Tag Archives: iPad

New Hopscotch Curriculum

Hopscotch has been a favorite programming app of my students ever since they tried it for the Hour of Code a couple of years ago. One of my 5th graders chose to use Hopscotch to create his entire Genius Hour presentation last year.

Hopscotch is now offering a new curriculum for educators and I had a chance to sneak preview it before yesterday’s release.  I am very impressed by the format of the lessons, which were created using the Understanding by Design framework.

There are 6 lessons, about 45 minutes each, targeted for 5th-8th grades. However,  there is a lot of flexibility that allows for modifications for younger and older students.  The lessons include ideas for differentiation and detailed suggestions to include many levels.

Math, Engineering, and Computer Science Standards are included in the lessons.  Videos links are offered for all 6 activities to either use with your class or for the teacher to watch to gain better understanding.  Hopscotch not only differentiates for the students, but also for the teachers by making the instructions very clear for even those who have never used the app before.

I am excited that Hopscotch is offering such an amazing free resource for educators.  This app encourages creativity and problem-solving while teaching logic and many math skills.  Don’t worry if you have never programmed before.  With Hopscotch, you and your students can learn together.

Hopscotch Curriculum


A few months ago I gushed about a Kickstarter campaign that promised to bring one of my favorite computer games ever, Zoombinis, to the 21st century.  Due to the success of that campaign, the Zoombinis app is now available on iTunes and Google Play. Windows, Mac, and Kindle Fire versions will be available later this year.

I was excited to download the app a few weeks ago when it finally became available to Kickstarter supporters. Back when we were allowed to download our own software, I had the game in my classroom for my students to play.  I highly respected the logic skills the game promoted, so when my daughter was younger, I bought a version for her to try at home.

My daughter is now 12, and vaguely remembers playing the original game.  I guessed that she would like the app, but I did not predict the high level of engagement that I’ve observed the last few weeks.

The Zoombinis game is all about logic.  Your goal is to get the Zoombinis to their new home, navigating through perilous puzzles along the way.  Each Zoombini has the following attributes that can be mixed and matched: hair, eyes, feet, and noses.  The challenges are based on those attributes.

For example, the Allergy Cliffs have 2 bridges.  If you place a Zoombini on the correct bridge, the little guy will quickly cross.  If it’s the wrong bridge, the cliff sneezes him or her off.  You have to figure out the “rule” for each bridge.  Only blue noses?  Only the ones with glasses?  Carefully test your theories before too many sneezes make you lose some Zoombinis.


There are several different types of puzzles along the journey. If you aren’t good at one, that’s okay; the puzzle remains on that level until you’ve mastered it. Each puzzle is tailored to your skills, so after a few trips to the end you may end up with different puzzles on different levels of difficulty.

mapOne particular favorite is the pizza puzzle.  You must figure out exactly what toppings Arno wants on his pizza.  Children quickly learn that you need to be methodical because random guesses will end up with a Zoombini or two getting booted off the screen.

Playing Zoombinis together is a fun way for my daughter and I to bond.  It’s also a great opportunity to model problem-solving skills. One of the most frustrating qualities of the game is also one of the best qualities – very few instructions are given.  Watching a child struggle is never easy, but the way his or her face lights up when solving a Zoombinis problem makes it all worthwhile.

The Zoombinis app is $4.99.  This may seem like an enormous amount for an app, but I guarantee that it’s worth it.  It teaches so many thinking skills and sustains interest for a very long time.  If you are a teacher or a parent of multiple children, you will be happy to know that different students can save games on the same iPad so their progress won’t be lost.

This game is cute, fun, and educational.  What are you waiting for? Download it today!


Give the Green Light with a Green Screen

“You mean they didn’t really go there?” a student asked me.

She was pointing to a bulletin board of Photo Mapo projects by my 1st graders.  Each student had chosen a Google Street View image of a landmark in the country they were studying.  Using the Green Screen app by DoInk, the students inserted pictures of themselves in front of the landmarks.  They also took video of themselves explaining the landmarks.  The pictures were inserted into Photo Mapo, linked to their videos on Aurasma, and presto – interactive postcards.

Photo Apr 14, 8 52 49 AM

Several of my grade levels have taken advantage of the Green Screen app we purchased this year.  My 2nd graders used it to portray themselves in front of famous bridges around the world, and one chose to use it to make a video about her biomimetic invention.


In yesterday’s post, I showed how word clouds can be fun with the Green Screen app (thanks to Tricia Fuglestad for the idea).

Tricia also gave me the idea for the Time Magazine covers my 5th graders worked on last week.  Here is a link to her post about this project.  For our own versions, my students used Green Screen by DoInk and Canva.

Time Magazine (Some of my students have become so familiar with using the screen that they automatically turn it around to the blue side if a student is wearing green so he or she won’t appear as a disembodied head.

If you want some more green screen ideas, I highly recommend you do a search on Tricia’s Fugleblog.  Don’t have the ability to buy apps? Touchcast is free, though not quite as user friendly for younger students.  No green screen in your classroom?  There are tons of instructions for makeshift screens on the web, including pizza boxes, science boards, sheets, and paint.

Let your students travel to any continent, planet, or even the future with a green screen.


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.)



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.