Sunday, November 4, 2012

App for That #10: The Land of Me

App: The Land of Me for the iPad

Cost: Free

Grade Level:Kindergarten to Grade 2

What it does:    This app was one I saw recommend on Jen Deyenberg's blog.  It is in the same vein as a choose your own adventure story, where the reader chooses several elements of the story, such as who the main character is, what the story is about and what type of ending it has.  Then with simple chalk like animations and words, Grandmother Olive, the turtle, narrates the story. 

How's the App: This is a really good app for early elementary students.  Each story has a rhyming rhythm to it that children love.  They are in control of parts of the story, and the fact that they can be changed means the reader can read the story multiple times and have it be fresh each time.  The animations are cute and the text is underneath so students can follow along.  The possible draw back of this app is that all the characters voices have British accents so it may be difficult for some students to understand the story, though in a world where many students have already watched one or more Harry Potter movies, this might not be a challenge at all.  The stories are fairly short, so this app may not hold the readers attention for very long.

What it could be used for: This app allows students to listen to a story being read to them.  It can also help students begin to understand how details can change a story.  A teacher could ask them to try the same story with three different endings and see what changes.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

App for That #9: Jungle Coins

App: Jungle Coins for the iPad

Cost: 2.99 US plus 0.99 for the Canadian Currency upgrade

Grade Level: Grade 2 - Grade 3

What it does: Jungle Coins is an app that allows students to solve problems using a variety of coins.  Students can sort coins, count the amount of coins they have, compare to groups of coins or give correct change based on a number problem.

How's the App:This app is everything Learning Money with Leo is not.  Every time you click on of the the coins it gives you that coins value.  Coins also flip each time you hit them, so students are able to see both sides of the coin.  Written directions can be clicked and read to the player.  When comparing two groups of coins, you can click on each of the symbols (< = >) and the app will tell you what they mean.  In the count the money activity, students can re-order the coins to group them for easier counting, and when they select an answer it is read back to them.  In each activity the player can select a new problem if they one they have is too difficult or easy.  Coins are referred to both by their value and their name so students get exposure to both.  What I really like is that you can set the level, and each level adds a new type of coin into the mix, starting at level one with pennies and nickles and going all the way to level 5 which involves all coins.  In addition there is a level 6 which can be edited to only use the coins the player (or teacher) selects.

What it could be used for: Having students learn about greater than, less than.  Allowing students to learn about coins and their values and sort them.

Rating: 4 out of 5

App for That #8: My Story

App:My Story for the iPad

Cost: 1.99 US

Grade Level:Kindergarten to grade 5

What it does: My Story allows the user to create a story by drawing it.  They can also upload photos and either leave them as is or draw over them.  Once a student has created a page, they can add text and/or record their voice to tell their story.  When they are finished their book, they can read it in My Books, or in iBooks on your computer, or it can be e-mailed to others to read or embedded in a blog.  

How's the App: I really like this app because it differentiates story making.  It allows students with a variety of strengths to use the app in a way that suits them best.  If a student prefers writing over drawing, they can use photographs rather than drawings in the story.  Students who are reluctant writers but still have a story to tell can draw their pictures and record their text, rather than writing it.  Students at all levels can read each others books in a way that suits them, if you have pictures, text and recording within a book.  My Story also offers options for students when they are drawing such as colour, line thickness and shape.  There are some options without it becoming overwhelming.  This is an app that I will definitely use with my students.

What it could be used for: Having students create stories that can be shared with others in the class, or with those from other classes.

Rating: 4 out of 5

App for That #7: Learning Money with Leo

App: Learning Money with Leo by Royal Bank of Canada for the iPad

Cost: free

Grade Level: Kindergarten to Grade 2

What it does: Learning Money with Leo is an app that helps students understand the concept and value of money...or at least that's what the app claims to do.  The currency used is Canadian, so this is specific to residents of Canada.

How's the App: Learning Money with Leo is interactive, provides students with fun activities to do involving money.  It caters, in some ways, to young learners as most of the directions are voiced-over rather than written.  But upon further examination, I end up unsure what age this app is for, and where the learning occurs.  The match up game is easy to use, however the words on the left hand side would be difficult for younger learners to read and for some reason this is the only place where the app will not read words for you.  The activities such as Spot the Difference, My Sticker Book and even the Read Along Story are fun, but other than a passing mention of money, such as coins in the picture, there is no actual learning about money.  The Gather the Coins activity has actual coins in it, and there is a running tally of how much you have collected, but again the coins seem to be a secondary element and have little influence on the player.  In Solve the Coin students move the iPad to help a coin go into the matching coin box, but the coin is never identified, so it is really just about matching a picture that happens to be a coin.  The activity where students may actually learn about money in any meaningful way is Sort the Coin, because at least when the student touches a coin, it tells the player how much that coin is worth, but even this activity is very basic and the game actually shows you where to put the coin by flashing the piggy bank, so I do wonder how much the child is learning.  All in all I would not call this an educational app, though that is the category it is under.  I feel this is one of those cases where having students explore actual money and practice purchasing things in real life is far more helpful than an app.

What it could be used for: Exposing students to coins and their value, in a very limited way.  You could use the read along story for language arts.

Rating: 1 out of 5

App for That #6: iMovie

App: iMovie for iPad

Cost: $4:99 US

Grade Level: Grade 3 - beyond, or with teacher assistance

What it does: iMovie allows you to import video clips or photographs and create a movie, complete with titles, music, and voice overs.  There is also the option to make a movie trailer.

How's the App: The iMovie app was much easier to learn how to use than GarageBand, but there are limited features in this app as well.  When adding videos or photos, it is easy to edit them, cutting them down to what you want.  What I don't like about this app is that the way you transition from one scene to the next is limited, as is how and where you can add text.  Coming from a background using Movie Maker for my PC, I get a bit frustrated by these limitations.  In this case the app is limiting, and depending on the movie I am trying to create, I may just use my computer instead.  I do however really like the trailer making portion of the app.  It is fairly formulaic, with limited options so for students in grade 3 - 5, it is a guided format to creating a very slick looking product.

What it could be used for: Students could use it to create a movie to explain their understand of a concept or to teach others about it.  Using the movie trailer selection, students could create a trailer for a book they are reading as a different spin on "writing" a book report or review.  It can also be used to create a slide show complete with music and/or a voice over.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Saturday, November 3, 2012

App for That #5: Twitter

App: Twitter for the iPad

Cost: Free

Grade Level: Teachers (or maybe supervised with your students if your division allows it)

What it does: Twitter is an online social networking site.  I have created many connections with teachers and have several professional learning networks that have sprung from Twitter.  If you want to learn more about it, see my post from a previous class here.

How's the App:  Terrible to Fantastic - see below.

Even though I love Twitter, if you had asked me last week what I thought of the iPad Twitter app, I would have said it was a disaster.  It was difficult to navigate, didn't offer all the options that the computer based version did, and every time you clicked on a link or a tweet it would open in a separate page of section.  It was terrible.

BUT, yesterday I finally got around to updating my apps, and I am now convinced that I should always update my apps as soon as a new version is available.  The new and improved Twitter app is a dream.  My options are simpler as far as navigation, and now much much more what I expect from the Twitter format.  Now when I click on a post, it enlarges it in the same window and I can still see other messages.  If I click on a link it takes me to a whole new page (not a cascading page as it did before) and there is an obvious home button that takes me back to where I was before.  With this great update, I am more incline to choose my iPad over my computer when catching up with my tweeps.

What it could be used for:Networking with other teachers.  Getting and sharing ideas for lessons, classroom management strategies and general support.  Providing another way to connect with the community.

Rating: 4 out of 5 (previously 2 out of 5)

App for That #4: Skitch

App: Skitch
On iPad and other i devices, also available for Android devices.
A screenshot if Skitch on my iPad

Cost: Free

Grade Level: Kindergarten - Grade 5

What it does: Skitch is an app that allows you to label and type text right over a picture, map, webpage or screen shot, to make your point more clear.

How's the App:  I love this app, in particular because of its simplicity and ease of use for early years students.  You can either take a photo or screen cature from your iPad, upload a photo, website image or map, or start with a blank canvas.  Once you have your photo in, you can draw an arrow, create a box or circle around a portion of the photo or draw on it.  There is the option to have the text, arrow or drawing be one of 6 colours, so there are some options, but not an overwhelming amount.  The most interesting feature I found was the blur button, which allows you to blur a section of the photo.  This is great for privacy as students can use a photo of themselves, or their classmates and blur out the faces to make them anonymous.  The one draw back is that in order to save your Skitch diagrams, you must also download Evernote, but that program is also free and useful, so it wasn't a big deal for me.
A sample of what I did with Skitch in under 10 minutes

What it could be used for: Students could use this to show their understanding of a topic through labeling a photograph.  It is a different way to explain their learning to someone else in a visual way.  You could ask students to find photos to represent a specific topic, patterns for example, and once students have taken the photo, they could open it in Skitch and label the pattern to explain their thinking.  As a teacher, Skitch allows me to take screen shots on my iPad, which I can then use to create tutorials about a program, or a slides shows in which I want to highlight a certain aspect of each slide.

Rating: 5 out of 5

App for That #3: Garage Band

App: GarageBand for iPad

Cost: $4:99 US

Grade Level: grade 5 - beyond, or teacher directed

What it does: GarageBand is a music creating program, that allows you to use their pre-selected instruments, your voice, recorded music and some live instruments to create music and/or podcasts.

How's the App:  This app has a steep learning curve, but once you have played around with it a few times it gets easier.  This is definitely not an app I would have my grade 2 students use independently, but I may have them record their voices on it, and do the editing after school.  As a former pianist, I love that if I want to add a piano sound that I can select a keyboard and the keys respond not only my touch, but also to how hard I press.  If I had used GarageBand a lot prior to getting the app, I am sure it would have been more intuitive to me from the start.  That being said, if you are not afraid of pressing various buttons just to see what they do, then you can figure it out fairly quickly.  Of the music production programs I have seen, GarageBand seems the easiest to understand, and provides samples of various genres and instruments, so that even if you don't read music or play an instrument, you can still create beautiful music.  Incidentally all the podcasts created for my mobile learning course were created with GarageBand.

What it could be used for: This could be used to allow students to create their own podcasts, or for teachers to assist students in doing so.  It could be used in a music production class to create on original or remix a popular song.  If students are creating a video, they could use it to create a song for background to their movie (and I believe that iMovie allows you to drop the song from Garage Band right into its program).

Rating: 4 out of 5

App for That #2: The Heart and the Bottle

App: The Heart and the Bottle - story app for iPad

Cost: 5.99

Grade Level: Kindergarten to grade 3

What it does: The Heart and the Bottle is a children's story written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers.  It is about a little girl who gets hurt and hides her heart in a bottle so she will never be hurt again.  This is a book that my students love, and so I wanted to see if the material was enhanced with this app.

How's the app: All in all the app works alright, but not great.  There is an option to have the story read to you, which is great, and the music fits the story.  The app also offers hidden animation and activities throughout its pages that can be discovered.  There is also a hint button to help those with less patience.  The idea behind each of these hidden activities is nice, however the app itself is glitchy and often there is a delay with the animation.  Sometimes the animation and the sound don't match making it more frustrating than fun for little fingers.  I would have to say that this isn't an app I would recommend to others based on the glitches, and it does make hesitant to purchase other book apps.

What it could be used for:  Drawing in reluctant readers, or allowing beginning readers to enjoy a book that would be difficult for them to read on their own.

Rating: 2 out of 5

App for That #1: Voice Thread

App: Voicethread for iPad

Cost: Free

Grade Level: 2rade 2 - University

What it does: Last year I explored Voicethread on my PC as part of my technical knowledge component (you can see my review of it here).  It is a great tool, as it allows you to add photos, video, text, and voice recordings together.  Others can then watch your Voicethread and add their thoughts about each slide either through video, text or voice recording.  This allows the finished product to becomes an interactive conversation.  Also, as you are recording your comments, you can draw on the screen with your mouse to highlight a section, and it will become part of the recording.

How's the App:  The app itself is great.  I really like the PC version, but I love the app for iPad, as it makes the program that much more user friendly.  To high light or circle a particular area of the picture or video while recording your comment, you simple write with your finger or a stylus, right onto the screen, which allows for much more control than using a mouse.  If I want to add a photograph to my Voicethread, I can choose from the library on my iPad or I can take a picture with the device and immediately have it show up in the program.  This allows my early year's students the ability to take photos and put them on their Voicethreads without the intermediate step of having me upload them from a digital camera.  Previously on the computer version, I have had to be present to help my students record their voices.  The app version is very simple, with only one button to press, so students could easily do this independently.

As with most programs that are turned into apps, there are some features that are not available on the app version.  With Voicethread this is not a big deal, because once I have saved my Voicethread on my iPad, it is available on my computer when I go online and log in.  At this point I can add and alter it in the ways the app will not let me, such as adding a web address at the bottom of the screen, or changing the comment icon to a different picture.

What it could be used for: There are many options...anything thing that you've previously done using Photostory can be done on Voicethread.  You could have students illustrate and then narrate their own stories.  They could use it to write on and verbally explain their thinking about a math problem.  It could be used to collaborate with another classroom in another place and share their opinions, views and questions on a topic.

Rating: 5 out of 5