iPad Mini Brick Case from Smallworks

iPad Mini Brick Case from Smallworks (Lego pieces not included)

Somehow I missed meeting Hunter Thompson at SXSWedu this week.  Fortunately, I happened to pick up on a tweet that led to this article about the young man, who is the very smart 16-year-old behind Smallworks, a company that makes Lego brick cases for iPods, iPhones, and iPad minis.

If 16 sounds too young to be running a company, then you’re probably going to be even more surprised when I tell you that Hunter came up with the ingenious idea for these cases when he was 12.  You can read more about Hunter, and see a video of an interview with him in this article.  To purchase a Brick Case, you can go to Amazon or Thompson’s Smallworks website.

(Yes, I know I posted about Legos last Friday.  And no, I actually am not a Lego fanatic.  But this looks fun.  And it is Phun Phriday.  For some of the interesting creations people have made using these Brick Cases, check out their Flickr page, and be inspired!)


screen shot from Klikaklu app video

screen shot from Klikaklu app video

One of the apps I am itching to try with my students this semester is one that I “field-tested” with my daughter over the break.  It’s called Klikaklu, and it allows you to make scavenger hunts.

Last Christmas, I got this crazy idea to “code” all of the gifts under the tree instead of writing names on the tags.  Christmas morning, my daughter had to scan each code with Aurasma, and it brought up a short video telling her who the gift was for.

I couldn’t really tell how the whole concept went over.  Since it was a lot of work, and she didn’t make a big deal about it, I decided not to go to those lengths this year.

A few days before Christmas: “Mom, are you going to do that cool Aurasma thing with the gifts this year?”

All gifts were already wrapped.  And tagged.


Then I remembered Klikaklu, a scavenger hunt app I had seen mentioned on Twitter, and decided to investigate.  Thank goodness for Twitter.

A few caveats before I go on to explain the app: only people who are 13 and over are supposed to create hunts using the app (but anyone can play the hunts), the app is free – but there are in-app purchases required to get all of the features for creation (in-app purchases are not required to play the full-featured version), as in Aurasma some images don’t work well for triggers, and it’s possible your school firewall may block the app (so, I would definitely test the free app before investing in the in-app purchase).

Klikaklu is similar to Aurasma in that you can use trigger images.  However, the images are not linked to videos.  Each image can have a clue attached it.  Once a player finds an image, and matches it with a device with the app, the clue shows and then you can go on to the next image.

For my daughter’s hunt, I did a simple one using images from around the house.  For each image, I input a clue with a letter.  After seven images and clues, my daughter had to unscramble the letters to find her gift.

Her constant comment as she raced around the house looking for the images (the one from the lid of the washing machine was particularly challenging): “I LOVE this!”  (She is 11, by the way.)

I believe that the free version allows you to create hunts with a maximum of 3 images.  Hunts do not have to be indoors.  You can activate the GPS portion of hunts to make a worldwide scavenger hunt if you like.  (Actually, the GPS portion is already activated by default, but you can turn it off if you are a lazy mom like me creating a close-proximity, indoor hunt the night before Christmas.)

Though I don’t like in-app purchases, I did like this one.  That is because I could purchase and make the hunt on my personal phone, but any iDevice with the free app can still play it.  So, I can create hunts for my students to use on our school iPads without needing to go through the app-buying red tape required for volume purchases.

According to the site, the advantages of upgrading Klikaklu mean that:

  • You will no longer see ads in any hunts you play.
  • Any hunts you create become ad-free for players.
  • You can create scavenger and staggered treasure hunts (great for groups).
  • You can print out posters for events, making it easy for others to play your hunt.

The posters and the staggered hunts are what sold it to me.  The poster has a QR code, so players just need to scan it to start a hunt.  Staggered hunts means that I won’t have an entire class of kids all looking for the same image at once.

The site has a great FAQ section if you need help.  Here is a link to a video that explains the app perfectly.  By the way, Klikaklu is an iPhone app (though it also works on iPads), so be sure you have that selected if you are searching for it in the App Store.

You might to make a hunt for a Brain Break, or to review for a test, or just to scatter your students for 10 minutes while you catch your breath;) Whatever the reason, you should take a look at Klikaklu.

At the very least, you now know a great way to draw out the suspense on Christmas morning.

Kids Can Code With Kodable

One of my 5th grade students puzzles over a Kodable challenge

One of my 5th grade students puzzles over a Kodable challenge

Have you done your Hour of Code, yet?  So far, I’ve done 8.5 hours of coding this week with my students in various grade levels – with more hours to add today and tomorrow!  We’ve used Scratch, Hopscotch, and a board game called Robot Turtles (which I will be describing in detail in tomorrow’s post).  For more ideas for Programming for Kids, here is my Pinterest Board.

One app that we haven’t used this week is Kodable.  The only reason we haven’t used it for the past few days is because we have been using it since October.  I thought it might be cheating to stick with what we all know well when I have been encouraging everyone else to go outside their comfort zones!

As some of you know, I introduced programming to my 3rd-5th grade classes by using Kodable’s “Unplugged” activity, which involves making a classroom obstacle course.  The students loved that, and it made the transition to the digital version of Kodable practically seamless.

There are two versions of Kodable in the App Store.  The free version allows users to play the first 30 levels (Smeeborg World) for free.  The Pro version (currently on sale for .99) offers full access, giving you a total of 4 Worlds.  And, a special bonus, Kodable is unveiling a new Fuzz next week – Holly!

Holly Fuzz - coming just in time for the "Holly"days!

Holly Fuzz – coming just in time for the “Holly”days!

Kodable scaffolds programming skills so that young children can learn how to code.  They don’t even have to know how to read.  The goal is to direct a “Fuzz” through a maze by placing the correct sequence of commands and pressing “Play.”  It begins very simply, and slowly increases in difficulty.  As students complete certain levels, they earn new “Fuzz” characters, and can choose the ones they want to use.  My personal favorite is “Shaggy Fuzz”, a brown Fuzz who makes me giggle every time he hums while he travels through the maze.  I told my students to turn their volume up on the iPads just so I could hear when they were using him ;)

One of the things that I love about Kodable is how genuinely dedicated the creators, Grechen Huebner and Jon Mattingly, are to education.  If you follow @Kodable on Twitter, you will find them involved in numerous educational Twitter chats, including the one they host, #kidscancode, every Tuesday evening at 7 PM CST.  They love connecting with and getting feedback from educators, and they are also thrilled to get involved with students through Google HangOuts, Skype, or FaceTime.

Here is a short Tellagami video from some 3rd graders in Van Meter, IA, about Kodable.

Kodable Extensions:

Tweeted on 12/11/13 by @HeatherMMcKay

Kodable Maze made with non-perishable food items, tweeted on 12/11/13 by @HeatherMMcKay




If you haven’t signed up to participate in this week’s Hour of Code, it’s not too late.  And, even if you don’t find it possible to get involved this week, I urge you to take a look at all of the wonderful resources.  Consider showing your students the basics of programming, and let them take it from there.

I heard from a few people that they were having a hard time selecting where to start.  The wealth of resources can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you do not have experience with programming.  As someone who is relatively new to it, I understand completely.  That’s why I thought I would devote today’s post to just one of the resources – Hopscotch.

Hopscotch is a free iPad app that is similar to a web-based open-source coding program developed by MIT called Scratch.  But, don’t worry if you have never used either one.  My exposure to them was pretty limited until a month ago.

I used Hopscotch with my 2nd grade GT class yesterday.  There are 11 students in the class.  They each had an iPad, but I think I probably should have had them share.  If you have a full class of students, I would definitely recommend this – for the sake of your sanity and theirs.

The students had used Daisy the Dinosaur and Kodable before – both awesome coding apps.  Daisy had kind of introduced them to using blocks to program, and I think it’s an excellent intro to Hopscotch.  (They are both produced by the same company.)

Hopscotch has a great tutorial video (embedded below) that we used, and that’s what really helped me.  I have messed around with Hopscotch, but never really knew what to do with it, or how to break it down for the students.  Hopscotch does this all for you.

One thing I wished I had done before going through the video with the students was to talk about some of the vocabulary: rotate, opacity, line width, random.

Another thing you may want to check is to make sure you have the latest version of Hopscotch on the iPad.  I thought I had done this, but then some of the menu items looked different on some iPads, causing a bit of confusion with directions.

We paused a lot during the video.  To give you an idea, the video is 25 minutes long, and we barely finished in 90 minutes.  Some of that extra time was exploration; some of it was troubleshooting (kids hitting the wrong button, iPads freezing, going ahead and missing directions, etc…).  If you can, have older kids or parents help you out with this.

Once you go through the video, if your students want to continue using Hopscotch, I highly recommend visiting Wes Fryer’s blog here, where you can find additional ideas for using this app in the classroom.  This includes a link to Wes’ ePub book of Hopscotch challenges. (If you download the ePub book, you may need to also download an ePub reader, such as Adobe Digital Editions.)  The ePub book also explains how to share Hopscotch creations once they are completed.

I see lots of ways that Hopscotch can be integrated into the curriculum – particularly math.  Discussion of angles (helpful to understand for the “Rotate” command), percent, creation of shapes or symmetrical drawings are just some of the ways it can tie in.  Because it allows you to bring in text objects, other subjects could be easily reflected by creating Hopscotch games with vocabulary.  If you search for ways to integrate Scratch into the core curriculum, as on this page, you can probably modify a lot of those ideas to work with Hopscotch.

For more ideas on using programming with kids, be sure to check out the Hour of Code link above, or my Programming for Kids Pinterest Board!

Haiku Deck


figurative language slide created with Haiku Deck, quote from Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt

Many of you are probably familiar with the iPad app, Haiku Deck (options for editing on the web are coming soon).  It can be used to create presentations (similar to Powerpoint, but more graphically appealing, in my opinion), and is very user-friendly.

One of the things that I like about Haiku Deck is that it does not allow you to add huge blocks of text to your slides.  This is good because too much text makes for a very boring presentation. (Take a look at “What Would Steve Do”, #3 as supporting evidence for this.)  I also like the ease with which you can find images to punctuate your text.

My 4th graders are reading Tuck Everlasting, and discussing the figurative language in the book.  Usually, when I first introduce figurative language, I ask them to find examples for each type (simile, metaphor, hyperbole, and personification), and share with the class to show their understanding so I can quickly gauge if there is a need for more instruction.

Yesterday, I thought, “Why don’t I let them type their examples in Haiku Deck?  Then they can learn the app, and show what they know about figurative language at the same time.”  And, yes, I was in the middle of the lesson when I thought of that.  To be honest, I’ve done the lesson for so many years, I was boring myself – which does not usually bode well for keeping the student’s attention.

In 5 minutes, I was able to show the students how to create a slide, add text, select an image, and share the product.  Once all of the products were in, we played a quick game to identify the type of figurative language as I showed each example on the big screen.

While they were working with their partners, I heard one student say, “I love doing this!”

I love that they were engaged and learning, and all it cost me was about 10 minutes more than the previous times I’ve taught that lesson. Now, they have a new digital tool in their belt that they can choose from when they write their own examples of figurative language.

slide created with Haiku Deck

slide created with Haiku Deck, quote from Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt

colAR App Pumpkin Page

Augmented Pumpkins with the colAR app

Augmented Pumpkins with the colAR app

I tweeted about this a couple of days ago (Don’t follow me, yet?  Please do!  @terrieichholz), but I was so excited that I tweeted an uncolored page.  Knowing today would be Phun Phriday, I decided to spend last night making a more presentable page for blog purposes.  I wanted to get a sample from one of my students, but they haven’t had time, what with all of their bumping into walls and doing victory dances this week.

For those of you who have not had the pleasure of entertaining yourself with the colAR app, yet, I strongly urge you to download it right away.  It is available on both mobile platforms for free.  The free version allows you to augment certain coloring pages, and there is an in-app purchase of $2.99 to unlock the rest of the pages.  However, the new pumpkin page is free.  Just make sure, if you already have the app, that you have the most updated version.

colAR allows you to download coloring pages from their website, then scan them with the app to make them “come to life.”  They created a special Dot Day page that I blogged about earlier this year.

If you haven’t used colAR with your students before, I highly recommend you have them color a page first, and then surprise them with the augmented reality version.  If you do it in the reverse order they may, like me, rush through their coloring just to get to the digital fun.

Drew Minock and Brad Waid over at Two Guys and Some iPads have used colAR to inspire creative writing with their students.  Once the students see their pumpkins dancing around, I’m sure the kids could come up with some unique stories!

There are a lot of pumpkins on the sheet, so you might have kids work on the sheets in groups – each coloring their own pumpkin.  For older kids, you could have them design the pumpkins to represent mystery historical characters or different artists and/or art styles.  In a modification of this idea that I just saw on Not Just Child’s Play (which she attributes to Ian Byrd), you could have them decorate the pumpkins from the perspective of different book characters.

I know many of you don’t celebrate Halloween, but be sure to check out some of the other pages offered by colAR.  The novelty will definitely “hook” your students, spark their imaginations, and motivate them to think creatively.

Brad Waid's Augmented Reality Inspired Creative Writing Bulletin Board

Brad Waid’s (1 of the 2 Guys and Some iPads) Augmented Reality Inspired Creative Writing Bulletin Board