George Lucas Educational Foundation

Mobile Learning: 6 Apps and Web Tools for Middle School Students

Using mobile devices in the classroom can be a great way to unlock and pique student interest.
S. Jhoanna Robledo
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Credit: Jared Andrew Schorr

Building vocabulary with a smartphone game? Frog dissection in science class without the mess? These are just a few ways mobile devices are changing how students grasp subjects.

With that in mind, here are six apps for middle school students from Edutopia's latest guide, Mobile Devices for Learning: What You Need to Know.


This application takes the genius and immediacy of texting and combines it with the power of social networking, allowing for instant out-of-classroom communication. Create a group for each class and you’ll be able to text everyone basic reminders, questions to ponder between lessons, and more. You can text via a Wi-Fi-connected device (cell phone, iPod touch, etc.), so students don’t have to pay for every text.


No more misplacing papers or presentations. Dropbox provides syncing and storage for users (up to 2 gigabytes worth is free, and it’s enough to store hundreds of written homework assignments and pictures). Files can be shared with a few clicks, making collaborating a breeze.

Word Joust

Students can go on knightly quests, do battle with trolls, and learn vocabulary words to win points. Kids can compare their performance with classmates.


As far as Web and app resources go, this one could be considered an old-timer, having been around since 1999. The app lets kids watch an educational movie on various humanities and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects and then quizzes them to see how much they learned. BrainPOP Jr. is specially configured for the younger grades; there’s also GameUp, a free portal for math, science, health, and social studies games.

Poll Everywhere

An audience-response system app built on text messaging that lets you poll students (think formative assessment) and share their responses immediately. Students can respond via text from their cell, smartphone, or computer browser, or from Twitter.

Frog Dissection

Biology lab without the mess and the smell? Now that’s a revolution. Students dissect a virtual amphibian to learn about the parts of a frog and how it functions.

Check out app and Web tool ideas for elementary and high school students. And for more on mobile devices for learning, download this classroom guide:

Mobile Devices for Learning: What You Need to Know

Learn how cellphones, e-book readers, and tablets are getting kids engaged with learning, focused on working smarter, and ready for the future.
More Resources:

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Lin Jenkins's picture

I'm surprised to see Edutopia giving a favorable review to Word Joust. Each "joust" consists of 5 random words-- not related in any way-- and a rather arbitrary definition from Word Joust. (House = people live in it; hat ( new word?) = like a cap, worn on the head.) The words don't get harder in any organized way and the definition often uses a higher reading level than the word being defined.However, I've only played it online, and not used it with kids Has anyone else used it with success?

A similar vocabulary-building (and spelling building) game I'd recommend is Dungeon Scroll. It's a classic "enter a room, fight a set of monsters" sort of game but to cast a spell, you need to make words with the letters provided. The level of challenge increases, there are the usual spells, health levels, etc., and my 5th/6th grade kids love it. (

Science711's picture

Science app suggestion- "Kids Discover" makes great science apps on a variety of topics. We've purchased a variety (Electricity, Simple Machines, Energy, Ecosystems, Cells, etc.) for our middle school ipads. Just search "kids discover" at the app store and a variety of topics come up. I make up questions to go with them to encourage students to dig dip into these engaging, information rich apps. Love BrainPop too. They are my two go-to science apps. (Kids Discover has web -based content too, but unfortunately it doesn't seem nearly as engaging as the apps). I use the apps with 7th and 8th grade, but they are great for students 4th-12th grade.

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