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ABCDiversity

11 Oct

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.

Features

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.

iPhone Screenshot 1Illustrations:  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. Continue reading

Clicker Sentences by Crick Software

13 Sep

clicker sentences app iconThose 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.

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Learning Grids

Continue reading

School Writing Revisited – Version 2 delivers

23 Aug

School Writing App iconLast year I reviewed School Writing by Demografix, an app that I bought to help my children with their handwriting and one that I’ve come to consider my favourite educational app.  That is a big call, I know, as I have  a lot of favourites, but this app really delivers.  The great thing is that, since I’ve bought School Writing, several updates have been released and each one has added even more supportive features.  With the recent release of Version 2, I thought it was about time I updated my original review.   I could have simply made a list of the new features, but for readers who haven’t read my original review, I thought it might be better to use most of the original review, and to highlight new features throughout.

School Writing is a handwriting app that includes fonts for Australia, New Zealand, the USA and the UK, and now South Africa and home schooling.  You might be mistaken for thinking it is only a handwriting App, when it is really a versatile App that can be used across the curriculum and is suitable for all ages. School Writing is for iPad only, but iPhone and iPod Touch users should still keep reading as there Demografix has an iPhone App, School Fonts, that is very similar, lacking only one of the major activities.

Features

3 Handwriting Activities for Numbers, lower case and upper case

  • Trace over each letter or number with pencils of varying thickness.
  • Tracings are recorded and can be replayed or sent to the teacher.
  • Three tracing modes are available for beginner scripts – Outline, a dotted letter or a solid letter.  The outline also features a start point and arrows indicating the order and direction of each stroke.
  • A Learn button shows an animation of the letter or number being drawn for beginner scripts.  This feature is not available for the Cursive scripts, however teachers and parents can add their own recordings of letter tracings using the Customise section.
  • Illustrations – Tap on the camera icon to bring up pictures relating to the number (e.g. 6 flutes for the number six) or letter (initial letter sound, such as A is for Apple)

NEW FEATURES

  • Tracing accuracy – After students trace letters or numbers, they can receive a star or half star for tracing accuracy.  If they are not very accurate with the tracing, they will receive a prompt to try again.  They can have three attempts before progressing to the next letter or number.  There are three levels of difficulty for tracing:  Easy, Medium and Hard.  You might start beginners on the easy level, but then increase it as their accuracy improved.  Tracing accuracy can also be turned off.
  • Dotted thirds guidelines for Victorian schools
  • New Fonts – plain and cursive fonts for South Africa, and some fonts commonly used by Home Schoolers, (HWT Beginners, and Getty-Dubay in plain and cursive)

Words

In addition to the 37 lessons in this section, teachers can create and import their own.  There are examples of lessons from Prep to Year 7 levels including (but not limited to):

  • Upper and lowercase letters
  • Spelling
  • Sight words (using Dolch sight words)
  • Phonics
  • Simple word tracing
  • Writing names of family and friends
  • Identifying incorrect spelling
  • NEW – The Mioow Magic Word lists have been added.  My Prep-aged son has been bringing these sight word lists home so we are delighted.

It is really easy to add words or to edit the word list. I was able to create a custom “Lesson” with 10 words, all with audio and photographs, in under a minute. Some ways I could see this section being used include:

  • Weekly spelling and sight word lists – As it is easy to set up a class set of iPads using DropBox, it would be really easy to change lists weekly.
  • Personal information for students with special needs –  including writing their phone numbers, names addresses and other personal information.
  • Practice writing names – A class list with the child’s names plus his family and/or friends’ names as well would be a perfect prep activity.
School Writing screen shot featuring "Sarah's iPad" in beginner script

Whiteboard activities

The iPad is used as a whiteboard where students complete activities. (This is the activity not available in School Fonts) There are more than 20 activities that install with the App, covering pre-writing, shapes, math problems, and vocabulary exercises, and even Chinese Characters. It is easy to create your own activity by importing images or drawing freehand on the Whiteboard. This is the section that most lends itself to cross-curricula activities.   It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see the possibilities, particularly with such an extensive list of examples pre-installed with the App, but here are a couple of ideas that I would love to have been able to do with my past students:

  • Cloze activities – close activities are where students fill in the missing words in a piece of text.  Word lists may or may not be provided.  The text for these activities can come from just about any subject.
  • Mathematics Activities – Some of the strategies I discussed in an earlier post, Using Painting and Drawing Apps for more than just pictures, would apply here.  Children could count objects and write the number, write sums, group tens, show groups for multiplication or complete patterns. The list is by no means exhaustive.
  • Following directions – present the child with a picture and the instructions to draw items in particular places, for example Put a cat on the mat, or  Put a ball under the table.
  • Mapping skills – Trace routes or locate specific places on maps. You could trace the fire escape plan for your classroom, show different routes to get from A to B, or simply identify places in your neighbourhood.
  • LOTE (Language Other Than English) – Writing Chinese or Japanese Characters, matching items to words.

Individual Student Profiles

You can add unlimited student profiles.   Records of how many lessons each student has completed are recorded.  Student names are used when sending reports to teachers and parents. The video below shows the main features of the App.

Demographix has more detailed videos available on YouTube and their website that show the various features in-depth.  See below for the link to the Demografix website.

Customizing

  • Handwriting Styles – Beginner and Cursive styles are available for all Australian States and Territories, New Zealand, U.K and U.S.  (both D’Nealian and Zaner-Bloser)
  • Guidelines – available as standard or dotted thirds, with an optional mid-line.  Guidelines can also be removed.
  • Sounds – three sounds are available for tracing, plus encouragement sounds.  These can b e turned off.
  • Emails – teachers can have letter and number exercises sent to a nominated email address for review.
  • Security – The App can be locked to prevent content and profiles being removed or edited.  An option exists for students to be able to add profiles while the App is locked, however this is easily turned off.
  • Import/Export lessons – by email, weblink, or DropBox.

New customizing features

  • Custom encouragement sounds – You can now record your own custom reward/encouragement sounds.  Applause at the end of activities is also available and can be turned on or off.  Encouragement sounds are set to off as a default.
  • Bluetooth sharing for  whiteboard lessons  and word lists.
  • Palm guard – can be turned on or off.  The lower section of the screen is “turned off” while children are writing.

Other Features

External links are available on the main page but can be turned off through settings, as Demografix obviously respects the need for internet security for students.

  • Share this App – through email, Twitter or Facebook
  • Help – links to Demografix website
  • Rate this App – linking to App Store.  (I hate apps that constantly beg for ratings so it is nice to see this one able to be turned off.)
  • About Demografix – contact page within the app with links to other apps, social networking, the Demografix website and newsletter.
  • New Feature – Customise the Logo on the homescreen.  You can now add your own graphic, such as a school banner or photo, to the app homescreen.

Suggestions

Importing and Exporting activities – If you buy this App, I’d seriously consider keeping an eye on the Demografix website for more activities that you will be able to add to your App.  I’d also consider submitting activities to the site. Use a Stylus – Tracing with a finger is one way to reinforce letter and number shapes, but I’d strongly recommend using a stylus to help develop good writing skills with a good pencil grip.  There are heaps available, but the one I would use for beginner writers is the Gecko Glow stylus with its non-slip rubber exterior and its tripod grip. Watch the Demografix YouTube videos as they cover every aspect of the App in detail.  Apart from the general video above, you can also see how to:

  • Create Word Activities
  • Create Whiteboard Lessons
  • Customise Handwriting Lessons
  • Import and Export Activities via Email
  • Using DropBox to set up a classroom of iPads

Posture – iPads are transportable, so sometimes they may not be used with classic good-handwriting posture.  Do your best to make sure children are seated well when practicing their hand writing.  I know it doesn’t sound important, but good lower-body stability is important so that children can use their upper body to concentrate on the writing task and not having to stabilise themselves with their arms too.

 

Wish list

In my original review I had a few  wishes, but they have mostly been addressed.  There are two features I wanted that haven’t been added, but they are no longer issues for me.

  • Resize, zoom and move images when creating and editing lessons.  When you add an image to an activity, you still can’t manipulate the image.  Now that I’m using an iPad 3, this isn’t so much of an issue for me as I can edit photos on the iPad before I enter them into the app.
  • More than 12 character text limit in Word activity – I wanted to be able to put words longer than 12 characters into the activity, for example my nephew’s surname would not fit.  While you still can’t do this, Demografix has another brilliant iPad app, Literacy, that allows you to do this and more.  I love both apps and consider them partner apps.

Verdict

School Writing is an open-ended App that will allow teachers and parents the flexibility to use it with their own content focusing on individual and class needs.   As indicated by the number of features added since my original review, the developer is very responsive to user feedback.  Please contact Demografix if you’d like to see any features added, or if you have any ideas on how the app could work better for you.   I stand by my original comments that School Writing “is one of the best-designed Apps I’ve seen and delivers great value for the price.”

School Writing – Learn to write the ABC, numbers, words and more. (Australia/New Zealand) - demografix pty ltd
Publisher: Demografix
Price: $5.49
iPad only

Related articles

Clicker Docs

28 Jul

Clicker Docs app iconI used to use Clicker by Crick Software many years ago when I worked with special needs students, so I was delighted to have to opportunity to look at two of their iPad apps, Clicker Docs and Clicker Sentences. Initially I was going to review them together, but each is a stand-out on its own,  so I’m going to write about each  separately.

When you first open Clicker Docs, it looks much like a standard word processor, but look a little closer and you’ll see that it s packed with features that support learners with a range of needs.

Features

Clicker Docs is a word processor that has been designed to support learners with a range of needs. It has many supportive feature including:

  • Word banks
  • Word prediction
  • Text to speech
  • Spell check
  • Accessibility features

Each of these features can be adapted to suit the needs of individual learners with a variety of needs, making it a very versatile tool for the classroom or home.

Word banks

Continue reading

Are we there yet? Holiday car travel with iPads

23 Jun
Are we there yet? I want out of this car.

Are we there yet? I want out of this car. (Photo credit: Beverly & Pack)

Our mid-year school holidays are upon us here in Queensland, with other states due for holidays also.  My family hasn’t planned any big trips away, but last holidays we took our 6 children interstate on a 2-day journey each way.  One thing I love about long car trips is that it is a chance for my family to be together (albeit by force!) for chats, stories and songs, marvelling at the scenery we pass. I actually love the time, and my worst nightmare would be for my children to spend the entire journey with their noses in electronic devices.  That being said, I’m no Luddite and when we went on our trip, we took the iPod and our 2 iPads with us for the journey.  I thought I’d share some of the things that made life easier on the trip. Continue reading

Miracles of Jesus – NEST

22 May

NEST MoJMiracles of Jesus is a Christian storybook app by NEST Family Apps. It puts several stories from the Gospel together in an accessible way for children of different ages and abilities.  While I’m happy to have a Christian story app to share with my children, there are a lot of extra features in the app that I was pleased to see. It supportive of early readers, a great resource for educators, and entertaining for all ages.  The developers have put a lot of thought into the design of this app and I really enjoyed reviewing it with my family.

Features

Reading Modes – There are three reading modes available:

  • Read to Me – hear the narration and see the words highlighted
  • Read and Learn – hear each page read and interact with different elements on the screen.
  • Just a book – narration, pop-ups and interactive elements are turned off for a quiet reading experience.  This mode is great for “lap time.”

Levels of difficulty – Each of the three reading modes is available in two levels of difficulty:

  • Early Readers – suitable for early primary
  •  Advanced Readers – suitable for middle primary and above.  This mode also features pop-up information panels that give children more background information.
    Miracles of Jesus - Early Readers level

    Miracles of Jesus – Early Readers level

    Miracles of Jesus - Advanced Reader

    Miracles of Jesus – Advanced Reader

Story – I’m sure I won’t be giving any spoilers away if I mention that the book covers several of the Miracles of Jesus from the four Gospels.  These include:

  • The calming of the storm
  • Jesus heals the boy with palsy
  • Jairus’ daughter raised from the dead
  • Jesus walks on the water

If you use the Advanced mode in either the Read to Me or Read and Learn modes, you’ll find the Gospel Chapter and verse references in the pop up information panels.

Supportive Text Features – Text is highlighted as read (except in Just a Book mode) and you can tap on individual words to hear them spoken.  These features are very supportive of early readers.

 Good Narration – The narration by Dean Cooper is well paced, clear and expressive.  His US accent was easy for my children to listen to, even if some of the words are pronounced slightly differently to the way they are pronounced in Australia.

Discussion Starters – At the end of the story is the NEST family chat, which gives you a couple of questions to use as discussion starters as you reflect upon the story.

Colourful Illustrations – The illustrations are clear and colourful, and they seem to come from stills from the NEST animated cartoon of the same name.

Activities – The app comes with a number of extension activities.

  • Word Jumble – two levels of difficulty
  • Word Search – two levels of difficulty
  • Maze – two levels of difficulty
  • Trivia – multiple choice questions about the story that are great for comprehension.  There are no penalties for wrong answers, and children get to try again until they arrive at the correct answer.  Children with reading difficulties might need an adult or older sibling to help them read the questions and possible answers.
  • Trace alphabet
  • Trace words

While I love the way the tracing activities are done, I prefer my children to do writing activities that use the same font they are using in their handwriting at school.  That being said, I think the word tracing activity will be very useful for vocabulary skills.

Painting – There are more features to the painting activity than you might expect.  I was impressed with the variety of paint tools (spray, brush, crayon, chalk or paint bucket,) the number of colour choices, and how easy it was to change the size of the painting tools.  There are 6 line drawings from the story, plus a blank canvas for free-style art.  The black lines in the drawing always stay on top, and painting “outside the lines” is impossible, making it easy for the most un-coordinated artist to create a masterpiece.

We found it a little difficult to paint the lower parts of each screen as the colour options kept popping up over where we were painting.

The YouTube video below will give you an overview of the App and its features.

Other Features

There are external links to social media, the NEST website, and the iTunes Store in the Help section,  however this is not easily accessible to very young children.  You need to enter your birth year in order to access these links and other information.  While I don’t believe young children will bypass this, if you have concerns about  your children accidentally accessing the external links and social media, I suggest putting the app in Airplane mode or turning off WiFi before giving the device to your child.

Wish List

I would like to see an extra information section that lists the different miracles and their Gospel references.  Although these are accessible in the pop up information panels, it would be very handy for parents and teachers to have a summary in the Parent information section.

The trivia activity is excellent, but I’d like to see an option for reading the question and the possible answers so that it is more accessible for children with reading difficulties.

As we found the tools obscuring the screen on occasion in the painting activity, it would be handy to have a little hide/reveal button.

Verdict

This app is a great resource for Christian families and schools.  Apart from some wonderful stories from the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John, the app has features that are supportive of early readers, plus some great activities to assist with comprehension.  There is a lot of attention to detail, making this app useful for children of different ages and abilities and engaging enough for them to return to it frequently.  I look forward to adding more NEST apps to our family collection.

Miracles of Jesus - NEST Family Apps
Publisher: NEST Family Apps
Price: $2.99
Universal

You can also purchase Miracles of Jesus for Android from the Amazon Online Store  for $2.99.  For links to the Google Play and Nook versions, plus other NEST Family App titles, please visit the Nest Family Apps App Page.

Write to Read – WriteReader

6 May

writereaderThere are more than 750 000 apps in the iTunes AppStore, with many doing similar things, so it is very exciting to find an app that does something really different.  WriteReader is one of those apps.  The app is based on research that strongly links success in learning to read with learning to write.   The app is aimed at children aged from 3 to 10 years, although I believe it would be suitable for older children who have special needs.  I’d like to thank Sarah Muzzammil, a member of the WriteReader marketing team, for giving me the opportunity to look at this app.

Main Features

writereaderpageApart from the title page for each book you create, each page consists of a picture that you add from your camera roll, and two text entry points: one for children and one for adults.  You can add an audio recording to each page, and you can easily add speech frames, thought bubbles and text boxes to the pictures.  Children select a picture, then write a caption, concentrating on the sounds in the words they wish to use.This might be just a couple of letters for one-word caption, or it might be several words.  Adults then type the correct “adult writing”  in the second box.  This is the way my children do their first writing at school.  I’m sure many readers are familiar with being presented with lovely artwork captioned with (what appears to be) a mishmash of letters, and a teachers’ writing underneath translating it for us.  What is actually happening is that children are trying out their letters and sounds, exploring the process of writing at its very first stages.  By seeing their writing alongside the adult’s writing, children can see their successes. [UPDATE 14/7/2014: The adult writing can be disabled by tapping the large owl.]

WriteReader is more than just a writing app, as it has been designed to be used as part of a whole language approach to help children learn to write while they are also learning to read.  There is a good deal of research behind it from its Danish development team and the Danish School of Education. The publishers write: Continue reading

The Adventures of Onesock – My Pal Roger

20 Apr

Onesock app iconPublished by JustKidsApps, The Adventures of Onesock – My Pal Roger is delightful story about Onesock and his misadventures with the newest family member, Roger the dog, who bounces into his world and develops a liking for Onesock’s favourite toy.  Although it isn’t mentioned in the story, Onesock has Autism and displays behaviours associated with this.  Like many children with autism, Onesock has sensory issues with his clothing, in this case with his sock.  He has difficulty with social situations and changes to his environment, such as the introduction of the new pet or visiting his Grandparents.   Onesock has a particular attachment to his toy alligator, which he uses for comfort and to transition through difficult situations.  When faced with a trip away from home, and a new dog that keeps trying to play with his toy alligator, Onesock becomes distressed and anxious. Things are resolved when Roger saves the day. It is no surprise to learn that the author, Roy Ruiz, is the father of the real life Onesock.  Onesock is portrayed with love, respect and acceptance.

Features

This is a story with a lot text, so having two reading modes is a handy thing.  I prefer to read the stories to my children and tend to turn narration off, but my children have listened to the narration and enjoyed this too.

The illustrations are  attractive and colourful.  We loved finding the missing sock in each page, although we still haven’t found it on one page!

There are subtle interactive elements on each page indicated by sparkles. Touching some of these might activate an environmental sound, such as a dog bark, a giggle etc, but other interactive spots play more dialogue in the voice of the character, so you can learn more about how the character is feeling. As with many other JustKidsApps books, this kind of feature can help with comprehension.

Other features

  • Lovely illustrations by Natalie Silva
  • Clear, soothing  English narration by Priya Rana Kapoor.  (I don’t speak German, but the child  narrator sounds clear and expressive, as do the voices of the characters)
  • Text is highlighted as narrated
  • Bilingual in English or German

This YouTube video gives away the plot by showing you the last page of the story, but you’ll also get to hear the soothing narration.  

Wish List

  • An option for clicking individual words to hear them spoken when in “Read Myself” mode.  This would help those children who are mostly independent readers, but who struggle with the odd word.
  • More Onesock adventures – I’ll buy these as soon as they are published.

Verdict

It is a joy to see a story with an autistic child as the main character in a story.  Given the prevalence of ASD in our communities,  children with ASD have been under-represented in all forms of media and particularly in children’s literature.  Any child will enjoy reading about the adventures of Onesock, but the story will resonate with families affected by autism.  I was happy to part with a measly 99c for a story of this quality, and I’d happily pay more.  This is the second of Ruiz’s  Onesock books, but the first available as an app.  JustKidsApps timed the release perfectly to coincide with World Autism Month in April, 2013.

Adventures of One Sock - My Pal Rodger - JustKidsApps - Katrin Draemann Barothy
Publisher:  JustKidsApps
Cost: 99c
iPad only

Alphabet Animals – a slide-and-peek adventure

9 Apr

ABC Animals app iconI was excited to be able to review this app from Auryn Apps with my children.  I own quite a few story apps published by Auryn, and the quality of illustrations and stories is always high, so I was hoping Alphabet Animals would be of the same quality.  I’m delighted to say that it is.

abc animals - H for HorseAlphabet Animals is exactly what it sounds like:  an alphabet book with illustrations of animals. Each page has an animal in the shape of the initial letter of its name. D is a dragon, L is a lion, O is an orang-utan and so on.  I love the gorgeous illustrations by Suse MacDonald.  As you slide the tab across to see the letter, the animal moves a little.  The crocodile opens its mouth, the vulture’s wings flap, and so on.  If a few seconds pass without the screen being touched, prompts appear highlighting the interactive parts of the page.

You could go through the book page by page, in alphabetical order, or you can tap on specific letters to go straight to that letter.  My children were impatient to see “their letters” (i.e. the letters in their names) so this is how we first explored the book.  It was also fun to guess which animal would illustrate each letter.  Zebra for Z was a no-brainer, but we shouldn’t have been so surprised to see the dragon for D (it is the app’s icon!)

abc animals game 1It was nice to see an Australian animal used to illustrate the letter K, but we have a quibble.  Koalas are marsupials, not bears, and it is incorrect to refer to them as koala bears.  Koala on its own is the correct name.  Unfortunately it is a mistake we’ve seen in a lot of apps and books. My little Aussies are very picky and would like the developers to fix this in the next update.

 Game Time

abcanimals - name game The book on its own is wonderful, but there is a game in the app that adds to the fun.  Children select the letters of their name, then drag the “animal letters” over the top to spell their name with animals.  They can then select a frame and save the image or send it to an email address.  My children love this activity.  The images of their names are works of art, and I’m going to print them as photos to go in my children’s scrapbooks.  The names would also look great on the front of greeting cards.  I know the activity asks you to enter a name, but we took it further and entered spelling list words.

Music

One other feature is a musical theme that plays in the background.  While the tune is cute and happy, you can turn it off.  I chose to have it off after a bit, but not before my children had fun making the animals ” dance” by sliding the tab back and forth in time with the music.

 Verdict

I’ve seen a lot of ABC apps, and while there are some I quite like, I can honestly say there are not too many illustrated as beautifully as this one.   Alphabet Animals will hold your child’s attention and is a great one to share snuggled up on someone’s lap.  Highly recommended.

Alphabet Animals: a slide-and-peek adventure is an enchanting picture app, kids will love to learn from. This app teaches animal names, alphabets and their shapes to kids; by Suse MacDonald (iPad version, by Auryn Apps) - Auryn Inc.Publisher: Auryn Apps
Price:  $1.99
iPad only.

Felt Board by Software Smoothie

4 Apr

feltboardMy children love playing with their felt boards and shapes, so I was delighted to try Felt Board by Software Smoothie, which brings this activity to the iPad.  My children and I had a great deal of fun trying this out, and we have shown it to lots of friends, young and old,  who are equally enchanted with it.

Features

  • Backgrounds – We have several felt boards in our home collection, but this app has 27, including outdoor scenes, space, interiors, a ship, plain backgrounds and more.
  • People – 6 bodies are available in a choice of pale pink, brown, black, blue, purple and red.  There are many faces available, including a variety of eye colours, and choices of happy or sad.  Likewise, there are lots of different hair styles, each with several colour choices, and some beards and moustaches.
  • Clothing – You’ll find lots of choices for dresses, skirts, tops, swimwear and pants.  Several complete outfits are also included for various professions, including firefighter, doctor, knight and more.
  • Accessories – In this section you will find hats, scarves, footwear and other accessories.  In addition to “everyday” items, you’ll find times for fairies, knights, royalty and more.  Also included in this section is a wheelchair.
  • Animals – All sorts of animals can be found here, including pets, farm animals, and fairy tale characters. The unicorn has been very popular in our house.
  • Alphabet in upper and lower case
  • Numbers and shapes

The YouTube video below shows how to use the app.

Activity Ideas

Like painting and drawing apps, apps that allow you to create pictures are great for illustrating stories.  Pictures made with Felt Board could be used with writing and book-making apps such as PagesKeynote, Book Creator or Picturebook, to name but a few.

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Some of the boards consist of several backgrounds, making them ideal for sorting and classifying activities.  I used one with rectangles to create a colour sorting activity, where I placed a number of felt items in the centre white rectangle for children to drag into the rectangle with the corresponding colour.  In another activity, I created a counting activity.  One board in the set lends itself well to looking at seasonal changes, as it has an array of four backgrounds, each a different season

Things we love about this app

  • You can’t lose the pieces ( they will not be sucked up the vacuum cleaner if you leave them on the floor!)
  • You can use as many of the same piece as you want.
  • There are so many backgrounds you can create nearly any scene you want.
  • My daughters discovered that, when you resize a person, any facial features, hair, clothing, or accessories you place on that person automatically resize to fit.  They also resize with the person after you have applied them.  This feature is really clever.
  • Boys love this app just as much as the girls.  It might initially look “girly” but believe me that there are lots of pirates, knights and other “boy” themes to keep everyone happy.  I’ve shown this to my boys and their friends, aged from 5 to 10 years old, and they all happily spend ages making adventure scenes.

Wish List

  • Vehicles – More vehicles would be wonderful.  There is a ship and a couple of rockets, but my children were looking for some farm vehicles and trains.  It would be great to have a variety of air, sea and land vehicles.  We did manage to make some vehicles from the shapes with a little success, but it was hard to make diggers, trucks and trains the way we wanted them to look.
  • More Animals – My children would also like to see some jungle and bush animals added to the animals section. A few lions and tigers and bears (oh my!) would be fun for jungle or zoo scenes, and some kangaroos, koalas, wombats, emus and snakes would be a start for some of our Australian bush scenes.  Perhaps we are a bit greedy, as there are already lots of animals to choose from.
  • Fairy wings have been suggested by one young lady as a much-needed addition to the accessories section.  We did have a success shrinking a person down to their smallest size and placing them over an enlarged butterfly, but you can’t “stick” the wings on.
  • Individual Facial Features – While there are lots of faces to choose from you can’t select individual facial features and combine them. One of my children has suggested having separate eyes, noses and mouths so that she can have more control over how the faces look.  While I believe this would make adding faces a lot harder for some, I can see her point.  (I prefer the face options that are already in the app.)
  • Saving Files – I’d like to be able to save activities such as those I created above.  You can save photographs of the scenes you create, but you can’t save them in a way that you can manipulate the items on the board, such as with the sorting activity. While it doesn’t take long to make them, it would be handy for teachers to be able to prepare activities in advance and then load them as necessary, as time is at a premium in classrooms.

Verdict

This app is simply so much fun, it is hard to believe it is educational.  My children still love playing with their “real” felts, but this app is now a favourite and has been particularly handy when travelling.  We are not alone, as everyone we have shown this app to has fallen in love with it.  Even if you don’t have children, this is a very appealing app.   I have  been revisiting my childhood, having so much fun creating scenes with the felt shapes.  This app is suitable for all ages and is an app that will “grow” with your children.    I challenge anyone not to fall in love with it.

Felt Board - Software SmoothiePublisher:  Software Smoothie
Price:  $2.99
iPad only

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