USA Illustrated Atlas

Screen Shot 2014-05-18 at 9.44.16 PMNot only does this app provide an illustrated atlas of the United States, it also provides an impressive amount of interaction.  Upon opening, students have a choice between two sections – maps and games.

Maps – Scroll between and interact with six different maps of the country.  Some highlight over 200 attractions across the country.  After tapping each illustration, an ‘Info Box’ appears and gives 3 – 5 sentences about each attraction.   I live near Stone Mountain in Georgia.  The Info Box states, “Stone Mountain is a rock hill in Georgia, standing on its own and rising 825 ft (250 m) above the surrounding area.  It is well-known for the enormous carving on its north face, the largest stone carving in the world.  It shows three important figures from the Confederacy: Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Jefferson Davis.”  Other maps highlight mountain ranges, rivers, and large cities.  A ‘Fact Box’ for each state appears on some of the maps.  Each Fact Box contains three sections – Basics (name, nickname, motto, abbreviation, admission to Union, capital, largest cities, and origin of name), Numbers (total area, width, length, highest point, lowest point, and total population), and Symbols (flag, seal, state flower, state tree, state bird, state animal, state fish, state insect, state song, and state mineral).  Simply put, the maps provide a plethora of information about this country!

Games - Each of the four choices (Match the Pair, States & Capitals, Trivia, and Find on a Map) allows students to apply knowledge of the states in a game-like format.  The difficulty level can be altered in some of the games.  Stars can be earned and eventually be used to collect badges.

Posted in 3rd - 5th, 6th - 8th, 9th - 12th, iPad, Paid, Social Studies | Tagged , | Comments Off

Sight Words Games & Flash Cards for Reading and Spelling Success at School

Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 4.42.40 PMApps that focus on sight words are extremely important for beginning readers.  This one has a simple game-like format that will appeal to young students.

The free version offers just the following two activities:

Word Machine – The machine verbally announces a sight word.  Choices appear and the child has to tap the correct one.  Points are earned for each correct answer.  More points are earned if students select the correct sight word on the first attempt.  Words increase in difficulty as students work through the levels.  With each new level, more answer choices appear.  The machine repeats each round’s word every few seconds.

Gears – Tap a spot on the screen to hear a sight word.  Then students need to drag the written sight word (and its gear) to that spot.  Correct answers will make the gear spin.

The paid version opens up all of the grade levels (Pre-K to 3rd) and all of the activities.  The others are: BINGO, Memory Games, Spelling, and Flash Cards.

Download the free version to see if it fits the needs of your child, then upgrade to the paid version.

Posted in 1st - 2nd, 3rd - 5th, iPad, iPod Touch & iPhone, Language Arts, Paid, PreK - Kindergarten | Tagged | Comments Off

Hopscotch

Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 9.20.02 PMThis app provides even young students with an introduction to coding – or computer programming.  The Hopscotch computer programming language is derived from Scratch by those at MIT.  It provides students with a choice of building blocks in 6 categories.  The blocks control the movement and actions of chosen characters.  Not only do students learn the fundamentals of coding, but they also have the opportunity to hone their critical thinking and problem solving skills.

The Hopscotch website has a link to their ‘Hour of Code’ tutorial and to 7 lessons that can be used in a classroom or small group setting.  The app itself has links to existing projects and a community section where projects can be shared and remixed.

Block Categories

  • Movement: move, rotate, change y by, change x by, set rotation, set position, set speed
  • Drawing: move with trail, set line width, set line color, clear
  • Control Flow: repeat/end, wait
  • Appearance: grow, shrink, set invisibility, change pose, bring to front, send to back
  • Values: set value, change value
  • Calculator: random
Posted in 3rd - 5th, 6th - 8th, Critical Thinking, Free, iPad, Math | Tagged , | Comments Off

Numbers League

Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 1.43.57 PMThis app successfully sneaks a lot of learning into a game-like format.  The app is based off a card game with the same name.  The ‘game’ takes place in Infinity City.  Each villain that students encounter has a specific weakness in the form of a number.  The heroes  - who form the Numbers League – must work individually or in collaboration to add up to the total of each villain’s weakness.  Instead of  spinning to create a new hero (called ‘Hero Up’), students can occasionally ‘Gear Up’ to spin for powerful ‘Devices’ (such as +10 or x3).

Games

  • Minion – Mini Game: Simple heroes and villains
  • Sidekick – Mini Game: Simple heroes and villains, plus simple devices
  • Hero – Base Game: Basic heroes and villains, plus positive and negative devices
  • Hero Plus – Base Game Plus Variants: Add negative heroes and villains and/or multiplication devices
  • Superhero – Advanced Game: Positive and negative heroes, random villains and multiplication devices

At this price point, I expect for an app to come with plenty of options for customization.  This app certainly delivers!

Customization Options

  • Game Play – Dynamic, Fast, or Simple
  • Audio – Turn off/on Music, Sounds, and Voices
  • Hints – Each can be Free or cost 1 or 2 Points (Or entirely eliminate the option)
  • Timer – 40, 80, or 160 seconds (Or entirely eliminate the option)

This is one of the best math apps I have encountered.  It allows students to have an abundance of fun while gaining valuable mental math strategies.  (Or students can certainly have paper and pencil close by.)  I also appreciate how it is appropriate for a broad level of students.

Posted in 3rd - 5th, 6th - 8th, iPad, Math, Paid | Comments Off

HOPE Poster Photo Filter

Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 5.54.33 PMThis app pulls photographs from the device’s library (Camera Roll on an Apple device) and places a soft filter over them.  The filter mimics the one used in the iconic Hope poster from President Obama’s 2008 campaign.  Photographs can be moved, scaled, and rotated.  After importing a photograph, students can choose from one of 9 filters (each black with one additional color).  They can then add a word or short message that appears at the bottom of the poster.  Most students can create attractive posters in Easy mode.  But there is also an Expert mode that allows for adjustments in three tonal regions – shadows, midtones, and highlights.  Completed posters can be saved to the device’s library and shared via email, Facebook, and Twitter (as poster or avatar).

Posted in 3rd - 5th, 6th - 8th, 9th - 12th, Fine Arts, iPad, iPod Touch & iPhone, Paid | Comments Off

Sentence Reading Magic

Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 1.56.07 PMThis app is designed for early readers.  It has two modes – Sentence Building and Sentence Reading.  Each has the option of using either 2 words or 3.

Here are summarizations of the instructions for each mode.

Sentence Building – The purpose is “To lay the foundations and to strengthen the ability to read sentences.”  It demonstrates how we pair verbal words with written words to form sentences that can be read or said aloud.  As each new sentence (and accompanying picture) appears on screen, the mobile device reads it aloud.  Then the child needs to drag the words in the proper order.  When done correctly, the tiles will join together and play a brief musical number.

Sentence Reading - The purpose is “To give lots of practice reading short, simple sentences and to prepare children to read books.”  To eliminate the reliance on visual clues, the picture does not appear.  The words also appear in the correct order.  Therefore, the objective is for students to read the sentences orally and then tap the blank picture box to hear each sentence read aloud and watch as the accompanying picture appears.

This review is for the free version.  It comes with just two categories in Sentence Reading (15 two-word sentences and 25 three-word sentences).

The Deluxe version comes with four categories in Sentence Reading (72 two-word sentences, 84 three-word sentences, 84 four-word sentences, and 84 five and six-word sentences).  It also comes with several sound and font options that are not available in the free version.

As always, I encourage you to try the free version before committing to the Deluxe version.

Posted in 1st - 2nd, Free, iPad, iPod Touch & iPhone, Language Arts, Paid, PreK - Kindergarten | Comments Off

BrainPOP Jr. Movie of the Week

Screen Shot 2014-02-06 at 1.35.50 PMI am a big fan of Brain Pop movies.  This app is geared towards students in grades Kindergarten – third.  Another version is available for older students.  Good ‘ole Moby (the robot) appears in all BrainPOP Jr. movies with his dear friend Annie.

This app does allow all students to watch one ‘free’ movie each week.  However, students with access to a subscription can log in to access part of or the entire collection of BrainPOP Jr. movies!  Bonus features (such as quizzes and activities) are included for each movie.

There are two different mobile-device based subscriptions.

  • Explorer – $1.99/month.  Provides access to the free ‘Movie of the Week’ and its bonus features plus 3 related movies (per week) and their bonus features
  • Full Access – $5.99/month.  Provides unlimited access to all movies and their bonus features

Note: Login credentials for the web-based BrainPOP sites also work on mobile devices via the BrainPOP apps.

Subjects and Categories

Science – animals, plants, habitats, conservation, land, matter, forces, energy, weather, space, science skills

Health – be well, be safe, relationships, be responsible, bodies, teeth, food, drugs

Reading & Writing – authors, reading skills, story elements, comprehension, phonics, word, sentence, communication, writing

Social Studies – American history, ancient history, biographies, holidays, communities, Native Americans, government, economics, citizenship, geography

Math – number sense, addition and subtraction, measurement, geometry, time, money, data and probability, fractions, multiplication and division

Arts & Technology – art, music, technology

Posted in 1st - 2nd, 3rd - 5th, Fine Arts, Free, iPad, iPod Touch & iPhone, Language Arts, Learning Apps, Math, PreK - Kindergarten, Science, Social Studies | Tagged | Comments Off

Learn Spanish for Kids – Ottercall

Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 2.59.34 PMThis app has an interesting concept behind it, but overall – it fails to fully deliver.  From the ‘About’ section of the app: “Ottercall helps you practice your pronunciation and learn to speak a new language.  We use speech recognition to help judge your pronunciation and give useful feedback.”

Unfortunately, the speech recognition component of the app is in need of improvement.  It often gives negative feedback when words are actually correctly pronounced.

To begin, the user selects from the list of lessons.  They also choose for the language to be English or Spanish.  Then they tap the picture to listen as the device reads the word aloud.  This feature is the best in the app!  Although the voice sounds very ‘computer like’, it is still beneficial to have the app read each vocabulary word aloud.  But I do not recommend using the speech recognition component of the app until the developers greatly improve that feature.

Unlocked Lessons

  • Animals
  • School
  • Beach
  • Bedroom
  • Breakfast
  • Clothing

Locked Lessons (Unlocked via an in-app purchase)

  • Fast food
  • Fruits
  • Holiday
  • Music
  • Kitchen
  • Appliances
  • Seasons
  • Sports
  • Tools
  • Vehicles
  • Vegetables
  • Weather
Posted in 1st - 2nd, 3rd - 5th, Foreign Language, iPad, iPod Touch & iPhone, Paid | Tagged , | Comments Off

Ludo Classic

Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 3.10.12 PMThe educational value of this app is questionable.  Yet, I still decided to include it because it is a good way for students to practice using strategy (combined with a little bit of luck).

Ludo is sometimes called ‘pachisi’.  The basic premise is to move all four of your game pieces around the square board without getting ‘caught’ by other players’ pieces.  You’re also trying to capture your opponents’ pieces.

Up to four players can play at once.  You can play ‘the computer’ or play with friends via a local wifi + Bluetooth network or Apple’s Game Center.  You also have the option of playing with one or two dice.  I find this game to be very addicting.  To emphasize its educational value – encourage students to focus on strategy rather than just moving pieces randomly.

Official In-App Rules

  • The goal is to walk around the board with the pawns and arrive at the center with all 4 pawns.
  • Roll a 1 or a 6 to put a pawn into play.  Rolling a 6 gives the right to roll again.
  • If a pawn lands on a place already occupied by another player’s pawn, that pawn will return to its starting position.  Again, it can only be put into play by rolling a 1 or a 6.
Posted in 3rd - 5th, 6th - 8th, 9th - 12th, Critical Thinking, iPad, iPod Touch & iPhone, Paid | Tagged | Comments Off

Easy Portfolio

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 4.10.51 PMDigital portfolios are still a fairly new concept in K – 12 education.  But apps like this make it easy to bring this new technology into classrooms at all grade levels.

After creating a new portfolio, it takes just a couple of taps to add records.  The records can be in the form of videos, images, audio files, notes, URLs, and documents.  The app easily retrieves records from DropBox or from the iPad itself.

Individual records or even the entire portfolio can be exported via DropBox or Google Drive.  The app links to tutorial videos and blog posts that help navigate the process of creating and maintaining portfolios.

Posted in 3rd - 5th, 6th - 8th, 9th - 12th, Fine Arts, Foreign Language, iPad, iPod Touch & iPhone, Language Arts, Math, Paid, Science, Social Studies | Tagged | Comments Off