Helping our children be 21st century learners is no easy task as a parent. I know for me, so much has changed since I was in school. My older son has a #STEAM themed curriculum at school where they try to infuse as much as they can into everyday learning. This can be anything from using manipulative to school to using Ozobots or Lego’s to allow them to code and create without realizing they are learning! I like this because I hope it will help my son to become more flexible and collaborative as he gets older since the key learning skills are currently being built at an early age. I also like to try to carry over these skills at home!
Beyond the classroom
In some classrooms before the advent of #STEAM students would watch a video or passively hear a lesson taught. As time has evolved, instead of just hearing the lesson the students are learning multiple ways to tackle the problem and solve it. This can lead to some challenges for kids at times, who may become overwhelmed with all of the ways to solve the problem without truly understanding the core concept or skill. Children with special needs also may struggle with the new concepts of #STEAM learning because being presented so many different ways to solve a problem can at the very least be overwhelming. One of the great things about STEAM learning is that the classes provide hands on engagement to solve real world problems – instead of just having to do a math page or read a chapter from a history book. One of the other great benefits is that children work together collaboratively to solve a problem or challenge rather than struggling to complete it on their own. This encourages team work, collaboration and reasoning which are all great skills to apply later in life.
Snapology is a company that wants to help children with STEAM and problem solving skills using their creative thinking and imagination. As part of their program offerings, they offer camps, field trips, birthday parties for kids three and over, scout adventures and more. Topics range from game design, building, coding, animation and more. Perhaps my son will learn how to code an iOS app to help me in the future!
Building and creating
As a parent, I am always thinking of ways that I can help to enrich my children outside of school. We regularly try to help our kids get hands on learning beyond the textbook or classroom. That means, I’m working on helping him learn more about STEAM via the use of our iPad, doing some simple programming and helping him experiment to solve problems We also pull out our Lego’s and create and build as well. We have even experimented a little bit with Scratch programming which is a visual programming language designed to give kids their first experience with coding. :Looking for more great tech enabled STEAM ideas? Check out our STEAM and STEM gift guide which has some great suggestions!
This giveaway is a partnership with Nakturnal. Thank you so much for supplying a Lego set for our readers!
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Ladybug Band by Rain Boot Media LLC is a 28-page rhyming musical storybook app that introduces children to different kinds of sounds and gets them involved in a musical performance with the Ladybug Band.
What we love…
Children are able to sing or play along with the band and have it recorded.
What we’d love to see…
Words highlighted in sync with the narration, repeat button for narration.
Ladybug Band is filled with colorful illustrations, different interesting sounds and fun interactive activities that will appeal to preschool children.
The 4-member Ladybug Band lives on the island of Kacha and they love to perform every night by the sea. There is Squiggle on the microphone, Bouncer on the strings, Dotley on the drums and Cheeks on the reeds (a wind instrument). Readers are introduced to the sounds of these 4 musical instruments – voice, strings, drums and winds as each member appears on stage.
Then the story invites the readers to be a part of the music with a variety of actions like shaking the iPad, drawing the campfire, clapping and dancing to the beat! More interesting sounds are heard and these include the sound of the waves breaking, the crackling sound of the campfire, the scratching sound of drawing in the sand and the whistling sound of the wind. This book app is quite a treat to the senses!
But the most enjoyable part for kids must be the chance to be a member of the Ladybug Band, singing or playing their musical instruments to the Coconut Jamboree tune and recording (audio only) their performance in the app.
Up to 6 recorded sessions can be saved. When the recording is full, you just need to delete a previous recording to free up space for a new recording. These recordings are easily accessible from the home page which means that kids can come back frequently for a quick jamming session with the Band.
There are 2 reading modes – children can either read along with the app or read it by themselves. For the read along mode, I hope that the app will add a word-by-word highlighting feature to facilitate words recognition for younger children. It would be awesome if this feature is also added to the Coconut Jamboree lyrics in the sing-along section.
The story is simple but children will be happily engaged by the many interactive activities that are found in all its pages. The app is also easy and safe for young children to play by themselves. This is a delightful musical book app that gets children singing, dancing and performing together with the Ladybug Band.
Ability to control the story, multiple stories in one, nostalgic feel to the app
What we’d love to see…
Text highlighting as it is read, page turn button, ability to change settings without returning to home page.
Max & Meredith: The Search for Percival is a fun “choose your own adventure” book with multiple story lines and endings. It encourages readers to think about different ways to solve problems and challenges stereotypes as the children discover that not everyone or everything is how they expect, and that first impressions can be deceiving.
Max & Meredith: The Search for Percival is the first interactive book app from indie developer Move On Pluto. It is a “choose your own adventure” book where the reader makes decisions throughout the book, which affect the characters actions and what happens next. Music, sound effects, narration and text can be switched on or off via settings. Parents can choose to have interactive hotspots unlocked throughout the app, just in final storyline scenes, or no distractions. There is no word highlighting as the story is read.
Max lives in the town of Everdale, where one morning he awakes to find his trusty dog Percival is missing. Max rushes next door to enlist the help of his friend Meredith to find Percival. The story follows Max and Meredith’s search for Percival, but the duo have different ideas on the best way to find him. Max is more logical and cautious, whilst Meredith has an active imagination and likes to follow her hunches. The reader gets involved in the story by deciding what the duo should do next when Max and Meredith disagree.
Depending on what decisions the reader makes the story goes in different directions. In total there are 8 different possible endings. When the reader reaches the end of the story they are shown a map illustrating how the different decisions create different story lines and endings, and are encouraged to read it again for a different story experience.
The story is an old-fashioned adventure- the dynamic duo aim to solve a mystery, and to do so they have to work together to decide what to do. Meredith believes that an ogre lives near by in Gloomy Gulch and thinks he is responsible for Percival’s disappearance, so the friends have to decide whether or not they will face up to their fears and search Gloomy Gulch. What happens in the story depends on the choices the reader makes, so it really is multiple stories in one. Making different choices introduces new characters and situations, and creates totally different endings, which gives it lots of replay value. All the different story lines work well together, and there are no “right” or “wrong” choices, just different choices. By reading the story multiple times and making different decisions, the reader can find out more about Everdale and the characters who live there.
The book app has a nostalgic feel about it, the illustrations and story lines feel like they would be at home in a “Little Golden Book.” Although the app has some interactive elements (about one per page) the main interactivity is in choosing the where the storyline will go. The multiple story lines add a fun element and increase the replay value of the app. Depending on which storyline is chosen Max and Meredith may have to face some potentially scary situations, but they find out that first impressions are not always correct, and that you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover.
There are a few technical changes I would like to see in future updates. I would like to see the addition of word highlighting as it is read. Page turning currently via swiping, I’d like to have an option to use a page turn button instead. Swiping does give the feel of turning the pages of a book, but I find that some children, especially those with special needs, can find this difficult. The settings can only be accessed from the home page and although you can return to this at any time, doing so loses your place in the story, so I’d like to see setting accessible from every page.
Max & Meredith: The Search for Percival is a fun “choose your own adventure” book with multiple story lines and endings. It encourages readers to think about different ways to solve problems and challenges stereotypes as the children discover that not everyone or everything is how they expect, and that first impressions can be deceiving. The developer recommends Max & Meredith for ages 2-7, I think that slightly older children will also enjoy it and my 9 year-old gave it a thumbs up.
bright colorful app that focuses on specific words and sight words to help emerging readers learn how to spell
What we’d love to see…
ability to sound out individual letter sounds – via a setting instead of phonemes or target sounds only for specific words
Fun app designed to help kids focus on word families and letter sounds to make words
Wonster Words by 77 Sparx is a universal app for iOS that helps you focus on letters and phonics via word families, spelling, digraphs, language sounds as well as phonemes. The app is also available on Amazon and Google Play. The spelling is presented using word families like “at” as well as specific themes like “racers”. As you work to put the word in, letters are highlighted and you can add them to the word out of sequence. As you touch the letter, it makes the letter sound while you place it. For some more complex letters that go together like “at” they go together as you put the word together. Once you finish the word, you get an animation that demonstrates the word you just spelled as well as definition and a graphic representation. Other times, instead of just spelling the word you get fun mini games like popping balloons before the letters come onto the page, or playing with the cat and giving her a bath. This app targets preschool and early elementary school aged children working on sight words as well as in the more complex levels harder words with word families.
I thought this was a good app that can help kids who are learning how to read – emerging readers put letters into a sequence for words. I also like that new content is being added to the app on a consistent basis which encourages kids to continue using the app even after they have learned the word families. My son enjoyed the animations after he completed each of the words and then after a specific number of words he earned a present which encouraged him to keep playing. My son enjoyed playing with the holiday pack especially near the holidays. My son also liked Ari’s space adventure which is a new multi-part space adventure as well when he was testing out the app with me. My son is a second grader and we found words on grade level for him especially as we looked at the more complicated ones. Also to note, I had a few times when I thought the sound wasn’t working, but the toggle switch on my iPad was mistakenly flipped – it wasn’t an error with the app, it was simply my device in silent mode.
In terms of enhancements, it would be nice if parents could switch to individual letter sounds instead of phonemes or language sounds within a specific word. Ability to require letters in a specific sequence rather than just letting you add them at any point. It would also be nice for more complex words, if you spell it that the app would pause and sound it out by syllables.
The app can be purchased either in the “full version – pro” or you can try it with a free version that has in-app purchases to make sure you like it. This is a great addition to your device to help your kids work on letters and words in a fun yet entertaining way. For the free iTunes version, you can upgrade to Pro for $14.99 and purchase individual letter sounds for a price ranging from $0.99 to $7.99. During the Google promotional period of 12/28-1/6, the All Access pass for Wonster will be discounted to $9.99 on Google Play. The regular price was $14.99. Please note: the discount is only on Google Play, not iOS or Amazon.
NOTE: A fee was received to expedite this review to the top of our waiting list but this payment has not influenced the objectivity of the review and all opinions have been offered honestly.
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