Sunday, May 29, 2011

Great (free) customizable apps!

If you haven't discovered the awesome, customizable apps from developer Grasshopper Apps, skip reading my blog for today and go to their developer page in the app store (do a search for grasshopper apps, then click on the developer page link in the top right.) At this time they have about 67 apps, and it seems they add a new one pretty regularly. Follow the link to their website to sign up for their 'free the apps' program and they will email you when an app is temporarily free if you agree to leave reviews or give feedback.

Not only are the apps customizable (teachers-these apps can replace so many homemade and dollar store activities), but I love that they use high quality photographs. Most of the apps allow you to rerecord the voice overs, which already use a good voice artist. They also have build in the ability to add your own words, and pictures. My favorites are the little speller and little matchup. I have customized them for my daughter with pictures of her family and friends, sight words for my students, and more. While an app might target alphabet or sight words, with the customization option the app can work on almost any skill, only limited by your imagination.

Another great thing about Grasshopper apps is that they actively seek feedback and hope for favorable reviews. Without reviews, an app gets buried in the depths of the ill-designed app store. So they often make an app free for 24-48 hours, which I love of course.

When you get an app that you like a lot, I strongly suggest you go and review it on the app store. Not only does it help keep the app from falling into obscurity, it helps people who are paying for the app to know if it's a good one. I do recommend that if you have a problem with an app, contact the developer. They usually welcome feedback because they need to know what problems people are experiencing. If you leave a bad review and they fix the problem, go back and update your negative review... Developers put out a lot of money, and I want to be sure good ones like grasshopper stay around.

As a teacher, I scour for free apps to use in the classroom- 11 $.99 apps adds up fast, and next year I hope to have 24 iPads. My husband refuses to shell out more money on my classroom (who can blame him, really?) and to be ethical educational use of apps requires that you purchase the app for each device, while home use let's you have it on up to five devices. As a mommy I can justify buying a dollar app to use on my family idevices. When I find an app developer I appreciate I try to support them financially, and if I get their apps for free in my classroom, I try to always give feedback or a positive review.

I apologize for not adding photos to my blogs lately, I have been using Blogsy, and while it is great for iPad blogging, I am anxiously awaiting their update which will allow adding photos directly from my iPad. I did however use Blogsy's ability to use google images and found a few grasshopper pics online to add to make the post a little less boring.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Loving using my ipad2 for this end of the year project

Today I used my iPad to take pictures of my students profiles. I printed them out, aligned it with a black piece of paper, then cut around the profile. Next I glued the profile and picture to opposite sides of a blue page of construction paper.

In the past I used an overhead projector, a step stool, taped the black paper to the wall, made a 5 year old stand still (yeah right!) while I traced their profile, cut it out and glued it to the page. I will never do that again!

The picture above is from google images... I will add my own pic soon.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Teaching Tools: Dramatic Play Center

Last week I dreamed up a new (to me) dramatic play center. I try to change it every few months... Most recently it was a Veterinarian's Office. We went on a field trip to Country Pet Vet and the local Public Library- Naselle Timberland library. So it made sense to create a library next. Between the props I already had, and loans/gifts from both our school library and Timberland library, an awesome center was born.

I moved the bookshelves and cozy red chairs, repurposed the kitchen furniture (the sink is the book drop), and moved the iPad shelves back there too. I added the play phones, a cash register (to pay for overdue/lost books), a wait list form for the iPads, a shelving cart, a real barcode scanner, book placeholders, library cards, and of course lots of books. When I asked the kids what else we needed in the center, they said a computer (well, duh, Mrs. Holt).

I was slightly ashamed I hadn't thought of that sooner... And then I brainstormed a way to utilize Google Forms... It would be the K Library database! I kept it simple, librarian name, borrower name, item checked out (iPad or book or other) and time (we've been studying telling time). I put the link to my form on . Yesterday was the first day they used the center and it's popularity surprised me!

The Google Form works great, the kids had a blast, and technology was integrated on the request of the students more than me. How awesome is that? Plus, the kids are handling the check out of ipads for free play use, not me.

So I ask you, how can technology be incorporated into other dramatic play center themes?

Two funnies to share: When my kids go to get a book to read during non-free play times, they just have to scan the barcodes. It's like they can't resist.

Today one child was busy shelving books (we had reading buddies, so most books got checked out) and I overheard her saying "I am tired of putting these books away, but I have to. I need to earn more money."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Free Apps

Teachers are notorious for spending tons of personal money on their classrooms. I am no different. I try to balance this by searching for dollar deals, repurposing things, and begging. When all else fails my personal budget takes a hit.

Since November, when the iPads first found their way into my classroom I've been on an app spending spree. I am learning moderation (says the woman who burned through $20 dollars just this week....) and also have begun the search for bargain apps.

Don't get me wrong, I think developers deserve to earn a living from their hard work... I buy apps that have great reviews or fit a need. Apps can cost a lot to develop, and I want to support developers of quality educational apps. Ways you can support developers- leave reviews (be honest, not brutal). If you have a real complaint, try contacting the developer before ripping their app apart in the review section. They can't fix what they don't know about and they can't erase your review... Even after they fixed the bug.

That said... I can't afford to pay for apps for each iPad in my classroom. Even with the volume purchasing program, even with picking a handful of favorites. I am having to be careful about which apps I use in class so I that am ethical. If I buy a game for my own kids, or a utility for me, I only use it on my families 4 personal devices. For the class iPads I will primarily use free apps. I am picking a few great apps to purchase through the VPP for next year... Hints are that I might be getting a 1:1 setup next year.

To increase the effectiveness of my iPads on a limited budget, I need to find GOOD free apps. Here are suggestions for how to do this:

There are some free apps that actually help you find free apps... Such as
Free App Genie
Free App A Day

Still some trial and error here but it beats slogging through the app store.

Because I am addicted, I do usually check the education category of the app store every couple of days to see newbies and look for freebies.

Another good way to find apps that are free for a limited time is to look through the top charts section of education (and other sections, business and games often have good Ed apps... Good freebies often pop to the top.

Belonging to or following #iear, #ff, #edapp on twitter helps too. They often share when an education app is available for free.

I try to post when a good app is temporarily free... But usually only for ones I think are too good to be missed.

When you find an app that you really like, be sure to go to the "developers page" link in the top right of the apps description. Some developers have free and paid apps, and chances are you'll like more of their apps.

Don't be afraid to try a lite or free version... And do buy the full app if you really like the lite version. Be sure to read reviews though...

Lastly, be sure to get apps when they are free... They will always be free to you, even if you delete and reload. An app might be free on day, and full price the next. Be a savvy shopper. Unless you have a big iTunes budget, In which case I am always accepting donations. :)

Monday, May 16, 2011

iPad use during reading group...

It was brought to my attention from one of the fabulous creators of ABC Pocket Phonics (and Dot to Dot Number Whiz) that the video link I'd included in my iPad as a reading group wasn't functioning properly so I thought I'd use my new friend, Blogsy, to try to fix it. I will go and update the original blog, but for now, here is a more recent clip of a student using ABC Pocket Phonics during my reading group time- he had just finished reading/writing with me and was practicing letter writing and sounds and blending words on the iPad.... And another try at using the original clip the first one with my students using iPads during reading groups. Cmon Blogsy, be a pal and talk to YouTube for me. I really want BOTH links to work. (update: YouTube is still not playing nicely, so if you'd really like to see the original video, follow the link below...)


Blogsy (currently $2.99) is an app I found recommended on one of the tweets I follow (my favs are: @ipodsibilities @tonyvincent #iear #mlearning #edapp #slide2learn #mobile2011). I am always hesitant to spend my iTunes money... My darling husband doesn't want to support my app addiction so I have to make the cards I smuggle into the grocery cart last as long as possible.

However, the app recommendation came at the same time I was feeling guilty for not blogging recently... I don't care for posting from my phone or iPad, both of which have supplanted my need to be on my computer constantly. Since my computer has been neglected lately... So has my blog.

When I saw the reviews saying I'd enjoy posting from the iPad... Well I felt like I had to try it out... For you, dear followers and guests... I have appreciated the recent comments from readers- it helps me to feel motivated to actually log on and write.

So- this is my first attempt at posting from Blogsy. So far, it has met my expectations. I like that you can pull images over from google image search, Picasa and flicker. It was really simple to google the Blogsy icon, and pull it into the page, above. I will certainly be posting more from Blogsy (cute cute name!). I am much more likely to post if I can do it comfortably from my ever present iPad. My arms are always full, I love that my iPad fits in my purse (yes, it was a requirement for the last bag I bought!) and rarely bring the Mac home anymore. I am trying out the features.... Notice, 2nd para. Centered, 4th para bold.

I added a video of my daughter from two years ago to test out the ease of adding YouTube video ... You judge how it turned out, but it was super easy to add. I call it the torturing lily video... We put a ribbon on her head... She did NOT like it one bit.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

FREE apps from Every Day Math for teacher appreciation week!

Check them out and download them all while they are free. A huge thanks to Every Day Mathematics for recognizing teachers! Monster Squeeze is great for preK-1, and I think Tric Trac is fun. The other games work on addition and subtraction and addition and division. Quick before the week is over...

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