Saturday, July 23, 2011

Learning to Love the iPad: My Favorite Educational Apps for iPhone and iPad

I can't believe I hesitated so long before jumping on the Apple cart, so to speak.  You know, iPhone, iPad, iCan'tBelieveIt'sNotButter (sorry; that just slipped in!).  I was worried that the iPad was just another flashy gadget that I'd end up not using at all, but I've had one since the beginning of the year and I keep finding more uses for it every day.
Yes, Dear Accountant, if you happen to be reading this -- I am using my iPad and iPhone primarily for business.  Ahem.  I've got my design portfolio on my iPad, plus thousands of other photos that I constantly refer to in client meetings when I need a visual to explain an idea or a concept, and I put design renderings for clients on my iPad as well.  I use my iPhone and iPad to check fabric and trim stock and pricing on the fly, or to monitor backorder status, as well as emailing with clients, my workroom, vendors, etc.  Whereas my old laptop computer was so cumbersome that I rarely brought it with me on appointments, the portability and simplicity of my iPhone and iPad means that I can work from wherever I happen to be.

But today I want to tell you about some of the cool educational iPhone and iPad apps I've been playing with this summer.  Although all of the apps I'm sharing with you are available for both the iPhone and the iPad, I'll be showing you the iPad version throughout this post.

Anders Works on a Timed Multiplication Test with the Math Drills App for iPhone and iPad
Anders' second grade teacher suggested that he would benefit from memorizing his math facts over the summer.  Yes, we have flash cards for this, but the kids hate them.  Yes, I know all about web sites like Math Facts Cafe where I can print out all sorts of math skills worksheets -- kids are tired of those, too.  However, give a kid a timed math test on a snazzy iPad that tells them how they did in "miles per hour," and encourages them to beat their highest speed to get into the Hall of Fame like a (gasp!) video game, and the kids are hooked.  The Math Drills app pictured above lets kids test separately on addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts, or you can choose mixed tests.  I especially like that I can customize which facts appear in the test, so that Anders has been able to test on only the multiplication facts he has learned so far.  Math Drills Lite is the free version of this app, but it's worth upgrading to the paid version for $1.99 to be able to save students' progress, save multiple student profiles, etc. 

Mean Mommy that I am, I've been requiring each of the boys to do one Math Drills test per day in order to earn PlayStation time.  The only thing they fight over is who gets to take the test on the iPad (big screen, big buttons) and who has to use the iPhone instead.  Their speed and accuracy has steadily increased, and they love seeing "New Personal Record" when they finish a test. 

Anders demonstrates the Sight Read Music app on the iPad

This next one is an app that I've been using myself to help my rusty sight reading now that I'm taking piano lessons (yay!).  I'm pretty good with the treble clef from singing, but until a couple of weeks ago I would have to count up the lines or spaces of the bass clef while silently thinking All Cars Eat Gas or Great Big Dinosaurs Fart Alot (Lars and Anders came up with that one).  The Sight Read Music app shows and plays the sound of the note, and the student touches the corresponding piano key on the iPad or iPhone screen.  The app keeps track of how many you have done correctly.  Sight Read Lite is the free version of this app, with additional features available in the full version for $1.99.  This has helped me SO much, and my kids can do this one, too.  You can set the app to test you on just bass or just treble, or a combination of the two, and you can turn off sharps and flats in the settings to make it easier for beginning music students.

Anders Demonstrates Note Tutor App on the iPad

Another complementary app to Sight Read Music is Note Tutor, pictured above.  Whereas with Sight Read Music the student identifies the correct piano key for each note, with Note Tutor the student must identify each note by letter name.  As with Sight Read Music, Note Tutor allows you to choose whether you want to work on Treble Clef and Bass Clef together or separately, and you can turn sharps and flats on or off to suit the student.  Again, there's a free version of this app that you can download just to try it out, but it's worth paying $2.99 for the full version that keeps track of students' progress. 

Anders Demos the French Audio FlashCards App for iPad

Since I was discouraged by how rusty my French had become when I was in Paris last January, I splurged on the $14.99 French Audio FlashCards app from Declan Software to brush up in preparation for my September Paris trip.  I am in love with this app!!  There are 4,400 French words grouped in manageable word files of 10 around topics such as Days of the Week, Food: Seafood, Slang, etc.  At the beginning of each word file you get to go through and review each word, with an audio recording of the word of phrase spoken by a native speaker.  There are three multiple choice tests for each word group, as well as a spelling test, and the user can easily add words to a "sticky" list if they feel they need more practice.  I love this app so much that I just downloaded the Declan Spanish Audio FlashCards app and the Declan Chinese Audio FlashCards app, since those are the languages Lars and Anders will be studying at school.  More hurdles for little boys to jump on the way to PlayStation! 

Baby FlashCards Mandarin Chinese app from Dream Cortex

I had downloaded the Dream Cortex Mandarin Chinese Baby FlashCards app a couple of months ago for Anders, but it's more of a memory game for preschoolers than a tool to supplement formal language classes.  There aren't many flash cards, and other than the counting cards, most of them are pretty random.  Seriously, do Chinese people even need to know how to say "accordian" in Chinese?!
There are a couple more educational iPhone/iPad apps that I've downloaded, such as the National Geographic Jigsaw Puzzle app, The Oregon Trail (remember that from grade school?  It's so much better in color!), the National Geographic GeoBee app, Sudoku2HDPro, National Geographic Kids Magazine, and a cool NASA app, but we don't use these as often -- they come in handy while waiting for a table at a crowded restaurant, however.

It wasn't too long ago I was investing in Leap Pads and Leapsters for the boys, and then having to pay between $15-20 for each cartridge and book set.  I can't get over how inexpensive these truly superior learning tools are, and the fact that I can carry all of this around with me in my purse, ready to whip out in the grocery store checkout line, in the waiting room at the doctor's office, or whenever we have a little down time.  With the ability to read electronic books on the iPad and iPhone with the Nook and Kindle apps, or watch full-length films on the iPad through the Netflix app, this iPad contraption is more valuable than I ever imagined it could be.

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