The best educational apps to stay sharp throughout the school year – Engadget

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Crash Course

Maybe you were one of those kids who perked up at the sight of an AV cart being wheeled into your classroom, because it meant you were about to watch a movie instead of listening to another lecture. If you actually enjoyed this and not just because it was an opportunity to doodle and pass notes Crash Course might be up your alley. This YouTube channel (and app) offers videos that focus mostly on science and history, sometimes diving into very specific subjects, like IR spectroscopy, bookkeeping or even German cinema of the Weimar period. Besides the breadth of topics, the best part is that all of the videos are under 15 minutes long, meaning its unlikely your attention will wander like it did when you were a kid.

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Once youve loaded up your brain with knowledge, you might want to see how much you retained. In school, thats what quizzes and exams are for, but outside class you can do something a little more fun. With Kahoot! you can create multiple choice quizzes for your players to answer from their device. Its similar to Jackbox Games, except it can be customized for any situation, from study groups boning up for a big test to acting as an icebreaker for classrooms and teams. If youre more the solitary type, Quizlet might be more your speed the app allows you to create flash cards for your personal perusal.

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Code Academy

Learn to code is a common piece of advice given to students these days and, while we cant guarantee that will get you a job, its still a good skill set to put on your resume. Code Academy can not only teach you how to program, but it will point you toward the specific skills and lessons you need for your particular career or interests. That way, you feel like each lesson and exercise is time and money well spent if you choose to upgrade to the Pro plan, which adds practical projects and programming assistance for $20 a month.

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A lot of high school and college coding courses designed for beginners tend to focus on the basic ideas behind programming, and take a long time before they even approach anything with real world applications. Its a bit frustrating if you dream of coding the next million-dollar app in your dorm room. Not so with Swift, Apples language created specifically for creating programs for its devices. Swift Playgrounds is an app built to teach this new language, and its free, easy and friendly enough for novices.

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Private Division

At first glance Kerbal Space Program doesnt look like an educational game. It has no real lessons or instructions. But, in order to successfully launch a rocket and not kill all your adorable minion-like Kerbals in the process, youre going to end up teaching yourself a lot about aerodynamics and orbital physics on the fly. Its a great start for engineering majors and budding rocket scientists, and even students in other disciplines will gain a new appreciation for the work they do at NASA... as well as a lot of laughs when things go horribly, horribly wrong for your Kerbals.

Buy Kerbal Space Program at Steam - $10

Will Lipman Photography / Draknek

This chemistry puzzle game isnt going to turn you into Walter White overnight. Its about teaching basic concepts like how chemical bonds work something many high school and college students may struggle with as more atoms are thrown into the mix to complicate things. In that sense, chemistry isnt all that different from puzzle games, which also increase in structural complexity as you complete more levels. Sokobond backs up its addictive puzzling with a chill soundtrack, making it a relaxing way to learn the fundamentals of chemistry without the possibility of singed eyebrows.

Buy Sokobond at Steam - $3


Youve probably been taking a lot more walks lately its much easier to stay socially distant when youre outdoors, and its a nice break from staring at screens all day. Chances are you may have found an interesting tree, smelled some strange flowers or heard the call of an unknown bird. Seek takes the mystery out of your strolls by helping you identify the species youll see in your area, either through the included catalog, or by making a guess based on the photos you take. In-app challenges keep things more exciting than your average biology lecture and can help you study up, while also appealing to fans of Pokmon Go and Animal Crossing.

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Will Lipman Photography / Duolingo

Language programs can be rather dry, but not Duolingo. Its cute and colorful, with heavy game-like elements to suck you in, ensuring that you keep up your studies on a daily basis. Theres even leaderboards for the more competitive language learners. The selection of languages is also diverse, ranging from common tongues like Spanish and French to more esoteric ones like Esperanto and Latin (which is also great for improving your English vocabulary). Theres even a beta of Klingon, should you ever find yourself stuck facing the wrong end of a batleth.

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Sleepy Duck

There are gamers out there who have learned Japanese so they can play computer and console RPGs, but how about playing a computer RPG to learn Japanese? Thats the idea behind Learn Japanese to Survive!, which contains all the typical trappings of a roleplaying game, including experience points, a fantasy world to explore and items to equip. The difference is, you wont be battling monsters here, but Japanese hiragana characters that you damage by attacking them with the correct pronunciations. The first installment of the series focuses on the basic Japanese syllabary hiragana but other installments will also teach you katakana and kanji for a well-rounded mastery of written Japanese.

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Museum visits are usually a requirement for many art classes. But even though some institutions are now offering virtual tours, you probably havent had much time to do those, between schoolwork and feeding your sourdough starter. In those cases, DailyArt offers just the right amount of cultural enrichment for art students who want to brush up on their knowledge, highlighting a single piece of art each day. If you want an even more expansive list of works to study up on, upgrading to the Pro option extends access to the entire database of art for only $6.

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The New York Times

Personal enrichment doesnt always have to be about daily lessons and learning new skills. Sometimes, you just want to keep your brain sharp, and crosswords are a great way to do that, as they test your cultural knowledge and vocabulary. The New York Times crossword has always been considered one of the best, and a subscription will grant you access to both todays puzzles along with older installments, plus other brainteasing, mind-bending games like Spelling Bee and Letter Boxed.

Buy NYT Crosswords - $20/year


Want to pick up some guitar skills to help unwind after class? Music games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero are fun, but they arent going to cut it. Instead, try Ubisofts Rocksmith, which guides you through popular songs, monitors how you play and adjusts the difficulty to your skill level. The game is a few years old at this point, but the company only stopped releasing content earlier this year, with thousands of tracks now available in the games library.

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The best educational apps to stay sharp throughout the school year - Engadget

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