Tag Archives: Educational App

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
 

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

Mystery Word Town by Artgig Apps

21 May The townspeople have plenty to say.

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

Duckie Deck Homemade Orchestra

19 May IMG_4117

duckie deck homemade orchestra app iconMy children all loved banging on pots and pans and making noise with all sorts of common household things. Duckie Deck Homemade Orchestra brings this experience to mobile devices in a way that is fun for children and easy on the ears of those around them.  Helping me test the app was Mr 3, a proficient pots and pans player who has recently taken up playing the spoons.

Playing the Game

The two game modes let children play with a virtual orchestra, or with individual instruments.

Orchestra Mode

Eight “instruments” appear on the screen. As the child taps each one, the object animates and begins to play. The lovely thing is that all the objects will play with rhythms and melodies that complement each other, so any combination will be harmonious. A button in the corner will see a different combination of instruments selected. Mr 3 found it very easy to distinguish between instruments that were playing and those that were not, and he had a lot of fun experimenting with different combinations.

Individual instrument

In this mode you can choose an instrument then play with it, making your own rhythms and melodies. There are twenty different items to play with. These include toys, kitchen items, stationery and other items found around the house. It is great to see a few body parts included: lips whistle, fingers click, a foot taps, and hands clap.  Each instrument is played by either tapping on the instrument or screen, or dragging the instrument around to shake or vibrate.  You can see some of the instruments in action in Duckie Deck’s YouTube trailer below.

Things We Love:

  • The app is easy to use with intuitive controls. Mr 3 was able to play without needing any help from me and was quickly able to turn the instruments on and off as he wished.
  • The game spills over into real life and can encourage children to be creative away from the iPad.
  • There is a great variety of instruments, and we can find all of them in our house. Some of these you can grab and use straight away, such as pots and pans or keys.  Others require a bit of assembly, such as the glass xylophone with different water levels.  I’d never thought of making a xylophone from an egg carton and spanners, but we are going to give it a shot.  Some instruments are your own body parts.
  • The graphics are colourful and fun, with a clear layout that makes it easy to use for little fingers.  Mr 3 found the animations amusing too.
  • Unlike our real life homemade orchestras, this virtual one sounds great!  All the rhythms and melodies compliment each other. Also, unlike our real life homemade orchestra, you can control the volume on this one.

Verdict

Duckie Deck Homemade Orchestra is a great creativity app that will amuse children for ages as they experiment with with endless combinations of instruments.  The instruments selected are easily found in real life and children will be inspired to create their own real life instruments that will possibly not be as melodic, but will be great fun.

Developer: Duckie Deck
Universal – Requires iOS 6.0 and above
Price: $3.79 (Aus)

We Discover Africa: Safari Quest – an iOS board game for the whole family

13 May IMG_4140

safari iconWe Discover Africa: Safari Quest from Kindermatica is brand new in the iTunes store today.  The game combines elements of the traditional board game with an educational quiz that is suitable for all ages from preschool to adult.

The opening screen has an information button where you can see the rules of the game and find out what all the different icons on the board mean.  (They are fairly self-explanatory, but it is great to have a handy reference.)  You can also select your language from English, Russian, German, Spanish and Serbian.  You can also access this information at any time via the settings icon that appears in the top right of the screen.

How to Play

The game is played in much the same way as most board games:  spin the the dice and move your counter.  Your token moves forward to land on all sorts of surprises.  Along the way you collect special tools, answer questions, and take photos. There are also some shortcuts, obstacles and a few other surprises.  The winner of the game is the first to collect seven different animal photos and then reach the finish line.

Players need to select from 2, 3 or 4 players.  You can then set the icon for each player (male, female or computer) and the difficulty level for the quiz questions (easy, medium, hard).  Sample questions for each level are included in the slideshow below.  We found the questions to be interesting and challenging (at our various levels) and we also learned some interesting facts about the animals in the game.

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.

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What I Love

Customising – I love that you can customise this game so that your younger players can play against older players on a level playing field.

Artwork – The graphics are beautiful and have a real African feel.  Everything from the Lion and Rhinoceros that greet you on the main screen to the wooden “stepping stones” takes you straight to Africa.

Wish List

Reference Materials – we would love to be able to read some information about each of the animals either before playing the game or after.  Some of the questions were really tricky, which made them interesting, and my children wanted to find out more.  I believe this feature is being considered

Verdict

This is a game that allows children (and adults) of different ages and ability levels to play on an equal playing field. It is a great way to learn about African animals and even more important, a wonderful game for some family “together time.” There are more than enough twists, turns and surprises to keep all the family interested and entertained. I’m also keeping this one handy as a pass and play game for long car trips, as I can guarantee my children won’t lose pieces as they pass it around our car.  The format of this game would be suitable for all kinds of subjects, so I hope to see more from the same developer.  Thanks to the developer for allowing me to  preview the game for this review.

Developer:  Kindermatica
Universal.  Requires iOS 6.0 and above
Price: $4.99 (Aus)

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)

 

 

Tiny Robot Maker

28 Feb

tiny robot maker app iconTiny 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.

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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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The Adventures of Bobik Bombastinov

15 Sep bobikmain

The Adventures of Bobik Bombastinov App iconThe Adventures of Bobik Bombastinov (henceforth to be referred to in this post as Bobik) is difficult to describe.  The subtitle should be How could one bear get into so much trouble? This beautifully illustrated and charmingly narrated eBook definitely lives up to the name, as our Bear hero has adventures nearly on the scale of Ulysses’ adventures in  Homer’s Odyssey.  Just when you think the adventure has finished, off he goes in a completely different direction.  There are a lot of surprising things packed into the story, which spreads over 45 pages.

The illustrations are photographs and photo collages, many of with use household items as props.  It has the feel of those old movies that used claymation, stop-motion and very fake-looking puppetry for special effects in the days before CGI.  Kitsch is probably the most apt description, but I mean that as a compliment. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but Bobik, used to living the high life, experiences a fall in fortune and meets mermaids, dragons, wizards (to name but a few) as he journeys to find his place in life.

Bobik is bilingual, with both English and German languages available.  The English narration is delivered by a child actress with a very expressive and delightful British accent.  I can’t speak German, but I had a listen to the German narration and again found a rather expressive child narrating.  There is something lovely about hearing a book read so well by children and it serves as a good example to children on how to read with expression.  You can also choose to read it yourself.  In this mode there is no narration and no options to turn the narration on if the reader needs help.  I’d love an option to tap on individual words and hear them spoken aloud, as this supports readers who need help with the occasional word.  It might also help with the pronunciation of some of the more foreign words.

UPDATE FRIDAY MARCH 8TH 2013 – The latest version of Bobik has a new feature that is supportive of early readers.  Text is now highlighted as read.  I just love it when you buy an app and it just gets better.

What you won’t get in this eBook App is outside links that take your child out of the app and to places you don’t want them to go. There are  no social networking links, no in-app purchases, no advertising and no external links to websites.  I can’t help but love that.

Verdict

Some stories are good for learning to read and feature elements like rhyme, predictive text, and graded vocabulary.  Other books are meant to read for pleasure and can help kids get “hooked on books.”  This book fits into the latter category.  While many young readers might struggle with the text, Bobik is the perfect story to sit down and enjoy.  The narration, as mentioned above, is delightful and handy for children looking at the book by themselves, but I’d recommend turning off the narration, sitting down with your child on your lap, and reading the story aloud, which is the way my children prefer it.

But what do the experts say?  My younger boys (5 and 6) loved it and were in stitches of laughter as we read together. Master 8 really enjoyed it, and he is usually fairly critical of things (The mermaids don’t have tails – sorry, but they don’t, Mum, so they CAN’T be mermaids!)  My soon-to-be-ten twin daughters are now planning their own Bobik-inspired creation as a holiday project.  They are working on the plot and intend to borrow my camera (hmmmmm) and use one of our eBook-creation Apps such as Book Creator or Picturebook to publish and hopefully share with their friends. (They could also use Keynote or PowerPoint.)  In short, the experts in this house love the book, have re-read it several times already, and are inspired to create by it, so we rate it very highly.

Disclaimer:  Thanks to AppAble and JustKidsApps for this App as I won it in an AppAble giveaway.  AppAble is a great blog that features news and reviews about Apps, with a Special Needs focus. They have lots of App giveaways via online raffles, and I’ve won quite a few (to the point where I may need to put a “Sponsored by AppAble” graphic on my site!).  They also have a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/AppAble

Publisher:  JustKidsApps
Price: $1.99
iPad only
The Adventures of Bobik Bombastinov - JustKidsApps - Katrin Draemann Barothy

Related Links

Making eBooks on your iPad:  10 ideas for Parents and Teachers (onsarahsipad.wordpress.com/2012/02/08/making-ebooks-on-your-ipad-10-ideas-for-parents-and-teachers/)

Guest Review by Josh Young – DragonBox and DragonBox+

29 Aug

Hi again!

If you’re wondering who I am, my name’s Josh, and I’ve come across from Mathematical Mischief (again), to bring you another maths app review! 🙂

Today, I’m covering DragonBox and DragonBox+, two apps developed by We Want To Know. They’re a small, French-Norwegian startup who are aiming to develop a new generation of digital learning games. Considering that the App Store is massive, it’s a high target to set in such a diverse environment.

Now, one might think upon opening DragonBox, that it looks nothing like maths. In actuality, it is a very, very, very clever con act. I mean, if it was just a maths app, do you sincerely think that any 8yr old would play it? Instead, the underlying motives of the game are hidden within the mechanics of the game, 🙂

So what is DragonBox?

DragonBox Title Screen – App Screenshot

DragonBox (and it’s enhanced app, DragonBox+) starts off as a simple title screen with a dog in a box. Once you start, you select a character and end up at a level selection screen.

The early levels show tutorials and instructions upon what to do. They’re artsy, clever, and intuitive, and most kids will be able to understand how the levels work. Ideally, to sit with a parent or older sibling that understands basic algebra would be best – having that extra bit of assistance would be useful.

The trick to DragonBox is its intuitive controls and manner of teaching the topic material.

In DragonBox, there’s 100 levels to try out (separated into five different level packs of varying difficulty), and there’s also an extra 100 levels (making that 200 levels) in DragonBox+. Unfortunately, there isn’t a section that tells you what each section is about, which is a bummer, but the level packs themselves tend to alternate between easy and more difficult problems, on about a ten level basis. I found this incredibly beneficial – in Level 1, you may learn what a zero is, then as you proceed, you might apply it with multiplication.

How on earth is it maths?

See, the clever part about DragonBox is that it encourages students to apply maths visually.

Let’s take, for example, this equation:

a\times y=b+c

If we would like to isolate y in this equation, we simply divide both sides of the equation by a. Then we obtain the solution:

y=\frac{b}{a}+\frac{c}{a}

Now, answer this: Do you honestly think any 8 year old wants to play that on an app? The answer to that is, indicatively, no.
What the designers of DragonBox have done is to mask this by using visual aids and cards as a device to practice these skills.

Now, the image below is of a level in-app.

The clever thing about DragonBox is that the maths is hidden within the app itself. – App Screenshot

Now, in this level, you can see that this level is represented by separate objects. Separate objects represent addition, whereas linked items represent multiplication. In this case, to solve the puzzle, you have to put a tomato under the linked objects (which represents division).

That is exactly the same as the equation above – but as it’s tackled in a visual aspect, no kid is going to think that they’re doing math. By hiding the maths in app, the child is learning about maths, but they aren’t being subjected to the archaic teaching styles that you see in the classroom these days. That’s not to say that the old styles don’t have their purpose – but in a modern digital environment, they aren’t nearly as useful in an adaptive, fun environment.

Pros:

  • Intuitive design, very kid friendly, fun and engaging. The music and design of the game invites the player to hatch and grow a monster for each level played in the pack – something that is pretty cool.
  • Actually confronts algebra in a roundabout way.
  • Develops critical thinking and analytical skills – critical for understanding basic algebra and higher forms of mathematics.
  • Ability to save multiple profiles – beneficial for schools or families.

Cons:

  • Lack of directional outcome for some levels – ok, so in Level 1.1 I’m told that I want to get the box by itself. Thirty levels later, an x replaces the box and I’m not told any different. A bit of division based on outcomes (i.e. multiplication, addition, subtraction, division, working with zeroes) would be a far better way of separating the levels distinctively.
  • The difference between DragonBox+ and DragonBox – Ok, so I’ve completed DragonBox, and I buy DragonBox+… only to find out all of the original levels are exactly the same as the original app. The only thing that really is + about it is that there’s a hundred extra levels – and if you’ve bought the first game, you’re paying twice as much for the same quantity of levels!
    • Advice: If you’re sure you want to get the app, get DragonBox+. It’s a little bit more at the time of purchase, but you save the frustration about having to buy another app to get the rest of the levels.

Verdict

All in all, DragonBox is a well developed, cleverly designed app that is sure to engage (and conspire) children of all ages involved with basic algebra.

Title: DragonBox
Publisher: We Want To Know AS
Price: $2.99
Universal – will work on both iPhone and iPad.
DragonBox
Title: DragonBox+
Publisher: We Want To Know AS
Price: $6.49
Universal – will work on both iPhone and iPad.
DragonBox+

Also available on the Mac App Store and Android.

You can find me at Mathematical Mischief, on Facebook, or Twitter. 🙂

All the best,
Josh

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