Wednesday, September 26, 2012

IPad School

This is my iPad.  We have folders organized on each of the iPads with the homeschool apps we use.
This is just one of my folders.

I have had several requests to share what apps we are using for school and for Kenny, so I thought I'd write a quick post and share what e have found thus far.  With over 250,000 apps, it can be a challenge to find appropriate apps that are worthwhile.

There are some huge advantages for a family with multiple kids.  For one thing, you purchase apps one time (if you purchase them at all) and you can load them on every device attached to your account.  In other words, we pay once and it can be put on every other iPad we own.  The truth is though, most of the apps we have are free or are less than $2 each.  There are a couple we bought that were more than that, like Apple's word processing app for the iPad, Pages, but at $10 for all the iPads it is so much less expensive than MS Word that its cost is almost insignificant when compared.  Also, when using the Kindle app for books from Amazon, you can purchase books once and load them on all your devices as well.  So when we are reading a book as a group and I have bought 4 or 5 copies of it for us to read together, that can add up quickly to a huge savings.

We have several organizing apps, which for kids like Kenny are imperative.  He NEEDS the ability to organize all his information in one place, and to develop habits of relying on it because of his huge memory deficits.  We are trying to begin early to establish this routine of looking at his organizers and lists all the time for help.  The other day, I was super pleased to have him pull out his iPad, open his Note app, and ask me to list things in order that he had to do to accomplish a task outside.  We can not pretend he will be able to "fix" the memory issues, so we have moved to "coping mode", and thus far it seems to be helping a lot!  Many, many international adoptees struggle with memory issues, or with organizational/planning/structuring skills.  These apps help them break things down from a whole into its parts.

So  I will list the apps we have discovered below:

1.  Chore Pad - This is the app we are using to organize Kenny's day for him and to remind him of all his daily tasks.  We also use it to track work in each of our subjects.

We have this linked to Google Calendar, so we can retrieve information on our laptops or on our iPads.

2.  PI Pro - This is a personal organizer, calendar and To Do app.  All the kids are using it to keep track of their schedules, store phone numbers, have a check list of things to do, etc.

This is a screen shot of the notebooks organizational structure for Quick Note. Clean and simple to use.

3.  Quick Note - This is a simplified note taker app, which allows the kids to type or handwrite notes and store them in different notebooks within the apps, so they can make a notebook for each subject.

This is a screen shot of "Pages".

4.  Pages - This is a word processing app, simple, easiest thing to use ever, we all like it way more than Word, although it is a little limited versus Word if you're looking for a feature rich word processor.  However, it does have a nice selection of feature for our needs.

5. USA Today - We are using this app each morning to read at current events.  Each of the kids reads it for about 10 minutes, finds a news story to share with our group, then summarizes it while everyone else looks it up on their iPad on an atlas to see where the event occurred.

6.  National Geographic World Atlas - Free app with a totally cool atlas that shows maps in several different modes.

7.  Kindle - We are using this for reading books, some of which are free.  Right now Matt and I are reading Call of the Wild n it, the book was free!  It is WONDERFUL for language learners, because anywhere in your text you can tap on a word, and an instant dictionary definition pops up.  You also can highlight  text or take notes anywhere within the text.

Wikipanion/Wikipedia is like having the entire world of information in your hands.

8.  Wikipanion - This is Wikipedia's app which gives you instant access to the world's best encyclopedia.

9.  Timeline Eons -  This is an amazing timeline app which is interactive.  You just have to see it to believe it.

These are super helpful for breaking down studied material.

10.  Tools 4 Students - This is an app which has dill in the blank worksheets which help the kids, and Kenny in particular, work with literature and concepts.  It has graphic organizers for cause and effect,     Sequencing, making predictions, word definitions, comparing and contrasting, characterization sheets, etc.  The student can fill it out on their iPad for any story, then they can email it directly to me.

11.  ReadNRespond - Another app from the same company, this one provides tons of ideas for responses to reading the kids do in many different categories, which they can type in.  It helps break reading down, makes them analyze it, etc.

12. - The best.  We use it  We look up definitions, we use it for synonyms with the built in thesaurus.  They all keep it next to them with the app open during literature work, and they will look up words they don't know when they would never have broken out a hardbound dictionary to look things up.  "Instant" works, taking 4 or 5 minutes to look up one word doesn't.

13.  Word Dynamo - Provided by, it is a vocabulary building quiz game, and is leveled for elementary, middle school, high school, or college level which means we can work on lower level words and build up to higher level.

14.  Art Authority - I have yet to use this yet, but it provides access to thousands of original pieces of art and is categorized by style, artist, medium, etc. This will come in super handy for our studies later this year when we explore various artists for history.

Here are two screen shots from the Grammar Apps, which appear to be made by the same folks but have different topics.

15.  GCorrectness and FreeGrammar - This app is really helping both Kenny and Matt with grammar, something each struggles with.  Each is similar and between them has over 2000 questions and examples of punctuation, grammar, sentence structure, etc.  For kids with special needs, this provides interesting repetition and example after example so they can "get it".

16.  Punctuate HD - Another app to help work with punctuation.

17.  Idea Sketch - This is an app for Mind Mapping, which helps a student create webs or maps of ideas and turns them into outlines.

A picture is worth a thousand words...this has helped enormously!

18.  Speech Tutor - Wow, this one is AWESOME for speech, and we use it several times a week.  It shows the actual structure of the mouth, lip and tongue placement, etc. for all of the phonemes.  It has been extremely helpful to allow Kenny to actually see inside the mouth to understand where he is making errors in speech...something he could never figure out before.  It records his own voice and then you can compare it to the pre-recorded example.

19.  Lexico Cognition - This is a cognitive development app which we have begun using.  It is one you'll just have to see to understand it, but it works on basic cognitive skills.  I am looking for more apps that will work on cognitive skills.

20.  Word Wizard - This is a speaking phonics program with a movable alphabet.  Kenny can use it to help him sound out words, as it blends sounds for him, and after moving letters in place it will read the word out loud, helping him figure out if he has spelled it right or not.  We use this app a lot with him.

21.  Dragon Dictation - We use this to help develop Kenny's awareness of his own speech.  We will work on specific words with sounds in it that give him trouble, and he will say words that are recorded by the app, then see what it types out.  He has been so surprised to see just how unclear his speech is to other people.  When the app types out something completely different than what he has said, he can better understand why he is asked to repeat himself so often.

22.  Word Seek - A timed Boggle sort of game.

23.  SLP Minimal Pairs - This was just recommended to us by our speech therapist, who will be recommending others which I will share over time as well.  This is for speech as well as auditory processing work.  

24.  Frog Dissection - For Josh.  Of course. :-)

25.  Tangram Free - Helps with spatial relationship and brain development.

26.  Visual Anatomy - Again, for Josh.

27.  Articulation Station - For Kenny for speech, would be even better for younger kids.  Speech tutor works better for his needs as he is old enough and self-aware enough to be able to really work with it.  This app IS good, however.

28.  Wordventure - A sort of "MadLibs" for the iPad.  Helps cement parts of speech.

We are also using Brain Pop which is animated content with tests, Today's Doc which features a different historical document every day, National Geographic Today which is great for geography with beautiful photos in locations you can look up.

We have truthfully barely begun to scratch the surface of what is available.  There are a few other apps for auditory work, some of which are a little expensive, but I will be looking at those soon.  I haven't looked well for cognitive and memory apps yet, as we are working a lot with the ones we currently have and I am taking it one step at a time, making sure we learn how to use the ones we already have before adding more in.  For Kenny, first we needed to establish this as his "go to" tool, which it appears we have finally done...he carries it with him most places.  The other kids quickly adapted to using it with their school work, and have already printed out notes and reports with it, and are using it for immediate results research throughout our day.  I can't begin to tell you just how often they have Googled things we are talking about, even though we have barely had them 2 or 3 weeks.

I also will be attending an iPad Summit in two weeks, which will hopefully provide me with even more information about how to integrate the iPads into our regular days.  This is a free seminar which someone from our homeschool program shared with me, and if you check out the web page at you will find information and links to other sources for using iTouchs and iPads for educational purposes.

You know, we were SO SO SO blessed to have an iPad provided for Kenny a few months ago, and at the time I only had an inkling that it might be a helpful tool for him.  However, I had no real idea exactly what ways we might find to use it with him, I just knew that there was potential there and wanting to leave no stone unturned we wanted to give it a try.  We never could have afforded it on our own, and once we had it in our hands we realized even more just what a powerful thing it would be for him.

Later, when we were again blessed beyond measure to be selected to have loaner pads for the kids, Dominick and I had to sit down and really think it through. Do we want this sort of technology in the hands of our kids at such young ages?  How do we keep from raising kids who are tuned out to the world around them and plugged in to headphones all the time?  What will this look like for us?  Are we opening a Pandora's box of sorts, which once pried open can never be shut again?  I know for many parents these things would never be an issue, for we see tons of kids their ages and far, far younger walking around with cell phones, Facebook accounts, iPads, etc. and yet we were very, very concerned.  We are trying hard to keep human contact at a maximum, and technology in its rightful place.  We don't need our kids so plugged in that we don't connect as a family.  I hate to say it, but we find many teens today completely lacking in the ability to recognize that it is inappropriate and downright rude to text constantly while attempting to have a conversation with someone else, or who "check out" from family life and isolate themselves. We have seen enough kids at restaurants sitting at silent supper tables with headphones in and bored or disdainful looks on their faces at being interrupted because mom or dad wish to have a real conversation with them.  I know not all teens are like that, but we all have seen enough to know this is true.  I don't blame the kids, the fact is that many adults have yet to figure out what are polite boundaries around the use of technology!!

Yet...yet...yet...we grew up on technology, our world today requires intimate and constant use of it on jobs, and a child who is not tech savvy is instantly at a disadvantage, even in middle school.  Public and private schools across the nation are exploring the use of iPads in classrooms to personalize curriculum.  So, we were faced with a we throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak, or do we look at ways to use technology effectively and reasonably while safeguarding our kids from the issues we are concerned about?

You know what did it for me?  We had a conversation around the lunch table one afternoon right as we were in the middle of all of this, and all the kids were laughing about how "When mom says no, she MEANS it!"    It was an epiphany for me, and Dominick and I came to the conclusion that we should no more fear this than we do any other school textbook.  We would establish rules, and stick with them,  period, and our kids have already proven to us that they respect our wishes, so why would they be different with this?  As we talked it over, we tried to anticipate future issues even if we are not facing them now or won't for awhile.  We feel that letting everyone know right up front what our expectations are will help to head off issues in the future.   I have had questions about this, too, from people we know, some of them less techie parents themselves who know little about the use of some of these things and who are fearful themselves about what their kids can get into. I was just asked this week by an acquaintance if I weren't afraid that the girls might get involved in a relationship with an older man online, because she didn't understand the ways in which you can limit things. We sat the kids down, and here was the result of our Family Technology Conference. :

1)  We are the bosses over the technology in our home, and will remain so until you are grown.

2)  As such, we will establish all rules surrounding the use of any technology, and you will respect those rules at all times.

3)  No child will own a cell phone until such a time as we feel it is necessary, not desired.  We may eventually purchase a cell phone for group use to be handed out when we are separated from each other for temporary one time use as the occasion arises.  It will be a simple flip phone, and will be handed back to us when the event is over with.  Otherwise, no cell phone until you are regularly alone and away from us, and safety is a concern on an ongoing basis.  And no cell phone until you can afford to purchase it and pay for the monthly service with your own earnings.  This was actually an easy one as the kids all think it is utterly ridiculous for kids to have cell phones and spend that kind of money every month. This was met with comments like "I'd rather save that money every month for a car or college." and "Lots of times kids want cell phones to hide things from their parents, and that isn't good anyway."

4)  You will NOT use any internet device alone in your room. The only exception to this is Matthew using his laptop for his Rosetta Stone German class, which he uses where he can practice alone with the microphone.  If we ever catch anyone using the internet on any device where we can not wander by and see what is on your screen, you lose all privileges for months.  All internet surfing or work will be done in full view of Mom or Dad, or where we can easily see it if we wish to.

5)  You will not delete the history on your browser, and we will always have the right to check your browser at any time. And yes, this applies to any device you may buy yourself, until you are a full adult.

6)  We are going to be very strict with these rules because the internet is like having the entire world in your hands.  We used the analogy that we would never consider dropping the kids off in the middle of Times Square and leaving them alone, so why would we essentially do the exact same thing electronically?  They totally got that, and that image had a great impact on them.  We explained that they simply couldn't know some of the ways they could get into trouble online, and we needed to keep them safe until they were capable of handling things in an adult way when they were older...just like one day they would be safe to wander Times Square when they were older.

7)  No Facebook.  Not now, not for a very long time.  If we decide to allow Facebook at sometime in the distant future, and they are not legal adults, they will only be allowed to participate in that community if under age if we are "Friended".  However, it will be in their late teens before we allow this.  And yea, I know that is odd and many of their friends are already on there and were on there even before the Facebook allowable 13 years old (One of Josh's 9 year old classmates is on it!), but we feel there is time enough eventually for this and there is no need for it right now.  Also, considering I get friend requests from strangers weekly, we don't need the hassle of screening 5 kids' accounts every week.

8)  We don't care if you bought it.  If you break the rules, it becomes ours.  Permanently.  And don't forget what you already know to be true...Mom means it when she says it.  If you want to lose a tech item you worked hard to purchase, then respect the rules or Mom just got a new tech toy.  And yea, I totally mean it.

9)  You must ask to play on anything.  You will not spend all day long or all night long in front of a screen.  Yes, there are times when we will allow you more time to play, but most nights it will be one  to one and a half hours, which counts for TV, computer, iPad or whatever, and will only be used later in the evening or if we are not talking or playing together as a family.  We watch no TV at all during the day unless for school purposes, and it doesn't go on until mid-evening except for weekends when we allow a little more time.

10)  Group games using technology are encouraged, but not online ones with strangers.  We have discovered that many of our board games are available as apps to play together!  NO MORE LOST PIECES!!!!  Hurray!  If there is conversation, laughter and fun being had together, then we are all for it. Many folks don't understand that whether it be a cardboard game board or a screen in front of your family members, there are still wonderful ways to share time together and we don't want to disregard the possibilities of shared game time just because it is on a screen.  I mean, when you can download apps for group play for Monopoly, Scrabble, Blokus, Uno or other great games...go for it and laugh up a storm!  It's just as interactive, and less expensive than the board games or replacing parts! Haha!

11)  No email until we determine there is a need.  However, I have established email addresses through Google so that each child has their own ability to save their most used educational web sites on Chrome, can set up their own calendar in the "cloud", etc.  However, they do not really understand how all that works or that they actually have Gmail addresses, it is more on my end for setting up customization and "cloud" back up/access of data for them.  Any email needs for the foreseeable future come through Mom's email address, and will be screened.  You are free to send email to friends (mostly adult friends) through Mom's email address, but be aware that I have access to reading anything you send or receive at my address. If you don't want Mom to see it, you shouldn't be sending it.

12)  No technology EVER EVER EVER used when having a conversation with someone. It is rude, inconsiderate, and we want you to grow up having well honed social skills.  Never text while talking to someone (of course, a moot point right now but trying to establish rules early), turn your phone off or ignore incoming calls when in conversation with others or at events, and never allow yourself to miss out on real human contact because you are involved in a "virtual" world.

13)  Use it all like the tool it is, powerful, amazing, and it puts the world in the palm of your hand! Explore, create, read, and learn with it.  Turn to it for your research needs, ask questions and seek out answers, and use it as your dictionary, encyclopedia, library, shopping mall, trip planner, scheduler, master list maker, music machine, media player.  Just don't forget about the real world!

Seems lengthy, I know, but the kids even helped us come up with guidelines, because they have seen how kids their age "check out", and we are all aware of how easy that could happen if we are not aware and intentional about using it.  Also, we know that if we start now in establishing expectations, it will be perfectly clear and we will all know what our family goals are for such things.

I hope this super long post helps those of you who have been contacting me asking for info. I will continue to share the names of apps as we stumble upon them, which I am sure will be often.  I will also share what I learn at the seminar, if there is something new there.  This has been a huge learning curve for me and I wanted to get up to speed quickly, so I have spent hours and hours researching iPads and education. Funny thing is though, the more I learn, the more I realize I don't know and want to know!!  I can't imagine what this all will be like in another 2 or 3 years, as even then there will be new ways technology is being used that will blow our minds, I am sure.

1 comment:

Debbie T. said...

Thanks Cindy! Have saved this and will look back for apps for Leah, but was already amazed to learn about word processing as I didn't know it existed (and neither did other friends of mine based on a recent email conversation)!

As for email, you can setup gmail such that you get copies of all received emails. Makes it easier to keep an eye on what the kids are doing plus you can then change the gmail password as needed. We also have a gmail domain setup, so have even more control over things. And it ties into facebook, since it's setup for messages, posts, tagging, etc to come via email so we can see what's going on. And, of course, change the facebook password as needed too.