All posts by engagetheirminds

Give the Gift of Awesome Apps

Pictorial App (Free)
Pictorial App (Free)

My holiday series of “Gifts for the Gifted” concludes today with a post on apps that you might want to pre-load on that new iDevice you’re about to set under the tree.  This is, by no means, an exhaustive list.  New apps are released weekly, of course, and there are quite a few older apps that I may not have had the pleasure to try, yet.  I will give you some resources for finding apps that might fit your specific needs at the end of this post.

These apps are great for elementary age children, and do not require much reading.  If I have previously reviewed the app on my blog, I have included a link so that you can learn more about it.

We will start with the free ones:

And now for the not so free apps that I highly recommend are worth the current price:

If you are looking for ideas for more apps, here are some of my favorite resources:

You can also check out my Pinterest boards.

And, finally, if you bought a new iPad for your child, you might want to read these reviews of child-friendly iPad cases.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

from PNC Christmas Price Index
from PNC Christmas Price Index

UPDATE 12/12/16: The PNC Interactive Gift Hunt mentioned below no longer seems to be working properly (it was from 2012, after all).  However, you can find the 2016 version here, which gives current prices for all of the gifts in the song.

First of all, I would like it on the record that I despise “The Twelve Days of Christmas” song.  Repetition makes me snore.  I do like the Straight No Chaser version, though…

Anyway, I am sorry to post this so late, but I just devised this lesson yesterday.  Maybe you can file it away to use next year.

My 4th grade gifted students are studying mathematical masterpieces.  We had looked at the Fibonacci series earlier this year, and a couple of days ago, I stumbled across an interesting lesson that ties Pascal’s Triangle in with “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.  We spent half our day: creating the triangle, finding patterns in the triangle, finding Fibonacci in the triangle, trying to make sense of a Vi Hart video about the triangle, and using the triangle to figure out how many gifts were actually bought each day.

Then, I lucked upon this awesome website that has a fabulous interactive which tells the current going rate of each gift in the song.  You know a site is good when the kids are begging you for the URL and writing it down so they can access it as soon as they get home.  It’s really fun to use if you have an Interactive White Board.  Although this does not tie in directly with Pascal’s Triangle, you can use this nifty recording sheet to figure out the actual total cost of all of the gifts for the year 2012.  I had my students estimate the cost of each gift before we looked at the web site.  They were pretty close to the totals for buying each gift once – but had a hard time conceiving the cost of buying the gifts multiple times (like 12 partridges in pear trees).

You may not have a chance in the next couple of days to use every resource that I’ve linked here, but I highly recommend you visit PNC’s Christmas Price Index Gift Hunt.  You may be surprised at the cost of 8 maids milking!

Using the Aurasma App in the Classroom


Last week, I posted a couple of articles on how to use the free Aurasma app (Using the Aurasma App and Using the Aurasma App, Continued).  I also recently posted some Holiday Cards that I created with the app (and the help of a few other free apps).  I promised to gives some ideas about how Aurasma can be used in the classroom, but we are still not there quite yet…

First of all, let’s talk about sharing.  You can use the Aurasma app to create an “aura”, and the newest version of Aurasma actually allows you to make your aura public.  This means that you don’t have to use the actual device you created the aura with to see the aura when you scan a trigger image.  (If this all sounds uber-technical, you might want to scan my first article, Using the Aurasma App.)  There are three basic ways to share your auras:

  • You can share by e-mailing the link to someone.  As long as they also have Aurasma and the trigger image, they will be able to view your aura.  You could also create a QR code with the link, and post it.  But that seems a bit redundant to me, seeing as the whole reason I want to use Aurasma is because I think it’s more aesthetically pleasing than QR codes.
  • You can also share by making your aura public when you save it, and then making sure the other devices are logged in to the same Aurasma account.  This is a recent upgrade to the Aurasma app, which makes things much easier if you are using multiple devices in your own classroom, and you just want the students on those devices to see the aura.
  • Another way that you can share is to create an Aurasma channel.  This is the way I chose to share the Holiday Cards referenced above.  With this method, anyone who is subscribed to your channel can view the auras you create.  This would be ideal for a school-wide setting.  You could have parents subscribe to the channel, so they can scan auras anywhere in the school with their own devices (as long as they have the Aurasma app).  FYI, even though my instructions are iOS-leaning, Aurasma is also available as an Android app.

Things may have changed with Aurasma’s recent upgrade, but the following instructions for obtaining a channel are from Aurasma’s Forum:

“I recommend that you use the Aurasma Developer Studio, which will enable you to put all Auras into a single channel. If you don’t have a login for the Developer Studio, please fill out and submit this form :

Please don’t be put off by “advertiser” – we have many users who work in education. Note that use of Developer Studio is 100% free, because our goal is to get as many people as possible using the Aurasma platform.

Once you have a channel with all your Auras in, you can share this with everyone you want to be able to see this. You can get a sharing link for your channel that you can post via email, on a web page etc. When opened on a device running Aurasma, this link will subscribe Aurasma to that channel, and all the Auras in that channel will be downloaded to, and start working on that device. Note that any Auras you subsequently add to that channel will also be received.”

Aurasma Developer Studio is web-based, so you would use your desktop computer to create auras if you go this route.  However, it looks like the recent upgrade allows you to add things to your channel through the app, so you may not need to use the Studio once you have gotten a channel assigned to you.

So, to recap, the easiest way for you to share your auras would be to go to the above Aurasma Partners link and request a channel.  Once you have the channel assigned, make sure you save the auras you create on your device to that channel.  Then, tell anyone who wants to see them to subscribe to your channel.  It sounds complicated, but once you do it once, it becomes quite easy to share the auras.

How We Learn

Recently, Larry Ferlazzo published a couple of round-up posts that listed “The Best Videos for Educators in 2012 – So Far“.  I recommend you take a look at them.  (Here is a link to the second one.)  I pinned a few of them to my board of “Inspirational Videos for Students“, but this one probably would not be classified as inspirational.  However, it is a great metaphor for the way we learn, and why it is so important for us to stretch our thinking in new directions as often as possible.  If you are unable to view the embedded video below, you can also find it at

To a Bright Kid with Trouble(s)

photo credit: A.Ddiction via photopin cc

In view of recent disturbing events, of which the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, is the latest in a series, I thought this post from Tamara Fisher at Education Week Teacher would be particularly apropos for today.  Although it is addressed to a “Bright Kid with Trouble(s)“, I think that all of us who work with children could benefit from the resources and advice in Tamara’s article.  And, her words may remind you of a gifted kid whose life you touch, who may need help and not know how to ask for it.

Little Thinkers

Leonardo da Vinci "Little Thinker" doll from Unemployed Philosophers Guild
Leonardo da Vinci “Little Thinker” doll from Unemployed Philosophers Guild

My series of  holiday (or any time) “Gifts for the Gifted” continues today with a set of adorable dolls and puppets from the Unemployed Philosophers Guild.  The Little Thinkers dolls include a wide array of influential personalities from different cultures and fields of study.  There are scientists, philosophers, artists, musicians, revolutionaries, and even radio hosts (N.P.R.’s Carl Kasell).  Inspire your own little thinker with a cuddly Galileo or Frida Kahlo.  And if your child has an active imagination, you might want to look at the very reasonably priced puppets – which include some of the same notable personages, but also offer a few different ones, such as Rosa Parks and Nelson Mandela.  I would bundle one of these with a children’s book; you can find several of the famous names in Chicago Review Press’ “For Kids” series, some of which are listed on this Amazon list.

I know a lot of parents are considering bestowing iPod Touches or iPads to their children for Christmas, so next Friday, I will be giving a list of apps that you might want to load on your child’s iDevice before you put it under the tree.

Here are links to my previous “Gifts for the Gifted” posts:


Camelot Jr.

Little Bits Holiday Kit


Q-Bitz Extreme

2013 Guinness Book of World Records

Also, you might want to take a look at my Pinterest board, which has even more ideas.