Saturday, June 25, 2011

Playtime Theater update

A while ago, the folks at MakeBelieve Worlds very kindly let me have a copy of Playtime Theater to review. I thought it had lots of promise but wasn't ready for school use yet, primarily because of the inability to save more than one show. They've obviously been listening, because I just got an email from Seth to say that they've submitted an update to the app store. It's not available just yet as it has to go through Apple's approval process, but Seth says it will include the following new features:
  • Save multiple shows
  • Add you and your friends to the cast with photos from your photo library
  • PlayTime Theater now remembers all of your changes
  • Enhanced, easier to use interface
  • Stability and bug fixes [including the Button Bar Builder crash]
  • 6 New Costumes and more
I'm looking forward to trying out the new version! 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

iPad books

I posted a link a while ago to a guide to buying digital books for kids. The movie Cars 2 is about to be released tomorrow and Disney has already released an app to go with it. The app is an enhanced book. It has some of the features that you'd want in a digital book - first and foremost, it's high interest! You can listen to the story being read to you - and of course the reading is very professional. This is Disney, after all, and they are very good at what they do! Watching Maggie's review of it, over at apps for iPads, I was wondering whether this would be an appropriate app to use in school. It certainly has nice features - like highlighting the text as it is read aloud - but I can see kids choosing to listen and look at the pictures, while completely ignoring the text. Fortunately, there is also a feature that allows kid to record themselves reading the text. That could be very useful as a way of checking to make sure that a child told to go and read to him/herself has actually done so. (Of course, reading to yourself and reading aloud could be considered different skills!)  Using an iPad2 to project this story might hold some kids' attention better than a teacher reading aloud - the pictures will be easier to see and there is the bonus of the sound effects and animation which might make it a little easier for  English language learner (ELL) students to understand some parts of the story. This storybook is bound to be much simpler than the actual movie, and this again is helpful for the ELL students. There are some fun games for the kids to play - though I suspect that some of the puzzles and activities may be too simple in comparison to the reading level of the text. Coloring (especially when the app can be set to choose all the colors for you so the finished product is 'perfect') and tossing tires, while good fine motor skills activities are not necessarily developmentally appropriate for  a kid who can read at this level. And kids who can't read at this level (actually, even those who can) will want to spend their time playing the games instead of reading along with the text . . .

The app is currently being sold for 'just' $5.99, instead of the regular price of $8.99. Compared to the cost of a book, and given the extra features, it is perhaps not unreasonable. However, given the logistics of buying one copy of a book like this and then figuring out how to make it available to kids, I don't think schools are going to go for it. We're looking at having 30 iPads per grade level, K-2, next year. Realistically, we could not afford to buy 30 copies of a book unless it was a significant part of the curriculum, so it is more likely that we would want only one or two copies of an app like this, just as we would want only one or two copies of a particular hard-bound book for the library. If this book were on only one of those iPads, it could be a real pain trying to direct kids to use the specific iPad it was on.

I'd love to have this app available on an iPad for something like indoor recess time, or our before  and after school program and kids will love to have this on their own iPad, but I see other priorities for school money right now!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Toontastic competition

Launchpad Toys has just announced a competition for students to create cartoons about their favorite summer reading books using Toontastic. Once the submissions are in,  they will open it up to voting and the winner will receive his or her choice of a  Lego Space Shuttle or a $100 gift certificate to Amazon. If you don't have a copy of Toontastic yet, the cost is $0.99 right now. (It's been $2.99 in the past.) You have until June 30th to submit entries.

This is NOT a sponsored post.