Some Free Apps and websites for Informal Learning
Concepts - Imagination, digital creation, self-reflection, investigation
Want to take a trip to the Museum of Modern Art without going to New York City? With the MoMa Art Lab app, kids can take a closer look at the museum's collection and get inspiration to make art offline. Included are drawing and collage tools, art inspiration, art activities, a camera for screen captures and a gallery. Prompts provide enough context for kids to get started while remaining vague enough to encourage deeper exploration and informal learning. MoMA Art Lab is a wonderful window into the museum's collection, sharing an introduction to modern art that is accessible for all ages.
Concepts - Ecosystems, plants, analysing evidence, collecting data, making conclusions
Project Noah is a crowdsourced online database of plants and animals that lets kids become citizen scientists. Kids use the cameras on their mobile devices to capture images, share them through the app (or by uploading them to the Project Noah website) and contribute to a growing, interactive field guide. They also can join specific local or global missions, providing valued scientific data. Project Noah encourages kids to actively observe and learn about plants and animals in their neighborhoods and around the world. While doing this, they're participating in real-world scientific research that supports informal and authentic learning.
Concepts - Programming and coding, digital creation, logic, problem solving, sequences
The Codacademy: Code Hour app offers an easy-to-digest, lean introduction to computer
programming for teens. It's made up of mini-lessons that offer lots of positive feedback as students work through the nuts and bolts of code. Each lesson consists of quick instruction, a snippet of code and part of the code for the student to manipulate. These steps help build self-confidence about programming, and the app keeps kids interested through encouraging feedback. By the end of the lessons, newly minted programmers can show off their skills by making a Web page on the Codecademy site. These skills have enormous possibilities in our current economy and will instill the confidence kids need to keep learning and building in the digital world.
Concepts - Following directions, brainstorming, innovation, making new creations, part whole relationships
Instructables is a slick DIY app and how-to Website full of cool projects and contests for older teens. Projects range from making a giant sun jar to baking maple-bacon-cheddar-garlic biscuits to building a homemade arc welder. Contest topics include jewelry, puppets and bikes, and registered users can vote for their favorite topics. Attempting an "instructable" means applying information, testing meaning with real-world objects, making inferences about part-whole relationships and thinking critically. Projects are well-described and empower kids to be successful in their own attempts, building confidence for them to keep improving and learning as they engage in fun, thinking-outside-the-box projects.