App Friday: Moozart for iPad

Welcome to App Friday, our weekly link exchange of family-friendly apps. This week we get to inspire young composers with Moozart, a musical composition tool that helps sheet music come to life. Before you know it, piano lessons will be the most popular topic in your household. Happy App Friday!

What is Moozart about? Moozart is all about barnyard animals teaching your child the basics of making music and the musical staff. Its “moozical” staff is as simple to use as dragging barnyard animals onto the staff. The animals sing their sounds in tune with their location on the staff and right in time with the beat of the song. Moozart allows your children to play their own creative compositions or explore and manipulate one of the many bundled songs. Moozart replaces the boring dots and lines of the typical musical staff with bright, colorful and adorable barnyard animals. Cute and kiddo-friendly music composition might be what inspires your child to be the next great composer!

Why is it special? Writing music can be complex, even boring for some children, especially younger ones. We felt that the iPad platform offered an attractive and intuitive way to allow younger children to easily experiment with music creation. By removing some of the complexities of standard sheet music, such as time signatures, flats and sharps, and even standard musical notation itself, Moozart makes music composition easier and more engaging for your children.

What’s in it for me?

More App News Vito Technology, the creators of StarWalk, are promoting Geo Walk for iPhone and iPad this App Friday. Geo Walk is a pictorial encyclopedia of interesting people, places and things in our world. It uses a moveable globe to explore the earth, and then you can tap on items of interest. Let them know what you think!

App Friday Link Exchange Our goal at Moms With Apps is to spread the word about family-friendly apps. We also like to know about great deals. Do YOU have some app news to share? If so, please participate in our link exchange and post it down below. Include the app name (& details) in the Link Title, your email, and a URL to the app. Thanks for your participation!

How I became the speech guy with an iPad

Our second feature this week is written by Eric Sailers, Speech Language Pathologist for a school district in San Diego. At the beginning of September Eric posted an article on his blog elaborating on his background, his students, and how apps are incorporated into his speech-language therapy sessions. We were so impressed that we decided to re-post it here (with his permission) at Moms With Apps.

As a kindergartner in the mid 1980’s, I saw a speech-language pathologist (SLP) for speech delays. I don’t recall the experience with much detail, but I have been reminded by those closest to me. Once I became an SLP, my mom informed me that I said “Dada Da” for “Santa Claus,” and my SLP (who continues to work in the same district that I attended as a student and now work in) told me that I called myself “airwit.” Evidently I had errors of stopping, cluster reduction, vocalic r, and t/k substitution. I was also told that I did drill work with traditional flashcards to practice sounds. Although I graduated from speech-language therapy, I wonder how my experience would have been different with the wonderful technologies available today.

Back in the winter of 2008, I purchased my first iPhone and started beta testing for Proloquo2Go, an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) app. I was so impressed with how a cool, mobile technology could be very sophisticated at a reasonable cost. I started looking at other applications that could be used in speech-language therapy. One of the first apps I discovered was Wheels on the Bus, an interactive music book that plays the song. My students loved the interactions like moving the bus and popping bubbles with the touch of their finger. I loved how my students were so engaged by the interactions that didn’t require a computer mouse (which is challenging for many of my students); plus, they sang to repetitive lyrics and heard their voice recording in the app.

In 2009, I thought about developing an app. I didn’t have a background in software engineering, so I began a conversation with my friend Jason Rinn who did. After several discussions and time spent learning the iPhone programming language, Jason was on board. Jason and I decided to create solutions that involved a strong component of tracking progress. We created a data collection app (Percentally) and an articulation app (ArtikPix) with integrated data collection. ArtikPix is an app that allowed me to include modern technology in a tool for speech articulation difficulties that I personally experienced some 25 years ago. It means a lot to me that I can share such a personalized solution with children who I now serve.

I currently use iOS devices (iPod touch and iPad) in speech-language therapy sessions. I have five iPods that are primarily for individual use, and one iPad I incorporate in group activities. There are apps my students use individually such as iColoringBook and Sentence Builder. For both apps, my students show their screen to the group as they produce sentences. Optimized iPad apps for my groups include a book app called Zoo You Later – Monkey Business and BrainPop Featured Movie. During Monkey Business and BrainPop, the students take turns listening, touching, and talking about the content. A book app like Monkey Business is very enjoyable and beneficial for children because of the features including interactive text and illustrations, painting, recorded audio, voice recording, and highlighted text. I imagine I would have enjoyed using apps like interactive books and games to practice my sounds.

My students are drawn to the iOS devices, and general education peers are interested in how they use the technologies for communication. My students favorite part about iOS devices is the touching aspect. Even if they are not skilled with a computer mouse, most of my students can tap, flick, and drag elements on the screen. I see this as a great source of initiating and maintaining their engagement during activities.

I think that apps offer great features for visual cues and auditory feedback that aid children with special needs in the learning process. I also am very pleased to have my students using mobile technologies that they might not otherwise use because of various factors. Finally, it brings me great joy to hear students asking, “Hey speech guy, can we use the iPad today?”

If you use iDevices for presentations in classrooms or at conferences, don’t miss Eric’s other article about Tips & Tricks for Presenting With the iPod Touch.

Get Your iPad Up and Running With Family-Friendly Apps

Are you considering an iPad purchase for your family? If so, the developers at Moms With Apps are creating content to make the iPad shine.  In this post we highlight apps that have made a big impression with the kids and families of our community. We hope this starting point illustrates how the iPad can be an interactive tool for people of all ages!

  • *Montessori Crosswords – Based on the Montessori proven method of learning, a fun game that helps your kids develop their reading/writing skills while enjoying themselves *Will be featured for Free App Friday, September 3rd.
  • Draw with Stars – As you move your fingers over the night sky scenery, you create nice *animated* drawings with carefully designed stars that are glowing and spinning continuously.
  • ABC by Paul McDougall – Learn the alphabet from A to Z with the help of some charming young creatures and their quirky friends. Profits from the sale of this app will be used to donate copies of the printed book to children’s hospitals and libraries in need.
  • iTouchiLearn Words for Preschool Kids – Features a series of animations that teach preschool and toddler kids about the context of words while making them laugh. Also includes three word activity games: Find the Word, Match the Word and an Animal Matching Game. To add a twist to the app, kids can play random activities by touching a colorful pie-chart spinner.
  • iCommunicate for iPad –  Create pictures, flashcards, storyboards, routines, and visual schedules. Record custom audio in any language. Testimonial: “You have made a huge difference in my child’s life. He has a way to communicate his needs, which he didn’t have before.” – MCharleton
  • Melvin Says There’s Monsters! – Who is Melvin, and what is all the fuss about?  A digital storybook to make you giggle, and remember that one weird kid we all knew in school, but possibly didn’t know as well as you should have…  Melvin features wonderful illustrations, memorable characters, fun, often hilarious narration and your choice of auto-page, swipe or tap navigation.
  • ABC Wildlife for iPad – ABC Wildlife is a great app for learning letters and animal names. The app has over 80 animals along with hundreds of pictures, paired with videos and fun facts. Besides carefully curated content, ABC Wildlife offers a creative navigation proposition where you explore the alphabet by jumping seamlessly from animal name to animal name.
  • Rain Go Away ABCs –  With Rain Go Away ABCs, toddlers/preschoolers learn their ABCs and parents learn about fun, creative indoor activities – all while a rainstorm turns into a bright sunny day. This enchanting interactive app is filled with hand-painted art, jiggle and tilt animations, and indoor activities parents and children can do together – combining interactive learning with traditional offline playtime.
  • NameThatNumber – Fun math game to practice math facts. You are given 4 numbers from 1 to 10 and four basic math operations. Your goal is to use as many of those four numbers as you can to get the random goal number.
  • The iLiveMath Series – Each iLiveMath App covers 3 levels of difficulty for K through 7th grade and randomly generates different word problems for children to solve.  Themes are used to introduce counting, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, percents, distance, rate, time, mean, median, mode, range, volume, and geometry.  iLiveMath Series is from http://www.iHomeEducator.com
  • MazeArt for iPad The mazes kids solve on paper just got a 3D look. MazeArt features 12 different animated characters who need your help to reach their destinations. When you trace your path through the maze, the character will follow you. The reference maze at the top right corner and the tracks left by characters make the navigation easy. The best way to play this game is by holding the device in a horizontal position.
  • Smarty Shortz for iPad – Learn, Play, Shine…Challenge your 4-5 year old, review with your 6-7 year old and quiz your 8+ with Smarty Shortz First!  A family, friendly app including 6 subjects (Geography, Science, Math, Reading, History and Spelling) 4 quick lessons followed by four fun reinforcing games!  Your child will love exploring with Smarty Shortz!
  • Mobicip Safe Browser for iPad– Worried about the unfiltered Internet that your kids can access on the iPad? The best-selling Safe Browser for the iPad from Mobicip.com is based on a path-breaking dynamic cloud content filtering engine, designed to provide a safe, secure and educational Internet for families and school-age children, anytime anywhere. For customized parental controls configuration and reports, upgrade to the Mobicip Premium service. Your child can safely browse the web on his/her favorite device, and you can rest assured that there are boundaries in place.
  • Interactive Alphabet for iPad – Interactive Alphabet for iPad makes learning the alphabet a hand-on experience. The original artwork and characters draw them in, fun animation and sound effects peak their interest, and memorable unique interactions, such as eating the Apple, playing with the Squid, zipping the Zipper, and making music on the Xylophone keep them coming back for more.
  • Photo Captions HD – A picture is worth a thousand words. Photo Captions give you the ability to add much more. Don’t save or share standard plain family photos anymore. Decorate them with shapes and image annotations, rich text captions, and frames or make personalized and creative Photo Cards. Add thoughtful text captions. Then email them, publish them on Facebook or store them locally.
  • Thumbelina for the iPad–  The classic Andersen fairytale like you’ve never seen it before! This interactive storybook app allows kids to actively participate in the story through various touch interactions. The unique, whimsicle illustrations, the rhyming text (translated into Spanish, French, Japanese and German), and the intuitive user interface make this app a must for every kindergartner, preschooler and children of all ages…
  • Serving Sizer Pro for iPad– recipe converter cookbook –  Recipe cards for your iPad! Keep all your recipe cards, handwritten family recipes, and recipe clippings in one place.  Change the serving size at any time and the whole recipe is converted instantly–something your ordinary cookbook can’t do. Great for odd-sized families and holiday dinners.  Convert between Metric and US measures, too.
  • Fish School HD – by Duck Duck Moose Fish School by Duck Duck Moose includes 8 fun educational activities that will engage toddlers and preschoolers.  In this interactive app, colorful schools of fish transform themselves into different letters, numbers, shapes, colors, matching games, and more.  Music recorded especially for this app includes the popular ABC Song and Mozart variations performed by violin and cello.
  • Itsy Bitsy Spider HD – by Duck Duck Moose – Winner of the Parents Choice Gold Award, Itsy Bitsy Spider HD by Duck Duck Moose is an interactive musical app, based on the popular children’s song.  The app is like an interactive movie, panning to a different scene each time you poke the spider.  A friendly tutor (a fly!) teaches your child about nature and the environment.
  • Dragon Checkers by StoryBoy – Dragon Checkers is a twist on a favorite family game – inspired by the artwork of Storyboy’s All About Dragons book app. Choose your favorite dragon and challenge your opponent tin this fun strategic game that comes complete with dragon trivia and roars!
  • Dusty D. Dawg Has Feelings Too – Free animated storybook by Lillian Vernon that introduces children to their feelings and emotions.  This universal app runs on all devices and allows you to customize the book with a child’s photo, name as well as your own voice.

TIP: If you already have apps purchased on your iPhone that are compatible with iPad, you don’t have to pay for them twice. Many iPhone apps will synch over to your iPad, and by using the “2x” function, you can enlarge the iPhone app’s screen for the iPad.

We hope you enjoy these app ideas for loading up your iPad! Our developers, mostly parents, are open to your correspondence and feedback. Please leave a message in comments if you have questions for them. Also, they usually have a few extra promo codes, so feel free to contact them directly to request a code, especially if you have the time to leave a review for them on iTunes. We’ll try and keep this list updated when new apps are released, so check back again soon. Happy Apping!

App Friday: iTouchiLearn Words

Welcome to App Friday, our weekly link exchange of family-friendly apps. This week we explore early childhood education with iTouchiLearn Words by Jane Scarano of Staytoooned and iPhoneKidsApps. If you have toddlers and preschoolers who are working on their words, this app provides engaging activities for budding language skills. Jane recently released an iPad version with additional interactive features – details below!

 What is your app about? iTouchiLearn Words for Preschool Kids features animations and word activities wrapped in an easy-to-navigate interface. Toddlers and preschoolers are treated to entertaining animations that teach them about the context of words along with engaging word games. It centers around three activities: Find the Picture that matches the word; Match the Word; and Animations that tell a story about related words in action. iTouchiLearn Words for Preschool Kids comes in two flavors: iPhone and iPad. The iPad version takes full advantage of the iPad’s high definition and size capabilities. This version adds a matching game and a pie chart spinner that lands on a random activity when a child taps the spinner, plus additional content.

Why is it special? What makes this app special are the cute and engaging animations that teach toddlers and preschoolers about the context of words and actions while making them laugh. The animations deliver a multi-sensory experience. A child can hear a word spoken, see the word spelled out and watch an animation of the word in action. This brings words to life and improves word retention. Each word activity provides virtual rewards for correct answers to reinforce and retain what they have learned.

What’s in it for me? See for yourself how mobile touch technology provides an enriching learning experience for your toddler and preschool child. Download iTouchiLearn Words (iPhone) for FREE or iTouchiLearn Words (iPad) for HALF PRICE this App Friday, August 6th!  NOTE: The apps usually revert back to original price on the iTunes Store by 8pm U.S. Pacific Time on Friday August 6th.

Related Apps by Staytoooned:  iTouchiLearn Spanish Words  (iPhone) teaches your preschooler about words in Spanish. Through animation and fun word activities, your child will learn and retain Spanish words at a very young age.  Staytoooned also publishes apps for kids, and if you have an idea for an app, we would be happy to hear from you and help you publish yours. In addition, our iPhoneKidsApps Blog helps families and friends explore the educational value of mobile touch technology.

More Apps by the developers of Moms With Apps: Click to the page tabs at the top of our blog to scroll through lists of apps for kids and families. We highlight apps for learning, fun & creativity, reading, special needs, travel, and last but not least, parents. 🙂

App Friday Link Exchange Our goal at Moms With Apps is to spread the word about family-friendly apps. Do YOU have a favorite app to share? Please participate in our link exchange and post it down below. Include the app name in the Link Title, your email, and a URL to the app. Thanks for your participation!

Characteristics of Great Apps for Kids With Autism

We are privileged to have a guest post this week from Shannon Des Roches Rosa: mother, writer, and advocate for autism and special needs. A few months ago, Shannon’s 9 year old son Leo got to know the iPad, and she documented the impact it made for Leo and the family. This post expands upon apps that work for autism, in hopes of sharing with developers specific features that make a difference.  You can find Shannon on her personal blog, contributing at BlogHer, encouraging others via the Can I Sit With You Project, or providing needed resources to families with autism via the Thinking Person’s Guide to Austism. Shannon doesn’t stop. And to the app developers, she hopes you don’t either.

I am always on the prowl for good apps for my son Leo, who is nine years old, has autism — and has found his iPad to be an absolutely transformative tool for apps both special-needs-specific and not. I don’t just evaluate apps with the eyes of an autism parent — I also look at them from the perspective of a former software producer for Electronic Arts and The Learning Company who has no patience with software that isn’t well-planned or doesn’t at least have marked potential. When I choose an app, here are the factors I weigh:

1) Factoring in Leo’s “kid” status before his “autism” or “special needs” label. Leo likes to have fun! And so do his two neurotypical sisters, both of whom hop on his iPad the moment he puts it down. Examples of fun apps that are great for Leo but have general kid appeal: Faces iMake (goofy, beautifully designed collage maker), iEarnedThat (animated, puzzle-based reward charts).

2) Error-free learning. Leo has the most success with activities that do not penalize users for wrong answers, and which instead only let users put items in the right spaces, or which contain prompts that encourage users to succeed. Good examples: iWriteWords (handwriting, numbers, spelling) and FirstWordsDeluxe (spelling).

3) Simplicity. Fewer steps equals a higher rate of engagement and usefulness for kids like Leo. A complicated, many-step introduction may confuse him and prevent him from accessing the apps’ function or content. If you insist on an involved introduction to your app, make sure it can be bypassed with one click. Apps with simple but powerful interfaces: Tappy Tunes (tap your way through popular songs), ShapeBuilder (simple puzzles).

4) Pure, Silly, One-Note Fun. Again, Leo likes to play. Apps that focus on a single function or action make it easier for him to understand games, and have a good time playing them. Two of his favorites: Fruit Ninja (slice flying fruit!),  Scoops (catch the falling ice cream scoops on your cone!).

5) Visually distinctive interface. Plain text interfaces don’t work well for Leo, because he’s not yet reading — but he can remember distinctive visual patterns with uncanny accuracy. An app with a multi-step yet graphically varied and so Leo-accessible interface: Whizzit 123 (1 to 1 correspondence, e.g., how many objects “5” is).

6) Tempo Change Option. For any paced-based, interactive musical, or rhythm-based apps, tempo variation is mandatory. Many kids with autism or other special needs have a hard time processing audio input; they often can’t follow along at the same speed as their typical peers. Leo will either give up or not access an app’s full functionality if he can’t set the tempo to a pace that suits him. An app he adores that could benefit from a tempo change option: Kiboomu: Twinkle Twinkle Preschool Storybook Piano. (learn to play songs by following the colored keys on a keyboard).

7) Flexible Content Management. If an app utilizes user-generated or otherwise modifiable content, then its content management systems need to be extremely flexible. The harder it is for me to quickly retrieve and assemble the content I need, the less likely I am to use that app with Leo. Stories2Learn (social stories), iCommunicate (create icons with photos and audio for learning and practicing words), and First Then Visual Schedule (visual schedules) are examples of fine apps that Leo and I use daily but which could be even better if their content storage and management systems were more flexible — as I hope they will be in future versions. I would kill for:

  • Nested content management folders instead of one big list
  • Ability to save icons with integrated audio and visual components, instead of saving separate audio and visual components
  • Click-and-drag option for rearranging or inserting new icons in lists

I love seeing Leo have such a great time playing with his iPad. It is always a treat to find a new app that appeals to him. And I understand that such apps are still evolving. Currently, apps for kids with autism tend to have a First Generation feel to them, similar to mid-1990s-era websites — some are beautifully put together and useful, some are a bit clunky yet useful. But I’m mostly seeing a lot of enthusiasm combined with frontier thinking. I see a lot more innovation than slickness. And I see apps benefiting my son’s leisure and learning in ways I’d never imagined, and for which I am grateful. I hope the guidelines above will help developers create even more Leo-friendly apps.