5 Best Paid Apps for Students' iPads

It’s that time where schools are deciding what apps students should have on their devices. While many schools stick with just free apps, others know that paid apps have a lot to offer. Paid apps are usually 50% off when purchased through Apple’s Volume Purchase Program for Education, so outfitting an entire class with a paid app might not break the bank.

I thought I’d share my top paid app picks for students' iPads. These apps are all open-ended and empower students to create something with their learning.


#1 Book Creator 



"The simple way to create your own beautiful iBooks, right on the iPad.”

Make a digital book where each page can have any combination of text, photos, videos, drawings, and audio recordings with Book Creator. When completed, you can export the book as a .epub file that can be read in iBooks. You can also print, export as PDF, or save books as movies. I’ve used Book Creator with kindergarten classes. Yet, the app is powerful enough for books authored by adults.

A killer feature is the ability to combine books, which is great for making class books and anthologies. I have even heard of students using Book Creator as a portfolio to showcase and reflect upon what they’ve written and created during the school year or during a unit of study.

You can try out Book Creator for free using Book Creator Free. The free version is limited to creating only one book.

Example Books:


#2 Explain Everything



"Explain Everything is an easy-to-use design, screencasting, and interactive whiteboard tool that lets you annotate, animate, narrate, import, and export almost anything to and from almost anywhere."

Make videos and presentations that can include drawings, photos, audio, videos, and animations. Simply click record and your voice and any actions you perform on the screen are captured and can be replayed. Unlike other screencasting apps, Explain Everything allows you to record on a series of slides. If you want to rerecord, you can do it by slide instead of having to record your entire project again. Explain Everything has the ability to save your final video to the Camera Roll or directly into Dropbox, WebDAV, Google Drive, Evernote, and others.

Explain Everything is seriously packed with lots of features. It might be overwhelming at first, but don’t worry, after students make their first videos, they will be thrilled to show their teachers new features and recording techniques they discover. You can learn all about Explain Everything is the User Manual for iBooks or watch these video tutorials.

Example Videos:


#3 Stick Around



“Play, design, and share sorting, labeling, and matching puzzles."

Turn what you know into a game using Stick Around. It’s built using the same engine as Explain Everything and can import and export to that app. To create a project, students design a background, which can be a drawing or photo. Then they add stickers, which can be text, photos, or drawings. Stickers can even have arrows, audio, notes, and web links attached to them. Students place stickers onto their correct spots on the background and then make an answer key.

When played the goal is to drag the stickers from the tray onto the background into their correct positions. There’s a Check button to see if the solution matches the answer key. If not, play continues until everything is correct. After successfully completing the puzzle, players have the option of saving a screenshot of how they solved the puzzle, which is stamped with their name, date, and number of attempts it took to solve.

Puzzles can be shared to Dropbox, Google Drive, WebDAV, and other apps via Open In. An iPad with Stick Around installed is required to play puzzles.

Disclaimer: I’m a co-developer of this app. The idea originated from my teaching experience and desire to bring fun, open-ended and creative activities to classrooms. It’s great to see that so many students are solidifying their learning by making games! I recorded a series of video tutorials and you can get a feel for the app by watching the 99 second teaser video or my 9 minute overview video.

Example Puzzles:


#4 Popplet



“Capture your ideas, sort them visually, and collaborate with others in realtime."

Make colorful mind maps that can have text, images, videos, and drawings. Mind maps are useful for brainstorming ideas, visualizing concepts, and capturing facts. It’s very easy to connect and move ideas around your screen. You can export your mind maps to your Camera Roll or you can email them as PDFs. While creating a Popplet account is optional, having an account allows you to store your files online where they can be shared with and edited by others.

If you’re not familiar with Popplet, you can install the free version, Popplet Lite or log in and use the web version.



#5 Strip Designer 



"Impress your friends with your own personal comic strips, created on your iPad, iPhone or iPod using photos from your photo album or iPhone camera."

Create comic strips and comic books using your own photos and drawings with Strip Designer. This app has been around for a long time (watch my video from 2009) and keeps getting better. There are dozens of layouts to choose from. Strip Designer has plenty of effects and editing tools for the photos you import, and the app gives you plenty of options for adding text boxes, stickers, and speech bubbles. 

You can export your comic to your Camera Roll, email as a PDF, print it (via AirPrint), or open the PDF in other apps. 

There is not a free version of Strip Designer to try, but you might check out Comic Maker HD. It also enables you to make comics using various layouts and includes a library of characters you can import. However, this app isn’t as polished as Strip Designer, and it has been known to disappear from the App Store.

Example Comics:



#6-#9 Apple’s Apps: Keynote, Pages, Numbers, iMovie

Apple produces a few of its own apps. Keynote for slideshows, Pages for word processing, and Numbers for spreadsheets are listed at $9.99 each and iMovie is listed at $4.99. There are cheaper alternatives to Apple's apps. However, you might be able to get all these apps for free. iPads purchased after September 1, 2013 and running iOS 7 are able to download Pages, Keynote, Number, iMovie, and iPhoto for free. Read how this works.

The apps above are my picks for paid iPad apps that I think belong on student iPads. They can fuel creativity and be used over and over again. Which education apps do you think are so valuable they are worth paying for? Please comment!

Disclaimer: Links to iTunes are affiliate links and Learning in Hand may be paid a small commission if you make a purchase.