Tag Archives: iPad

The Scream

We all have things that scare us, of course.  In the book that my 5th grade gifted students are reading, The Giver, the main character is “apprehensive” about an upcoming event.  To help the students connect to the text, I asked them to list some of the things that worry or scare them.  Using our green screen and the Green Screen app by DoInk, I had the students superimpose themselves on the image of Edvard Munch’s, The Scream.  The students then used the WordFoto app to add their specific fears to the picture.  Here is one result. (You can click on it to see a larger view.)


When I looked closely at this student’s final product, I noticed the word, “division.”  I was a little upset because I had told the students not to put silly things just to get a laugh.  In my mind, division and multiplication would fall into that category, especially since this particular student has never had any problems achieving well in math.

“Why did you put this word when I told you not to put something silly?” I asked him as I pointed at his picture.

He looked at me solemnly.  “I meant the division of people.  You know, how war and other things divide us.”


It’s good I asked…


Osmo Coding

It seems like just yesterday when our class was asked to beta test a new product from a company called Tangible Play.  It was a tangram game that integrated physical pieces with an app on your iPad using a special base and mirror.  Our students even got to teleconference with the developers to give feedback on their experience.

Since then, the un-named set we tested has become Osmo, and there have been many evolutions of the tangram game as well as new additions to the suite of games available.  It has been gratifying to see a company that is so interested in education to grow and continue to contribute to educational technology in such a positive way.

The latest Osmo set is, “Coding.”  My students have been trying it out this summer during our robot camp, and I have been watching their play with interest.  The set includes magnetics blocks that look similar to the coding blocks you might see in Scratch or Blockly.  You can move them around and snap them together.  My students particularly like the “play” block with an arrow button to press whenever they are ready to start the program.

On the iPad screen, players have a friendly looking creature named Awbie, who they can direct to move toward different objects in the app while using the physical blocks on the table.

One thing I love about all of the Osmo apps is that they include practically no instructions.  There are some on-screen gestures showing where to move blocks at the beginning, but that’s about it.  The students figure out on their own where Awbie needs to go, and quickly deduce which blocks to use as the game slowly becomes more challenging.

Students from 6-11 have enjoyed the Coding game from Osmo and there is often a crowd gathered around it as the students encourage players to try certain blocks.  It has been a great warm-up activity as kids arrive for our camp each day.

Like all Tangible Play apps for Osmo, Coding is free.  However, you do need to purchase the physical pieces and the set that includes the base and mirror piece if you don’t already have it.  Coding is another great resource to introduce programming to young students.

Osmo Coding
Osmo Coding


Box Island App

If you’re looking for a new mobile app to try for Hour of Code, Box Island might be the one for you. The full version is not available yet, but there is an Hour of Code version that you can get for free in the iTunes or Google Play app store.  There are 20 levels in this free version, and the difficulty increases slightly with each one.  I must admit that even with my somewhat varied experience with coding apps there were a couple of levels that I had try a few times before reaching the goal.

The app is designed for ages 6+.  Your basic mission is to program  Hiro (an animated blue box) to collect a stopwatch through paths and obstacles that get harder as the player learns more skills. Although there is a bit of reading involved, I think that pre-readers would still be able to enjoy this game with little guidance, as the arrows are pretty self-explanatory.

Box Island’s Hour of Code page offers solutions, lesson plans, and a detailed curriculum that explains the computer science involved in playing the game.There are 3 sections in the game: Sequences (levels 1-6), Loops (levels 7-13) and Conditionals (levels 14-20).  You can also print out a certificate of completion for the students once they finish all of the levels.

Box Island isn’t ground-breaking as programming apps go, but it’s a good app for introducing the skills that are needed in many programming languages.


Quiver Education – Planet Earth

The Quiver 3D coloring app was formerly known as ColAR.  It’s available on both Google Play and the iTunes app store as a free app. However, there are some in-app purchases on the free app.  Another option is to purchase the Education version of the app, which includes all of the content.

I published a post about this augmented reality app at the end of last school year, lamenting the fact that I had discovered the free Planet Earth page too late for my 1st graders to experience it.  This year, I knew I wanted to include this page as they learned about the continents, so I made sure to add it to my lesson plans before I forgot.

Yesterday, the students were introduced to the continents with a cute SmartBoard lesson involving a traveling guinea pig.  We also used my handy floor map (best $22 ever spent!) and the huge wall map I made (longest hours of my life) to see the continents in many different ways.

Then I asked the students to label and color Quiver’s Planet Earth page.  With a little instruction on how to use the app, I set them free to explore.

As I predicted, they were completely amazed to see their own writing and drawing come to life in 3D.  The other features (seeing the world at night or during the day, etc…) also fascinated them.

The one challenge of the app is getting the iPad the exact height above the paper to correctly “read” the page.  This meant the page could not be on the table, but needed to be on a chair or the floor for my vertically challenged 1st graders.  They adjusted to this quickly, but it also became a new activity when one of the students (accidentally?) waved her foot over the page.

“Look!  It’s showing my foot!!!!!!”  This, of course, led to a mass migration over to the iPad that suddenly had a shoe-shaped continent.

“What else can we try?”

“Let’s try a pencil!”  I found this suggestion intriguing as it actually appeared that the pencil was pointing at a particular continent. This seemed like it might have educational uses.  Granted, 3D-ness would not be necessary for that image, but it does make it more fun.

The pencil suddenly became less exciting when I found a Lego zombie that had been left behind in my classroom. This, of course, inspired more enthusiastic experimentation.  Because. You know. ZOMBIES. That makes geography so much more fun.

As usual, this lesson did not go the way I expected.  But, if it makes it easier to remember that South America and Africa are two rather large continents separated by an ocean zombie, then I’m not too worried as to whether or not learning took place.

Plus, they rocked the assessment at the end of the lesson.

Want more ideas for augmented reality in the classroom?  Check out this page of resources.

Quiver App - Planet Earth



This week’s Phun Phriday post is about an iPad app called Hyper. Billed as a video magazine, this free app delivers a new set of hand-picked videos to you every day.  According to the app’s description, film-makers choose the posts for each issue.

This is not an app I would recommend downloading on student iPads (particularly in elementary school).  However, you may discover videos that you will want to share with your students.  For example, my 5th graders are reading The Giver, and the October 28th issue offers a video from Neil deGrasse Tyson called, “Say No to a Dystopian Tomorrow.

You may also find some inspiration in your Hyper video magazine. The 10/29/15 issue featured a story called, “Special Ed Real World Lessons,” that brought happy tears to my eyes.

And then there are the ones that are just plain amusing, like Emeril Lagasse’s explanation of the origin of his trademark “BAM!” in the October 27th edition.

The videos are culled from many places such as National Geographic and Soul Pancake.  Yes, you could find them yourself.  But it sure is nice to have them delivered to you each day🙂

Screen Shot from Hyper
Screen Shot from Hyper


CodeArt is an iOS app by Pentaquistic Solutions.  (According to their website, they are working on an Android version.)  For free, you can try to solve 16 puzzles.  An extra 99 cents will get you the premium version with 40 challenges.

According to Pentaquistic’s site, CodeArt was designed for children aged 8-10.  I agree with that – though I am an adult who enjoyed playing the game.  The game could probably be used with younger students fairly easily as long as they are provided guidance.

CodeArt teaches the logic of programming by giving you a design that you must try to replicate with the “code” you are allotted. In the example below (the first puzzle), the target design is on the left.  In the orange box, the user must place the commands to make the oval create the same design on the right.

screen shot from CodeArt app
screen shot from CodeArt app

Of course, the designs get increasingly difficult as you proceed through the game, but I feel like CodeArt scaffolds extremely well.

You might want to add CodeArt to your “Intro to Coding” toolbox for students.  If you would like to see more suggestions, check out my “Programming for Kids” Pinterest Board.

New Hopscotch Curriculum

Hopscotch has been a favorite programming app of my students ever since they tried it for the Hour of Code a couple of years ago. One of my 5th graders chose to use Hopscotch to create his entire Genius Hour presentation last year.

Hopscotch is now offering a new curriculum for educators and I had a chance to sneak preview it before yesterday’s release.  I am very impressed by the format of the lessons, which were created using the Understanding by Design framework.

There are 6 lessons, about 45 minutes each, targeted for 5th-8th grades. However,  there is a lot of flexibility that allows for modifications for younger and older students.  The lessons include ideas for differentiation and detailed suggestions to include many levels.

Math, Engineering, and Computer Science Standards are included in the lessons.  Videos links are offered for all 6 activities to either use with your class or for the teacher to watch to gain better understanding.  Hopscotch not only differentiates for the students, but also for the teachers by making the instructions very clear for even those who have never used the app before.

I am excited that Hopscotch is offering such an amazing free resource for educators.  This app encourages creativity and problem-solving while teaching logic and many math skills.  Don’t worry if you have never programmed before.  With Hopscotch, you and your students can learn together.

Hopscotch Curriculum