Free or Low Cost Apps for Biology Teachers

Apps for mobile devices have really opened up a new frontier for teachers and students alike. Science teachers have the ability to go past lectures and movies and provide students with more interactive experiences. The following apps can be used by biology teachers in a variety of ways. Some are best integrated into class, either through a VGA adapter or an Apple TV. Others are more suited to individual study and review for students. These apps were all tested for their ability to enhance your lessons and help student learning and retention.

01
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Virtual Cell

dna strand

Learn about cellular respiration, meiosis and mitosis, protein expression, and RNA expression with movies, still images, texts, and quizzes. If students get questions wrong, they can review the pertinent information provided in the app and then retry the question. This aspect alone makes this particularly helpful for students as they learn about cell biology.

02
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BioNinja IB

Pipetting sample into tray for genetic karyotyping testing
Andrew Brookes / Cultura / Getty Images

This app is aimed at International Baccalaureate students but is also useful for Advanced Placement and other advanced students. It provides outlines and short quizzes for topics throughout the biology curriculum. The really great element of this app is the music videos. They can be a little corny, but they are great for learning about advanced concepts through song. They are especially helpful for those students who have strengths in musical intelligence.

03
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Click and Learn: HHMI's BioInteractive

DNA Replication Fork
EQUINOX GRAPHICS/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

This app provides in-depth information on a number of higher-level biology topics. The presentations have a number of interactive elements and are embedded in movies and lectures. This would be a great way to have students examine particular topics either alone or as a class.

04
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Cell Defender

Human Connective Tissue
Dr. Cecil Fox/National Cancer Institute

Aimed at middle school students, this is a fun game that teaches students about the five main structures of the cell and what each structure does. Students get to shoot down invading particles in a cell while helping each part of the cell function properly. The items being taught are reinforced throughout the game. The music is a little loud, but if you click the options button on the main screen you can turn it down or all the way off. Overall, this is a great way to reinforce some basic information.

05
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Evolutionary Biology

Genetic Drift (Founder Effect). Professor Marginalia

This app covers the topics of evolution, genetic drift, and natural selection. It was created by undergraduates at Brigham Young University as a way to teach basic evolutionary biology topics. It includes a lot of great information presented in a presentation that is reinforced with two simulations and two games.

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Gene Screen

Pipetting sample into tray for genetic karyotyping testing
Andrew Brookes / Cultura / Getty Images

This app provides a wealth of information about genetics including population genetics, recessive genetic diseases, and genetic screening. Further, it provides four genetics calculators. It also has a great map feature that shows the locations of major genetic diseases. Overall, it's an excellent resource.

Gene Screen is a fun way to learn how recessive genetic traits and diseases are inherited and how certain diseases are more prevalent in different populations. Gene Screen also provides information on some recessive genetic diseases and genetic screening programs.

The app includes four animations introducing the concepts of genetics and inheritance, population genetics, recessive genetic diseases*, and genetic screening. There are Punnett Square inheritance calculators to work out patterns of recessive inheritance and a prevalence calculator to highlight the different carrier frequencies of 19 genetic diseases in Jewish populations versus the general population. An interactive ancestry map highlights some genetic diseases that are more prevalent in certain regions of the world.

07
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Cells Alive

The About page on this interactive website states, "CELLS alive! represents 30 years of capturing film and computer-enhanced images of living cells and organisms for education and medical research."  

The site features pages on cell biology, microbiology, immunology, microscopy, and genetics for grades 6-12.

08
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Arkive

Crazy Plant Shop is an engaging science game that embeds learning about Punnett squares and genetic expression into a shop sim. Students assume the role of a plant shop manager who must breed specific types of plants to fulfill customer orders. To get the right plants, students need to combine and breed plants using knowledge of dominant and recessive traits and Punnett squares. 

With countless variations of plants and genes to be found, students get much practice and will have fun discovering all the different types of plants for their store. The extra layer of the shop sim means students also get to do skills-building inventory management regarding money and breeding machine power on top of the science-based learning. Since they must conserve money and power, students must decide which orders they are able to fill before the end of the day, when they must pay rent on the shop.