Tag Archives: Education

We Discover Wildlife: Forest Quest – An inclusive family game from Kindermatica

19 Jun IMG_4354

Forest Quest app iconBrand new in the iTunes store this week is the second app in Kindermatica’s board game series.  My family love the Safari Quest game, the first in the series, so we were very excited to try We Discover Wildlife: Forest Quest.

Playing the Game

Like the Safari Quest game, Forest Quest is played just like a regular board games (although without the risk of losing dice, counters and cards.) You spin the dice then your counter moves the along the path.  You may land on a question, a surprise, a penalty, take short cut, or take a photo of some wildlife.  Successfully answering a question wins the player tools that may help them avoid penalties or take shortcuts elsewhere in the game.  The object of the game is to collect photos of seven different animals as you move around the board, then be the first to reach the end of the game. If you pass animals without taking a photo, don’t worry as there are opportunities to collect these photos later in the game.

Players need to select from 2, 3 or 4 players.  You can then set the icon for each player (male, female or computer), a colour, and the difficulty level for the quiz questions (easy, medium, hard). This means that your littlest family members can play on an equal setting with their older siblings or parents.  We have played with the computer and found that it misses the odd question just like a “real” player might.  We found the questions to be just the right challenge for each level.  There is no time limit for answering questions, and this allows players to think about and discuss their answers before committing.  There are some unfamiliar plants and animals (at least for we Aussies – but I’d imagine there are some surprises for everyone) and it might be handy to keep a pencil and paper close to hand to jot down things you might want to research later.  Trust me: your children will want to find out more.

The board has a wonderful 3D effect, so it feels like you are walking through the forest with your player. Each player sees the board from their own perspective, and so the little search icon in the lower right corner will give you a birds-eye view of the board any time you wish to see where everyone is on the board.  When taking photos, you can even move your photo shot around to find the best view.

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Features

  • Customising – Adjusting levels to cater for different ability levels makes this game ideal for families with children of different ages, and an inclusive game to play in a classroom where some children may have disabilities or learning difficulties.
  • Artwork – The 3D graphics are wonderful and the game interface continues the theme with wooden textures on the questions and game controls.  Even the instruction page has that “aged map” look to it.  As mentioned above, the 3D graphics make it feel like you are walking through the forest with your player pieces.
  • Two to Four players – You can play against the computer or against up to 3 other players.
  • Educational Content – The game is a bit of “education by stealth.” By this I mean that you can learn a lot while playing the game, but it is so much fun that kids may not pick up that it is an educational app.
  • Instructions – Tap the information icon on the main page, or access via the settings button in the top right corner at any time for a comprehensive guide to playing the game.
  • Game continuance – If you close the app before you finish a game, you have the option of completing that game the next time you open the app, or you can start a new game.
  • Multiple language support – The game supports speakers of Russian, English, German and Swedish.
  • Safety – Kindermatica is a member of Moms with Apps, so you know what is inside your app, or rather, what is NOT inside your app. There is no collection of personal information, no 3rd party apps, no in-app purchases, and any links for more information are hidden behind parental locks.

Wish List

I’d love some fact sheets or information links about the different flora and fauna covered in the questions.  I also want more games in the series, but I know for a fact that there are others in the pipeline.

Verdict

Families and schools will love these inclusive games that allow children to learn about Science and Nature in a fun way. Aimed at children aged 6-8, it is suitable for all ages and ability levels.   The huge number of questions (over 350) cover a range of plants and animals of the forest, and  children will be motivated to find out more away from the game.  I would imagine teachers who are looking at different ecosystems will find Forest Quest (and other games in the series) to be a great resource.  Those of you planning long holiday car trips might like to install this and Safari Quest on your iPads for children to play while they travel as it works brilliantly as a pass-and-play game.


Publisher: Kindermatica
Universal. Requires iOS 6.0 or above.
Price $3.79

Understanding Math – Addition and Subtraction by appp media

2 Apr

understandingmath+-Understanding Math – Addition and Subtraction  is the latest Mathematics app from appp media and is the second in their Understanding Math series, based on  Jerome Bruner’s  Three Modes of Representation learning theory.  This app explores the concepts of addition and subtraction using different symbolic, visual and active representations.  As well as answering set problems, the app gives children tools to help solve their own addition and subtraction problems.

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

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

13 Nov

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

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

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

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Toca Pet Doctor – Toca Boca

19 Mar

Toca Pet DoctorThe latest Toca Boca app, Toca Pet Doctor, lets your child be the veterinarian. It is aimed at ages 2-4 and the activities are well thought out for children of that age. They are entertaining and challenging without being frustratingly difficult.

Playing the Game

15 animals are in the waiting room, all with different ailments. You can swipe left and right to explore the scene and find them all. Tap an animal to start treatment. You might be putting eye drops into the spider’s eyes (he has a few!), bandaging a bump on the bird’s head, or helping an egg to hatch (can you guess what is inside?) After each animal has been treated, you get to feed them with an assortment of foods. Froggy gets butterflies, Mouse gets a cracker and there are no prizes for guessing rabbit’s treat. We can’t decide if the green reptile is a lizard, a dinosaur or a dragon, but it is a favourite with the boys.  You can tell which animals have been seen as they fall into a contented sleep after they have been fed, although you can wake them up and re-treat them. Continue reading

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

Nott Won’t Sleep

26 Nov


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.

Nott has saved Nox, and is getting sleepier, but she has two more tasks before bed.

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. Continue reading

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

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