Tiny Robot Maker by Australian developers, Tiny Twiga Studios, is a simple app packed with a lot of creative fun. Children choose from different options to create robots, and then can use these robots to create printable colour-ins, cards and invitations. The app is aimed at a young audience, but older children can have fun with their younger siblings, as my children did, and the app might also be suitable for older children with special needs.
Today I’m reviewing the third in appp media’s My first App series looks. While Volume 1 looked at Vehicles and Volume 2 took us to the circus, with this latest volume we get to visit the airport. If you hare familiar with the other apps in this series, you’ll already know you are in for a treat.
There are four activities in the app and they are identical to the activities in the other 2 My First App apps. (That sounds funny.)
- Puzzle- 8 pictures of airport vehicles. You can alter the difficulty level for the child so they may solve the puzzle with 2, 4, 6 or 9 puzzle pieces. An extra element of difficulty can be added with the rotation option where children may need to rotate a piece to the correct orientation. This is off by default. You can have children of different ages and abilities solving the same puzzles at their own level.
- Turning Game- My children call this “Slide and Match”. Half a picture is presented and you must find the match the other by dragging up or down to scroll through the pictures. Once the two halves are matched correctly, an amusing animation sequence is triggered. This activity uses the same 8 pictures as the Puzzle activity.
- Pinball - Roll or drag the marble into one of the three holes in each scene. There are three target holes in each scene, and a different animation is triggered each time a ball enters a hole. The scenes tell stories about passengers and workers around the airport, for example one scene has a giraffe putting her handbag through the security x-ray and finding a pair of scissors. She disposes of the scissors in the bin, and everyone is happy. Other scenes look at walking through the metal detectors, going to the toilet on the plane and using the lights as cues to it being occupied or vacant, checking in luggage, and picking up luggage.
- Spot the difference – This activity uses the same 8 scenes as the Marble Roll activity. Children are presented with two images and have to find 4 differences. Four green lights are lit as the child taps on each difference, and a reward sound plays on completion. There are no penalties for incorrect taps, although a “tinny” sound will play. Correct taps result in a different sound and the area is highlighted with a blue ring.
You can see My First App – Vol.3 Airport in action in appp media’s YouTube video below:
Illustrations: I’m a big fan of appp media’s colourful, collage-style illustrations, and they look fantastic in this app. While comic in style, there are lots of details in each illustration that will prove useful when discussing visits to the airport and aeroplane trips with children.
Sound – The pleasant background music can be turned off. It is nice to see the music on/off controls clearly visable in every screen, so you don’t have to leave an activity to find it. Other sounds still play when the music is off, such as character, vehicle and prop noises.
Simple controls – The app is very intuitive and easy to use. My 2 y.o. has no trouble navigating to his favourite activities and scenes.
I normally have a Wish List but for this app, I can’t think of anything I’d change or add, so I’ll skip right to the verdict. appp media have again delivered a delightful app with My First App – Vol. 3 Airport. Their My First App formula is a winner and I hope to see more in the series. My 2 year old loves the illustrations and the animations, as do his older siblings, and I enjoy playing it with him. This will be a great app for young children and is also going to be useful for children with special needs. If you have an air trip coming up in the near future and you have a child in either of those groups, this might be a great app to help them prepare for the journey and have fun at the same time.
Publisher: appp media
iTunes Link: – https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/my-first-app-vol.-3-airport/id804682031?mt=8&uo=4
Shape the Village is a delightful world created by WiseKids where children can explore shapes in amusing and entertaining ways. The village is a little “unpopulated” when you first enter the app, but as each activity is completed more items are added until the village is complete. The completed village with 16 activities fills two screens of your iPad, and children can swipe up or down to move between these areas.
Activities - There are 16 activities, each with several different variations so that your child can return to the same activity multiple times with difference in shapes and/or characters each time. I don’t have the time (or patience) to mention all the activities, but here are just a few:
- Rocket ship – the rocket’s window (a different shape each time) is dirty. Clean it to find an astronaut made of the same shape.
- Caterpillar – tap and hold dots on a leaf to guide a caterpillar as he eats a shape path through a leaf.
- Bakery – colour in each shape with a different spread, e.g. spread jam on the square toast, frosting on the triangle cake, or chocolate icing on the biscuits (or cookie for my friends in the USA and Canada.)
- Orchard – pick the fruit on the trees and load it on to the truck. There are outlines indicating the shape of the fruit required, for example a row of squares for the square apples. A couple of red herrings (in the form of a square bird and a piece of fruit with a bite) out of it will bounce off the truck if you try to load them.
- Farm – drag the tractor along the shaped path to till the soil, plant the seeds and then water. Once the shape has been traced three times, flowers grow.
You can see some of these activities, plus the introduction to the app, in this YouTube trailer from WiseKids.
Most of the spelling apps I own have the same activity: a spelling test following the listen, write, check pattern. Spell with Pip is a different and is aimed at emergent spellers. Children fly Pip the Parrot around to collect the letters to spell each word. The target word is always visible at the top of the screen. On early levels, only the letters needed appear, but as children progress through levels, extra letters appear. Note: This review was originally published on The Appy Ladies website. For details on how to win a copy of the app, see the note at the end of this post. (Competition closes 27th Feb, 2014).
I’m a big fan of the original Felt Board app from Software Smoothie. Since I reviewed it, it has had new features added and just keeps on getting better. Felt Board Christmas is now available and is every bit as delightful as the original. A virtual felt board on your iPad, this app features a variety of backgrounds, characters, scenery and props, and all with the Christmas theme.
- Backgrounds – includes home interiors, plates for Christmas food, outdoors, and plain colours. Our family doesn’t see a lot of snow in Australia (ok, any snow, EVER) so winter landscapes are a bit lost on us (unless we are making Santa’s home) so we were happy to see a summer landscape.
- Characters – a range of Christmas characters include Santa, Mrs Clause, elves, reindeer and some other cute Christmas animals. It is wonderful to see all characters available in different skin tones.
- Decorations – baubles, lights and other decorations for your tree.
- Misc Christmas – this section includes trees, stockings, gifts, and other Christmas phrases such as “Ho Ho Ho” and “Peace on Earth.”
- Snowman parts – finally my children can build snowmen, albeit virtual ones. There are different options for facial features, arms and accessories, so you can build some really wacky snowmen.
- Nativity characters – All the characters needed to recreate scenes from the original Nativity story (Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, Angels shepherds and Wise Men/Magi) are included in their own category, again in different skin tones. They are accompanied by animals including a camel, donkey, and sheep, some stars and the stable.
- Alphabet – two festive alphabets (a fun red or slightly more formal green, both outlined in white) with both upper and lower case letters, numbers and punctuation marks.
I can’t think of many Christmas stories, poems, carols or songs that couldn’t be illustrated with the resources in this app. The great thing about setting up the felt boards to illustrate different scenes is that children can move objects and characters around the screen, bringing the story to life as they play.
You can see the app in action in Software Smoothie’s YouTube trailer:
Putting it to the test
Miss A, aged 11, put the app through its paces.
“This app is really great. I liked how you can make a dish of food for Santa Claus and you can write him a note too. Santa’s feet coming out of the chimney are really funny. You can print the pictures you make and use them for Christmas cards.
Sometimes when you layer items to make a picture, you accidentally tap on the bottom items and they come up to the front and cover everything. I put lights on the tree and then put the decorations on, but the lights kept coming to the front and going over the decorations. I’d like to be able to stick them down so they stay at the back.
I’d also like to put Santa and his sleigh in front of a moon on a black sky. It would look really good. Another background or scenery I’d like is for Santa’s workshop, because you already have the elves.”
I’m getting very picky here, as just about everything I could wish for is in this app, but there are always a couple of ideas.
- Glue – Miss A has already wished for some “glue,” although some items will automatically “stick” to others, such as decorations to a tree. Miss A’s tree was part of a background and it was frustrating for her that she couldn’t permanently place things on the background.
- Standing camel – We wanted to show the Magi travelling following the star, but the camels were very stubborn and wouldn’t stand. We solved this by some creative placement on the screen, as you can see in our slideshow above.
- Workshop – a background, tools, toys and wrappings
- King Herod – every good story needs a villain. As there are two versions of each of the Magi or wise men (two different skin tones) you could double up there. Still, none of them have the villainous, mean face we’d like to use.
The variety of backgrounds, characters, scenery and props make it easy to recreate scenes from just about every Christmas story or song, and even creating new ones. This delightful seasonal app is already a hit in our household, with children of all ages loving it. A very strong, positive feature is the portrayal of both secular and Christian characters in both light and dark skin tones and I’m delighted to see it. A great resource for teachers and parents alike, it is another must-have for your iPad and would make a wonderful Christmas gift.
Publisher: Software Smoothie
- Felt Board Christmas is Now Available for iPhone and iPad (themactrack.com)
- Review: Create holiday scenes with Felt Board Christmas! (smartappsforkids.com)
Tales of Babar the Elephant and his adventures were favourites of mine as a child, however the characters have evolved, and now my children enjoy watching the adventures of Babar’s grandson, Badou, as an animated series on television. Cupcake Digital have brought other animated stories to the iPad in ebook form, and now it is Badou’s turn in Babar and Badou’s Musical Marching Band.
In the story, everyone in the palace is getting ready to greet The Lord of the Rhinos and his wife. Ambassador Crocodylus is jealous of the attention (that he never received!) and plans to sabotage the event by getting his musically-challenged nephews to play at the reception, hoping that the music will be so terrible, the Rhinos will be insulted. Badou uses cleverness and kindness to turn the situation around with a delightful outcome for all….except for Crocodylus!
I’m sure I’m not the only parent in the world with a child who won’t sleep. My children always seem to have something they need to do first: get a drink, read “just one more” story, or (my favourite) they’ve just remembered they have to go to school tomorrow dressed as an elephant/pirate/explorer/storybook character and need to pull the entire contents out of the dress up box and my wardrobe. Nott has things she needs to do too, but they are a bit different to our nightly tasks. She needs to light her nightlight, say goodnight to the moon, and rescue her teddy bear. Gradually Nott gets sleepier and finally falls asleep with her favourite bear.
Everything about this app is beautiful, gentle, and perfect for settling over-tired crabby children. Peaceful music plays throughout, the illustrations are beautiful but not over-stimulating, and Nott’s increasing sleepiness helps set the restful tone.
At the start of the adventure, Nott is full of beans, bouncing on her bed and not the least bit tired. As her adventures unfold, Nott starts to tire and you can see this in her posture and face. I found myself yawning each time Nott yawned! It doesn’t matter which order you choose to complete the activities.
- Forest friends – help Nott catch fireflies and play a gentle game of peekaboo with her animal friends, who fall asleep as they are “caught.” The fireflies help to light Nott’s lamp.
- Rescue Nox – Nox the bear is adrift on a lake. Help find items to help rescue him and bring him to Nott.
- Goodnight moon – Help Nott find the moon behind the clouds and then brighten it up.
After each activity is complete, you can turn off the lamp, put the moon to sleep and send Nox and Nott to bed, tucking them in.
You can see the app in action in this YouTube trailer:
This app is a very gentle interactive story that is ideal for settling children and helping them to wind down. I’m not sure it would put my toddler to sleep, as he has very definite ideas about how much time he should play on the iPad (ideas which differ greatly from his mother’s!) and I’m sure that if explored this with him at bedtime he would relax, only to demand to play another game when it had finished (and have a tantrum when I refuse – he does 2 very well.). You may have more luck with your child and, if so, you might want to incorporate it into bedtime routines. Despite my toddler’s iPad domination issues, I still believe Nott Won’t Sleep will be very useful for times when we need some “down time” and a little quiet.
Note: The developers have acknowledged that many child advocacy organizations discourage screen time before bedtime, and they support this. Their intention with the game is for it not to be used for settling time before bed, but to help children learn bedtime rituals by playing with the app over time. They hope that “children will ‘imprint’ those rituals and most effective is when parents copy those rituals into real life. This way it changes the pattern parents and children have before turning to sleep, and supports them in starting the night calmly.”
This review was originally published on The Appy Ladies website.
ABCDiversity is a simple alphabet app but with features that make it very appealing to children from different backgrounds and ethnicities. In addition to an introduction to initial letter sounds, the illustrations provide opportunity to explore diversity in our communities.
Navigation: Children will find it easy to navigate through the app with simple swipes to the left or right. If you wish to hear a screen repeated, simply swipe to the next page and then return.
Illustrations: the graphics are attractive and feature 26 child characters from different ethnicities and with different interests. The characters have been created by 5 different artists from around the world, each with their own artistic style. Some of the characters have special needs, such as Wilson (pictured) who uses a wheelchair, and Gareth, who has a vision impairment and a Guide dog. There is a lot of white space in each screen, making it easy for children to focus on the words and images.
Vocabulary: There is some simple interactivity in each illustration: each picture has 4 hotspots that, when tapped, cause the word to appear and be spoken. My only issue with the app is with the word Leafs. While the developer says this is an accepted use, I haven’t found it in any dictionary, and I know it is not accepted in schools. Children using this app are probably not up to spelling anyway, but it would be good to have the more accepted Leaves or singular Leaf instead.
Narration: The American accented voice is clear and well paced. My children thought it was “pretty good.” I am a stickler for good pronunciation.
External Links: There are some external links to the ABCDiversity website, social media, and email, but these are very subtle and not easy for children to get access to. You’ll find them at the very last screen, and you need to swipe up with two fingers to get access to them. I recommend trying out some of the ideas on the ABCDiversity ideas page (link indicated by 9 tiny squares) as it has some excellent extension ideas for helping your child learn about diversity.
A lot of thought has gone into the illustrations in this app. Care has been taken to have a good mix of male and female characters from many countries and cultures. Each character might have several interests and they are not always stereotypical: a girl may play with dolls, or she might have a space ship. Boys are just as likely to be portrayed pursing artistic interests as they are sporting activities. I’m really pleased to see that the children with special needs are portrayed as having interests too: it isn’t all about their disability. Wilson has an interest in nature, and Gareth is heading off to a party.
While I own a lot of basic ABC apps that work in similar ways, this is the first time I’ve seen one that has some social education opportunities built-in. If you have a child learning their alphabet, this app will help with that plus give them some opportunities to learn more about and celebrate diversity in our communities and in our world.
If you would like to win this app, check out the giveaway on The Appy Ladies website. It finishes on October 17th.
Publisher: Martin Ruegenberg/ Young Ideas
Price: 99 cents
Although tablets and smart phones work well with fingers, I still like to use a stylus. I now have several of them, including a couple I reviewed last year.
There are a number of reasons you should use a stylus, and here are just a few of mine:
- The screen doesn’t need cleaning so much (particularly if children are using the device.)
- A stylus is more accurate for things like drawing, writing, and doing those fiddly little picture-logic puzzles I love. My kids find it helps with accuracy in some of their games.
- Less of the screen is obscured by your hand as you use the stylus.
Once you use a stylus, I’m sure you’ll see even more reasons.
Today I am reviewing the JukeStyle Stylus.
On first glance, the JukeStyle Stylus appears much like many others on the market: it is about the same length as a iPhone, making it easy to store in cases, purses etc. (I keep mine in my wallet.) The rubber tip is good quality and works really well, and I’ve had no problems with it the month or so I’ve used it.
The big deal with the JukeStyle Stylus is that it also includes a pen. I’ve seen some 2-in-1 stylus/pen combos before, but these have usually been the length of a standard pen, which is not so handy for storage in iPhone cases. Some have been the same length as a stylus, but these just don’t feel right in my hand as I’m writing. The JukeStyle Stylus has addressed both of these issues for me. As mentioned above, the stylus is the size of an iPhone and is easy to store. The end of the stylus detaches out to reveal a pen, which can then be reattached to create a full-length pen. The resulting pen is a standard pen length and feels great to write with.
I noticed on the JukeStyle website that they can add company logos to the stylus for companies wishing to create promotional materials. As a customer, I think this would be a really smart idea, as I take my JukeStyle Stylus everywhere and use it often.
The JukeStyle Stylus is only available online at the very reasonable price of $10, which is cheaper than any of my other styluses. If an Australian distributor were to start selling them here, I’d be lining up. JukeStyle offers discounts for things like FaceBook likes, so check their website for more details.
Normally I have a “wish list” for features I’d like to see added, but I’m really struggling to find anything to say. Perhaps one might wish for some different colours, but that is about it.
I’ve really enjoyed using the JukeStyle Stylus, and it has become my favourite stylus in a short time. Not only does it perform well as a stylus, but I have a full-length pen on demand that is still small enough to fit in my wallet. The price is very competitive, so what’s not to love?
You can order your JukeStyle Stylus from their website at www.jukestyle.com
YouTube Demonstration: http://www.youtube.com/user/jukestylestylus
FaceBook Page: www.facebook.com/Jukestyle
Jeff from Jukestyle is going to give one lucky reader their own Jukestyle Stylus.
To Enter, share this review on Facebook and tag my Facebook Group (On Sarah’s iPad) so I know you’ve shared.
Entries close on October 1, 2013, and the winner will be chosen at random and contacted after that date.
Those of you who read my recent review of Clicker Docs will know that I’m a big fan of Crick Software and their products, having used them years ago when working in special education settings. Today I’m looking at Clicker Sentences.
Clicker Sentences is all about helping children write sentences and stories using words and phrases. Designed for the early learner, Clicker Sentences is adaptable and will suit older learners with special needs. It operates in a similar way to a word processor, with a writing area at the top, but with the keyboard replaced a grid containing words and images (although there is a simple version of a standard keyboard available on demand.) Sentence sets, containing multiple grids with one sentence per grid, can be used to write stories. Unlike Clicker Docs, an image can be included on each sentence grid and can be inserted into the document as an illustration.
Using the App
Sentence Sets are created quickly with just a few steps:
- Enter the sentence into a grid. Each word will appear in its own cell and punctuation marks will appear to the left of the grid. If you wish more than one word to appear in a grid, use square brackets around those words.
- Model sentence – choose how the model sentence will appear. it can be included in the grid, appear as a pop-up, or can be spoken. There is also the option for no model sentence. Any of these settings can be changed at any time.
- Word Order – words can be displayed alphabetically, randomly, in the sentence order, or by Guided order. This last option dims words, only allowing one cell to be active at a time, guiding the student through the sentence.
- Picture – An image can be added to each screen using photos from the iPad photo reel, or taken with the camera. These images will be added to the text when they are typed. Pictures can be removed from the grid.
- Background – choose from 16 colours.
Clicker Sentences users have free access to the Crick Software LearningGrids collection. This searchable collection contains grids covering a range of topics and activities, and can be accessed from within the app or online. There are collections for Australia and New Zealand, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Most of the sentence sets can be found in all three collections, although there will be subtle spelling differences and possible content difference. Downloaded sets can be modified or added to suit the needs of the user. A good idea is to browse through the collection, download some of the grids, and “play” with them to see the different ways you can use the app.
Text to speech feedback
Like Clicker Docs, Clicker Sentences comes with a choice of three voices, each with a different English accent: Tyler (Australian), Heather (US) and Rachel (UK), and each adjustable in speed (my children prefer the slower speeds). Use preferences to hear words and/or sentences as they are typed, with these elements highlighted as read in a colour of your choice. Hearing a sentence spoken aloud can give valuable feedback, such as listening for grammatical errors. In addition to hearing the text as it is typed, a Sound Shift feature allows users to hear the contents of a cell before selecting it, which is very supportive of emergent readers and those with reading difficulties. You can also use the Sound Shift button with the document text in the following ways:
- Tap Sound Shift and tap once on a word to hear the word.
- Tap Sound Shift and tap twice to hear the sentence.
- Tap Sound Shift and tap three times to hear the whole paragraph.
As text is read aloud, it is highlighted word by word. I love this feature because it helps children identify specific words and track text as read. You can also paste text from other sources (such as web pages) into Clicker Sentences and have them read aloud.
- Swipe Grids - allows students to swipe between grids. If this feature is turned off, navigation is by arrows in the lower left and right of each grid.
- Show Touches - this feature briefly displays a small yellow dot to show when and where the screen has been touched. It is a great feature for use with electronic whiteboards so that everyone can see where the screen is touched. Can be turned on or off.
- Low Vision - Font type and size can be changed, along with the colours of the text, highlight text and background, to suit students with low vision.
- Guided Access – Crick Software has designed Clicker Sentences to take advantage of Guided Access. For those of you unfamiliar with this built-in iPad feature (iOS 6 and above), it allows you to disable the home button and certain areas of the iPad screen, “locking” a child into an app. Clicker Sentences has control buttons placed in the same areas throughout the app, making it easy to disable functions such as printing or editing word banks.
- Bluetooth Keyboard access – alternative keyboards are supported.
Printing and Sharing documents
Documents created with Clicker Sentences can be printed to any Air Print printer. You can also email documents as attachments that can be opened in other Clicker apps, a text attachment, or you can copy the text into an email. Apart from printing directly to the air printer, the only way to keep the graphics with the text is to open the document in another Clicker such as Clicker 6. I wish there was an option to save the document as a pdf file. Charlene Cullen from Spectronics has given me a great tip to get around the problem: You can save a screenshot of the document as an image so the words will print with the images.
My 6y.o. (he was 5 when we first started playing with the app but has just had a birthday) is an emergent reader in Prep who has been bringing home sight word lists for the last couple of months. By no means an independent reader, he can read common words easily but struggles with reading a whole sentence. When I asked Mr 6 to help me test the app, he was initially reluctant, as he was sure he wouldn’t be able to read sentences, let alone write them. Once he had a go and realised he could see and hear the model sentence (set to pop-up), and he could use the sound shift button, Mr 6 approached the activities with a lot more confidence and is quite proud of his efforts. As his reading skills are improving, he is not needing the sound shift button as much. We will be going on an interstate family holiday, and I hope to use the app while we are away so that he can write his own journal. As we don’t have an air printer or another Clicker App, I am going to export any text via email and then copy it into an app that lets us add photos.
When it came to creating sentence sets, we had a lot of fun taking photos and adding the words. One feature I’d love to add is the ability to zoom/crop images as you add them to the grids, but then you can always take photos and edit them before importing them to the app. As we will be exporting only the text (at least, until a future update might add some more options), I would also like photographs taken within the app to be automatically copied and saved to the photo library on my iPad. Currently, they are only visible within the grids and Clicker Sentences document, and I have no way of accessing them along with the text.
For more ideas and support
Crick Software Webinars – Crick software occasionally offer free webinars to help you learn how to use their products better. North American Users should keep an eye on this page (http://www.cricksoft.com/us/professional-development/webinars.aspx) for information on upcoming webinars, including one in December 2013 that covers both Clicker Docs and Clicker Sentences. UK and other International users should look at this page (http://www.cricksoft.com/uk/professional-development/webinars.aspx), although currently there do not seem to be any Clicker Sentences webinars scheduled.
Spectronics has some support materials, including a Clicker Docs and Clicker Sentences webinar on their website for their online subscribers. You can trial this service for free for a short time. (http://www.spectronicsinoz.com/blog/resource/using-clicker-sentences-and-clicker-docs-on-your-ipad-to-support-writing/)
LearningGrids collections are accessible within the app, but if you can also browse the collection online at https://www.learninggrids.com/uk/WelcomePage.aspx. Browsing, downloading and editing these Sentence Sets will give you lots of ideas about how the app can work for your students.
User Guide – The Clicker Sentences User guide can be downloaded from the Crick Software website. (http://www.cricksoft.com/support/clicker-sentences/documentation.aspx)
Clicker Sentences is a great tool for early educational settings and for older children with special needs. It might cost a bit more than the average app, but that is because it has a lot more to offer our beginner readers and writers. For emergent readers and writers, it is a wonderful tool that will help. If you are after an inclusive tool that can scaffold early learners to the next level, then this is a must.
Publisher: Crick Software