Friday, February 23, 2018

Children’s iPad App, Scribble Press

Reviewed by Susan Stephenson,

Scribble Press is a digital storytelling app from developer, Fingerprint.

From the developer:

Designed for the classroom and at home, Scribble Press is a creativity platform for children to imagine, write, illustrate, and share their own stories. NEW, Powerhouse features include video export, audio recording, music, 300 new drawing tools, backgrounds, and stickers to inspire creativity and 30 fill-in-the-blank story starters ranging from the silly to the sublime.

This ALL-NEW version of the app includes new, powerhouse features such as:
all-new story starters, stickers and backgrounds
Start with one of our book templates, or use a BLANK book
Add music to your story
Take, add, and cut-out photos
Record your own voice
“Put Yourself in the Story” photo feature

What I liked:

There’s good attention to detail in this app. I liked the range of colours in the drawing tool, so kids can draw their own pictures. The variety in stickers and backgrounds will certainly appeal to kids too. Themes range from fairy tale to pets, dinosaurs to superheroes. Being able to add your own photo, in app via the camera, is another appealing feature.

For children who benefit from scaffolding, the suggested templates are well thought out, with kids needing to supply one or two words to make a story segment their own.

Where do I get it?

I’ll be adding this app to my list of iPad apps that kids can create with, and my list of tools that involve kids in digital storytelling.

Check out all of my iPad App Reviews on Pinterest, and find more apps and articles via my Listly page.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Review: Make the Future! Hands-On Sustainability Lessons for Year 5 and 6

Reviewed by Susan Stephenson,

Make the Future! Hands-On Sustainability Lessons for Year 5 and 6 is the first in a series of educational resources about sustainability by Nanci Kunze, published by Hawker Brownlow Education (2017.) RRP: $Au 32.95

From the publisher:

Make the Future! features
*STEM-rich activities that support the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics, Science, Technologies, Humanities and Social Sciences, English, Health and Physical Education and The Arts learning areas, as well as the sustainability cross-curriculum priority
*data from the most up-to-date and credible sources, including the United Nations, the CSIRO and the Environmental Protection Authority Victoria
*hands-on, practical activities based on traditional skills – students can make their own upcycled clothing, cook planet-friendly (and allergen-free) food, create storage solutions from waste materials and much more
*whole-class, small-group and individual work with options for a range of skill levels
*opportunities for multi-year-level collaboration, self-directed learning and community engagement content that actively develops key life skills, such as financial planning, nutritional knowledge and goal-setting.

We all want to empower kids, to offer them our ideas and encourage their own, so they can make informed decisions about their own lives and about the future of our planet. It’s great to find a resource about sustainability which does exactly that.

In Make the Future! Hands-On Sustainability Lessons for Year 5 and 6 I particularly liked the emphasis on practical and useful activities.. Kunze has a warm, conversational “voice” that explains things clearly. There’s so much emphasis on making in schools - children can learn to code and even use a 3D printer if their school can afford one. But sometimes I think we might forget some of the  useful low-tech skills our grandparents knew. Things like how to sew, how to patch something, how to replace a button, how to convert and recycle, how to make a yummy chocolate cake that includes carrot and zucchini, all tutorials covered within the resource.

I also loved the way Kunzi had such a range of activities in the book, activities that involved kids in numeracy, literacy, thinking critically and creatively, information literacy - and group work, decision making, goal-setting, investigating in the real world, creating, even peer-teaching. There are frequent flashes of humour that I know students will appreciate, and the book design and graphic elements are colourful and attractive.

Make the Future! has reproducible worksheets inside, something busy teachers will appreciate. There are sample pages to peruse at HBE’s website. You’ll also find password-protected resources for display available via directions inside the book’s front cover. You could pair Make the Future! with a free resource, Future Earth, which is available as a pdf on the Science Week website.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Creating Picture Puzzles - Spot the Difference

by Susan Stephenson,

Creating puzzles is a wonderful way to combine creative and critical thinking with kids. When you create picture puzzles, there are also opportunities for learning, and practising visual and digital literacy skills. Over the next months, I will be sharing ideas on how kids can create different kinds of picture puzzles. Today my focus is on how to create a digital spot-the-difference puzzle.

How can kids create a digital spot the difference puzzle?

Before children begin creating the two spot the difference images they will need, encourage them to think about what elements in an image they can change to create differences. What elements can be changed that might not be spotted immediately? Kids can digitally manipulate colour, size, position and direction using many common image editors and apps. They can also put something in one image but omit it from the second image.

Above you'll see a fairly simple spot the difference puzzle. I used the Comics Head app to create my two images. I chose a template with two frames side by side. This allowed me to set up the same backgrounds, then choose an element and duplicate it before positioning it on the canvas. I wanted to change positions, sizes, and directions of elements in my two images, and did this by dragging them into slightly different positions on the background. I then pinched to re-size, and took the option to reverse direction by tapping horizontal flip inside the image menu. Children could use other digital software that gives them options to create digital images, e.g. Pikmonkey and Canva. They could also set up two different but similar real world scenes and photograph them.

Another way to make a spot-the-difference puzzle would be in a drawing editor like the free Google Drawings inside Google Drive. If kids make one image at top of their canvas, duplicate it underneath, then tweak the lower image to make slight changes, the result can then become another spot-the-difference puzzle for a fellow student to solve.

To make the easy spot-the-difference bird puzzle above, I used Chrome for my browser and made sure I was signed into Google Drive. I went to New/More/GoogleDrawings. I opened a new canvas and set its dimensions under File/Page setup/Custom. I chose 640 x 360 pixels.

Next I right clicked and chose a background colour.

For my left-hand bird, I chose the shape menu, a cloud, made the border transparent, picked a bright pink, duplicated it, went to arrange/rotate/flip vertically and I had both my bird’s wings. I used a pink circle for the body, elongated rectangles for the legs, small circles for the eyes and a triangle for the beak.

For the second bird, I duplicated each shape but changed colours, sizes, lengths and orientation. It might not be immediately obvious, but I used Arrange/Rotate/Flip to make the wings turn up instead of down, made the head bigger, changed the position of the eyes and beak etc. If you hold the shift key down, you can go to Arrange/Group to keep both eyes together before you move them. If you don’t want a border, you need to keep making it transparent.

Once done, I went to File/Download as, chose PNG for my filetype and downloaded the image to my computer.

Making a digital spot the difference puzzle has one huge benefit to doing it the low-tech way. You can easily duplicate the original and then make slight changes to it. This keeps the majority of the image exactly the same. That’s sometimes tricky to do in a physical pen and paper type image.

The other real benefit of creating a digital version of a puzzle is the opportunity for kids to develop and practice skills in using different kinds of technology. And of course, kids will have a lot of fun experimenting and making fiendish changes for a partner to spot!

Coming soon in this series:

Creating Picture Puzzles 2 - a Digital Image to Copy

Creating Picture Puzzles 3- Seek and Find

Creating Picture Puzzles 4 - Counting Puzzles for Younger Children

Creating Picture Puzzles 5 - Invent a Rebus Story

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Review and Activities, Guinness World Records 2018 and Guinness World Records: Amazing Animals

Children's Book Review by Susan Stephenson,

Guinness World Records 2018 is a large book and it’s chock-full of information about the accomplishments, stunts, natural facts and achievements that have warranted record-setting. It was published by Guinness, 2017. (PanMacmillan Australia.) RRP: $Au 44.99 HB

From the publisher:

The record-breaking record book is back with a whole new year's worth of incredible accomplishments, spectacular stunts, cutting-edge science and unparalleled sporting achievements. As ever, it's packed with hundreds of never-before-seen photographs, thousands of superlative stats, facts and figures, and a multitude of new features.

Guinness World Records 2018 has a special emphasis on something close to kids’ hearts. Superheroes. Aside from real life record-breakers, like longest nails in the world or shortest time to cover 100m on stilts, there’s also a chapter devoted to superheroes in media. Kids could be inspired by what they learn in the book to write about their own favourite superhero, or about the world record they would like to break someday, and how they plan to go about it.

Lots of kids adore non-fiction, and a non-fiction book that can be guaranteed to grab their interest is a Guinness Book of Records. Often you will find a knot of kids (yes, often boys!) clustered around a precious copy, poring over it, exclaiming and dreaming. I admire any reference book that has the potential to capture children’s interest and imagination in this way, and recommend Guinness World Records 2018 to homes, schools and libraries everywhere.

Guinness World Records: Amazing Animals is also published by Guinness, 2017. (PanMacmillan Australia.) RRP: $Au 24.99 PB.

From the publisher:

If you're a fan of Grumpy Cat or Biddy the Hedgehog and just can't resist every fascinating nature story you see on the web, then it's time to get your paws on Guinness World Records: Amazing Animals. This brand-new book of fantastic beasts is a celebration of incredible creatures great and small. But this is far from your typical wildlife encyclopaedia... Marvel at superpets that have mastered extreme sports. Giggle at some of the most unlikely furry friendships. Meet the planet's animal celebrities.
Here's a companion volume to the above that will reach out to animal-lovers and kids who want lots of attractive photos and short informational text. They'll also find quizzes, features on celebrity pets and peculiar pets, ways to test dogs and cats to find how clever they really are, info on working animals, animal record-holders and even a double-page on one of my own heroes, Noel Fitzpatrick from Super Vet, who gifted Oscar the Cat with two bionic paws.

There'll be oohs and aahs of delight from library patrons young and old over this book. You can see videos, record-holders, samples and activities at the Amazing Animals website.


How could we build a buzz around these books, or use them as a focus for more fun with learning?

*Exploring world records is a wonderful way to involve kids in reading, researching and presenting information. Think about the scientific possibilities in coming up with a list of tallest, heavies, fastest, most deadly animals. There are great double page “superlative” spreads - heaviest, youngest, smallest, most expensive etc - that kids could use as a model for making an infographic of their own. These are also available from Guinness World Records 18 website as digital (NB these were quite slow for me) downloads.

*World records might not even be authentically measurable. Can you imagine the discussion, negotiation and persuasion if kids had to agree on the meanest villain in a children’s book, the cuddliest and cutest animal hero, or the most exciting superhero?

*How about the critical and creative thinking in choosing and trying to break a world record? While some of these records aren’t probably ones we want kids to emulate, there’s some that are:

Most water balloons caught and kept in one minute.
Fastest time to identify ten fruits blindfolded.
Fastest time to topple five targets with a pump action foam dart gun.

*Schools could hold a special fun session built around world or school records. Toppling dominos is a perennial favourite, or kids could suggest records themselves. School records needn’t be the same as world records, but can be just as intense an achievement! I wonder who can build the tallest LEGO tower, or design a bridge that can support a LEGO minifig, using only paper? How about the most double dutch skips, the most paper airplanes that can hit a target, most parents and kids in any one class who can read silently for fifteen minutes, or do star jumps or sing Mary Had a Little Lamb backwards?

*Can anyone topple the record for wrapping a partner in newspaper? (Record to beat: 3 min, 5 sec) or most dominos stacked in 30 seconds? (Record to beat: 48) Can you imagine the applicants vying to eat the most M and Ms in one minute, with chopsticks and blindfolded? (Record to beat: 20)

*Kids could also participate in a Not the Guinness Records Session. This would involve dressing up, designing props and rehearsing skits based around the actual record holders in the book. Many of the illustrations are amazing, even eye-watering, but what a great learning experience for kids to decide how to safely reproduce the “look” of them.

*Which Australian celebrities, natural wonders or animals have made it into the Guinness Book of Records? Which celebrities, natural wonders or animals should have?

*Students could assemble a collection of their favourite records from the book. This could be in the form of a digital document or a journal, perhaps even some kind of displayable artefact.

*How about a pet parade, where kids bring their record-breaking pets to school to show off their tricks? If the very thought makes your blood freeze, try a tamer version. Kids could bring along toy animals instead!

*There are online activities and perhaps more inspiration for kids at the Guinness World Records Kids website.

*Need a jazzy introduction to a superhero theme? There’s a great song on the Learn English Kids website.

If you've found this post useful, or any others at The Book Chook, I'd love you to help me spread my literacy, learning and literature ideas by promoting via Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, StumbleUpon, G+ or any other way you decide.

Find more Children's Book Reviews on The Book Chook by clicking Reviews in the right sidebar.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Children’s iPad App, Toca Life: City

Reviewed by Susan Stephenson,

Toca Life: City is an iPad app that encourages kids to explore, and tell stories about a city. I have previously reviewed Toca Life: Town, and Toca Band by the same developer.

From the developer:

- 6 locations to explore: loft apartment, shopping mall, hair salon, food park, theatre and tailor
- 35 characters that are customizable in over 4 million ways!
- 47 hairstyles to test, 37 colors to choose from and various outfits to try on
- 7 different food stands at the food park — have some sushi with your burger and try the famous fish ‘n chips!
- Shop for clothes, kitchenware, pets, toys and groceries at the mall
- Write a play and perform it at the theatre
- Record your stories in the app and share with your friends!
- More fun videos and games for the TV
- No time limit or high scores — play for as long as you like!
- No third-party advertising
- No in-app purchases

What I liked: I loved the emphasis on kids experimenting and exploring. The developers stress that play is open-ended. Kids can try this and that, make up little games and record their stories by moving characters and props with a finger, then adding their own narration in short videos. These videos can be saved to the camera roll.

The game opens to a big picture of the city and kids tap where they want to go. They can shop in the mall, feed characters in the food court, try hairstyles and outfits and even write and perform a play in the City Theatre.

The developers suggest the app is for kids 5 and under. I believe children older than this will still have lots of fun with Toca Life: City, as well as cleverly creating and using their imaginations.

Where do I get it?

Check out all of my iPad App Reviews on Pinterest, and find more apps and articles via my Listly page.
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