Is all this interactivity and engagement really a good thing?

Selena Woodward from Australia left a comment on my literacy apps blog post which prompted me to think more deeply about the wonderful interactivity of some of the iPad apps I have been sharing lately.

As I was working with the very young children (6 year olds) on this week I was thinking that all this iPad interactivity, on its own, may not actually be such a good thing.

My favourite literacy app at the moment is The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore that I posted about recently.

Did I tell you that I now have an iPad2 that will project through a data projector?? Great when you only have access to one iPad. Way cool except that the VGA cable keeps falling out if you jiggle the iPad too much. But I digress….


When we had the book ‘Morris Lessmore’ projected from the iPad onto the classroom ordinary whiteboard we could stop at the various places and discuss what was happening in the story and draw deeper understanding from the text and nothing particularly interactive happened in the story unless the user wanted it too which is something I really liked about the app.

Some other stories progress automatically from page to page which doesn’t give the teacher much of an opportunity to help children make connections with the text. When I use these texts I put myself in my happy place and wake up ten minutes later- just like watching an animated cartoon on TV really- except that it’s on an iPad.

Then when we had finished the shared reading the children were naturally keen to read the book on their own. They were much more intent on doing the interactive bits than listening/reading the story.

I wondered then if all the interactivity of the app was actually lessening the children’s desire to actually read the text for themselves.

I told them that the interactive bits wouldn’t work until at least they actually waited and listened to the text. I lied and they soon found out and exposed me as a fraud and shared how they could get the interactive bits going without having to wait for the text to be read. Clever them!

Although they loved the app, did they equally love the reading experience??

I am not so sure?

What do you think?

QR Codes #9 Sharing Audio

We all know how great Dropbox is don’t we team.

If you don’t now about Dropbox it is an online storage space with some fabulous features. Think of it as your own personal, free server where you can store and back up your stuff.

When you sign up for Dropbox you automatically get a Public Folder. A Public Folder is still in your Dropbox but it is also public so everyone can see it.

Drop your audio file that you want to use into the Public Dropbox folder, wait for it to synch and launch the Dropbox website by clicking on the Dropbox icon and opening it. Navigate to the Public folder and hover over the file you want to share. To the right of the file name you will get a little triangle with a dropdown menu. Copy the public link. I am going to share Kiera’s audio file.

Copy this link into your QR Code generator- seeing I am on the computer I will use Google URL shortner to create the QR code.

Done- easy as!

I see this as a great way to easily share podcasts and other audio files with your class and other visitors. I would love to hear from you if you decide to give it a whirl.

Do you have any other ideas for linking QR Codes to audio or video files this way?

iPad Sharing #3 Apps To Support Literacy

This week I was asked to give a presentation to the Nelson Library Network Meeting focussing on iPad Apps to Support Literacy so we combined our usual after school Thursday workshop with the Library meeting.

I managed to borrow/commandeer an iPad 2 because I wanted to display the iPad screen onto the data projector big screen as we were expecting quite a big turnout. I had to wipe the iPad’s apps that were already there to over-write it with my own own apps. This went very smoothly as when I went to synch the iPad it led me to the option to RESTORE TO ORIGINAL SETTINGS on the opening screen. Once I had done that I re-synched it and everything, plus Facetime and Photobooth, were there where they should be.

I divided the presentation into two parts – Consumption- looking at Literacy Apps that someone else has made and Creativity- looking at ways to create your own content on the iPad.

Here are my hyperlinked notes of my apps that I shared. All prices are in Kiwi dollars…..


  •  Next on the list was iBooks. We had quick skim through with what you can do with a couple of free books like Winnie the Pooh that you get through the iBook store. To get to the iBooks Store you open the app and click on STORE. From there you may like to look for FEATURED and get some free books. I have bought ‘Are You My Mother’ by PD Eastman, one of my favourites from when I first started teaching that I can’t find in paper version any more. A nice find!
  • While we were in iBooks we looked at how we might add our own pdfs to the resource. To do that open iTunes. Go FILE- ADD TO LIBRARY in iTUNES- navigate to the file and voila! The next time you synch the iPad your pdf will be waiting for you.
  • To navigate between the pdfs and books click on the word COLLECTIONS (BOOKS on the iPod Touch version) and you will see the options.
  • As an example of an eBook you can buy through iTunes Our Choice ($6.49) by Al Gore is pretty impressive too.

Some of my favourite eBooks for young children are:

  • The Kindle App– (Free) The Kindle App lets you read ebooks that you buy cheap from Amazon on your iPad as though you were reading them on you Kindle. Not sure what to buy I asked Kerre Woodham and her Paper Plus Book Choices. A book that I might have bought in hard copy for $40 cost me $13 on the Kindle.

  • In a teachery sort of way I like Running Recs ($2:59) by our very own Matt Thomas from Tauranga for doing away with the need to grab a calculator to work out whether a running record is easy, instructional or hard.

  • And lastly as an RSS reader I like the look of Flipboard (free) for browsing through photos, news and blogs that I like to peruse.

Creativity–  looking at ways to create your own content on the iPad.

  • Here we went back to iBooks how I made our own class eBook. To do that I made a document with the children’s text and drawings with Pages then went FILE – EXPORT and exported it as an ePub. To create and import your own ePub you can download a tutorial pdf here.
  • Next we looked at Handwriting with I Can Write ($1.29) being my favourite because it shows you where to start and how to write. When you are finished a set of letters it gives you a screen of how you wrote all of the letters in the set. You could then take a screen grab of those and track your improvements and progress.
  • My favourite Spelling app at the moment is Cimo Spelling. I like it because you learn to spell real words that actually exist. I have gone off a lot of other spelling apps that accept words that no one has ever heard of.
  • Of course we can’t go past Pages ($13.99) and Keynote ($13.99) for creating working documents on the iPad. Children are already familiar with them and know what to expect.

  • I also recently bought Comic Life ($10.99) which can be used in all sorts of engaging ways across the curriculum.

  • For editing photos my go to app is Photogene (4:19). It is simple, easy to use and has lots of features that I often use.

  • For mind mapping I really like how easy to use Popplet ($6.49) is. I have blogged earlier this year about the web application but it is even easier on an iPad. There is a lite free version as well if you would like to try it out.

  • For recording audio I think people often forget the iPod feature of having an iPad. Schools could load the music from CDs and use the iPad for archiving things like Learning Media CDs, Jump Jam, Assembly music, dance, etc. You could then use the iPad as a listening post or plug it into a sound system and always know where you audio is located.
  • I have recently bought myself an iRig microphone which is a uni-directional microphone designed specifically for using with iOS devices. It provides quality recording and cuts out the background chatter in the classroom or social setting.
  • My favourite digital storytelling app is Sonic Pics. ($4.19) It is so easy to use and share. Here Wes Fryer shares a how to of digital storytelling apps.

  • You can’t go past the basic Talking Tom (free) for fun audio recording and sharing.
  • I am quite fond of Show Me (free) for making screen and audio recordings. It doesn’t export as a movie but they Show Me team assure me it will come through further updates.
  • Puppet Pals (free) is a fabulous storytelling app. You can purchase more characters from within the app or add your own characters and backgrounds from your iPad photo album. This Matariki production was made by children at Waihi East Primary School using Puppet Pals.

  • The last of the audio apps would be Sock Puppets (free) which lip synchs when you speak. Fun!

And last of all we had fun with some QR codes in the Waimea Intermediate School Library. Phew!

QR Code #8 Treasure Trail – Generating QR codes

This week one of the girls in my class of Year Fours (8 year olds) was feeling poorly with winter chills and not much in the mood for algebra. She was keen on the idea of making her own QR code treasure trail around the school. She was not about to participate meaningfully in the maths I had planned so I thought I would let her go for it and see how it all worked out.

She used the free app Easy QR on my iPod Touch to create the codes. Easy QR, as well as scanning codes, can be used to create them. She used the text option on the opening screen. She was then taken to a text page to write in her message for the treasure trail.

She clicked GENERATE and the QR code was born!

She then took a screen grab of each of the stations in her treasure trail (Press the home button at the same time as the ON/OFF button – it’s a bit tricky as if you push the ON/OFF button first you just end up switching the iPod Touch off!). We had already mastered that skill by taking taking screen grabs of our best scores of MathTappers Number Find.

As I don’t have Air Printer or Printopia she had to email me each of the screengrabs and I printed them out. She tried to show stealth as she laid the trail out over lunch time and started her classmates off on the trail after lunch.

It was great, spur of the moment sort of activity that was enjoyed by all.


QR Code #7 Geocaching

This week I have found three QR codes in the wild. All in the latest Air NZ travel mag. The cleverest of them was from Guinness. Scanning the code led you map to the nearest pub where you could buy a Guinness. I didn’t try it on the flight!!

This week’s QR Code gem is a really geeky exercise. It involves geocaching. Geocaching is like orienteering with your iPhone or GPS.

I enjoy the challenge of finding new locations while out looking for geocaches.

Geocachers NZ offer new tracking tags that have QR codes on them so I bought a couple. This one I have attached to a spirit level and will release into the wild tomorrow.

When a trackable is found by someone usually you would have to look it up on the geocache web site to log it but now, by scanning the code, you get instant access to its unique tracking web site.

The kids in my class are keeping their eyes open for QR codes in the wild.

I’m not sure how we could use this code at school apart from to have a QR code to a trackable geocache that the class could keep a track on like Tiny Ted.

Tiny Ted  was last seen in America. He came to us from Wales in 2006 and became the class pet for a while going home with children. He was the 32nd class member! But he had to leave cos that was his destiny and now he has got himself lost. I wonder what has happened to him. It would be fabulous if he turned up one day!

QR Codes #6 Pick-a-path stories

I was wandering through my RSS feed tonight and really liked Kevin Cummins idea I saw on his Edgalaxy web site for helping children having difficulty thinking of a story starter. His idea was to write a paragraph to get the children started and let them create alternative endings for it. He even provided a pdf template for the story.

That idea sparked another idea in my head.

What about I ask my PLN for a hand to write the story endings seeing there were no children nearby? I asked some friends via Skype if they would be able to write some endings of the story for me. Doug Dickinson, Barbara Reid, Cherryl Eden, Shaun Wood and Warren Hall did. I used QR Code Generator to make the QR code for the text. Easy as!

In the classroom I could this making a kewl classroom display with the original text showing first and a whole lot of alternative endings presented as QR codes.

With Kevin’s permission here is the opening text for the story…

“The wizard tried on his new coat, one with bright yellow stars shining happily all over it. Now he could get on with finishing his spell. He added the essential ingredients into the boiling black  cauldron  – a rat’s tail, a snail’s shell, a frog’s eye and some moss from a fallen oak tree. He stirred them all in a clockwise direction, 3 times over. 

Now it was ready.

He could use the magic potion…”

And here are the QR code responses…