Apps that Challenge

Here are a few apps that require you to do more than react or repost. Do you use apps like these? Share your challenging app choices.

Illustration by Gavin Potenza

Life isn’t just a click-through, so why should your apps be? The fact is, few prompt us to do much more than react or repost content. Here are three that ask a little more of you—and offer a lot in return.

MoMA Art Lab

Leave it to New York’s Museum of Modern Art to craft an app that teaches children (and anyone else who’s interested) the fundamentals of modern art. Art Lab goes beyond the virtual tours offered by most museum-generated apps. It guides users to create collages and collaborative drawings, make sound compositions, and practice line and shape. The goal: teach aspiring artists how to make the kind of work that’s actually on display at MoMA. Let’s hear it for the next Keith Haring. ($2.99, available at for the iPad.)

Big Picture

Is boosting brain function with cognitive enhancers or “smart drugs” a good idea? If you haven’t formed an opinion yet, this app will help you decide. Crafted by the Wellcome Trust, the well-known publisher of a semiannual resource for teachers, Big Picture gives you the evidence cited in major debates about the brain, then asks you to weigh in. In the case of smart drugs, the app supplies an argument for and against and includes a description of cognitive enhancers such as Ritalin and caffeine. You can cast your vote and check poll results to see what others think. It could take small talk at your next party to a whole new level. (Free. For more information, visit


If you’re curious about how green you really are, this app may have some good news for you. Or it could be a useful reality check. Ecobug’s GPS-enabled “journey tracker” is a carbon-footprint calculator that quantifies greenness based on the choices you make throughout the day. Developed by a group of high school students, programmers, and computer scientists, it also offers daily tips and a quiz. (Free, available at for the Android.)

What apps or tech tools do you use that require you to do more than repost or react? If you don’t use these tools, why not? Please weigh in by clicking the “Add new comment” link at the bottom of this page.

This web extra provides additional information related to an article titled, “Apps That Challenge,” which appeared in the June 2013 issue of Mindful magazine.