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Review: Look Again Jr


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Look Again Jr is an app focused on early learning and stimulation. It can be useful for any child, but it can be especially useful for working with children with special educational needs. It will help you teach them, in a very visual and intuitive way, logic reasoning, the association of concepts, spatial abstraction, mental arithmetic and, in general, the attention.

Firsts steps
With a very friendly presentation and a correct functioning, Look Again Jr consists of a train of activity sheets sorted by levels, from level 1 to level 120.

After launching the application and wait for the initial screen to disappear, you can choose between two animals. The chosen one will identify you over all the activities and achievements.

Once you choose a pet, you will the main screen, from which you access the different sections of the application.

The “Play” cloud, as the word itself suggests, leads you to the activities, starting from the level that you have indicated in “Choose Level”. As you surpass the proposed activity, the level will increase.

From the “Choose Level” screen you can choose at what level of complexity you want to start (1 to 120).

In the “My Stickers” section you will find the awards or reinforces that you get through the successful completion of various activities. Approximately every 4 activities performed correctly the application rewards the player with a sticker. These stickers are stored and accessible at any time here.

Finally, in the “Instrucctions” section the app shows a screen with instrucciones about the basic operation of the application. Look Again Jr is very intuitive, so for many parts of it you do not need to read any manual. However, it is always desirable to have this kind of information inside the app.

Activities
The operation of the application is very simple. Activities vary, but the mechanics of the application is always the same. Each activity is resolved by selecting a number of items placed in the margins of the image, being the central image the pattern or model for the activity.

At the top of the screen a number indicates the level at which you are and, on the right side, how many items you have to select to properly resolve the activity. You also have a direct access to the help screen and another shortcut to the main screen labeled “Main Menu”.

Once successfully done the activity, your pet appears in the game, inviting you to participate in the next activity, explaining what the next challenge to solve will be.

There are many types of activities, involving geometric shapes…

puzzles…

… as well as colors, dices, simple calculations or geometric figures. The activities allow you to work with different concepts and adapt easily to different cognitive levels and cultures. However, from level 31 there are some exercises based on calculate amounts of money that use images of US coins and notes, so children from other countries could find these exercises more difficult to do or, at least, less meaningful for them.

The application is only in English, which is not a problem in general, except just for the above activities.

Conclusions
Look Again Jr works well and allows us to work different areas from the same app. The activities are original and effective. The app uses reinforces –stickers– to add stimulus, something that many other learning apps lack. Given that the app is universal, ie it works on iPod touch, iPhone and iPad, and their price does not reach 1 dollar, I believe that it is worth to take a look at it.

-Iván

Look
Links: iTunes
Company: Smappsoft
Languages: English
Functions: Learning, including logic reasoning, association of concepts, and mental arithmetic.
Versions: Only one for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad
Price: $0.99 / €0.79

 


Review: Tam & Tao in Numberland


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Numberland is an app designed to facilitate the learning of numbers 0 to 9 in a simple and enjoyable way. Its aim is to aid the auditory recognition of numbers, as well as the child’s ability to write them and count objects. This application also helps children associate quantities with the relevant number.

Numberland has been designed by Montessori educators, whose method focuses on the child’s autonomy, whilst promoting self-esteem. They have aimed to create an application which the child can utilize in order to learn in an easy and intuitive way.

Functional description
Upon opening Numberland, a main menu appears from which the various activities offered by the application can be accessed, together with icons allowing the user to select the language in which they wish to work (English, Spanish and French)

The first option on the main menu is to add an email address in case you wish to receive information about new applications by Les Trois Elles.

The “1, 2, 3, let’s play!” icon displays a screen with the numbers from 0 to 9, as well as the icons for changing the language. Each of the numbers takes you to the main screen of the various exercises you can do with that specific number. All numbers except 0 offer the same exercises, each using different visual effects and backgrounds.

When the user clicks on any of the numerical icons, a landscape appears showing a boy and a girl together with the relevant number. The girl’s voice asks questions about the chosen number and elements of the landscape. When a number is selected it fades away and then slowly reappears showing the outline that needs to be followed in order to write it. Other exercises can be accessed by selecting on the other characters that appear on screen.

Selecting the girl takes us to a screen where the user can work with numbers of objects associated to a number. In this exercise, as with the previous one, the girl provides verbal indications and an example of how to count the boxes by moving the finger over the screen. When the box is touched the user hears the corresponding number. The user is congratulated when they complete the exercises correctly. In the top right-hand corner of this screen there is an arrow which, when selected, will allow the user to repeat the exercise. In the top left-hand corner, there is a cross which exits the exercise, taking the user back to the previous screen.

By clicking on the icon of the boy the user can learn to write the numbers. The outline of a number marked by arrows appears on the left-hand side of the screen, providing the user with a guide for writing the number. The right-hand side of the screen is left blank so that the user can draw the number unaided. Different colours are available for drawing the number, as well as an eraser. A camera icon allows the user to capture the image on screen, saving it directly to the image gallery. As with the previous screen, the user can repeat the exercise.

When the user selects the number 0, numbers from 0 to 9 appear onscreen and are accompanied by an audio countdown.

Next, a landscape appears featuring the characters and the number 0. In one exercise involving the number 0, when the icon showing the girl is selected, each of the numbers is displayed with a box underneath and a varying number of sticks. The user must place the groups of sticks in the box displaying the corresponding number. When the exercise is completed, an audio message congratulating the user can be heard.

Other activities
You can also access two more activities from the main menu. The first activity is ‘Draw’, that offers a blank canvas on which the child can draw. Again, there is a selection of colours and an eraser, and a camera icon for capturing the image and saving it directly to your gallery.

The second activity is ‘Count’. This offers a similar exercise to that described for the number 0, in which all the numbers are linked to boxes in which the user must place the corresponding number of sticks.

Finally, back to the main menu, there is a “note for parents” icon which gives access to information about the application.

Assessment
Numberland is an application which is visually very appealing to children. The aim of the application is to allow the user to learn about numbers in an enjoyable way. In order to use it the child must be able to draw and possess a level of verbal comprehension that allows them to follow the instructions given on each screen. A basic knowledge of numbers is also required.

Whilst its main aim is to teach about numbers, the application is also enjoyable for the child. They can explore the objects that appear on the different screens along with their associated sound and visual effects.

There are several options on each screen which allow the user to interact with the objects and characters in an intuitive way. Each action leads to alternatives being suggested, thus enabling the user to discover the multiple possibilities offered by the app.

One element used to encourage learning about numbers is the visual or verbal praise given when the child responds correctly. Likewise, when the child does not answer the question it is repeated.

In some of the Numberland activities there is no notification that the child has answered a question incorrectly, nor any support to enable the child to find the correct answer. For example, in the exercise in which the child has to follow the outline of a number and then draw it by themselves, there is no indication that they have done so correctly. In this case, an adult presence is required to facilitate learning, offering support and confirmation as to whether the child has completed the task correctly or not.

However, more support is offered to the user in the rest of the application’s exercises. In some this is given verbally through the provision of an instruction, which the child must follow in order to solve the problem. In other cases the number of onscreen elements providing potential answers is limited so as to ensure the user can only use those elements that will lead to a solution.

It is also important to point out that the application can be enjoyed in three different languages: English, Spanish and French.

-Aida Farrés, Neus Fibla, Noemi Quibus and Sílvia Sáez are clinical coordinators at Fundación Planeta Imaginario.

Tam
Links: iTunes
Company: Les Trois Elles Interactive
Languages: English, Spanish, French
Functions: Learn about numbers (0 to 9).
Versions: Only for iPad.
Price: $1.99 / €1.59

 


Review: Vine Time


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Vine Time has successfully combined two very interesting aspects to work with children with special educational needs: fine motor skills and learning. People from KiwiTech have surprised us with an original activity that while promoting learning forces the child to do fine motor exercises. A nice pet will be with the child during the game to work on numbers, colors and to learn counting.

Once launched, Vine Time shows an image with the pet that will accompany you during all the activities, as well as the company brand.

Then, Vine Time displays the menu of the app, which will allow you to access the different options that the user has.

When you select the “Play” button, a new screen appears and allows you to select what kind of learning you want to practice: counting, colors and numbers.

But if we believe that before getting to work with one of these lessons it’s worth to see a tutorial, you can also touch the icon in the lower right corner, which shows a video camera. By pressing it, we are shown a tutorial, which by means of a hand that moves across the screen will tell us which are the steps required to do each activity.

And now, once viewed the tutorial, you can select the first option, learn to count. In this scenario, the pet, a distant cousin of African chimpanzees, appears hanging from a vine. The vines are its way to move. By taking a hand of our pet and moving it to another section of vine, it moves. You can repeat this again and again to move along all the African jungle.

By moving the pet, it also picks apples and put them in the basket, increasing the count. The number is reflected superimposed to the basket, and in the lower left corner as a reward. With the “Pause” icon in the lower right corner you can stop the activity at any time and resume it whenever you want.

When you get the tenth apple, you win the prize for having passed the test. At this moment, you can choose a sticker to place on what would represent to be your room, so that it becomes a motivation for the child.

The following activity would be learning colors. Vine Time indicates the color of the apple that the child has to collect at the bottom of the screen. The child has to move the pet looking for the right color apple and introduce it into the basket.

Finally, the activity to work with the numbers indicates a number in the bottom of the screen, so the child have to pick the apple that contains that number.

As mentioned at the beginning of this review, Vine Time, besides promoting some learning, implies fine motor skills practice and eye-hand coordination that we should not ignore, as all movements through the vines require some practice and motor skills to get the pet to move in any direction.

-Iván

Vine Time 1.1
Links: iTunes
Company: KiwiTech
Languges: English
Functions: Lesiure and learning app focused on numbers an colors that exercises fine motor skills and coordination.
Versions: Only for iPad.
Price: $0.99 / €0.79

 


Review: Lola’s Alphabet Train


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Although there are many ways to learn the letters, very few are so original, attractive and motivating as Lola’s Alphabet Train.

Lola, a friendly panda bear, invites you to help carrying the gifts for their friends while sharing a picnic. To purchase these gifts, you first must get coins, something that is accomplished by performing a series of attractive activities related to the letters.

If you are looking for an alternative and more motivating way for your children to learn the letters, I encourage you to continue reading this review.

Application starting

In this first screen, you can select the language to use. You can also enter the name of the child, so that it appears throughout the exercises, linked to the amount of coins obtained to buy gifts.

Choosing the difficulty level

On the next screen, Lola asks you for your help to bring gifts to their friends. Here is where you can select the difficulty level of the activities or exercises.

Activities

Lola’s Alphabet Train has many activities. In this one, children practice their knowledge and relationship among capital and lowercase versions of the same letter. When children start learning the letters, it is a bit disconcerting to find two different traces associated to the same phoneme. This exercise helps to visually reinforce the relationship between these traces and the corresponding phoneme.

Very visual and intuitive pictograms show you when the child has passed the activity.

The following activity is a typical exercise of forming a word using the appropriate letters. On the easiest level, the app suggests where you should put each letter. That is, although each cell has already the letter, it invites you to superimpose the floating and much more colorful letters.

Once completed all the activities of the first phase, the app shows a gallery of gifts so you can choose between the available gifts, depending on the amount of money that you have obtained in the previous activities.

Having chosen a gift, you drag it inside one of the empty boxes. Then the process starts again, slightly increasing the degree of difficulty, until each box is loaded with a gift.

The activities differ greatly among them, although all are related in some way to the letters. In this case, you have to solve the classic “Memory” to further increase the amount of coins. You have to form pairs with the same image pictograms, which reinforce the initial letter of the animal depicted in the pictogram.

In this case the aim is to consolidate the learning of the relationship between the phoneme and the spelling of each letter. Four images appear, but only one begins with the letter showed on the top, so you must touch the image corresponding to that letter.

And here you have to recognize whether the arrangement of the letters corresponds to the shown word. Although the difficulty increases slightly, as it is a very visual activity, it becomes much more motivating.

We return to classic activities: composing words. This time the challenge has increased, so the letter suggested it is not so obvious. You have to touch the box again to see the letter to be placed.

The steps are repeated until you fill each box with a gift. Then it’s time to celebrate it with friends.

But first, a screen shows the time spent on all the activities and the amount of coins remaining after buying gifts for all your friends.

And to celebrate nothing better than a picnic with friends…

Now you can offer your friends all the gifts that you have for them and thus enjoy a fun afternoon with them.

Upgrade Options

The train consists of six empty boxes for depositing gifts, which translates into six different phases to complete all boxes and getting the reward of a picnic with friends. Since each phase consists of multiple activities, it may happen that, depending on the ability, age and interests of each child, the duration of all can be too long.

This could be solved very easily by letting you configure, as well as the difficulty level, the number of empty boxes of the train, which would impact directly on the total duration.

In any case, Lola’s Alphabet Train is a great application, combining images and sound effects with excellent results, and being original and motivating at the same time as very didactic.

-Iván

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Update – Abril 2011

A few days ago, Beiz has launched a Lite version of this game. This version is available on the App Store for both iPhone / iPod touch, and iPad.

Mechanics and exercise of this reduced version are exactly the same, with the unique difference that it only includes the most basic ones. This level is recommended for children 3 to 5 years.

If you have not tested this application, this Lite version brings you an excellent opportunity to try and get your own conclusions. The full version adds two more levels of difficulty and is recommended for children up to 7 years old.

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Lola’s Alphabet Train 2.1

Web: http://www.beiz.com

Fabricante: BeiZ, Ltd

Idiomas: English, Spanish, French, German, Dutch.

Funciones: Letters, traces and phoneme learning.

iPhone/iPod Touch version: Yes.

iPad version: Yes.

Price: $1.99 / €1.59 € for iPad; $0.99 / €0.79 € for iPhone.

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