Morfo is an app that was probably designed purely for entertainment, but some creative teachers have found a way to make it educational. Because it can be both, I decided to use it for this week’s Fun Friday post.
Morfo is a free app on iTunes that allows you to basically animate a still picture of a face. After you give the app some direction, the eyes on the face will move around, and you can add a recording that will play as the mouth moves. You can even change facial expressions.
I was trying to make an example for you, but gave up after I goofed up five recordings. Fortunately for me, the internet was right at my fingertips. I found this delightful video that not only explains how to use the Morfo app but, by applying it to a picture of Henry the VIII, gives it the educational tweak that I was trying to achieve. In addition, the narrator has a lovely accent that sounds much better than any recording I could ever make! Here is the link in case the video does not play: http://youtu.be/N4geZwqZ-Lg
First of all, I have a confession to make; I know very little about programming. What I do know is that it is wonderful for teaching problem solving skills and logic. I also know that those skills, and programming specifically, are in high demand in our nation’s job market.
So it makes sense that we should find ways to introduce our children to programming early. While they learn, so can we. Hopscotch and Tynker both aim to do that.
Hopscotch is an iPod app that is free, and allows the player to create simple programs using methods similar to MIT’s Scratch (also free). I have mentioned two other apps – Daisy the Dinosaur and Cargobot – before on this blog, and I think Hopscotch fits perfectly between them. Daisy is a fabulous introduction to young children. Hopscotch would be the next logical stage. And Cargobot has more complex challenges. All of these apps are free.
Tynker is a web-based platform, and also looks similar to Scratch. I have not tried it yet, but read about it here. I just got my registration approved, and I am eager to try it. I used Codeacademy earlier this year with my students, but I am looking for something a bit more kid-friendly, and Tynker looks promising.
It’s another Fun Friday, and I think you are really going to like today’s resource.
I first found out about SpaceTeam by reading iGamemom. She has a great review of the app (which is free) here.
Before I launch into how we used it in class, I will warn you that this app has a 9+ age rating. So far, my daughter and I have played it numerous times, as have my students. We have not seen anything objectionable about this app. If you do try it, and you see a reason for that rating, please let me know.
SpaceTeam must be played using 2-4 iDevices in the same room. You can use iPod Touches or iPads. Once a player opens the app, it will automatically connect with up to 3 other devices. You must “beam” yourselves up to a spaceship. On your screen will appear a dashboard. This dashboard looks different for every player, and has different components, as well. Instructions will appear on your screen above the dashboard, telling you to do things like, “turn off the novacrit,” or other commands. If you don’t have that component on your screen, you must direct the other member(s) to do this. If everyone is successful in conveying and following instructions, then your team goes on to the next level.
This game is particularly fascinating to observe. The kids start talking gibberish, basically, and only the partner with that component can interpret it. Although, sometimes, the directions are silly, like, “Change the litterbox!” Listening to that being called out in desperation can be quite amusing. Also, they encounter asteroids sometimes, and have to shake their devices to avoid them.
Believe it or not, even though this makes a fun party game, it is also educational. I had my 4th grade group evaluate their experiences after playing, and extend their comments about the game to the more general difficulties people often have with communicating: too many people talking at once, not hearing what you expect to hear (if someone pronounced the words in a different way), how yelling at people does not ensure that you will be understood, etc…
One caution I would give you if you have multiple teams playing at the same time is to start off with groups of four, one at a time. Since four is the max, then you will not have to worry about teams mixing with each other. My 5th graders tried playing in pairs with our old iPods, and their teams kept switching. Once we tried the groups of 4, though, it went great. However, it was quite loud!
I should probably preface this post by admitting that I have absolutely no artistic talent whatsoever. If I did, my creations on Sketch Nation Studio would be much more entertaining – and I might have included some screenshots on this post. As it is, though, I am pretty certain you will be much more impressed by the actual iTunes photos.
Sketch Nation Studio is a free app for iDevices that allows the user to create a simple app out of his or her own sketches. You do not have to know any programming mumbo jumbo or submit your game for approval. You follow the extremely user-friendly steps and, voila!
Your drawings can be created in the app itself, or you can draw them on paper and upload them to the app. This is where I think the creativity (and superior artistic talent) of my students will shine. You can find ways, I’m sure, of integrating curriculum with this app. But the true value is in the joy of creating and seeing a usable finished product.
Did a child in your family get an iDevice for Christmas? Or, are you a teacher who is desperately trying to find appropriate educational apps for the classroom? It’s difficult to weed through all of the apps listed as “Educational” in the official iTunes App Store, but there are a few other resources you can use. Here are my top three Favorite Sites for Educational App Reviews:
#3: Mindleap – this site, though relatively new, allows you to choose a category or specific grade level to search.
#2: Famigo – specifically designed for the user to find family-oriented apps, and allows you to search in a variety of ways (free or paid, age level, highest rated, most popular, etc…)
#1: Appitic – this site, produced by Apple Distinguished Educators, allows you to browse for apps by: Preschool, Themes, Multiple Intelligences, Bloom’s Taxonomy, and Tools. I love that it offers apps based on MI and Bloom’s, encouraging higher order thinking skills.
For my original posts on each of these sites, and some other suggestions not listed here, you can click here and here.