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.