Ultimately It’s About Creativity

As tablets are finding their way into more and more classrooms/programs the discussions are flying about what is appropriate practice, especially for really young learners. In addition to the whole “screen time” discussion we now have discussion around purpose and best practice.

My belief is all technology should be seen as another tool in a teacher’s bag.

  • There are times for playing games/apps.
  • There are times for individual practice and group cooperation.
  • There is purpose to learning how the technology works.

Since I believe one of my most important jobs in teaching is to support the development of a child’s imagination and the skill set to solve problems, I can also feel that a big goal with the use of technology is about:

  • Using it to create.

I love how this creative infographic  published by Jennifer Dornseif points out the creative side of devices and apps and the responsibility of a teacher to use them for that purpose.

This clip from the end says it all for me:


Limiting Screen Time?

I have long been an advocate that there is a difference between sitting in front of a screen and being involved with what is on the screen. I was not one that bought into the idea of limited screen time, but rather quality screen time. I would rather have a child watch a few hours of quality programing than meet a minimum screen time limit and have that all junk programing. In my mind there was a difference between a PBS show like Super Why and Nick’s SpongeBob Squarepants, but even more with programing like WWF, reality TV shows, home shopping network, or even news programs.

This article brings some interesting thought to this discussion that has been seeing some change in the last few years - http://digitalmediadiet.com/?p=2650

To best serve our children, especially with all the changes to technology it is important for all of us as their teachers to be aware of the issues and current research on impacts and practices.

Apps in Use for November

As we see changes in skill set and interests I will continue to change out the apps in use. The 2 classroom iPads are set up in the same manner with the same apps. This has proven to make it easier to use them as a group and for the youngest users to be able to use either iPad.

This is what November’s apps screen looks like:


  • Spot the Dot
  • PBS Kids
  • Flow Free
  • Color Zen
  • LetterSchool
  • Wet Dry Try
  • Word Magic
  • Leo’s Pad
  • Leo’s Birthday
  • Roxie’s a-MAZE-ing
  • Trains (Lego)
  • Go Go Games
  • CookieDoodle
  • Doodlecast
  • Bugs & Butons

The folders of apps for Books, Math and Infant hold apps that I can pull for special use with lessons. They can also be accessed by the children, but usually are not.

Having all the apps I have purchased/ downloaded on my laptop makes it is easy to replace apps as appropriate (saving space on the iPads). All I do is delete from the iPad directly and then connect to the laptop and drag to add.

I maintain variety across ages and subject material while keeping everything to 1 page.

Review of a few favorite apps in use now:

leo's padLeo’s Pad (Free)

• A free series of interactive animated stories for preschoolers
• Designed by Stanford University researchers and Emmy award-winning animators
• Early-learning curriculum based on latest research

Additional appisodes have a cost of $2.99 each.

This app is enjoyed here by ages 2 through 5. It is one that used almost daily with activities being used over and over. The graphics are appropriate for this age point. The audio holds attention without interfering. There is a good mixture of activity and learning.

A really good review can be found at Picky Kid App Guide. Found it to reflect our experiences.

color zenColor Zen (Free)

There is now a children’s version for $2.99, but we love this version and all ages are using it.

This group enjoys puzzles whether traditional hands-on puzzles, puzzles pages or iPad apps. What has been really nice about this app is how it truly has a quieting affect. It isn’t about speeding through. The children just naturally seem to have slowed down while processing the solutions. Thinking both the audio and graphics supports this. When they miss they are more open to trying again, and again and again, until solved. I have also found them to be going back to repeat puzzles. It has not all been about progressing through the levels.

Good review of Color Zen here at 148Apps.

trainsLego Duplo Train (Free)

As the description on iTunes says: “Driving the colourful LEGO® DUPLO® Train from station to station is a toddler’s dream. Your child will play the role of the train driver – choosing and loading wagons, building bridges, stopping at crossings, refueling and laying new tracks around pesky rocks.”

This app has been a total hit with my toddler and preschoolers. The toddler needs a little support, but each time uses is able to do more themselves. I have found it interesting to see which activities within the app different children are drawn to. I like apps that allow variety in the experience.

Lego Duplo have been providing a large number of apps for free. This is our first one and chosen because of the interest in trains and cars.

Solid review at top best apps for kids.


Reviewing Barnyard Match

Barnyard Match by Encode ($0.99)2013-09-23_1532

This app is recommended for ages 4+, but my 3 year olds have also enjoyed it. We are a group with lots of interest in puzzles.
Each Round, flash cards are briefly displayed face up. It is up to the children to memorize them!
Memory activity apps that incorporate child friendly graphics, colors and sounds develop memory skills through a broad sensory experience. It is known that many (majority) leaners are considered visual learners, but all learners are supported when multiple senses are involved.  Flash cards which are usually bright and colorful make a real impact, especially with young learners. 
Working on memory skills should be a large part of the educational program for the young child. Memory games can help a child learn techniques for organizing and storing information, which we know supports higher learning. Memory is important in building relational awareness, establishing patterns, and facilitating problem solving. Without strong memory skills children will have a tougher time academically.

For most adults they will recognize a Memory Activity as being a game where a selection of flash cards are placed face down in rows (or a pattern) on the floor. Then you turn 2 over at a time trying to match them, remembering what previous turnovers showed.

Another way is to have a small group of cards on the floor face up with time to observe (memorize). Then they are all turned over. Matches are made by turning over 2 at a time.

This second version is basically how this app is built. The barnyard-themed cards are all displayed for a set time then flipped over. The child then taps 2 cards, DSC03534 if a match is made points are earned and 1 earned “strike” is removed.DSC03535 Several matches in a row earn “bonus points”. If not a match they turn red and flip back over. DSC03536 No match earns a “Strike”. 5 Strikes ends a game.

As you succeed the game progresses in difficulty.

A Level Select screen will be unlocked on rounds 7, 14 and 21.

There are some levels that the pictures will rotate for more difficulty. It’s all about the need to focus, memorize.


This app was chosen because of my understanding of the importance for having a variety of options to work on memory skills available for the children to use. It fit nicely with a general area of interest that I often develop units around – The Farm. We have many puzzle activities so I knew I could use this app even with my 2 and 3 year olds.
There are a good number of memory apps and other apps that are farm theme based, but I liked the tone of these graphics and the version of the match game used. I knew would compliment the other activities we would be using.
It has proven to provide good practice. The children are engaged with the friendly graphics when using. It can be used individually or with a group where they are supporting one another with the goal of getting as few “strikes” as possible.DSC03531
It is an app that is freely chosen for usage, so my rating rate would be higher than the 3.5 that I have seen in reviews.

Educreations: a Screencasting App

I started off our iPad usage focusing on ebooks and interactive educational games. I knew the kids would enjoy using the iPads in this way as part of their practice times. As I explored the large variety of apps available I started to follow some technology teacher blogs. This opened up a view into the world of creating/production with the iPad. The iPad is portable, powerful, and users have the option to create, save, and share all in one compact device. As I intergret the iPad into our program on a larger scale, my focus will be on the production of creative projects that support both the learning and assessment of what has been learned.



The first production app that we have been using with any regularity is Educreationseducreatgions.

The Educreations app is a fairly simple app that turns the iPad into a recordable, interactive and mobile whiteboard. The possibilities for use in my program are only limited by my creativity and knowledge base.

What does Educreations provide me?

  1. Free account (“Teacher” for creating or “student” for just viewing)
  2. Record my voice while drawing
  3. Pause and resume recording
  4. Erase
  5. Different ink colors
  6. Create multiple pages
  7. Add photos from the iPad camera, Photo Albums or Dropbox
  8. Resize images
  9. Drag images around to animate them while recording
  10. Choose who can view lessons
  11. Share lessons via email, Facebook and Twitter or embed on the blog
  12. Ability to view lessons uploaded by others

Although Educreations lacks a “help” section there are many educators using and sharing tips and techniques online.

The simpleness of this app makes it an easier one for using with my preschoolers. They do not need lots of pen colors and thicknesses for the work they will be doing here. We have our drawing apps for drawing.

We will be exploring:

 explain everything app Explain Everything 

Have read that Explain Everything is a more robust version of Educreations in regards to editing. It also leaves you with full ownership of whatever you create, so you can download and will not lose material if the site closings up overnight. There are also “help” guides readily available. Cost of about $3 is fair if as robust as reviewed to be.


screen Screen Chomp

On first look seems really simple. Writing over photos and recording. This might be just what I need for my youngest learners. It’s Free.


Voice Thread follow-up

We had the trial for Voice Thread for a month. We found it offered some very interesting possibilities for creative production on the iPad for the school-age, but at $15 a month it does not fit the budget. We have a large number of other apps to explore that we are quite sure will allow for similar creative productions at basically a free cost point.

VT app has been removed from the iPad for the time being.


TypeDrawing and Voice Thread Lead to Lots of Creating

A snowstorm means less kids here and a chance to explore resources that have been bookmarked. Started off checking out TypeDrawing. There is a cost of $2.99, but with the initial interest the kids are showing and what I can image expanding it’s use to for lessons it was a quick buy for me.

I tried a quick drawing then passed the iPads over and immediately the kids started creating.

Then I expanded by importing the creations into Voice Thread. We’re doing a one month $15 trial there to see if there is value for the cost. There is a free option, but you have a limited number of threads available. We used them up just this morning.

I have wanted to find ways to produce creative products, not just game play or skill practice, with our iPad usage. This is a good start.

Now they can take their creations to another place with voiceovers. Could not get the VT to work embedded here, but they are up on the FaceBook page.

Cannot wait to see where the creativity leads us.

IPad Changes Screen Time

Screen time has been undergoing some definitional changes with the addition of technology, especially tablets.

As we are using the iPads within the program more steadily, I needed to re-evaluate our total screen time. As part of this I decided to ask the children on their preference. I posed 2 questions: 1) more time with TV or iPad  and 2) when they wanted to have access to educational TV programs each day.

Currently they have been able to watch educational programs upon morning arrival and at rest-time transitioning. For families that did not want TV exposure those children remained in the playroom. (That practice will remain unchanged.) After talking about options, the children decided their favorite programs were available at rest-time, so that would be when TV was offered. TV will be watched from our rest mats as a quiet transitioning activity. No more morning viewing.

This change allows for our screen time to used through lessons and enrichment time on the iPads. usage

Working on New Set-Up

As we have used our iPads across the age groups I found that the children were doing 2 things that I did not want to see happening:

  • spending time searching for an app that was appropriate to use
  • jumping from app to app

I took care of the jumping between apps by activating Guided Access. Now I had to look at the folder set-up, the number of apps on the iPad and how I really wanted to use these tools and have the children use them.

First, I set up a password lock, so the children could not access the iPad without my knowledge. If my 2 yr. old sees the iPad down she immediately picks it up and starts touching the screen. Now she brings it to me and is often not pleased when I tell her it’s not iPad time.

Next, I removed a lot of the apps from the iPad. They are in my iTunes but not synced to the iPads. This freed up space, limited the number of pages the children need to navigate to find their apps, but allows me to bring the apps back if desired.

I now have both iPads set up exactly the same way, so they are interchangeable in use and can provide for group work by using apps simultaneously. I have a page of:

  • folders containing my productivity apps
  • folders of apps by category
  • individual app icons (includes the infant folder)
  • internet browsers

Now the kids know to go to the icon page. Here they will find the assigned app for a special project, review practice or interest. During free usage time they also go here for free choice. This set-up makes it easy for them to find the app as they know the icon images. It also allows me to move apps into this page or out back to folders just by dragging. I can still open a app from any of the folders for special use and activate Guided Access to keep them there.

The apps on our icon page will change. Check out the “Icon Using Now” widget in the sidebar to see what we are using at any given time.