Monday, November 10, 2014

Children’s iPad App, WePublish

Children’s iPad App, WePublish
by Susan Stephenson,

Wow! The creative and educational apps I’m finding have me really excited over their potential for kids. Last week I reviewed Toc and Roll, an app that encourages kids to play with and mix their own music. Today I’m thrilled to be telling you about WePublish, an app that allows kids to create their own books. And not just create them in the most magical way, but SEND them to others.

From the developer:

WePublish is a digital community publishing app that allows you to write, illustrate, publish and print your own 8-page book.

It is a powerful tool to support literacy development and is aligned to the work of Kids Own Publishing. Children will love the collage tools and handmade aesthetic that reflects the philosophy of Kids Own Publishing.

WePublish is being used in schools and libraries to support children from K-12 develop literacy and storytelling skills.

What’s magical about the experience of making a book via WePublish? For me it was the opportunity to make a digital collage. There are textures in-app that you can simply draw over with a finger, and then cut and add to any page. So children might add clouds cut from a digital paper, or trees cut from digital woollen material. Kids can also use their real-world art work in the book, and simply photograph it with the iPad’s camera, then navigate to the photo in the Camera Roll. They can even design things in other apps, save to the Camera Roll and import into WePublish. When you think about it, it’s magical too that WePublish encourages kids to write, illustrate, publish and print a book!

For my test project illustrations, I drew some owls in Paper by 53, and saved them to the Camera Roll. I created other owls, a tree etc within WePublish using their textures. Adding text was a cinch, with a choice of three fonts. There’s also a white or black pencil you can draw onto your picture with. Below you’ll find an image that shows four of the eight pages from my book, Owl Pals. (The book actually started out with the grandiloquent title, Owls I Have Known. Luckily, you can edit titles and other text!)

Once a book is finished, kids can choose to publish it by sending it by email to friends and relatives. Or print it. The finished book is a PDF, laid out ready for printing as an eight-page booklet. This is why some of the pages look upside down. There’s a little video (next to Latest News on the home page of Kids Own Publishing) that shows kids how to fold and cut the booklet. This might need to be a carefully directed lesson with students - with younger kids, I suggest sending it home with the directions.

What I liked:

Anything that encourages kids to create gets my vote! I love the app's emphasis on children as creators. Kids Own Publishing is keen on promoting children as authors and illustrators - with this app, they can write for an authentic audience of their choice. They can also choose to get a real physical product (the printed and folded booklet) they have actually made themselves, not just a digital product. Using WePublish would make a great collaborative class project. And lastly, I love that this app also encourages kids to read and re-read stories they’ve written themselves. My Kindergarten kids would read our class-made books into shreds!

The app was occasionally a bit cranky. I figured out this was because I was trying to move an element quickly in the collage I was making. Remind kids if something won’t move, wait a second or two before trying again. I would have loved a few extras like a duplicate button, and a way to make multiple cuts on a texture, but I think the developers were wise to keep it simple. After all, this is an app for kids, not picky chooks!

WePublish isn’t as cheap as some other apps. At time of writing this review, for example, it’s $Au6.49 and $US4.99. But I recommend it just the same. For not much more than the price of a cup of coffee, you will have an app that will encourage your kids to write, create and read. Worth it in my opinion!

Check out my other iPad App Reviews on Pinterest.

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