Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Have you used Symbaloo yet?  Tonight was my first time exploring, and so far I like it.  Here are a few mixes created by some #kinderchat Twitter pals  I thought I'd share to get you started.  Similar to a www.tizmos.com page, I am excited to try Symbaloo out for personal and professional uses.  Please share your mixes with me if they are K related. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Awesome App Alert: Bugs and Buttons

I have been less vocal here on the blog lately; partly because I am busy (full time K, three kids, on Friends of the Library Board, turtle, cat, guinea pig, two dogs and NOW 17 puppies!) and partly because I felt like I had nothing to say.  That last part surprised you right? 

Until the last few days as I have observed my 3 year old playing Bugs and Buttons, a new app by the creators of the Dial Safe app.  Dial Safe Pro was available the other day for free to help promote Bugs and Buttons, so great way to advertise-it worked on me!  I already had Dial Safe Pro, but decided to look into the new app because of the adorable name, and my itunes account had a little more money left on it. 

Now, I LOVE buttons and use them to teach concepts in my class often.  But BUGS?  Yuck.  Still, I decided to give it a try and I am so glad I did.  Let me summarize why you should spend the $2.99 I paid.  
  1. Graphics are great
  2. music is terrific not annoying
  3. there are 18 activities
  4. when i thought there were only 6 I still loved it
  5. my 3 year old loves it
  6. patterning games
  7. sorting games
  8. counting games
  9. alphabet games
  10. connect the dots
  11. memory games
  12. mazes
  13. it makes me think just maybe bugs aren't as gross as I have always believed
  14. has games that work on pincer grasp 
  15. some levels appear to adjust  to your child's ability level
  16. and so much more... did I mention 18 adorable games (although I am not so sure about the spiders.)  But maybe it will help kids not to be freaked out so much by them in real life.
Age most appropriate for: 3-6 in my opinion.  Some games are so cute older kids might enjoy them too.  Maybe the developer should offer another version aimed towards older kiddos under the same theme with the mini-games.  

My suggestions for improvement:  Make the start page more intuitive.  Explore (the option my daughter prefers) should be first or have an icon that helps non readers find it easier. 
I would love to see the games using letters have a voice announcing the letter name/sound when picked.  For example, in memory games when flipping over j and J the name or sound would be announced.  The same thing for the counting/color games too.

The price is fine for the quality of the app for individual use, but for my classroom it's a little steep.  I do think it is a serious contender for use in the classroom...  I rarely recommend apps that aren't free unless I think they are so great that you shouldn't wait for a free copy.  This is definately one of those "too good to pass up apps".  Certainly it is fun and education and just plain beautifully made... Highly recommened by me if you only have a few iPads in your room or you have a good budget for apps.  Otherwise, if you hear of it dropping in price be sure to download it quickly!

By the way... the reason I had no hesitation to buy the Bugs and Buttons app was because Dial Safe pro version and their free lite version are terrific too.  Last week I watched a kindergartner show the app to her mom during a conference.  She said "look, I can call 911."  So she did and it walked her through all the steps she would go through in a real emergency.  What an amazing app- she was fluently giving her phone number, address, name and age to the "operator".  I have had kids learning their info for years and never had such a realistic way for them to practice.  She was so proud of herself and now her mom and I both know she would know what to do if there was a real emergency.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How can YOU get iPads in your classroom

Several of you dear readers have asked how I got my class set of iPads and how you can get iPads in your classroom.  I wish I had a magic answer, a rich uncle or was an heir to a fortune but I don't and I am not.  My school got grants to cover the first set of iPads for the 9th grade class (Business manager taught 9th at the time and thought they would benefit highschoolers.  I started a campaign to get iPads into K the same day they announced 9th Graders were getting the iPads.  More grants and general budget paid for 10th grade to get iPads and 10 for elementary/library iPads- 6 of which ended up in my classroom due to my begging and teachers who were not ready to use them.  I kept letting my Superintendent and Principal know that I wanted/needed more (aka, begged) and demonstrated frequently why I thought they were awesome for ECE.  The begging paid off and I got 4 more.  I attended an iPad training put on by NCCE that cost $700 but included an iPad2.  Staff Development dollars paid for the class/iPad.  Now I was up to 11- with a class size of 22 by the end of the year and 20 expected for 2011-2012.  I planted the seed of 'wouldn't a 1:1 in K be terrific?' and watered liberally (aka. begging again).  iPad2's were bought for 9th, 10th, 11th grades and their iPads1's trickled down to K, 1st and 2nd.

The benefit of being in a small district is sometimes it's easier to try something new, find grants, and make connections with the $$$ decision makers.  I had a reputation for using technology and a willingness to try new things. 

 So while I don't have grand suggestions for funding your own iPad program, my suggestions are to be able to articulate WHY you NEED the technology.  How will you use it?  How is it better than traditional tools?  Don't just say it's fun...engaging...  Detail how it will help learners meet goals and unique ways to use it.  Can they be a part of a home/school connection program? 

Meg Wilson wrote an article with suggestions on how to get iDevices into your room:

Good luck!!!  If you can start with one- start there!

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