9 Letters

20 Nov

9 Letters App iconI am a big fan of word puzzles and usually have one or two on my iPad to do in those times where I’m doing that universal Mum thing:  waiting for my children to finish school or whatever activity they are doing.  I love word games and puzzles because they help keep my brain active, and my favourite are anagram games, particularly the 9 letter puzzles, so I was very excited to hear PKCLsoft was developing 9 Letters, and even more delighted when I was given a copy to review.  PKCLsoft is an independent Australian developer and a member of MOMs with apps.

 

How It Works

9 Letters is exactly what the name suggests: a game with 9 letters that you use to make as many words as you can.  The rules are simple:

  • Each letter can only be used once (although if the same letter appears more than once, you can use it as many times as it appears)
  • Words must be a minimum of 3 letters long.
  • Longer words score more points

In the top left of the screen is a pop out table with the total number of words you have found, plus a table indicating how many words of each length can be found.  In the example below, for instance, I have found 14 of 19 three-letter words, 3 of 9 six-letter words, and neither of the single eight or nine letter words.  You can tap on the table to hide or reveal it.  A running score is kept as you play.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Options

There are several options to make the game easier, harder or more accessible, which can be turned on or off in settings.  These include:

  • Target mode – the central letter must be used in every word (usually a standard rule in similar games but optional here).  When target mode is on, the central letter is darkened.
  • Hint every ten words
  • Highlight valid words (a word appears green if it is valid)
  • automatic detection of ‘s’ endings (if you type a word and there is an available s to pluralise it, both words will be added to the list.)
  • apply time limit for each word
  • Sound effects and music can be turned on or off.
  • An alternative font is available
  • Display lower case letters

You can see how the game works in this YouTube video.

Apart from the free hints every 10 words, prompts occasionally appear to offer you the chance to buy a 7 letter word or a hint via your iTunes account.  I haven’t bothered with these but enthusiasts may.  Of course, your iTunes password is required to make a purchase, and you can prevent unauthorised in-App purchases (IAPs) but turning this option off in your device settings.

Things I love

The game is as fast or as slow as you want - If you turn the timer off, you can sit with a word as long as you like. Personally, I like the challenge of working against a timer, and I usually am playing during a quick break so that works better for me.

The huge variety of 9 letter words – I have several of these games and I enjoy them all, but for most I keep coming across the same letter combos all the time.   I’ve played 9 Letters for nearly a fortnight at every available opportunity (because I love to be thorough when putting apps through their paces for reviews….. and because it is addictive!) and not once have I come across a repeated word.

New vocabulary – While I recognise most of the 9 letter word solutions, some of the words are unfamiliar to me. I’m enjoying learning new words such as  empyreans and multiplet.  I’m pleased to hear that a future update will allow you to get definitions of words.  Lots of smaller words are unfamiliar, so if you put together what you think are nonsense words, sometimes you come up with a winner.

Handoff Feature – 9 Letters supports Handoff, Apple’s new continuity feature, so you can start a game on your iPhone but then transfer the same game to your iPad later.  You can see how it work’s in PKCLsoft’s demo YouTube video below.

 

Wish List

Definitions – This one is already in the pipeline, and I can’t wait to be able to link quickly to definitions of words.  I’m hoping this will not only apply to the larger words but some of the smaller words too.

Colour choices - The colour scheme is high contrast which is great, but I’d love the option to change it to my favourite colour – blue.  Not a biggie, but it would be nice.

Difficulty options – I’d love to be able to make the game harder (or not) by having an option to have a 4-letter minimum word length.  The 3-letter minimum is great, as most other games start at 4, but it would be fun.  Also, perhaps the option to reject the plural s, so that book would count, but books wouldn’t, (unless the central letter was an s).

Verdict

I love this game and it has become my “go-to” game when I’m having a break.  I’m enjoying the variety of words, the challenge level and learning new words.  Being able to turn off the target letters and time limits will make the game a little more user-friendly for some who might like to play word games but find most a bit difficult.  Scrabble and Boggle lovers will be sure to love it.

Secret Santa season is coming up and if you have a friend of family member who is in to word games, you could gift them a copy and I’m sure it would be much appreciated.  9 Letters is only in its first version and it is already wonderful, so I look forward to the future updates.
9 Letters - pkclSoft
Publisher: pkclSoft
Price:  $1.29 (Australia – 99 cents USA) until 26th November 2014, then $2.49.
iPad and iPhone (requires iOS 7.0 or later)

 

 

Appp Media’s New Math app: Understanding Math – Times Tables

13 Nov

understanding mathappp media have just released a new Mathematics app for multiplication and division, and I was fortunate to be given a copy to review.  The full name of the app is Understanding Math – Times Tables: Learn to fluently multiply and divide within 100, but that is a bit of a mouthful so I’m sure you won’t mind if I abbreviate it to Understanding Math – Times Tables for this review.

I have literally hundreds of Mathematic apps, and most of the multiplication and division apps are drill and practice, which is great for developing speed and accuracy, but Understanding Math: Times Tables offers something new.  The drill and practice element is there, but it is the understanding part that is a new and welcome feature.   The activities in Understanding Math – Times Tables are based  on Jerome Bruner’s  Three Modes of Representation learning theory and they explore the concepts of division and multiplication using different visual representations.

Each activity has been linked to the Common Core Standards for Mathematics.

Continue reading

Where are my Apps? – Backing up alternative to iCloud

4 Sep

I know many of my readers use iCloud to backup their devices.  This is great and convenient for lots of reasons, but there are limitations when it comes to your iTunes purchases.  Recently a friend of mine accidentally deleted Snappycam from her children’s device but then found she could not reinstall it as it was no longer in the App Store.  Since then I’ve received a few enquiries about this kind of thing, so I thought I’d share a few thoughts.

Why isn’t my app in the App Store?

Apple can remove apps from the App Store at any time.  In Snappycam’s case, Apple bought the company (and hopefully will incorporate this in a future iOS) but there are other reasons apps disappear, including (but not limited to):

  • Copyright disputes with other developers
  • To comply with legal rulings
  • Lack of compatibility to the latest iOS
  • Violation of Apple’s contracts
  • The developer company has ceased trading
  • The app is really, really offensive (and no, I won’t give examples, but I’m pretty sure Google can show you some)
  • The developer company no longer wishes to support that app (for various reasons)

But I OWN that app!

When it comes to iTunes, once you purchase an app it is yours for life…. in theory.  In reality, you can only download it/reinstall it while it is still available in the store.  iCloud will back up your app data (e.g. documents you make with the apps) and your purchase history, but when it comes to apps, you can only download your apps AS LONG AS THEY ARE IN THE APP STORE.  Once removed, this form of backup is no longer available.

So what to do?

The best insurance is to download the apps to a computer or hard drive.  Once you have downloaded your apps, even if they disappear from the store, you can connect your device to the computer and reinstall them.  There are two things you can do.

  • Back up your device to your computer

I always back up my device and iTunes purchases to my computer, which in turn backs up on an external drive.  You can also back up to iCloud, but I’d still recommend connecting to your computer regularly.  If you have bandwidth and data issues, it is worth mentioning that backing up this way is possible without WiFi/internet access, so could be more economical for some.

  • Automatically back up your app purchases on your computer. (Your device doesn’t need to be connected for this.)
    1. Open iTunes on your computer and select iTunes> Preferences> Store>
    2. Check Always check for available downloads
    3. Then, under Automatic Downloads, check Apps (and Music, if you’d also like to back up your music purchases.)
    4. With these options set, open iTunes on your computer (while connected to the internet) regularly, and it will automatically download any purchases.

Limitations

Using these strategies has meant I’ve been able to hold on to some great apps that are no longer available.  But there are limitations.  Once an app has been pulled from the App Store, there will be no more support and no more updates.  When Apple releases a new iOS, for example, your old apps may no longer be compatible.  This won’t be a problem if you have an older device, such as the original iPad, but it is something to keep in mind if your device is newer.

Extra insurance

An external hard drive dedicated to backing up your computer is a great investment.  If you back up regularly, your data will be safe even you have a major computer disaster.  Documents and apps aside, just think of all the media (particularly personal photos and videos) we have stored on our computers these days, and imagine what would happen if your computer drive had a break down.  Backing up is a safety measure that we should all get in the habit of doing.  (As extra insurance, about once a year I copy our family photos and videos on to DVDs or flash drives and give them to the grandparents, so they can enjoy them and we’ll always have an offsite backup if a really big disaster strikes).   There are lots of different drives on the market with lots of different sizes  price points, so talk to your local suppliers and find one (or several) that work for you.

 

 

Recycling Workshop by Jump App

23 Jun

Recycling Workshop, the latest app from Jump App, is full of colour and creativity.   A great companion to its sibling apps, Puppet Workshop and Imagination Box, it is a simple to use, child-directed creativity app. Your children will be able to make endless characters using recycled containers as a base and a range of recycled items as facial features and limbs.

Using the app

My children and I found the app very easy to use.  The steps are simple:

  • Choose a base from a variety of generic containers of different colours.
  • Choose features from the different menus and drag them on to your character. Scroll up and down each menu to see the many different options for each category. Some items are drawn, but many are common items you may find around the home, e.g. Buttons for eyes, plastic cutlery or straws for arms, or a twisted chenille stick for a mouth. You are not limited to making “human” characters as there are props for animal features.
  • Choose a background from several colours or even from your photos.
  • Use the simple controls to resize, flip, and rotate each item to your preference. You can also undo actions.
  • Simple drawing tools let you draw on the character or background, although you can’t draw over the features.
  • Save a photo of your character

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Continue reading

Little Lamb in Amsterdam

16 Jun

littlelambiconLittle Lamb in Amsterdam, by Joshua and Donna Wilson, is two stories in one: a simple story of a little lamb on her cycling adventures, and a fact book full of historical, geographical and cultural information about the Netherlands. Little Lamb has an adventurous spirit and sets off on a cycling tour of the Netherlands, finishing in Amsterdam. Along the way she sees different things including windmills, tulips and wild flowers, canals, clogs and more.

Each page is filled with a colourful, interactive illustration and a line or two of text telling the story. Tap the bottom of the screen to show extra information. Find out about the different things windmills grind when little Lamb cycles past them. If you ever wondered why the Netherlands teams wear orange, you will find that fact on the page where Little Lamb celebrates their National day. Extra information is sometimes revealed In the animations; we are treated to some works of Dutch masters such as Vermeer, Van Gogh and Rembrandt when Little Lamb visits the Museums and Galleries, and see boats passing under bridges on the canals. Sometimes Little Lamb is hidden, and finding her becomes a fun hide and seek activity. Continue reading

My First App – Vol. 1 Vehicles – Updated and better than ever

13 Jun

My First App Vol 1 VehiclesThe My First App series from appp media is a great favourite with the younger children in our home.  I reviewed the first app in the series, My First app Vehicles, early last year.  As of yesterday, the app has been updated with a new Spot the Difference activity, a new animation, and new sounds and animations.  I’m reposting the original review today with the updates marked.

 

Puzzles are an important part of early learning.  They help children develop spacial awareness, problem-solving skills and more.  There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of puzzle apps in the AppStore, so it can be difficult to choose one.  My First App – Vol. 1 Vehicles  is a great puzzle app from appp media, the people behind Professor Kim – What’s Missing Here.  MFA Vehicles offers some traditional puzzles but with some great twists that make it supportive and high interest for a range of ability levels.  Thanks to Kristin Heitmann of appp media for providing me with this app for the review.

Features

  • Attractive collage-style graphics – 16 different illustrations are used, although there are only 8 used per activity.
  • Four activities:  Puzzle, Matching Halves and Tilt Game and the new Spot the Difference game
  • Background music (Here we go ’round the mulberry bush) can be turned off.
  • Settings for children of different ability levels.

Continue reading

Toca Town

3 Jun tocatownmain

tocatownYou may have seen virtual play house apps before where children can drag characters around different scenes and have them interact with different items. Toca Town does all of this with not just a room or a house, but a whole town. Along with different buildings, rooms and environments to explore, a bit of Toca Boca Magic has been added to create some wonderful surprises.

  • Settings include a grocery store, restaurant (with commercial kitchen), two different types of home with multiple rooms, a park and a police station.
  • Characters – When you enter most locations, you will find one or two characters, but you can add more characters to the scene. If you have other Toca Boca apps, you will have fun recognising some of the characters you have met in previous apps.
  • Explore – Open cupboards and fridges to see what is inside: you can take things out and put them away. Characters can eat and drink any of the food, and carry or wear any if the items you find.  Change the lighting by switching lights on or off, or opening curtains and blinds.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Continue reading

Adobe Voice

2 Jun

Sarah DeBellis:

Adobe Voice is an app I haven’t used yet, but I can see it will be a fantastic tool for creating multimedia presentations and would be great in the school environment. Make sure you check out Leo’s first go at presenting with Adobe Voice. I’m really impressed with his efforts.

Originally posted on Ant's ICT:


I recently played with Adobe Voice and then showed it to my Leo, who has ASD and is a year 4 pupil.

Leo used it as a tool to complete his homework on Greek myths. Together we have played with a range of digital story telling tools both app and PC based, but I am taken aback by the features of Voice. It integrates picture, voice and clip art easily to make simple narrated stories.

Leo is someone who struggles with writing and his best work is when he creates on-screen. Though for him to be truly independent he needs something that will allow him to create and build very simply through easily learned processes. Is it too much to ask that the output looks good too?

This is where Voice ticks all the boxes.

And with all this it also outputs a portable and embeddable format, it doesn’t just…

View original 100 more words

Junior Storytellers: School Edition

28 May

Junior Storytellers app iconJunior Storytellers  puts your child in the director’s seat to create simple animated stories with narration, using a variety of settings, characters and props.  It is a great way for children to learn about how to build a story while engaging in creative play.  There are two versions of the app available. I am reviewing the School Edition, which includes all content with the one price.  The free version has limited content, with more story theme packs available with in-app purchase.

The main screen of the app is separated into four main sections: Create Story, My Stories, Awards and Settings.

Create Story

There are two main story sections: Sandbox and Challenge.

Sandbox Mode  - This section has two options:  a learning mode and a create mode.

  • Learn to Play guides children through making a story. It explains how to choose scenes, and to add, pose and change characters and props, and uses items from the Jungle theme only.  It is a great place to start, and might also be helpful for children who might otherwise get a bit overwhelmed with choice.
  • Create A Story gives children full access to the range of settings, characters and props.  Children create a story one page at a time and can create stories of any length they choose.

Challenge Mode -   This mode challenges children to create stories using a specific number of scenes. The first level is a single scene story and is a good place to start. Subsequent levels challenge children to create stories with several scenes. The first Level 1 has a single scene story, Level 3 has stories of 5 scenes, and Level 5  has stories with 9 scenes. The challenge mode starts with a quick video modelling the creation and recording of a story. After you have seen it a few times, it gets a bit tired, but you can tap on the big red cross in the top corner to turn it off. You can also turn the tutorial off using the app settings. Continue reading

Sago Mini Space Explorer

15 May

Sago Mini Space Explorer App iconSago Sago is a developer that creates fun, child directed virtual toys for young children in the 2-4 age group. A favourite in our house is Sago Mini Forest Flyer, a fun virtual environment where children move a little bird around the screen and interact with the objects in the environment in fun ways. Sago Mini Space Explorer, which I was lucky enough to see before its release, has quickly become another favourite, particularly with Mr 2 who, upon seeing the app for the first time, yelled excitedly….

“Mummy! Puppy’s in Space!”

Sago Sago uses a few central characters in their apps: a bird, a cat, a fish and a dog. The hero of Sago Mini Space Explorer is the dog, (known in our home as Puppy) wearing his space suit, who gets to fly around exploring in space. As you move him around the screen, yellow spots indicate areas where the Puppy can interact with objects and characters, and there are other areas where just flying the puppy around will cause things to happen. Some examples of what you might find I this lovely little universe include:

  • A robot who loves to hug (and who occasionally needs a bit of maintenance)
  • A teleport machine
  • Cat, Fish and Bird popping up in surprising moments.
  • Assorted aliens to meet
  • A spaceship to ride in
  • Strange planets that do interesting things
  • Asteroids to bump about

There are no boundaries in this little universe, so children can take Puppy off in any direction without hitting any frustrating walls or borders. Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: