24 best iOS apps for school, college or university

Top educational apps

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At schools around the world, change is afoot. Big, big change, driven by technology. We're not talking electronic whiteboards or classroom projectors. Those were both minor advancements compared to the sea change we're seeing unfold at the moment.

At the centre of this technological revolution isn't a traditional computer, but the iPad and iPod touch. They're proving so popular that some schools are providing every pupil with one of their own.

To find out what sort of impact these devices are having in our schools and colleges, we spoke to those involved in rolling them out, and discovered how they're being used and what the best apps are.

Combining their recommendations with our knowledge of the app market, we've got a definitive list of the apps that will turn the iPad, iPhone or iPod touch from a blank slate into the perfect educational companion for you, your children or your pupils.

And don't forget about iTunesU on the iTunes Store, which is jam-packed full of educational material. It's natural, though, that such a huge change to the way our schools teach will raise plenty of questions from parents, teachers and students alike. So let's start by answering these, to help turn anxious minds into enthusiastic ones!

Ask any parent and they'll tell you how much kids love the iPad. So whether they're in pre-school or year six, here are some must-have fun apps to help kids' learning

1. iThoughtsHD

Map out your ideas
Price: £6.99
Works with: iPad
Size: 5.9MB

ithoughts

Spending ages staring at a blank sheet of paper (or an empty Pages document) when someone asks you to write them a story is incredibly disheartening. But with the iThoughtsHD mind-mapping app (also on iPhone; £5.49), kids can quickly sketch out their ideas, adding thoughts without things becoming a mess.

Easily increase the size of key words, drag others into place, and when they're ready to start writing, send the mindmap to another app. It's a favourite with primary school children, who find it a really helpful brainstorming tool.

2. Intro To Letters

Start learning the alphabet
Price: £2.99
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad
Size: 60.1MB

letters

As seen on Apple's TV ads, this app will teach kids the letters of the alphabet from an early age. Combining both single letters and common groupings, your little ones can practise writing by tracing over the characters with their fingers or a stylus. There are arrows to guide them along the way, too.

Intro to Letters does more than just teach them to write, though; it's packed full of sounds to help kids with pronunciation, and they can record themselves talking and listen back to it. It's a lovely interactive way to introduce children to the alphabet and the world of words.

3. Britannica Kids - Rainforests

One of Britannica's range of children's apps
Price: £4.99
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad
Size: 192MB

Britannica

Designed to bring the wealth of Britannica knowledge to children, the range of 'kids' apps covers topics including volcanoes, the solar system, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Rome and, in this case, rainforests.

The Britannica Kids apps are a great source of information for homework projects. Alongside an illustrated listing of animals found in the rainforest, there are articles covering everything from the native plants to threats the habitat faces. You've also got beautiful photographs of forests around the world, plus interactive elements, including a browsable world map with images pinned to it, and several puzzles to tackle.

4. Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus

What it says on the tin…
Price: £13.99
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad
Size: 29.3MB

dictionary

Now there's no need to carry round a bulky dictionary and thesaurus, because all that information's right here in one place. Useful for adults and children alike, the Search bar of the Oxford Dictionary app is a brilliant timesaver, and you don't need to be connected to the internet to use the app – everything's stored right on your device for easy access.

5. BrainPOP UK

Works with: iPhone/iPod touch/iPad
Price: Free

BrainPop

BrainPop shows kids an animated film every day to teach them something new. Great for general knowledge.

6. World Atlas HD

Works with: iPad
Price: £1.49

World atlas hd

Browse the world using National Geographic's atlas, which includes key stats per country.

7. MathBoard

Works with: iPad
Price: £2.99

Mathboard

From simple addition to trickier division and multiplication, MathBoard is a lovely way to practise maths.

8. GeoMaster

Works with: iPhone/iPod touch
Price: 69p

GeoMaster

Test your knowledge of the world's countries and more with a variety of GeoMaster puzzles.

9. Toca Robot Lab

Works with: iPhone/iPod touch/iPad
Price: 69p

Toca robot lab

Let your little ones design their own robot and then fly it through a series of puzzles with Toca Robot Lab.

10. Alphabet Fun

Works with: iPad
Price: £2.49

Alphabet fun

Alphabet Fun is a popular interactive app for teaching young children about letters, numbers and colours.