Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Mother of All App Recommendation Lists

For a really long time, people have been asking me for a list of my educational app recommendations. At long last, here it is. I'd love to write a blurb about each one, but that would take so long that it probably wouldn't happen. Maybe I will come back and do that bit by bit, but please feel free to ask questions in the meantime about specific ones. I'm happy to help.

In the end, it only took me a few hours.

Oh, and I asked my kids (other than the baby) their top five favorite "app folder apps" (those are the ones they do during school time). Their initials are by what they chose (yes, I fudged and let JW pick 6).

Initial Key:
MS: age 14, finishing 8th Grade
JW: almost 12, finishing 6th Grade
MA: age 10, finishing 4th Grade
Z: age 7, finishing 1st Grade
JA: almost 4, going into Pre-K

(I) requires internet (WiFi)
*JA* Farm Flip

iTooch  (either as in-app purchases or individual subjects)

Middle School/High School
*JW* DK Quiz
iTooch (either as in-app purchases or individual subjects)
Middle School Algebra (also available for 7th grade math)
Middle School Science (also available for 7th grade)
Wider Image (parental guid.) (I)

Thinking Skills
Where's My Water (and its variations)
*MS* TinkerBox

Ventura Educational Systems (link is to one app; click the developer to see more)
Splash Math (link is to 1st Grade, but there are 2nd & 3rd also)

Language Arts/Reading
Reading Comprehension (link to K-1, but there are several other levels)
Grammar Wonderland (link is to the lower of two levels)
Kids Reading Comprehension (link is to 1st Grade; there is also 2nd)
*JA* Starfall
Star Walk (I)

*MA* Art Set
Instagram (I)

Jesus Loves Me (memorization)
VersebyHeart (memorization)

Speech/Language Delay/Fine Motor

Board Games
(no pieces to lose, and a fun option for car travel and date nights out)
Ticket to Ride (there is also a "Europe" version)

Kindle app
Sandra Boynton (link is to one book; there are several)
iBooks (especially read-along)

History/Social Studies/Geography
*MS* Pocket Law Firm (const. amend.)
*Z* Google Earth (I)
World Book (this day in history)
*JW* Hitler's Germany (Hist. Challenge)

Management/For Mom
Toodledo (reading lists; assignment lists; etc.)
Mobicip (safe browser) (I)
Checkbook (for allowance)
Dropbox (I) (to transfer files like PDF's from the computer to the iPads) 
Pocket Prayer (prayer req. schedule)
Pinger (texting w/ the US) (I)
Cheerful Charts (sticker chart)
Pages (word processing)

Friday, January 4, 2013

My Source

Before we go any further, I have to give credit where credit is due. We would not have half (1/4, maybe even) of the fun, educational apps we enjoy, if it weren't for the Smart Apps For Kids blog.

Reviews by a dad, who tests out the apps (when age-appropriate) with his own children (and evaluates apps for older kids himself). Bonus: one of his children has an autism spectrum diagnosis, so there are personal-perspective reviews of special needs apps and notes when particular apps cover skills commonly addressed in therapy.

Subscribing to their Facebook page gets you their daily "Good Free App of the Day" (GFAOTD) posts. Some of these are always free, others are free for a limited time. App developers have clued into this site and will often intro new apps or big upgrades by making them free here to get the word out. We've gotten quite a few free apps this way.

Perhaps my favorite part of Smart Apps blog, though, is the option to sort their reviews by age-level. I use this almost exclusively to find apps for MS (almost 14 [ack!]), a hard age to find fun, educational apps for (not that they're not out there, just that not everyone and their [his/her] dog are talking/blogging about them). Be sure to check out their 12+ section.

One other section not to miss is their "Best" pull-down menu, which sorts reviews by 5-star, top picks, editor's top 10, reader's top 10, etc.

So, now you know. I don't, actually, spend all day researching educational apps for my kids. It's the cold, hard truth.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Educational Apps: iPhone, iPod Touch *and* iPad

Um, it's been a while. Yeah, quite a while, but I've been promising to do a blog post (okay, it will be quite a few posts, I'm sure) of our favorite educational apps. I'm going to plunge in. No promises as to how often I'll get to it, but I gotta start somewhere, right?

I found images for each of the apps I wanted to review in the "iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad Apps" section of our iTunes. That means this first post will be for apps that work on all three of those types of devices. I'll move on to iPad-only apps later, since they're in a different section.

 The images are click-able links to the app's page at Apple, if you're interested in looking at them further.

Cute, free app that shows the kids around the Grand Canyon. We have several other by this company (also free), but I haven't looked at them yet.

This was one of MA's favorite apps to play on my phone for a long time. Teaches nutrition through a game involving getting the right foods onto a conveyor belt in a certain period of time.

Games that work through the skills needed for learning to read. A great next step when kids have the letter sounds down. Several levels moving from just putting letters in their places to having to put them in left-to-right, an important pre-reading skill.

US coin literacy, from learning what each coin is and its value to making change.

We bought almost ever Dr. Seuss app available when they were on sale for Geisel's birthday a couple of years ago. Classic stories with interactive elements and, as all good read-along apps, these highlight the words as they're being read, so pre-readers and early readers associate the spoken words with their written counter-parts. (No link imbedded in the image, as there are multiple apps. Search for "Dr. Seuss" in the app store, and you'll find them.)

Interactive, multi-player drawing app. Fun use of art and an intrinsic motivation to improve drawing skills.

Built-in algorithm to review concepts based on whether they were answered correctly or not. I bought this early on in our app purchasing for MS to use with his Arabic vocabulary. Maybe not the best one on the market still, but it was one of the few, at the time, that could accommodate Arabic lettering.

 Kid-safe, pre-selected videos (pulled from places like YouTube). Not all-encompassing, but nice to have a set of safe options. Requires internet connection.

Cute story for the preschool/early elementary app. Bonus: Australian accent.

Soothing bedtime story.

One of our bedtime story options. Mercer Mayer for the next generation.

An absolute necessity in the realm of educational apps. We're collecting classic children's books currently. It's also good for early readers and other books with color illustrations.

Fun math fact practice that simulates an old-fashioned tilting wooden marble maze. (The link is to the lower level app, but there is a high level one, which covers multiplication and division, as well.)

 Fun review of preschool skills

 MA's favorite math skill review app

Yes, Minecraft, educational. Well, primarily the creative mode, but also cooperative play/creation when playing with siblings. Yes, there are zombies, and yes, there is some killing (at least in survival mode), but this app has been an opportunity for Z to shine in his creative skills and build relationship with (and impress :-) his siblings when they play together, so I'm calling it educational.

Another bedtime story favorite. We're loving this digital version of a generational family favorite.

Guide to basic computer programing that MS is enjoying, filling the more difficult-to-fill niche of educational apps for the teenage set.

Word-compatible app for creative writing on the iPad (usually with our external keyboard).

 Best app/game for learning the US states and facts about each one of them e.ver.

Learning US presidents involving aliens. What more could you want?

 Best app/game for learning the world's countries and facts about each one of them e.ver.

Annoyingly catchy song, water safety facts. It's a toss-up, but I think the water safety facts wins out.

Excellent series of apps for teaching basic skills (reading, 'rithmetic, etc.) for several levels from Toddler (really, Pre-K) through 2nd grade. (The link is for 1st grade.)

A nod to JAK. An app for one of his favorite shows. Too many in-app purchase options for my liking, but what comes with the original is enough for him.

We use this exclusively on the iPad, but it's what the kids use to fill in PDF workbook pages, like the Story of the World tests/quizzes that I bought in digital format this year and any scanned workbooks, like Wordly Wise. They e-mail their completed pages to me for corrections. Yes, we're all Jetson-like in that way.

Series of apps that simulate a variety of real-life situations, like a hair salon (the app the link takes you to). Mainly fun & silly with a little learning thrown in.

Fun critical thinking app in which you have to direct water through an increasingly difficult maze of obstacles to get Swampy his shower.

Same as above but with Phineas & Ferb characters, specifically Perry. (There are several other variations, as well.)

A very cool chronology of videos (starting with the first ever recorded sound, so audio, too) by year. Educational and a trip down memory lane, since it includes commercials, movie trailers, etc., from your high school and college years, too.