Apps are an excellent way to support students with language and learning difficulties at home. They are also an effective way to engage students who are turned off from the traditional methods of instruction. However, we have found that apps can promise a lot and deliver very little. We have also learned that many educational apps are not “set and forget”. That is, parents might need to sit with their child and help them to use the app properly in order to maximise their learning. As well, apps often have hidden usage features that need to be explored in order to get the most out of them. Lastly, it can be really difficult to know which apps are useful for your child. This makes the good apps worth their weight in gold. Good apps are fun AND educational; they are multi-purpose and kids want to play them again and again and again.
So, the team at Gameplan have put together a list of five apps that we actually use and really love. We have included some tips on how to use the app, pros and cons and price, so that you know what you are really in for before you spend your hard earned dollars. We’ve selected four apps with completely different purposes and for different age groups. Nate has reviewed “Puppet Pals 2” which is a fun way to develop language and social skills. Sarah has reviewed “Sparklefish”, an entertaining way to develop narrative and parts of speech skills- critical for writing! Vi’s selection is “Simple Mind”, a tool that helps students to mind map and organise their information. Caitlin chose “Squeebles” because we are constantly looking for ways to work on spelling words! Lastly, we know that sadly, anxiety is often the result of learning difficulties and Sharon has included an app that helps it’s users to reduce stress and relax.
Puppet Pals 2
Publisher: Polished Play, LLC
Cost: FREE – this includes a few characters and backgrounds, in-app purchases available to buy more characters and backgrounds.
How to use: This app is great for kids who need encouragement to talk and practice language and social skills. Move and control digital puppets on the screen, animate their actions, and add voice over with a mouth that moves with your voice. The end product is a funny, creative, and dynamic video created by your child. The process allows for practising vocabulary, grammar, or social skills, as well as building confidence in a safe environment.
- Additional characters and background do cost more
- Can only create characters with own pictures after buying upgrade
- May not have enough structure or rules for some students
- Lip syncing doesn’t work if both characters talking over each other
- Is flexible and easy to use
- Can be adjusted to any language or social skill goal
- Is student led
- Can try it out for free and see if is worth buying in app purchases, or buying the School edition for $11.99
- Endless fun with great combinations of backgrounds and characters
Publisher: Whosagoodboy Partners
Cost: FREE – this includes 5 stories, $4.99 to purchase 21 more stories
How to use: This is an exciting story telling app for primary school aged children (although can be used by secondary students and adults). It is similar to the concept of ‘Mad Libs’ which requires the user to think of imaginative parts of speech (nouns, verb, adjective etc) to create a silly story.
Select: ‘Record Story’ à Choose a story option e.g. ‘A Fairy Tale’ à Record the different parts of speech as prompted (remembering to hold down the microphone button when speaking) à Press ‘Sparklefish It!’ and the story is played back.
- Additional stories do cost more, although it is a good investment to increase variety.
- Builds vocabulary and understanding of the different parts of speech in a funny way.
- Gives user suggestions/examples of correct part of speech to use.
- Kids use their own voice, making the experience more personalised
- Can save stories to listen to later.
Simple Mind +
Publisher: xpt Software & Consulting B.V.
Cost: FREE, but full version $6.49
How to use: Use this App as a tool to brainstorm and organise information. This App can be used when planning essays and exploring topics for any school subject. Mind maps can also help students to see connections between ideas and topics when studying for tests.
- The free version does not provide additional features such as adding photos, links to websites, or the option to organise mind maps in folders.
- No capability to save as a PDF document.
- Simple to use – various colour pallets available
- Suitable for any age
- Mail and Dropbox capabilities to share completed mind maps
Squeebles Spelling Test
Publisher: Key Stage Fun
How to use: Once downloaded, create a test and write and record your child’s spelling words (or get them to do it). Try to keep tests to 8-12 words. You can change the settings to allow the student to look at the word for a long time. This gives students the opportunity to identify tricky parts of the word, or break it down into sounds or syllables. Complete the test, earn points and play Squeeberbang!
- Little variation in games and format, which may become repetitive for students
- Students can write in their own spelling words and record them using their own voice
- Gives student greater control of words practiced and makes it more personalised
- The incentive of winning Squeebles (little creatures) to play Squeeberbang (boomerang throwing games) may hook kids in.
- Results are recorded
- Can use on a variety of devises iPhone, iPad, Android, and Kindle Fire.
Publisher: Smiling Mind
How to use: Smiling is a free, modern meditation program with exercises that can help you reduce stress, anxiety and relax. It provides an easy to follow program that will help with the three C’s, “clarity, calmness and contentment”. The program is based on techniques that have been proven to work and was created by a group of psychologists. It has a number of online meditation sessions and daily meditation activities that vary in length. The sessions become more and more advanced as you build your meditation skills. Some of the cool features on the App include the ability to provide a history of the user’s progress and set reminders to meditate each day. As you move through the program you get to unlock badges which give you the ability to measure your progress and skills.
- Need to use it consistently to reap the benefits, takes practice to learn the skills, may need the parent to use it to and model the skills
- Based on research into the benefits of meditation.
- Has differing sections geared towards different age groups.
- Easy to use. Great website to support the use of the app.
Gameplan wishes you a fantastic school-holiday break!