Over the last week or so, I have had the chance to play with some really cool new tools for learning. The opportunity to spend time doing this is almost a two-edged sword. I love to play with tech tools, but I can get sucked in for hours and often come to the conclusion afterwards that I can't even afford the tool I've been looking at for so long. However, I have picked out three that hopefully will not break the bank and can be enjoyed for hours in your classroom. It is important for kids to have the chance to play with new tools and experience learning, not only for engagement purposes, but to allow them opportunities of growth and new challenges. A student may not realize that they are talented in Computer Aided Design (CAD) and the fundamentals of geometry that go along with it, unless they have a chance to test their abilities. Not only that, but when creating a design, students are often reaching their highest levels of Blooms, or most certainly the Augmentation, if not the Modification and Redefinition levels in the SAMR model.
The first creativity tool I had the chance to play with was Bloxels, which came out earlier this year. Because of its newness and its amazing app that goes along with it, there is a major back order for it. So, if you want one for Christmas 2016, you might want to order now. Bloxels is a game board with small colored cubes that sit inside. You, as the creator, can create a design of blocks on the board, which can then be uploaded to the app. Think of the blocks as pixels in a picture, if you will. You can create any character or design you want with those pixels, or blocks, and then it becomes a part of the app. The amazing part is, once its created, you can then bring it to life within the app, coding it and creating with it to perform tasks and to play in games. Students can create anything and bring it to life. Imagine a child creating a volcano to show the different parts and then it erupts on screen. Not only has the child learned to code and create an animated object, but he has shown his learning of the science unit as well. In reference to the TPACK model of learning, he has reached the ultimate goal of including all three elements. The one thing I will add about this tools is that it takes time to learn. You can't just jump in the first time and get it without taking some time to learn the different aspects of the application. I personally had so much fun creating with this that I purchased it for myself and my kids.
The second tool I had the pleasure of learning was Foldify. This application is so much fun. Kids can design and create cut-out characters that they can then print, cut and even create movies for viewing. Imagine a first grade class that writes their own story and then goes in and creates the characters for the story. Once created, they can print them, cut them out and then, using popsicle sticks, make puppets. Take it one step further and create the movie with a green screen background and insert a background video from Discovery Education. The students can go from simply writing to full-on editing their own movie. Imagine how engaged that class would be. I can see this app as looking boring to many, but I think with just a little bit of imagination, it can really turn into something very imaginative. For teachers seeking to add technology, this app, with a little bit of additional planning fulfills the 3 elements of the TPACK model. With finger puppets and wild animals, your imagination is the limit. The cost of the app is $2.99. I can see myself playing this game with my kids and encouraging the movie making skills. I probably would not use it just for myself more than once though. Yeah right!
The last application I found was so much fun! I was going to review a different one until I stumbled across this one, created by the same people who made Foldify. This application is called Storest. The game of store is played by every generation and has included cute little cash registers and fun fake fruit, but over time those cool tools change and the store "stuff" seems to just get more fun. Storest lets you play store on the iPad, just like many other apps do. But if that play just isn't enough, the user can download and print images of all of their store "stuff" and cut them out. Each item has a QR code attached to it, so once it is printed, the QR code acts as a barcode and you can use the app to buy the cut-out fruits and veggies or other store items. You all of the sudden have a store full of items available to purchase right in your own hands. I can see this being used with maybe kindergarten and first grade. The kids can cut their own store items out and the class can play with or without the iPads. Storest can encourage math skills, as well as, counting and color practice, while the iPad can add the element of role playing. I believe this app may go between pedagogy and technology or content and technology of the TPACK model, not necessarily always hitting that center goal, but it could. This activity is great for very young kids, but I personally would not play it by myself or outside of the classroom because of its elementary focus, in case you were wondering.
All in all, I found three very fun new tools that vary in audience age. I love to explore and learn, but I really love to see how people design and create old things in new ways. Each of these items is a reflection of an old design or game activity, recreated to work with the iPad.
A wife, mother, teacher, life-long learner and an avid runner.