Choosing the Right Apps for the Primary Classroom

Teaching Strategies

By Michael Hilkemeijer

The use of apps in the classroom is today becoming more popular with many schools adopting the BYOD policies. These policies typically allows students to bring their own devices which usually includes some form mobile technology such as iPads, laptops and even mobile phones. Teachers even use tablet computers and students utilise the availability of such technology in lessons. With such action being taken in schools it is no wonder that there are so many websites featuring all these fantastic apps for the classroom. The problem is though….which ones to choose? There are free apps and there are paid apps….but which ones are the best apps? 

When it comes to choosing the right apps for your students you need to keep in mind what your goals are for using it in the classroom. Is it to support subject learning? To develop student ICT capability? Or both? It is my view that when integrating ICT in the classroom, that you aim to achieve both. ICT should be transparent in the subject learning in such a way that students learn the context with the use of ICT and without even noticing that they are also developing their own ICT capabilities. 

Many teachers today use iPads for curriculum learning including literacy and numeracy. Choosing apps is like deciding on the right software for computers. After all, applications are indeed tablet computer software! The principles which should then aide your decision-making include: 

Does the app allow students full control of its use or only partial control?

Research suggests (Kennewell et al., 2000) that if students are to develop their ICT capability, that they need to be given opportunities to be challenged intellectually using software including apps where the level of decision-making and control by students is high.


  • What features and facilities does the app provide which might be used to extend children’s learning? 
  • How easy are these features to use? 
  • Will the children need to be instructed in their use before or during their use of the app? 
  • What is the educational purpose underlying the student’s use of the software?


Literacy and Numeracy Apps

Many of these types of apps like computer software is recognised as an Integrated Learning System or subject-specific. If your goal is simply to achieve higher levels of literacy and numeracy, then they are fine depending on whether or not they meet the learning needs of the students. A key problem with such software is that if teachers are to capitalise on its use then this requires them to be proficiently trained. Training is essential but it also takes time. Time to learn about it, time to know it, time to practice and time to evaluate it. Teachers, as we all know, are time poor!


What are the best apps?

Taking into account what I have discussed earlier about how the best software are the ones that allow high decision-making and full control over its use, apps are pretty much the same. In fact, if you want to go further the best apps are those that are content-free.

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