Apps for Education

Reviews of Quality Apps for Science Education

The emphasis is on High School and College level Science apps. Outstanding apps for other subjects, grade levels, and platforms are occasionally reviewed.
An excellent resource for teachers:

For teachers looking for apps, websites, lesson plans and other resources, visit

The Best apps for Earth Science and Geology are from Tasa Graphic Arts
Puzzling Plates
Now available for Mac OS X, Puzzling Plates from Tasa Graphic Arts is being used in classrooms world-wide to encourage students to explore The Theory of Plate Tectonics by making the plates into a jigsaw-puzzle game. The app includes several levels that introduce the student to topics relating to the tectonic plates including earthquakes, volcanoes, plate boundary types and plate motion. The relationship between plates and earthquakes and volcanoes is explored in a game-like setting and with informative animations. Scores can now be shared and printed.

To see how this app can be used in the classroom, view the lesson plans for Puzzling Plates that have been shared on (an excellent source of lesson plans that help teachers make learning fun and engaging):

An Introduction to Earth's Surface
Volcanoes and Earthquakes
Exploring Plate Motions and Boundaries

There is also an excellent review by and for teachers on

This app is also available for Android on Amazon

Mineral Database

The Mineral Database app is now available for Windows!

This database describes over 300 common minerals in amazing detail and with exceptional photographs and photomicrographs. More importantly, it is fully searchable! Mineral identification has never been easier, and it is completely self contained. No internet connection is required. Ideal for the professional or student, it is also informative for anyone interested in minerals.

This database is a companion to the well accepted textbook "Mineralogy and Optical Mineralogy" by Dyar, Gunter, and Tasa. This Mineralogy Textbook is now available (by chapters) as a multi-touch eBook on the iBooks Store. The Hand Sample Identification chapter is well suited for the High School science classroom. Other chapters are more advanced.

The Mineral Database app is also available for Macintosh (OS X Mavericks or later), iOS iPad and iPhone, and for Android tablets from


Plate Tectonics Visual Glossary and Atlas, from Tasa Graphic Arts, is so much more than a glossary. It has an extensive glossary of plate tecontics terms and those terms are associated with Earth surface features on a 3D globe. The globe also has overlays that include plate boundaries, volcanoes, historic earthquakes, and labels. Other surface maps show plate shapes and the age of the ocean floor.

An excellent reference that can be used in many classroom activities or as an aid with written assesments. Also useful for students of geography because the maps relate surface features to the processes that have formed those features.

Also available for Macintosh OS X

The iOS app works best on the new iPad Pro. It is a universal app, so it should work on all iOS devices.

This video shows all of the features.

How to Identify Minerals

Now available for Windows 8.1 on the Windows Store and for Macintosh on the Mac App Store.

How to Identify Minerals (for iPad) introduces students and teachers to Earth’s minerals in an interactive guide that illustrates mineral identification techniques. It begins with a through introduction to minerals: from atomic structure to how they form and how they are classified. Mineral properties are examined in detail and HD videos demonstrate actual mineral identification techniques. In app activities can be used to practive mineral identification.

This app is an outstanding example of digital technology that can be used in the classroom. Not only does it provide engaging content, it included mineral identification activities and demonstration videos that provide an alternative to a lab. The database can be used in a lab to identify actual mineral samples. As with other apps from Tasa Graphic Arts, scored quiz results can be printed, emailed, or shared for assesment.

Follow this link for a video that provides a preview of some of the app's features.

Earths Rocks and the Rock Cycle

Earth’s Rocks and the Rock Cycle. This iPad app is perfect for middle and high school science classes. First, the app explores the three types of rocks found in and on Earth: igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks. Then it explains the geological processes that convert one type of rock into another. Finally, the "rock cycle" is introduced as a way to show how these processes operate over time to continuously convert rocks from one type to another.

This 5-star app has hundreds of photos of rock and their environments; many of these can be enlarged. Animations and narration engage students. Scored quizes and essay questions encourage indepedent study. The scores and essay responses can be printed, emailed, or shared for assesment.

Follow this link for a video that provides a preview of some of the app's features.

Available for Windows 8.1 on the Windows Store and for the Macintosh on the Mac App Store.

How to Identify Minerals

Introduction to Rocks and Minerals Get these two great apps in a bundle at a discount.

App bundles are only available for iOS apps.

Also, don't forget about Apple's volume discount program for schools.


Pangaea, from Tasa Graphic Arts, has alway been a great starting place for exploring plate tectonics and continental drift in the classroom. The latest update greatly improves the user interface and makes the app universal so that it is now available on all iPads.

The recent update of this app also illustrates the full potential of iOS apps in education as well as the power of iOS 9 and the new iPad Pro. By supporting the new "split-view" capability of iOS 9, pangaea can be used as a reference while composing in another app with the side-by-side view.

Finding the best Planetarium (star map) and Solar System apps for the iPad
There are many astronomy and planetarium apps for the iPad. The following tables summarize my experience with several of these apps and tries to help you make an informed choice.
Planetarium apps for iPad
iPad app
Ease of Use
(10 is best)
Best Features
Overall Rating
Sky Guide: View Stars Night or Day

Sky Guide $1.99

Sky Guide is a simple to use planetarium app. This app is an excellent introduction to the night sky and appropriate for even the youngest astronomers. A great place to start before advancing to the profession apps listed below.

Simple to use, excellent introduction to the night sky.
Sky Safari 5 Plus Sky Safari 5 Pro

SkySafari 5 now has in-app purchases and cannot be recommended for that reason.

SkySafari 5 Plus $14.99

SkySafari 5 Pro $39.99

The SkySafari 5 apps offer an excellent user interface, an extensive database of objects and the most logical search feature for finding them. These are the most advanced planetarium (star map) apps for iPad.

The Pro version supports just about every feature you could want including telescope control.

Both of these are worth the price, just select the features that are important to you.


Easy to use, extensive database of stars and deep sky objects, excellent search feature, compass support, etc.

Starmap HD

Starmap HD $16.99 (another $25 for all in-app purchases)

Another excellent star map app, this one has a large database of objects (using categorized menus). The latest version is more difficult to use than other similar apps, but it is worth taking the time to understand the new user interface.


Extensive catalog of stars and objects.

Professional and complete data for deep space objects, planets, meteor showers, etc.


Solar System apps for iPad
iPad app Highlights Ease of Use
(10 is best)
Best Feature Overall Rating
Sky Guide: View Stars Night or Day

Cosmographia $2.99

Cosmographia is the best value in this category. Simple to use, with an intuitive user interface, and excellent graphics.

A Macintosh version is also available.


Excellent user interface, the time control is the best of all of these apps.

No in-app purchases, what you see is what you get.

Solar Walk

Solar Walk $2.99 (price is actually more than $20 with all in-app purchases*)

Highly interactive with an easy to use interface. Excellent time control for accelerating the motion of the planets. Orbital scales are greatly compressed, surface images are very well done. Sufficient but not extensive planetary data.

For Mac owners Solar Walk for Mac is available in the Mac App Store.

*Sadly, this app exploits in-app purchases to make it unaffordable for many students and for schools because schools do not receive the volume purchase discount for in-app purchases.

3D Solar System simulation and its user interface.
Solar System for iPad - Touch Press

Solar System for iPad $13.99

Like a book, but much more interactive. Contains significant detail for each planet and several of the moons for the planets. The 3D solar system simulation is excellent but the user interface is a little tricky at first.

Depth of information for each planet.