Tag Archives: iPad

Dash and Dot – and Fitzgerald

In the interest of disclosure, I did receive the “Wonder Pack” for free so that I could review it for this blog.  

Wonder Workshop recently contacted a few bloggers to see if we would be interested in reviewing their new robots, Dash and Dot. Knowing my students would be more than happy to test out anything new, I readily agreed.  Within a week, I had a package at my doorstep that included the two robots and all of their accessories.

Meet Dash and Dot from Wonder Workshop
Meet Dash and Dot from Wonder Workshop

In the meantime, our PTA had also purchased a Dash robot for our Maker Studio, B.O.S.S. HQ.  This led to our first challenge – coming up with another name.  When you connect your robots with the iPad, you don’t want to them to have the same moniker or confusion will ensue.  So my daughter suggested the name Fitzgerald, which seems to delight my students.

Dash and Fitzgerald have made their appearances to my 5th graders, 1st graders, and Maker Club (2nd-4th) so far.  I am allowing everyone to explore the robot features a bit before I start giving the students some programming challenges.

Currently, there are 4 free apps that can be downloaded for use with Dash and the small companion robot, Dot.  The robots are compatible with iOS and Android – but not all of the apps work with all devices, so be sure to check out this page to find out if you have the means for controlling your robot.

The “Go” app is the first one all of the students try.  It allows you to connect with the robots, do some customization of colors and sounds, and remotely drive your robot.

The “Path” app is fun for more driving and creative thinking.

“Xylo” is an app that can be used only with Dash and the xylophone, which must be purchased separately.  It’s a bit tricky to calibrate the robot to play.  However, once you get everything set up, there are several pre-loaded songs that can be played.  Even more exciting is the ability to compose your own songs for Dash.  (You can see the video of one song a 1st graders insisted on programming on his own below.)  You can also direct Dash to move at certain points in the song.  In essence, you can have your own little robot marching band.

“Blockly” is where your students will really be able to have fun.  Using programming blocks similar to Scratch or Hopscotch, they can direct Dash to react to your voice and perform other numerous other interesting actions.  Susan over at “The Digital Scoop” has already come up with some great challenges for her students to use with Blockly.  You can view the first two here and here.  I think Blockly is the app that will have the most sticking power with these robots with lots of potential for creativity and learning more about programming.

In addition to the xylophone, another interesting accessory is the smartphone holder.  Before the break, one of my students rolled Dash around to various classrooms, with my phone attached to its head while it scrolled, “Happy Holidays” and played “Jingle Bells.”

We haven’t tested out the Lego connectors, yet.  But those are bound to spark some interesting inventions, I have a feeling.

So far my students haven’t really played with Dot.  Although Dot can be programmed a bit, and interacts with Dash, Dot has no wheels. You can see some ideas for Dot’s use here, but my students haven’t gotten to that point yet.

I will keep you posted with the further adventures of Dash, Dot, and Fitzgerald.  I have a feeling their stories have just begun…

Photo Jan 09, 9 53 34 AM Photo Jan 09, 10 04 46 AM Photo Jan 09, 10 19 22 AM

 

 

Put That iTunes Gift Card to Good Use

In yesterday’s post, I offered some ideas for free apps to add to children’s iPads for creating.  Today I am giving a few recommendations for paid apps in that same category that are, in my opinion, well worth the money.

As I mentioned yesterday, I think that it’s essential that these apps are accompanied by some adult guidance.  Of course, children will need to explore and create on their own.  However, they will also become much more engaged with some suggested ideas and encouragement.  That is why I am adding a few resources with each app that I list so parents/caregivers/teachers will have examples and recommended activities to which they can refer.

Here are some of the paid apps that are great for creating:

Green Screen by Do Ink ($2.99): This is the easiest green screen app I’ve ever used.  If you record someone or something in front of a green screen, you can easily insert whatever still picture or video you would like to replace the screen.  Now, most families don’t have a green screen at home.  But there are plenty of DIY suggestions on the web for making them out of various materials such as poster board or pizza boxes.  (You can also find some for less than $20 on Amazon.) Teachers who have interactive white boards can try this idea for making a quick green screen.  Here is some help from Do Ink on using the app, but  their video tutorial (included in the app) is very useful, too.  Here is an entire Pinterest Board of Green Screen production ideas.

A TypeDrawing "Self-Portrait" created by one of my 5th graders
A TypeDrawing “Self-Portrait” created by one of my 5th graders

TypeDrawing ($1.99): The TypeDrawing app does exactly what its name implies; it allows you to draw with words.  This can be anything from adding words to a picture or creating an entire landscape out of words.  My students love this app, and always amaze me with the variety of products that come from using it.  Here is one neat idea for doing a portrait. You can find some other examples of its use here. One project my students did with TypeDrawing was to add their character traits to a photo that symbolized them in some way.  This app really lends itself to app-smashing, too (using it in combination with other apps to create).  For example, create something in TypeDrawing, and then use it as a background in the Green Screen app.

Book Creator ($4.99 on iOS, $2.49 on Google Play):  I am going to admit that I have not used this one in the classroom yet.  However, I have read an extraordinary amount of positive reviews of this app on education blogs.  If your child has any aspirations to become an author and/or illustrator, this may be the one app worth buying. Users can create e-books, PDF’s, and even videos.  Imagine the fun of seeing a book published by you on your iBooks shelf.  Scrapbooks, fiction, how-to manuals, and whatever your imagination dreams up can be produced with this app.  Here is a Pinterest Board full of ideas just in case you don’t know where to start.

If you are looking for more apps for kids, along with reviews, you may want to head on over to Graphite, which has an extensive list and allows you to filter your search using several criteria.

Put the “hAPPy” Back Into your Holidays

It’s the time of year when I (and pretty much every tech blogger on the planet) give some recommendations for apps that you may want to install on those new iPads some children received for Christmas. This list has a few limitations: the apps are mostly iOS, I can only attest to their appeal to kids in the elementary age bracket, and I’m sticking to apps that encourage creativity this year.  For app lists from prior years, you can check out my 2013 post and my 2012 one.

I’m giving you a shorter list this year, but adding some resources. That’s because my experience has shown me that students often don’t get a lot out of creativity apps without some examples and encouragement from an adult.  Don’t expect to just load these on your child’s mobile device and walk away.  With some input from parents and/or teachers, kids will learn more and become more adventurous and creative than they will with no guidance. Otherwise, they tend to quickly return to apps that require less thought.

We’ll start with some free ones today, and I’ll recommend some of the few paid apps I like tomorrow.

Learn how to make a snowflake with the Hopscotch app and video tutorial.
Learn how to make a snowflake with the Hopscotch app and video tutorial.
  • Hopscotch – This programming app has been revved up in the last six months, and it really took off with my students during the Hour of Code.  You can find a lot of other tutorials on their YouTube channel here, such as how to make a snowflake.  Once your child does one or two of the tutorials, he or she will be ready to make some games and other masterpieces.  Here is a recent post I did on using Hopscotch in the classroom.
  • Lego Movie Maker – Kids love to make stop motion videos.  I have some students who would be perfectly happy if they could spend the entire school day producing these short films.  Don’t be fooled by the “Lego” part of the name, because you do not have to use those building blocks to have a great time with the app.  However, it is nice to have some around!  For a wonderful resource on how to use this app with your child, check out this great post from Melody Lopez.  If you’re a teacher, you may want to get some ideas from Ms. Mitchell.  Another free alternative app that my students in Maker Club enjoyed was Goldieblox and the Movie Machine. (However, you cannot export the Goldieblox to the Camera Roll as you can with the Lego app.)
  • ChatterPix Kids -This app continues to be a student favorite.  Here is a post I did on it awhile back.  Basically, you can make any still picture talk by drawing a mouth on it and recording your own voice.  Here’s a link to a ChatterPix Pinterest Board of ideas, which I got from a post on Fractus Learning about the app.
  • PicCollage -This app is actually available on iTunes and Google Play.  It has so many uses at home and in the classroom.  If your child takes a lot of pictures, then this app is awesome for collecting them to make into simple scrapbook pages.  Kids can also make comic strips and posters using it.  It’s very versatile, as you will see if you Google it.  Here are a few ideas to get you started if you are a parent introducing your child to this app for the first time. Canva is another fun way to make collages, and they recently released an iPad app.

Of course, there are many other free apps that are well worth downloading.  I highly recommend that you visit iPad Apps 4 School for even more ideas.  But these are my top suggestions for making sure your child’s tablet is used for creating and not just consuming.  Check back tomorrow for some more ideas!

Opt for Osmo for Optimum Fun

Woohoo!  Here we go!  This is the beginning of this year’s “Gifts for the Gifted” posts – a series of articles I do each Friday in November and December to give teachers and parents ideas for great toys and games for your children.  To see what gifts I’ve recommended in the past, take a look at my Pinterest Board.  (I also have one for Books for Gifted Children.)

gifts

 

I reviewed today’s product, Osmo, in May, but some of you may not have been readers way back then.  You should definitely check out that first post as it gives some details that I will probably leave out in the interest of brevity in this article.

Put quite simply, Osmo is a set of accessories for your iPad that allows players to interact with real physical objects that are recognized by your iPad within Osmos’ free apps.  My classes (K-5 gifted students) tested the product out last year before it hit the market, and absolutely loved it.

image from Venturebeat.com
image from Venturebeat.com

There are currently 3 free apps: Words, Tangrams, and Newton.  The apps will not work without the set that you can currently purchase for $79.99 (free shipping). The set includes a base for the iPad, a mirror to place over the iPad camera, letter tiles, and tangram pieces.

In case you are concerned that your child or students will get bored with the 3 apps, I can assure you this hasn’t happened in my classroom yet.  The company does hope to add additional apps in the future, and they have made significant updates to the current ones over the last year.  In addition, the Words app allows for customization so that you can basically create your own games using photos and words that you load yourself. (See instructions here.) This feature is tremendously powerful in a classroom setting.  You can make Osmo a center to practice certain words, differentiate with several albums, and do class play to review vocabulary by mirroring your iPad on your screen.

There are two reasons that I recommend Osmo: it’s good for kids and the company is extremely supportive of its customers – particularly educators.  If you are looking for a great gift to give a teacher (perhaps pooling money with several parents) or a unique gift to give to a younger family member, then Osmo is definitely a great choice.  You can purchase Osmo directly from their website, or at an Apple store near you.

3 Google App Hacks for the not so 1:1 iPad Classroom

I love the collaborative aspect of Google Drive, but with a classroom of varying numbers and age levels of students and 10 iPads I’ve had to learn to be a bit creative when it comes to using Google activities with my students.  The release of specific apps for iOS such as Slides and Sheets is still problematic when you are not in a 1:1 environment since a login is required to access the files.  And some of the features that look great on other devices won’t work on iPads in a browser – even in Chrome.  Here are a few “workarounds” I’ve developed that some of you might also find useful:

  • Docs are an easy way to share website links with classes. For example, I created a Google Doc called, “Websites for Class.”  I made it public, opened it on each iPad, and sent the shortcut to the iPad home screen.  Now I can change the links any time, and the students can click on them without needing to type in URL’s.  (Sure, you can use a bookmarking site, Google Classroom, or even apps like Chirp to share links, but this simple solution has streamlined the process immensely.)  If you think you are going to want to keep those links for future use, make a copy before you change to new links and save the copy with the title of whatever theme the old links shared (“Optical Illusion Sites,” for example).
  • Create a “generic” G-mail account to use Sheets.  The new Sheets are currently not editable on an iPad browser.  I learned this the hard way.  My students use Sheets for checking in at centers (using the above method, but with a spreadsheet) but that suddenly stopped working.  The files work great in the Sheets app, but I didn’t want to have each student log in since multiple students share iPads – or have my own account permanently on the iPads. So, I made a “generic” account. This G-mail account is used for the sole purpose of sharing documents on my iPads.  All of the iPads are already logged into that account, so the students do not have to do anything but open the app and find the appropriate Sheet.
  • Make a Google Site to share Forms that you change frequently.  This is a bit more advanced.  You can also use a Google Site to share links that you change frequently (but the Doc method described above takes a lot less steps!).  Once you make a free Google Site, you can just click on the html button and embed the code for your form.  Be sure to click inside the Google Gadget area to get the settings button at the bottom and add a scroll bar.  Otherwise, your students may only be able to see part of the form on the iPad.  Add your Google Site to the Home Screen of every iPad and you can then share whatever you want the students to access with a tap on the icon.

Do any of you have Google App iPad hacks?  Please share!

image from speedofcreativity.org
image from speedofcreativity.org

 

More Ideas for Pic Collage

I had a great time at the end of last school year allowing the students to use the Pic Collage app on the iPads to create mini-yearbooks using pictures from our class blog.  There are many uses for the app, and I’m pretty sure that I have yet to use it to its full potential.

Using Pic Collage to summarize your favorite moments from the school year
Using Pic Collage to summarize your favorite moments from the school year

At a recent PD about using apps for creating, one of my colleagues, Camala Rose-Turnage, suggested using the app for a fraction study. Students could take a group of pictures, of which only some have a certain thing in common (such as the color red), and then other students could figure out the fraction.  Awesome!  Besides the fact that I had never heard an idea like this before, I could see a lot of potential for differentiation.  Some students might choose obvious traits for their groups, such as color or shape; others might select something more abstract, such as objects that are used for particular activities (recess toys) or ones that all start with a certain letter.  The fractions might vary in complexity, too.  You could have some students portray fractions that could be reduced, or even – depending on the Pic Collage layout – mixed numbers.

Speaking of math, here is a post showing how students can use Pic Collage to create their own math reviews.  And here are some other ideas that could be used in a primary classroom.

Pic Collage is also great for app-smashing.  Use it with Thinglink and Aurasma for an awesome interactive poster.  You can find a ton of Pic Collage app-smashes on this Pinterest board by Holly Inniger.

What’s your favorite way to use this versatile app?

DragonBox Elements

I don’t often recommend paid apps on this blog.  One reason is that they are difficult for many educators to obtain for their classroom, as I outlined in yesterday’s post.  Another reason is that I feel that many of the paid apps have features that can be found in other free apps. However, every once in awhile, I run across a paid app that I think is unique and worth sharing.

I was recently given a promotional code for DragonBox Elements, and decided to test it out.  Previously, I had reviewed another app by the same company, DragonBox Algebra 5+, for AppoLearning.  (DragonBox 12+ is also available for older students, but I have not tried that one.) I was very impressed by the app, and have recommended it to parents who have young students with a high interest in math.

DragonBox Elements, like the Algebra apps, is designed to teach math “secretly.”  The Elements version teaches Geometry (I think they should change the name, as “Elements” made me think that it was a science app), and is aimed at students from 9-11.

DragonBox Elements - a Geometry app for ages 9-11 available here
DragonBox Elements – a Geometry app for ages 9-11 available here

The app accommodates up to 4 different players (individually, not at the same time), and has three levels of difficulty.  As advertised, it slowly guides you through basic geometric concepts by playing a game.  After learning to identify different types of triangles and quadrilaterals, the player begins to “prove” geometric characters into existence. For example, if one is given a triangle that shows two congruent angles, then there must be two congruent sides – making it an isosceles triangle.

None of the concepts are explicitly taught.  My daughter, who is 11, had the main complaint that she didn’t feel that she was learning anything.  However, when I asked her to explain her actions on a level, she basically gave me the steps of a geometric proof.

Like DragonBox Algebra, DragonBox Elements is a good app to recommend to parents who want to give their children an entertaining, educational app.  I think it definitely helps if there is an adult who can ask some guiding questions to aid the child in verbalizing what he or she has learned.

All of the DragonBox games are available on all mobile platforms here.  You can also find teaching resources on the site.