Tagged With: app reviews
Every teacher knows that students do better with positive reinforcement. As tempting as “punishment” might sound when referring to that student who has scrambled your last nerve, to explain consequences of actions in positive terms goes much further toward student success not only in school but in the ongoing effort to build life-long learners.
“Positive reinforcement, whether it be with your family, when following laws, or with students, can best be defined as the logical consequences of doing what’s right.” –Jacqui Murray
As an education pedagogy, pursuing a classroom management system that revolves around positive reinforcement is called Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support, or PBIS. The importance of using tools that prevent disruptive behavior and support students is explained by NEA Past President Lily Eskelsen Garcia:
The most effective tool teachers have to handle problem behavior is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) programs help teachers recognize the significance of classroom management and preventive school discipline to maximize student success. PBIS strategies are critical to providing all young people with the best learning environment.
Committed teachers can accomplish this in a variety of ways including supportive words, prizes, special activities, certificates, badges, and modeling proper behavior. Here are four online options that support the goal of recognizing students in a positive way:
You’ve probably read my reviews of Zapzapmath and Zap Zap Kindergarten Math, as well as the constant updates they make to their free (and freemium) app. This gamified math ecosystem is popular with students because it’s fun and teachers because it ties into many national and international standards (like Common Core). Its format is colorful and engaging, music lively, and layout intuitive.
Now, Zapzapmath has introduced a new option called Zapzapmath Home. These free grade-level apps for iOS and Android are aimed directly at home use to support students who want to learn math at home with fun games, enticing videos, and the same clever interface they experience in school. By gamifying math in a way that wraps personalized learning with real grade-level tools, Zapzapmath helps students change the way they think about math from an activity that occurs within the walls of the schoolhouse to one that can happen anywhere.
Zapzapmath Home includes a scaffolded system of seven apps, one for each grade level from K-6. Each app is free to download and comes with a couple of free games that provide a solid preview of how Zapzapmath teaches math, letting you decide whether it’s right for your child.
Now, Zapzapmath has made the experience even better with a long list of enhancements, in-game improvements, and an even greater variety of features. These are designed for all types of players from those who play at school to students who log on at a homeschool or through a family account. This is perfect for the many different ways students learn math, the wide variety of digital devices being used, and gives a nod toward the lifelong learner who is as likely to play math games because they love learning as that it’s part of teacher-directed activities.
Zapzapmath is a free gamified way to teach K-8 math skills that are tied to many national standards (like Common Core). Its format is colorful and engaging, the music lively, and the space-themed layout exactly right for the age group. The over 150 games are fast-paced and interactive and cover over 180 math topics. Students direct their learning with an avatar (called a ‘mathling’) that identifies their work and keeps them engaged. Read my full review of Zapzapmath here.
Zap Zap Kindergarten Math, geared for ages 3-6, is the newest member of the Zapzapmath family. It includes 160+ visually-stimulating math games that make learning fun and engaging while students develop math and thinking skills. It covers foundation skills like addition, subtraction, place value, and measurement and data, and is aligned with international math standards such as the US’s Common Core. Each game is preceded by quick audio directions and ongoing gameplay is narrated so all levels of readers can understand. Analytics track and evaluate progress.
Players learn to:
- Develop number sense.
- Count to 100 by ones and tens.
- Count forward and backward from a given number.
- Compare 2 numbers as greater than, less than, or equal.
- Understand mathematical equality.
- Solve simple addition and subtraction equations up to 20.
- Differentiate two objects in terms of physical attributes; i.e. size and height.
- Identify shapes as two-dimensional or three-dimensional.
- Compose larger shapes out of smaller shapes.
Mindsnacks is a series of education apps on topics like geography, vocabulary, languages, and SAT. With colorful graphics and cute characters, it’s a cross between flashcards and multiple choice with lots of visual thrown in. Though these are game-based learning, there’s no plot as you might find simulated games. Think Number Munchers rather than Minecraft. Each app includes personalized learning, an enhanced review mode, and additional challenges to keep students motivated.
To start, download the app and log in. If you have several Mindsnacks apps, you can log into a central profile and track your progress on all of them. Here are three of my favorites:
Mindsnacks’ U.S. Geography includes eight games for beginner and intermediate students with over 40 hours of interactive content, more than 600 hand-drawn graphics, and 1,000-plus questions on borders, shapes, landmarks, history, state culture, flags, mottos, capitals, and major cities. Initially, only four of the eight games are available; users unlock others by successfully navigating a virtual road trip across the country. A tutorial is provided for each state so kids can review basic information prior to beginning play. To keep learning interactive, the app includes features such as a dart players use to mark the spot on the map where a certain U.S. landform or landmark exists. Post-quiz reports show how close users are to mastering each state’s information and what skills they developed during the game.
Many of you are familiar with the award-winning free app called Zapzapmath. I first learned about it through an email about their newly updated platform–
…addictive math games..
kids fall in love with math..
free, higher order thinking games…
I have to admit, I was intrigued. Not a lot of math apps can fulfill these claims. Could Zapzapmath, with that zippy name, beautiful visual graphics, lively music, and the space theme, come through? I downloaded it and took it for a test drive. Here’s what I found: Fifty (at the date of this publication) free fast-paced K-6 interactive math games that are Common Core-aligned and suited for varied student learning styles, with activities that advance with student skills, and no internet connection required (though WiFi is required). Student activity is recorded to the teacher (or parent) dashboard, making it easy to focus on areas of difficulty. And parents are partners, having access to their child’s progress, right down to the minutiae of the skills they learned, like “knows the meaning of equal sign”.
Game categories include:
Fifty years ago, Albert Einstein warned ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge.’ The ability to solve problems by thinking creatively is more important than knowing how they were solved in the past. Now, in today’s connected classroom, creativity has become the newest transformative tool, the buzzword that indicates a curriculum is on the cutting edge, that teachers are delivering their best to students and differentiating for varied needs.
Art and music have long been considered the doorway to creative thinking. Here are three suggestions that will help you across that threshhold painlessly, even if you aren’t an artist.
I teach technology, so I asked Lawrence Auble, a musician friend I’ve known for years, what he uses for tutoring. His recommendation: Smart Music. It’s one of the 2014 category award winners by School and Band Orchestra magazine and the industry standard for teaching band, string, and vocal of all ages and all skill levels. The app gives subscribers unlimited access to SmartMusic’s extensive library of over 50 method books, nearly 50,000 skill building exercises, and 22,000+ solo and ensemble titles by major publishers.
Here’s how it works:
- Students sign into class and receive materials tailored to their needs by their teacher.
- As the music appears on the screen, students play or sing along with the background accompaniment.
- SmartMusic provides an immediate assessment.
- When satisfied, students send a recording to their teacher who can assess, score, and build a portfolio to track their progress over time.
It is available on PCs and Macs as well as iPads.
It’s not enough to share information with students. Unless they have an eidetic memory, much of what they see/hear/taste/smell never reaches long term memory. For that, students require study. That includes note-taking and review in a variety of formats to touch the varied approaches to learning.
Here are three apps I find helpful with students. They are flexible, scalable, and as a group, address a variety of learning approaches students use. This includes traditional handwritten notes, collecting multimedia resources, and the ever-popular drill. Which is best for you?
This is as close as you’ll get to pen-and-paper and be digital. No registration required and no ads. The start page is clear, uncluttered, with notes clearly listed. The menu bar is narrow and unobtrusive. Notes are taken on an infinite canvas as though it was a tablet of lined paper. You can add images, text, and audio files. Notes are saved in collections or singly which can then be exported as a PDF or an image.
Take notes with a finger, a stylus, or typed, even annotate PDFs (currently for an additional fee).
Hour of Code, coming up this December 7-13th, is a one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify code and show that anybody can learn the basics. Since it began, over 100 million students have participated worldwide in over forty languages (data from HourofCode.com). So far this year, almost 39,000 teachers are participating across the globe:
As I did last year, I’ll be giving you a complete selection of activities by grade-level with lots of innovative ideas on what will make coding both fun and easy to your students. Here’s a taste–something you can start in November to get students ready for more:
IFTTT allows users to create recipes to automate functions, such as receiving an email or text when the weather changes or being notified when you forget something at the house. It uses a simple statement that will turn all the social media mavens into engineers—IF THIS THEN THAT.
Whether you teach science or PE, there are hundreds of apps to help you do it better. The response to this tidal wave of information has been confusion. As each teacher downloads their favorites, students spend as much time learning the app as applying it academically.
There’s a move afoot to pick five that are cross-curricular, train faculty, and then use them throughout the school year. This is the way it used to be when MS Office ruled the computer and everyone understood it. If this is your school, here are three apps to start the school year:
When looking for an app to curate classroom reading, consider these requirements:
- works well with your current LMS
- includes a wide variety of reading formats
- displays books quickly, allowing you to open multiple books, add annotations, and take notes
- displays class textbooks
Lots of apps do the first three; none the last. Why? Many class texts use formats that only display on the publisher website. What became apparent as I researched was that GoodReader was one of several considered Best in Class because of its broad-based ability to read, manage, organize, access, and annotate a wide variety of file formats. Where it has long been considered a leader in reading and annotating PDFs, new releases accommodate almost any type of file including .docx, mp3, jpeg, ppt, xlx, audio, and videos. With its tabbed interface, users can open multiple documents and click through them as needed.