Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Matter of App Awards!

I'm excited to present to you the very first A Matter of App Awards! I started this blog partially because people would ask me to recommend apps and I just didn't know. But now, here are my answers. While I've not reviewed a terribly large number of apps here, I've also been reviewing for YogiPlay and Common Sense Media. So all together, I've officially reviewed a few hundred apps in less than a year! That may not make in a dent in the grand scheme of the app world, but I think it's not too shabby for one person. With the knowledge that I've probably missed out on many great apps, here's what I've loved so far...

Best become part of the story experience:

Best overload of literacy-focused features

Most gorgeous and inspiring book about books:

Best apps for direct instruction of phonics:

Best taking it to the next level for comprehension

Best app for learning vocabulary in context:

Best math app with a focus on concept:

Best think about math in a different way:

Art and Music
Best virtual piano lesson:

Best adaptation of a song and turning it into so much more:

Best apps that inspire you rethink what an app can be:

Best inspriation be a good teacher by providing the support and feedback needed:

Best inspiration for kids to say, “When I grow up, I want to be a…”

Best inspiration for family fun:

Best inspiration for those know-it-alls:

Best inspiration to take any topic and make it educational:

Best Parent Center within an app:

Just For Fun:
The Cuteness Factor Award:
  • Toca Band (come on, Mr. Whizzle Whiz, Shaky McBones and gang have their own music video…)

Best kids app that adults probably secretly love:

Best upgrade of the “Where’s Waldo” game:

Best combo of things you probably love:
**Note these are all iTunes links, but some of these also have android versions.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Update and Hiatus

The good news: I have a new gig! I'll be joining Apple's Education Content Team for the next several months.

The not-so-good news: This means that I'll be taking a hiatus from reviewing.... but I hope to return with more knowledge that'll help inform my reviews.

A big apology to those who have written me about reviewing an app in the last several, several weeks - I did not mean to ignore you, but I did not want to promise a review that I may not get to. I look forward to all of your future apps.

Don't take me off your reading lists quite yet - stay tuned for the inaugural A Matter of App Awards!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Kindergarten Kids Math

Kindergarten Kids Math was created by Infinut and includes 6 different math activities for kindergarten students. This is my first review on this blog of an app that is in the Google Play market only. While android markets have certainly expanded greatly recently, it still lags behind the iTunes market when it comes to educational apps for young children at least in terms of quantity. Let's see how this android math app stacks up quality-wise. Price: $0.99 (there's a free version as well).

Device Requirements: Requires Android 2.1 and up.

Developmental Appropriateness: The six activities are Counting, Maze (where you follow a specific number to complete a maze), Sequence (fill in the missing number), Tens and Ones (use coins to make a specific amount), Add and Subtract. These activities are appropriate for kindergarteners, but what it's missing or where it could be improved is in the details. My biggest complaint is for Counting. See the picture to the right. Kids are asked to put a target number of balls in the container, going from 1-20 in order. A little boring, but ok, we're teaching quantity, one-to-one correspondence etc. But you can see in the picture that the balls line up in rows of 6. Yes, kids should be able to count by 6's, but it would make more sense, especially for beginning learners if it were by rows of 5's or 10's. These are more common quantities to count by especially as the numbers get bigger. Since it goes up to twenty, having rows of five would make it all even where you can have 4 rows of 5. It's just an easier number to group by (grouping being a good strategy!) Other little details that carry over to the other activities are that it doesn't count when you place each ball in the container nor when you tap on them to count them or once you've submitted the answer. These little details can go a long way to reinforce the material.  Rating: 3/5 (aim for around 5 years)

Balance: There are verbal instructions for each task. Maybe a quick demo would be better. For the Tens and Ones task, I actually did not really know what to do! It says, "Move 10 and 1 coins into the jars to make 5" Does that mean put 5 coins in the jars? When you press the "how to play" setting, it says, "Move 5 balls into the box using your finger." I think this needs some updating. Aside from that, it should really be saying, something with the words "cents" or "amount" to indicate that it wants you to add up some coins to make the target number. The instructions for Sequence sound a little weird to, but it's clear what to do. Rating: 3.5/5

Sustainability: For each task, it shows how much you've gotten through and there are hundreds of items, so it'll take awhile to complete everything. However, overall, I find these activities to be nothing more than drill. There's no goal or premise, the voice is not very engaging - so basically unless you're a kid who just naturally likes to do make activities, this won't be very motivating. Rating: 3/5

Parental Involvement: Nothing much here either. No settings to limit the range of numbers, reports - the only thing you can do is turn off the instructions. Rating: 3/5

Total: 12.5 out of 20 - 3 stars

Disclosure: I received this app for free for review purposes.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Math, age 3-5

Math, age 3-5 was created by EuroTalk and is exactly what it's title indicates - a math app for kids ages 3-5. It consists of 10 categories that increase in difficulty - as do the specific activities within each category. Price: The first one comes free and the rest are available as in-app purchases for $1.99 each, totaling $9.99 for the complete series.

Device Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.0 or later.

Developmental appropriateness: It says that this app was developed by teachers and educators and it shows. This definitely has a classroom feel. The activities here are like many items that you would find in a math assessment for preschoolers. What I like best is the "teacher" who speaks very clearly, repeated very key math phrases and reinforcing what kids have just completed. It might not seem like much, but her repetition and phrasing is really just right. So in terms of the appropriateness of the activities, this delivers and gives plenty of practice. Rating: 5/5 (aim for around 4 years).

Now I start to get a bit more critical. 

Balance: While the activities themselves are very simple and clear, the pacing might be a bit slow for some, especially for older kids doing some of the earlier rounds. Within each category, you are encouraged to go in order, and you must complete all of them in order to unlock the surprise. I would like to be able to know what each activity is so that I could pick and choose for my child, especially given how many there are. I think just in general, more settings would be great to cater to individual needs and also to keep kids engaged. Rating: 4/5

Sustainability: This app is as straightforward as it's title. There's no plot/story to keep you going. There's no collect the prize for finishing. Oh, the surprise I mention - it's a quiz. Not really what a kid wants, huh? In general, while I think the activities are ones that kids should master, the app has a feel of taking a test. Don't get me wrong, the teacher is encouraging, and it flashes a star for finishing an activity. But maybe the appeal of an app is to learn while not being a classroom. Oh, you get a certificate if you get all the quiz answers correct - but only it you get 100%. Where's the fun? Rating: 2/5

Parental Involvement: You would think that there would be some sort of review, but there isn't. Even with the quiz, it marks which questions you get wrong, but it does not tell you what the question was. Did you sort a color wrong or a shape? The quiz could be used in a more meaning way - to set the difficulty, to tell parents what kids need to work on, to be more game like and make it fun... just to name a few. Rating: 2.5/5

Total: 13.5 out of 20 = 3 stars

Disclosure - I received this app for free for review purposes.