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Boo Numbers by Kindermatica

26 Oct Boo Numbers main screen

app iconRecently released (just in time for Halloween) is this new educational app from Kindermatica that helps children learn to write their numbers.

The app is a great way to help children practice writing numbers to 10 in  a fun way.  Children write each number three times with guides to help them  to find the starting point, and to stay inside the lines or on the path.    With each turn, the prompts and supports are decreased. You can move through the numbers in series, or you can select specific numbers to practice.

 

Features

  • Languages:  The app will run in English, Russian or Swedish.
  • Reporting: – Teachers and parents can view the results for each child. The app records two kinds of mistakes: when the child starts from the wrong point, and when they are out of line when writing the number.  This information will help teachers guide the student to correcting their errors and perfecting their technique.
  • Individual student profiles: – you can add up to 30 student profiles so that you can track progress individually.   Photos or avatars can be added from the device camera or from the camera roll.
  • Reward game: – Carve a jack-o-lantern by dragging shapes on to the pumpkin.  This is a fun exercise in symmetry as each item is placed as a pair with central symmetry.
  • Individual Settings:
    • Fonts: Select from 4 fonts, including Zaner-Bloser (commonly used in the US), Sassoon, and fonts for Sweden and Russia.
    • Modes:  you can select an easy or regular mode, and you can opt to repeat numbers.
    • Game Limit: You can turn the reward game off, or allow it to play for 30 sections, 1 minute, 3 minute or no limit.
    • Number of exercises before reward game:  Choose from 3, 6, 9 or 12 exercises to be completed before the child can play the reward game.
  • Music, Sound effects and speech are amusing, but can be turned off if you wish through the settings button at the top left of the screen.
  • Safety:  Kindermatica is a member of Know What’s Inside, a group of developers (formally known as Moms with Apps) who take child safety and security seriously, and who make sure parents have all the information they need to make good decisions about the apps they choose for their children.  In this app, for instance, there are some external links, but these are all hidden behind a parent lock.
  • Graphics: the graphics are beautiful and the little spider who guides us through the activities is very cute.

See the app at work in this YouTube trailer:

 

Verdict

Although this has a great Halloween theme, people like me who don’t do Halloween will still find it handy for children who are just starting to write their numbers.  ( I’m an Australian, and yes I know there are some Aussies who have started to do the whole trick or treating thing, but I’m not one). You can use it all year around. Teachers will love being able to tweak the app to suit individual needs, and also being able to see individual progress reports. I think Boo Numbers is a great activity that will compliment the handwriting activities done in early learning classrooms.    If you like this app, you might also like to try Yum-Yum Letters, also by Kindermatica, which uses similar activities to help children learn to write letters.

 

Publisher: Kindermatica
Universal: Requires iOS 6.0 or later
Price: $1.49
 

Mystery Word Town by Artgig Apps

21 May

mystery wt iconMystery Word Town is the latest app by Artgig Apps and is new in the iTunes Store today.  The app is a spelling adventure where children play the detective tracking down members of the Huevos Rancheros Gang and recovering lost gold in a ghost town somewhere in the USA.  Children enter and explore buildings, using their spelling skills as keys to enter areas.

Game Play

If you have either Mystery Math Town or Mystery Math Museum, you’ll be familiar with the game play.  You collect letters in each room or area of the building you are exploring and use them to complete words.  The goal is to find the required number of gold nuggets indicated by a little pouch in the top right corner, and to find the room with a wanted poster of one of the gang. Exits from each room could be doors, windows, trap doors, ladders or even just looking up or down.  If you are unsure of where you can go, a  little ghost floats in each room and you can drag it around to highlight exits.  You can tap on the floating letters in each scene to either complete the word or add them to your tool belt.  Letters you don’t use in one room might be handy in another.  As the levels increase in difficulty you may have to look in different rooms to collect the letters you need.  Once you have completed your goals you can move on to the next building.

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Game Settings

  • Three Difficulty Levels – There are three word lists available within the app.  The level 1spelling is about the level Mr 7 is bringing home with is weekly homework.  The other two lists look to be middle-primary in level.  Bearing in mind that Australia generally uses UK spelling, there was only one word in the app that we had issues with: favorite.  In Australia and the UK, we spell this word as favourite.  I find that when I highlight these things to my children, they have no problems.
  • Audio Hint Mode –  there are two modes to choose from:
    • Spell Your Own Words – Players can use any letters to complete a partial word. There may be more than one option, and there are no audio hints.  The correct word may not be in the word list but will be validated against an extensive dictionary.
    • Listen & Spell – The incomplete word is spoken aloud as it appears on the screen.  Children can hear the word repeated by tapping the sound icon in the word bubble.
  • Individual Profiles – I love apps where you can set things up for each child in your family or class.  Once you have created a profile, children can have a bit of fun creating an avatar by choosing hair, eyes/nose, mouth and skin tone (that can be a traditional tone, or any colour of the rainbow.)  You can set the difficulty level for each child within their profile.
  • Continue reading

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.

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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)

 

 

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

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

Little Lost Note

11 Apr

lostnoteLittle Lost Note is the story of, well, a little lost note. The note wanders through the story looking for the instrument it belongs to, encountering a piano, guitar, trumpet and drums throughout the story. We get to explore the sounds made by these instruments until the Little Lost Note finally finds the way home to her right instrument.

 

Features

  • Interactive elements – The major interactive elements occur when the Little Lost Note meets the different instruments and you get to play them. The piano is similar to those piano simulation apps you may have seen, and you can tap a couple of notes at a time to play chords. We had fun strumming the guitar and even more fun when we found we could tap the fret markings and change the notes. The trumpet was a little trickier, until we found that you had to hold down the keys and tap the mouthpiece at the same time. It was interesting to find that each combination of keys on the trumpet can produce both a high and low sound. You can skip straight to the instruments via buttons on the front page of the app.
  • Other Interactive Elements – Each page features some fun interactive elements, some of which repeat on other pages. Tap on a pile of dirt and Mole may appear (or disappear), birds might sing etc.
  • Narration – The narration is clear and well – for a quiet, calm story.  We love the British accent.  You can turn narration off on the main page.  We couldn’t find any way of making the story repeat, except by flipping the page back and forth.
  • Highlighted Text – The text highlights as it is read, which is very supportive of emergent readers.
  • Nighttime Mode – If you tap on the ZZzzz (in the top left of each page) to activate a special mode for calm, quiet, bedtime reading.  The app dims to a level that makes a comfortable read in a darkened bedroom.
  • Background Music – The background music is delightful, and you can listen for the different instruments that appear in the story.
  • Illustrations – I love the original, colourful illustrations that are not too bright for a calm, bedtime story.  There is a lot of clear space left for the text to display without it being obscured by different elements on the page.

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Sticker Play: Knights, Dragons and Castles by Jump App

3 Apr

Sticker Play:  Knights, Dragons and Castles is Jump App’s most recent addition to their collection of educational apps.  Like their other apps, Knights, Dragons and Castles is a creative play app where children take charge and direct the action in a simple and fun virtual environment.  If you would like to win a copy of this app, please see the link at the end of this post.

Features

  • 5 different scenes – Scenes include castle interiors and exteriors, and landscapes. Scroll left or right to move about each  scene.
  • Characters – There are knights and soldiers in all sorts of poses and equipped with all manner of medieval armor and weaponry, a king and queen and assorted other castle folk.  Each character has an identical twin in a different colourway so that you end up with two sides; The green knights and the red/yellow knights.  Most have associated sound effects and small animations.
  • Animals – Dragons in two poses (again in green or red colour ways), a griffin and a few dogs are available.  There are a few horses with mounted knights, and one pulling a wagon.
  • Props – A number of props help set the scene, including medieval war engines (battering ram and catapult), assorted tents, flags, and supplies for troops. There is even a sword ready to be pulled out of the stone by a future king.
  • Sound – most of the scenes are outdoors (or partially outdoors) and feature sounds from nature. The castle interior scene features background sounds that such as footsteps, clanking and creaking, low murmurs, and other sounds that add to the atmosphere. Sound effects can be toggled on or off using the simple controls on the screen.  For a quiet experience, adults can turn all sound effects and background sounds off using the parent controls (accessible from the main screen.
  • Parent controls – Parents can control sound, screenshots (handy if you have limited space on your device) and the Jump App more apps banner.  I love that the link to the AppStore (for ratings and reviews) is hidden from children.  Jump App has a presence on all major forms of social media, but they don’t have direct links that children can access.  Instead, all addresses are hidden in the parent section.  Personally, I believe this should be a standard practice in educational apps and I’m sorry more developers don’t follow their lead.

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The UnStealer

13 Mar

This review was originally published on The Appy Ladies website.

Normally I wouldn’t recommend a story where the hero was a sneaky, shadowy thief, but the UnStealer is not your ordinary villain. Yes, the UnStealer is a sneaky thief who creeps in shadows and looks a bit scary in the black hat and cape, but you can’t help love a character who turns unhappy into happy, unhelpful into helpful and uninspired to, well, you get the idea.

Story

These Uns were changed by tapping words on the page.

These Uns were changed by tapping words on the page.

The opening pages set the scene by introducing the UnStealer and his favourite “collectables.” Interactive elements allow children to alter the appearance of the Uns to match the text, e.g. Tapping on the words bold, italic or underlined will change an Un to that style.
Once we have been warned of the UnStealer and his shocking exploits, we move on to some case studies. An unfunny, unhappy clown at a sad excuse for a birthday party has his mojo retuned and saves the party after the UnStealer strikes. In similar stories we see what happens to an unconfident lass, and later an unfriendly dog. Spoiler alert: the UnStealer turns out to be a pretty decent chap after all. Continue reading

Spell with Pip – Oxford University Press

17 Jan

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).

Pip looks for the correct letters.  At this level, there are no confusing extras.

Pip looks for the correct letters. At this level, there are no confusing extras

Continue reading

Babar and Badou’s Musical Marching Band

4 Dec

badouappTales 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.

The Story

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!

badoustory

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