Friday, August 15, 2014

Review: Kidspiration Maps by Inspiration Software, Inc.

 KidspirationKidspiration Maps by Inspiration Software, Inc. ( iPad, $9.99 at time of review)

Kidspiration Maps by Inspiration Software, Inc. is from the maker of  Inspiration Maps (early version  reviewed here) .  It is a visual and interactive mind mapping and graphic organizer tool for kids, preloaded with activities divided up into the following categories: Reading & Writing, Social Studies, Science, and Math. 

Of course you can make your own customized activities too!  There are some "SuperGrouper" templates to help you create classification and categorization activities.  This includes scene buttons, shapes, thought clouds and a Venn Diagram.  One of the unique features of this app is the Diagram/Writing button, which flips between a diagram view (graphics), and a writing view (list) for that same activity.

In Writing View it is very easy to rearrange elements by dragging and dropping.   You can add sentences or phrases to support a graphic here- you can choose to show a small graphic for each thought or replace with bullet points etc.  I also find it helpful to switch to this view after creating an activity to add recordings- tap each element and choose the thought bubble with pencil icon to add a new recording.

What I like:

Premade activities
Ability to edit Premade activities with custom content 
Easy to use, customizable interface- Create own activities easily, drag or tap to add items-even hyperlinks; re size items with a finger pinch, change colors, use your own photos - then use, print or share!
Scrolling icon library (Over 1,400 symbols sorted into categories)
Visual feedback- when an item is selected on a screen it becomes outlined in blue or green
auditory feedback- add recordings to elements on the screen to use as instructions or to support written labels.

A new update in January has introduced an image search feature for quicker access! 

Wish List:
(I always have one!)

A frame "lock" - currently all elements of an activity board are freely movable- having the ability to "freeze" or "lock" an activity's background images would be so helpful for students who are distracted by this, or for those with less motor control.
A Clear all button- to clear all icons to start an activity fresh
The ability to add our own icons and photos to the icon library for quick access - the existing library is limited in some areas, especially the food- currently there is no "cereal" or "nuts" icon, among other missing favorite foods.
A Drawing Tool so students can learn by adding their own creations to each activity. 

Some of my creations:

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Build to 100 by Fuzzy Bees

Build to 100 by Fuzzy Bees ($1.99, iPad only) [Also on ANDROID here]

If you are familiar with Fuzzy Bees' app Count to 100! See Review here   you know ''educational quality' & "parent-friendly'' are words of high importance to Fuzzy Bees.  Build to 100 is a natural extension of the Count to 100! app, which introduces counting to 100, with features that allow the child to drag numbers from 1 to 100 to their correct place on the number grid.  Kids can learn to associate where numbers belong in relation to each other and build on patterns by skip counting by 2s up to 10s.   Like its predecessor, auditory and visual cues are used to signal a correct or incorrect answer.  There is also a lock feature to keep a child from accidentally exiting the screen (2 quick taps in a row are needed) or getting in to Parent/Teacher areas (three quick taps are needed).

A new addition to this app is a Record Time feature where students can gauge how fast they can build the number grid. This is especially important as teachers and parents can use it to see how a student's understanding is developing and improving over time.

Flexible settings mean a parent or educator can set up the app to target the numbers a child is most struggling with, and auditory cues can be shut off if not needed or wanted.

This is not a toy/game app, it is a tool appropriate for an educational setting, or to supplement learning at home, or to have handy during homework time.  It is hands on and its sound effects should provide an engaging alternative to the old-school paper and pencil method of writing in numbers one by one on a number grid . For children with motor skills delays, using the iPad screen will be a less physically demanding option than the scenario just described.

Favorite Features

Family/educator friendly - no IAPs, locks to block settings & educational tips page. Build to 100! is a Moms with Apps member, a label that upholds the following promises: for kids, privacy best practices, no surprises
Auditory cues- two distinct sounds are used for correct/incorrect number placements
Visual cues- number will jump away from the screen if placed in the wrong spot, and flash as they are placed in a correct spot
Flexible settings- choose perimeters for numbers to focus on, turn correct or incorrect sound effects on or off independently, choose to record time, determine whether building of the number board is random or based on a pattern, choose whether numbers on the board are hidden, and whether number squares are displayed one row at a time, or in their entirety.
Positive Reinforcement - errors are ignored and signaled only by a distinct tone; praise is given after the grid is finished- complete with the app's adorable bee mascots, cheering and a banner bearing different praises "Excellent" ''Awesome" "Outstanding" or "Fantastic". (you can choose to shut off the cheering sound effects for this).

Wish List
I would love to see the white buttons with the bright yellow ''lights" seen in Count to 100! return as an option.

An update is being considered for adding speech to the numbers as well, for additional auditory feedback.

Screenshot from Android device