Learning Resources for iPads to promote student learning

by Debbie

 The apps/games that I use regularly with the prep children in my class are Playful mind 5-8 year olds, Eggy Words, Visual Timer, Playschool Art Maker, Cake Doodle, Sock Puppets, rEd Writing, as well as a range of Story books. Other resources that I have used and are suited to older grades are: Sonic Pics, My Story, Explain Everything, Puppet Pals, Hyperblast.

Eggy Words: Cost: Free for Eggy 100, $2.99 for Eggy 250. This app is part of the Reading Eggs series of educational games, produced by Blake eLearning. The free version has 3 levels with 25 challenges to complete per stage and allows you to choose the speed of the eggs. It starts off with easy words and some help but as you continue to play the support drops off. For each challenge you have a word and have to find as many eggs with the word on it. Other objects are flung in your way (like frying pans, pigs and rotton eggs) as well as stray words, these all gradually speed up the more you collect. You can also collect bonus puzzle pieces and extra life. The game repeats the word every time you tap the correct egg, which makes this a fun game that supports the children as they are learning sight words.

My Story: Cost:  $1.99. This app allows students to create their own stories using pictures from the camera roll, take a new picture, create an illustration or draw over a current picture using the inbuilt art tool. It is easy to insert pages and move between pages of the book to edit as they work. The users can then record their story orally or type in the text. When the story is complete, it can be shared via email or opened in iBooks. This app has been used by many teachers in the school and the children and teachers have been very impressed with the ease of creating their projects. One limitation when using this tool within a shared bank of iPads and the user does not finish in the allotted timeframe, then they have to use the same iPad to complete the task.

Teacher Resources available for iPad.

By Debbie

I have been using an iPad in my current classroom since May 2011, when I was asked to be part of a trial conducted by Catholic Education in Cairns. I had been familiar with using an iPhone and thought that it would be an easy learning curve for me. However, with some issues of syncing, server issues and account issues the first few weeks were quite frustrating. However, persistence paid off in the end and I have successfully incorporated the iPad into my daily practice and will feel lost if I ever had to stop using the device. The school has now purchased an iPad for each teacher (18 in total) to become familiar with for the year, and we are beginning to trial using these as banks of iPads during the week. Next year the iPads will be available in 3 banks of 6 iPads that teachers will be able to book for classroom use. I find this is a manageable number to use as 1 group can use the iPads while other class members continue with other work.

Some of the applications (apps) that I use daily include the built in camera, Numbers, SoundNote, Appsgonefree, Reflections and iBooks.

Numbers: Cost: $10.49 to purchase but I have found it to be worth every cent. This is the Apple equivalent of Excel Spreadsheet. It is a bit different to the desktop version but with tutorials and template spreadsheets available it is a very user-friendly app for keeping records of the students. I was never a fan of Microsoft Excel and struggled with setting up spreadsheets, however, I have several spreadsheets set up within Numbers for different purposes. The best feature of this app is that it has a ‘today’ button option for inserting the date, so I find that if I have a checklist of learning (such as for sightwords or reading levels) I can hit that button and there is an instant point in time record. The spreadsheets can then be emailed as original or PDF format so information can be shared easily.

Reflections: Cost: $14.99 Single user. This is an app to purchase for the computer that allows the iPad (or iPhone 4) to be projected onto the computer screen via airplay. We do not have interactive whiteboards at our school but I have a projector so I am able to display the iPad onto the screen and all the children can see what is happening on the iPad. This has been valuable to sharing books, and also demonstrating how to use apps or play games.

Playful Minds Gaming:

by Debbie

The game that I have reviewed is one that has had increased popularity with my class on the iPads in the last few weeks. Playful Minds 5-8 year olds is a free app for the iPad and iPhone and focuses on developing maths concepts through a range of challenges and questions. This game has held the students’ interest and my class will play continually on this game until asked to switch off the devices. This app has the option for multiple players either locally or online. However, my class only plays using the one-player mode and interchange between each other rather than selecting a new player option.

The game transports you to an island setting and encourages you to create an avatar on initial set up. Training is offered as well as a rewards room (to view your accomplishments) and a dress-up area to ‘buy’ clothes for the avatar with the reward coins earned through completing activities. You must complete a mini-game on the island before moving on to the next game. Each game has 10 questions to complete and if you leave the game before completing, you have to start the 10 questions again the next time you enter. Only completed mini-games get saved. There is also a practice level after a series of games that allow you to apply your knowledge to get the avatar to knock down obstacles in its path, collecting gems along the way.

Playful Minds can be played in easy, normal, hard or very hard mode and there is also the option of choosing a K – 2 year level. The game is leveled and you get percentage points, which converts to experience, for the amount of correct answers completed in the game. Each level has a varying amount of experience points required to “level up”. When a new concept is introduced there is a tutorial to aid users, with a skip option if they do not need explanation. The characters read the instructions out and there is a sound button option to listen to the instructions again, and a light bulb button to allow users to see the tutorial throughout the mini game. Activities of counting, operations, measurement, patterning, comparisons and geometry are a few examples of the concepts covered in this game.

This game app provides many of the types of rewards that hook young users into a game. It has catchy music, is bright and it has a range of characters. The only draw back of the game is the few (annoyingly long) seconds it takes to ‘load’ into each game space. The characters from the island provide feedback throughout the activities such as, ‘cool, you got the right answer’ or ‘no, but that’s ok you’ll do better next time’, and ‘You have 5 answers right, keep up the good work’’. Losing information when having to leave an activity and the increasing difficulty to level up encourages the users to keep playing. Daily attendance is also rewarded with either coins or experience. Needing coins to buy items in the shop with varying prices also encourages children to keep playing so that they can obtain a desired item. While this is not really a motivating factor for my prep users, it would be for slightly older students.

As a teacher I have been happy to include this game into my classroom as I find it is engaging and while the children know that it is ‘educational’ they are still keen to play it.

Tashi –  A review of a popular book at our school library.

by Debbie

I have always enjoyed reading picture books to young children, but when I had to review a book for this course I thought I should read something a little more substantial, but I also wanted something of interest to the junior children. When I asked our school librarian which books the junior children enjoyed she ran through a list of books now dubbed at our school the ‘zig zag’ books. While there were a large range of series titles that grabbed my attention such as: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Tashi, Dear Dumb Diary. As soon as I heard ‘Tashi’ I thought I had to read these books as I actually have them on my bookshelf from when I was teaching grade 3 a few years ago, but I had never read them.

Tashi is a book series written for younger students by Anna and Barbara Fienberg and illustrated by Kim Gamble. While this book series has been around since 1995, it is one that is still captivating the students within our school setting.  The illustrations, in pencil-sketch style, are whimsical and so detailed they draw you in to investigated closely and tell an underlying story.

The easy reading text and fantasy/adventure genre easily draws young readers in and offers a beginning ‘chapter book’ experience allowing for a progression from a ‘home reader’ style book to something more substantial. Some of the pages have only one or two sentences, which allows reluctant readers to not feel overwhelmed. Tashi’s catch phrase ‘Well, it was like this” draws the reader into each of his adventures.

Tashi, the hero of the book series, befriends Jack and shares his adventures. Jack is easy for children to relate to as he wants to tell his parents about Tashi’s adventures, but his dad never seems to ask the right questions like his mum does. Tashi shares his tales of fighting and tricking dragons, giants, a war lord and many other magical and mystical beings. The books can be read independently but they are written in a series with the previous book luring you in to the next adventure. These books are an easy read for young readers from about year 2 onwards. Now I have embarked on the Tashi journey I am looking forward to reading them aloud to any young child ready for adventure and escapism.

Tashi photo source: http://www.google.com.au/imgres?q=tashi&hl=en&client=safari&sa=X&rls=en&biw=1279&bih=556&tbm=isch&prmd=imvnsb&tbnid=3Q6YXUV5vO69xM:&imgrefurl=http://www.misrule.com.au/s9y/index.php%3F/archives/130-Brunch-with-Anna-Fienberg.html&docid=DY_zXTS4DSnGQM&imgurl=http://www.misrule.com.au/s9y/uploads/Misrule/tashi.jpg&w=200&h=220&ei=R2GIUJ-1PKnImAXo_oHgDA&zoom=1&iact=rc&dur=470&sig=116711365476285912474&page=1&tbnh=154&tbnw=140&start=0&ndsp=16&ved=1t:429,r:2,s:0,i:141&tx=57&ty=73

Tashi illustration: personal photo from Fienberg, A. & Fienberg, B. (1995)  “Tashi” New South Wales: Allen and Unwin

Tashi Books: personal photo of my “Tashi” book series collection.

What Young People Read: A Case Study

by Julie

In this case, an interview was conducted with a Year 6 boy, named Jack, to discover what texts he engaged in outside of school. Jack explained that he enjoys reading, but admitted that it is mostly due to his ‘mothers encouragement’ that he has read the books that he has. As a rule, Jack reads every night, half an hour before bed, and will sometimes read to his mother before school. Reading has not always been easy for this 12 year old.

The types of texts this young person enjoys, ranges from magazines, such as K-Zone and Mania, to novels written by authors such as, Jeff Kinney and Andy Griffiths. On occasion, he will also read non-fiction books that focus on scientific or general interest facts. He really likes reading Guinness World Record books for light entertainment.

Jack finds it difficult to get through a book that he is not enjoying, and explains that he will most likely not continue reading it, rather than struggle through it. When Jack finds a text he likes, he can’t put it down and usually ‘bugs his Mum’ with recounts of exciting, funny or interesting bits.

While Jack does not have a favourite novel, he really enjoyed Andy Griffiths, 13-Storey Treehouse. The story was great, and the illustrations added to the reading experience. He is looking forward to reading the 26th-Storey Treehouse, which has recently been released. However, it is probably the magazines that manage to hold his attention the most. Interesting (as well as,’ gross’) facts, comics, discussions on computer games and jokes, are always entertaining, according to Jack.




When asked what he thought was important in a good book or magazine, this 12 year old suggested an interesting story or facts, lots of humour and a collection of illustrations supporting the storyline, all made for a great read.


Spaces for Young People 

by Debbie

I am currently teaching in a Catholic Primary school which was fortunate to secure funding for a new library with the government funding last year. The new library was completed for the beginning of the 2012 school year. The library space is an open, bright and very flexible learning area, which has given new life to the school. A library school officer, who has worked hard to make the library user friendly and inviting, manages the library 4 days a week. Senior students have been trained as library monitors to allow the students to have ownership of the space especially during break times.

The planning of the furniture was greatly researched and mobile shelving and desks were purchased to allow for flexibility of the space. Currently the area is set up with a junior fiction picture book area with bean bags, several comfy seats and plenty of floor space for children to sit down and enjoy their books. Novels are arranged in zig-zag tiered-shelving to promote interest with the older primary aged readers. Reference books are situated along the wall space near the desk areas for children to have easy access when researching information.

There is access to 4 desk top computers in the library, as well as a bank of 10 lap tops for research. There is a sound-proof green room with padded tiered seating which is often used for a quiet reading area during lunch breaks or by classes for group learning sessions as there is access to a data projector. A variety of games and resources are also available to be used during lunch breaks. Teacher reference books and resources are kept in a separate location in the staff room for easy access for teachers during lunch break times.

The colour scheme has been chosen with care to make the space bright, and aesthetically pleasing, with a range of different surfaces for different display options. Already a variety of displays have been set up and changed throughout the year to reflect learning in the school and to promote interest in different books and series. This is also reflected in the TV displays, featuring photos of the students at various events throughout the year. The children’s work has been displayed and managed by the students allowing them a sense of pride in their work and a connection to the library. The space is always well used and has become a central part of the school.


Spaces for Young People in Our School Library

by Julie

Although I am currently a stay at home Mum, I am very familiar with the library in the local Catholic Secondary school that I used to teach at. In fact, it is the library where I have conducted most of my practical experience for my Masters of Education (Teacher-Librarian) Degree.

The current library is a well-used space in the school. It has one work area within the non-fiction area, capable of accommodating a class. On the other side of a wall, is the fiction area which is bordered by carrels, has a limited number of tables and chairs, and a lounge chair. In the middle of the room are two four leveled shelves containing the fiction texts. Next to the fiction area there is a small alcove containing 5 computers with online access, and 4 computers dedicated to the library catalogue.

Outside of class time, the non-fiction area is mostly used for quiet work or study. It is the fiction area that has been setup for leisure. The lounge chair is position between the magazines and the fiction books, and is often occupied by students. At the chairs and tables you will find students playing board games and sharing interesting facts from magazines in the lunch hour. This is the noisy area of the library.

While the library is well-resourced, the space as a whole is not quite large enough for a school of this size, and is in need of aesthetic improvement. The walls are a dull grey and almost bare. There is very little evidence of literature promotion or any kind of promotion in fact. I’m really disappointed by the lack of student work on display. It is difficult to imagine that this is a space where teenagers would enjoy.

Perhaps one of the reasons that the library environment has not been enhanced, is due to the proposal of a new school library, to be built in the near future. The plans will see the library located in a more central position, and is expected to be a fully functioning, modern library – hopefully with young people in mind.

Reliving My Childhood

By Debbie

Growing up as a child of the 80’s I thought we had the best cartoons, compared to the very computer generated, and often violent cartoons that are on offer to children of today. Cartoon such as Smurfs, Gummi Bears, Snorks, Duck Tales, He Man, Care Bears, Transformers, Astro Boy, Inspector Gadget, Muppet Babies and Wuzzels are many that I still remember. My brothers and I spent many hours after school and on Saturday mornings being transported into the cartoon worlds of these shows with their catch tunes, humour and happy endings. Due to many of these shows (for example Smurfs, and Transformers) making a come-back for the new generation, It is obvious that many other adults also enjoyed their cartoon viewing.

However, the show from my youth that holds the most impact for me was Young Talent Time (YTT). This was our family viewing show, and is probably the biggest reason it was a favourite. Saturday nights (then it changed to Friday nights in 1988) we used to be together as a family and watch and sing along to the songs on offer. I was always enthralled by the costumes, hair, settings and music. It used to amaze me all the ‘new songs’ that my mum knew the words to, well they were new to me. I do not remember ever wanting to be on the show, but I do remember my love for the music and dancing, and it may have seeded my later interest and involvement in learning to play musical instruments and participate in choirs throughout my childhood up to today.

The show, hosted by Johnny Young was responsible for many Aussie talents being discovered. The format of the show had regular young singer offering a program of songs and a talent quest style performance by other young performers. It first aired on television in 1971 and ran until 1988. YTT also made a resurgence this year, for the new generation. However, I started watching YTT from about 1982. The most memorable stars of my viewing were: Dannii Minogue (and Kylie when she guest appeared), Tina Arena, Joey Perrone, Juanita Coco, Vince Del Tito and Joey Dee (Wikipedia). While the cast members performed a wide range of popular, up-beat songs the show always finished with all the performers coming together with Johnny Young to sing ‘All My Lovin’ and ended with Johnny’s catch phrases “Goodnight Australia”.

Here is a trip down memory lane!
Young Talent Time- closing to Razzle Dazzle show 1988 (HQ)

Goodie! Goodie, Goodie, Yum Yum!

by Julie

Being a child of the 70s with two older brothers, I had no choice but to become involved in the fun and laughter generated by the Goodies. So popular were the Goodies in our house that we begged Mum to let us watch it while we ate dinner. Did we get our way? No, but without making a big deal about it and unbeknownst to us kids, Mum scheduled dinner during Doctor Who – after the Goodies.

Now to clarify, I loved the Goodies in the initial series. The later episodes failed to deliver the humor and wicked hilarity of the original production. This was nothing short of a travesty in our young minds!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Goodies, it was created by, and starred Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie. It was a situation comedy which told of the somewhat surreal and unbelievable life of these three men. They were good friends who lived together, and with their differing personalities, cohesively created chaos.

On reflection, I think the reason my brothers and I loved the Goodies was because of its silly humor,which often shocked us. This was the 70s and early 80s after all! Whether it was the grenade throwing babies, Tim’s romantic obsession with a horse (Black Beauty) or the ridiculous inclusion of ‘Kitty Kong’, we could not get enough. It was easy for children to relate to, because although these were grown men, they often displayed childlike behavior.

Throughout this reflection, I have referred to the enjoyment my brothers and I got out of watching the Goodies. Maybe that is one of the main reasons why I loved it – because it was a great opportunity for us to laugh together. However, it has occurred to me as I reflect on this, that as much as we all loved the Goodies, we were not rushing out to get our hands on the latest Goodies dolls, tee-shirts, accompanying vinyl record or video game. How youth culture has changed!

Here is a little reminder. Enjoy!


The Observations of a Gamer

by Julie

Having been swayed on the potential to use video games as a tool for learning, I was interested to see first hand, what learning experiences were provided by gaming. In this instance an 11 year old boy was observed and interviewed while playing the online game, Minecraft.

The object of the game is to beat the ‘Ender Dragon’. To do this you have to create a world using specific tools and blocks which you make from raw materials, such as trees and iron. These must be harvested or mined so you can make the materials necessary to create buildings, mines, statues, pools, fields, etc., and importantly, a portal. The portal must be created so you can defeat the ‘Endomen’, a creature which provides ‘Endo-pearls’. When combined with another substance, these pearls become the ‘Eyes of Ender’. They point you to the direction of the Ender portal which leads you to the dragon’s dimension, where you have the opportunity to defeat the dragon.

There are numerous learning experiences provided in Minecraft. Firstly the player must learn to make numerous decisions. These include: choosing the mode of game he/she wants to play; creative, survival or hardcore, deciding on the best way to build a world that advantages him/her as a player, using raw materials efficiently, and creating purposeful buildings. The player also needed to be strategic, by thinking ahead, positioning himself so that it ensures survival, and by using materials wisely. The opportunity to be creative in the design of the player’s world is only possible through a set of rules, which must be learned. There is also game specific language/terminology which the player must become familiar with to progress through the game successfully. Furthermore, the use of memory is important in this game, so that the player can remember where key places are, such as important mine sites.

It was interesting to watch the commitment of this eleven year old to the task set before him in Minecraft. While this game provided some learning experiences of significance, these would undoubtedly be enhance by a more collaborative mode of play, and opportunities for reflection and sharing. Nevertheless, there is no denying the level of concentration and commitment displayed by this young gamer.