ – 3D Solar System model (Vito Technology)
Fancy exploring our solar system and a handful of neighbouring stars? It couldn’t be easier with Solar Walk. Use your fingers to rotate around planets and zoom in to them or their moons. There are even a handful of satellites orbiting our Earth which you can observe and learn about. Even better, you can speed up time and see the movements of the planets, either far into the future or back in the past. The information for each planet is a little limited, but it’s a great way to introduce anyone to the wonders of astronomy. Some in-app purchases are available to add additional interactivity, like high resolution images of some planets, or some missions like the Apollo 11 module, but you can easily enjoy this app without them.
Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomy (TouchPress)
One of the greatest and most enigmatic man of the renaissance, whose interest in art and science truly earn him the title of Renaissance Man, was Leonardo Da Vinci. This app has gathered all of his anatomical drawings, usually kept in Windsor Castle, and has made them available as high resolution images which you can zoom in to appreciate their amazing details. Even Da Vinci’s unusual writing style is faithfully preserved, but tap on a button and it’ll be replaced with an easier to understand English translation. The drawings are accompanied with a story which you can access separately, which brings historical context to Da Vinci’s work. If you’re interested in history, art and the science of anatomy, you can’t go wrong with this app.
Atlas by Collins (HarperCollins)
If you wish to learn about the world around us, the Collins’ Atlas is the app for you. The original purchase price gets you seven different globes, letting you explore our planet’s physical or political world, or gather information about our population, the location of our needed energy, how communication is shaping our world and how we affect our environment. Each globe is filled with overlay information, along with detailed illustrated articles about the information you’re after. There’s also a handy search field to zoom into a particular place on Earth. Four other globes are available as separate in-app purchases, like a database of some of the world’s most beautiful places and one yo help you understand how economic conditions affect the world’s countries.