Award Winning App Faces Criticism for Charging for Update

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 8.33.28 PMThis article dovetails with my latest blog: The Dangers of the Current App Economy.

In the blog I spoke to the fact that we are in danger of losing our innovative app developers because the app economy does not support paying for what the development costs. I even mentioned Monument Valley as one of the best apps in design, thoughtfulness, and innovation on the market. The developers just released an update that they are – wait for it – charging for! Low and behold they are getting complaints. If people stop paying for innovation and great design then you will get flat, stagnant apps that will not ignite curiosity or even come close to the joy of discovery. So folks please pay for the innovation and design and creativity that these passionate developers put into their product.

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Danger in the Current App Economy

Full confession…I am a fad follower. I got in on the very first version of the iPhone on the first day of its release and immediately saw the implications it had for learning. I greedily consumed some of the very first apps delighting at drinking iPhone beer, making my phone ring and shake like a cowbell and I made hundreds of unique cupcakes enraptured with the possibilities.

Upon visiting my then eighteen-month old grandson, I grabbed what looked like a pretty good preschool app and stuck it on my iPhone as an experiment. He took to it like the proverbial duck takes to water. He moved abstract puzzle shapes onto the screen until they decided they liked one another and magically become a violin playing sweet music. He moved a simulated stuffed animal claw to match the shape on the claw to the stuffed animal in the bin. Most of the apps were free or $0.99. There was a plethora of preschool apps because the majority of them were made by parents to entertain their children and truthfully, to capture some bragging rights. In the beginning, these early developers were not in the app building business for the money. They were mostly in it to entertain their kids and test their own capabilities.

The economics of supply and demand took hold and yes, some app developers were just as surprised as everyone else when they made a lot of money on their tiny dollar apps. There were millions of folks with shiny new iPhones and toddlers in tow who were willing to put a dollar down to entertain the tikes. Millions of users and only a few hundred apps meant cash to the developers. Rumors exploded. The app developers were buying Porches with their app profits and the app rush was on. It was the birth of a new California Gold Rush as para professionals flooded Apple with their app submissions. App building was largely a hobby business, not the-way-I-make-my-living business. Besides, there were all those people buying porches from one dollar apps. Hence, the app economy of free or 99 cents was born.

This set the tone and so it has remained.

This is not good. Today very few people are willing to pay more than $2.99 for an app. This is dangerous, dangerous to our future. When introducing the iPad, Steve Jobs showed Alice for the iPad. Cards fell when you titled the iPad. Alice shrank and grew big again illustrating perfectly the action in the text. This was new, innovative stuff. Jobs also showed us Frog Dissection. We were in awe as our finger acted like a scalpel as we cut, peeled back, and pinned the layers of the frog revealing the heart. We were in greater awe when we could actually lift the heart out and turn it around, seeing it from all sides. One the best things? No frogs were killed and no odors filled the air. Pedlar Lady tested your views of perspective. Tilt the iPad and you were an observer looking down from any angle as crows flew by and letters fell in place from the sky.You could watch at all angles as a lady rocked in her rocking chair on the roof. These apps are exciting. They showed us new ways to look at things. They made us think. They made us wonder what if I could do that to other things?

But these apps were expensive in this app economy of free or 99 cents. A 3D look at the periodic table could cost as much as $14.99. Most of these pushing-the-envelope apps came in around $11.99. Despite them being shown, despite them being heralded by critics and reviewers, most shoppers would not pay. The shopper has become accustomed to free or 99 cents. They will gladly pay $15.00 for a non-interactive hardback book but not an app where you blow into the microphone to move a sailboat, watch a video of the building of a ship, and tilt the app just the right way to launch it.

These apps that started at $11 – 14.99 have gradually reduced their prices to $3.99 and $2.99 trying to capture buyers so they can recoup at least some of their investment. Sadly, many of these companies are gradually leaving the app building business as they are unable to make back their money. It takes time, and money, and great thinking to be innovative. As they leave they take with them the different perspectives they gave us. The fine motor skills of guiding something with just the right tilt. The excitement of seeing the power generated by your breath blowing on a windmill. I fear we are in danger of losing the creative, forward thinking that these companies brought us. What we have left is an overwhelming majority of apps that are either fill-in-the-blank or mildly interactive worksheets. But hey, they meet the buyer expectations of being free or 99 cents and by the way, there are over 80,000 education apps to choose from.

So, the next time you see a high quality app that costs a little bit more – pay it! Please tell the developers of The Voyage of Ulysses, Loose Strands, Axel’s Chain Reaction, The Elements, Monument Valley, Leo’s Fortune, Paris 3D Saga, Simple Physics and many others, that you appreciate them pushing the envelope. Don’t let app economics stifle innovation and leave us with a plethora of stagnant apps. Stagnant apps don’t turn on minds.


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How to Start Making Interactive iPad Lessons on Frolyc

NOTE: is a free website where users can create their own interactive lessons and push them to students iPad accounts through the IOS app Activity Spot.

When I was first introduced to the IOS app Activity Spot I was enthralled with its interactive capabilities and its ability to create custom lessons. I was eager to get started. After all, I have been writing lessons for over 30 years and I prided myself in trying to make them constructivist, fun, and engaging. I quickly registered at and opened my first authoring link. But something happened. I became paralyzed. I couldn’t decide what to do next. I wanted to make a lesson for fifth graders but couldn’t conceive how to lay out my six pages. How could this happen? I have written for Scholastic, Pearson, Learning A-Z and the state of Texas, yet, I found myself with a writers block. I could not get off square one when this was something I was so motivated to do.

A voice inside my head said. “simplify, simplify. Make it easy. Do something even a kindergartner could do.” So, instead of making the best interactive plan in the whole of creation I started thinking: “What was the easiest, most needed lesson I could make?” You see, I had made the classic mistake of not reading the directions first. In this case I had not familiarized myself with the system’s tools. I just assumed it would come to me, or I could figure it out as I went. For me, this approach wasn’t working.

So I thought, “What is something every kindergarten teacher teaches at the beginning of the year and so would love an interactive lesson for her students to do?” I came up with numbers and letters.

Finding 4 was my very first Activity Spot lesson. It only uses one template  - the drawing template. I found the drawing template to be the most versatile, constructivist and easiest to use.  I wanted the students to “show what they know” and the drawing template allows for this.

finding 4

So I had up to six pages to fill and I started thinking, “What do you want children to know about four? What opportunities for learning do you want to open?” I found that putting information in a table helped me organize my thoughts.

frolyc table big

Once I got my flow down this simple procedure made it easy for me to explore the other templates. My second lesson was “I Know the Sound of B”. In this lesson I was ready to explore using the capability of linking to videos to build background. Next, I wanted the children to be able to show me what they learned, that they indeed listened to the video so I added the concept map, multiple choice and word search templates. I discovered that I could drag the pages on the sides and reorder them. That was great because I made mistakes and changed my mind about the sequencing.

I would periodically go ahead and published my activity and view it through the test ID that the system gives you, even though I was not completely done. I did not care that the activity was not complete. It was more important to me that the activity actually played out how I envisioned it.

Once I liked the flow, I published my first activity and I felt a huge sense of accomplishment. I was stoked now and went on to create three more lessons in that sitting.

So, here’s my advice in making your first Activity Spot activity:

1. Start with a very easy concept that you know well (it is OK if the topic matches content in grades below where you teach)
2. Limit your activity to one or two templates.
3. Make a concept map, a page flow, of how you are going to execute your lesson.
4. Publish it a couple of times to check that the flow and layout is what you envisioned.

Once you have done one lesson, the second is a breeze and you can move into making lessons targeting the needs of your students and your classroom.

Happy lesson making!

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SmartEdPad Helps Sponsor ASHA

unnamedASHA stands for American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. #SmartEdPad is proud to be a sponsor. One of the coolest things they are doing is they have rolled out a large banner that says school in large letters. They invite teachers to share their teaching “aha” moments on small paper people.


Think of some of your “aha” moments and then congratulate yourself for orchestrating an experience that has influenced a child’s life.

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Special Needs Dream Come True

smartedpad logo

It is a real treat when you have the opportunity to consult with a company whose mission you truly believe in and who is doing great things for teachers and students. I get to do that now with a company called SmartEdPad. I spent over twelve years in the classroom sometimes having as many 6 special needs students in a class of 21. I had bean bag chairs, stools, texture boxes, colored paper, colored pens, and colored gels. I had plain, calm spots in the room and rich, engaging spots. Anything I could think of to help students be successful. How much easier it all would have been if I only had SmartEdPads to help me differentiate my instruction.

The SmartEdPad is a Samsung Galaxy tablet that has the SmartEdApp installed on it. This app is phenomenal! First, I roster my students. Once they are rostered I can personalize their instruction by assigning specific apps that I know will motivate and engage them while supporting their IEPs. Through the management tool I can make sure that they cannot delete apps, get onto the Internet, or see things that are inappropriate or distracting. I absolutely love this feature!


One thing I especially love is that the SmartEdPad comes preloaded with over 100 apps, like Avaz, Pocket SLP and Tally Tots, all specifically chosen by practitioners to help special needs students. They are categorized under headings such as articulation, social skills along with content areas such as math and reading. I don’t have to spend hours searching for, and then trying out, apps I think I need. This is a huge time saver!

The Smart Ed system gives me some great management tools. I can plot lesson goals, indicate service levels, create reports and charts that show progress over time, and write therapy logs. What’s more, any adult can log in from anywhere and see real time information on a rostered student. This means that the therapist can complete a session, the teacher can see how far the student got, the parent can see what they can work on at home with their child and the administrator can get a big picture of how all the students in the district are doing. All this information can also be emailed. This is true collaboration!

Because of apps like Avaz, students who are previously frustrated because they were unable to communicate, can now signal for help or express joy. Tally Tots and Math Magic help all students develop sound math skills. The SmartEdPad comes with over 100 apps categorized under Social Skills, reading, rhyme, music, games, Spanish, text to speech, writing, puzzles, arts and crafts, books, articulation, AAC, and language arts. If you have a student who needs an app you already have on your device or is available from the Google play store, it is easy to add it to the SmartEdPad management system. Who doesn’t love a flexible management system!

From managing students, collaborating with practitioners and parents, and collating student data, the SmartEdPad is a dream-come-true-tool for anyone working to help special needs students succeed.


Go to or call 1- 800-982-9430 for additional information.

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Nice Math App to Practice Automaticity

Monty's Quest2Title: Monty’s Quest 2
Rating: 4.5 stars
Ages: 8 – 12
Price: $1.99

Monty’s Quest 2 is an app designed to help users improve their multiplication skills. Users can choose which times table from 2- 12  they want to practice or, they may choose to have the tables presented mixed. This is great for users who really need to practice say, their 7′s table. When they choose 7 they are presented with a screen that has Monty the mouse running up hill toward some cheese. If the user answers the presented multiplication problem correctly, Monty gets closer to the cheese. The faster the user correctly solves the problem, the faster Monty climbs toward the cheese. If the user answers incorrectly, Monty slips down the hill. If the user  takes longer than a couple of seconds to answer, bit by bit Monty starts sliding down the hill. This combination subtly encourages the user to both solve the problems correctly and quickly. The problems continue to cycle until the user gets the mouse to the cheese. When the mouse reaches the cheese the app tells how many correct and incorrect answers the user had. (SUGGESTION Have users take a screen shot of this screen and email it to the teacher or care giver to show evidence of progress.) Missed problems turn up more frequently among the list of problems to solve.

I would have given this app 5 stars if they had covered multiplication by zeros. I understand that the zeroes table is easy to solve, but it is a part of the family of multiplication tables and learners need to see them that way. There is no choice to practice the ones tables but multiplication by 1s are included within each numbers’ table.

Leaving out the zeroes and hiding the ones times table is small consolation for Monty’s Quest is a great app that helps learners really hone their multiplication tables.

photo(17)     monty quest



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Ways to Use QR Codes in the Classroom

Headline for Kathy's List of Ways to Use QR Codes in the Classroom
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Kathy's List of Ways to Use QR Codes in the Classroom

This is a list of ways to use QR codes in the classroom. Please add your own ideas.


Link to Surveys

Kathy's List of Ways to Use QR Codes in the Classroom | Link to Surveys

Create a survey using Google Forms or Survey Monkey. Print codes for each survey. Students can take surveys when done with their work, chart which surveys were more popular, then create their own surveys and become great statisticians.


On School Letterhead

Kathy's List of Ways to Use QR Codes in the Classroom | On School Letterhead

Add a QR code to school letterhead that points to the school website.


On Interactive Whiteboard

Kathy's List of Ways to Use QR Codes in the Classroom | On Interactive Whiteboard

Use an interactive whiteboard and a video camera to record notes/math equations/brainstorming/etc. Host the video online and add a QR code to a
homework assignment so students can be retaught from home.


Answers to Questions

Kathy's List of Ways to Use QR Codes in the Classroom | Answers to Questions

Hide the answers to a study guide behind a QR code. Copy the code onto the study guide so students can check their answers.


Point to Audio Recordings

Kathy's List of Ways to Use QR Codes in the Classroom | Point to Audio Recordings

Have students write or read children's books and record them as they reading aloud. Upload the audio online and add a QR code linking to the audio. Or Qr code a link to the public domain recordings on the Gutenberg Project.


Teacher Bios

Kathy's List of Ways to Use QR Codes in the Classroom | Teacher Bios

For open house/parent night, have each teachers in the building create a brief video introducing him/herself. Upload the videos and create QR codes that they can place by their doors. This way parents or later substitute teachers can get a feel for the quality teachers working in the building.


Book Reviews

Kathy's List of Ways to Use QR Codes in the Classroom | Book Reviews

Have students record book reviews and attach the QR code to the inside cover of the book.


Point to Class Calendar

Kathy's List of Ways to Use QR Codes in the Classroom | Point to Class Calendar

Print QR codes that point to your classroom homework/events calendar. Have students attach them to their daily planners.


Link to Content Videos

Kathy's List of Ways to Use QR Codes in the Classroom | Link to Content Videos

Create QR codes that link to supplemental materials and add them to the
teacher edition and/or student editions of textbooks. This way
valuable resources don't get lost in endless network folders on a forgotten
flash drive and if on eh student edition teaches students to go beyond the text for information.


Field Trip Docents

Kathy's List of Ways to Use QR Codes in the Classroom | Field Trip Docents

During a field trip, give students a handout with multiple QR codes that provide supplemental information coinciding with different locations on the trip.
Students will have a guided tour even if they are not with the teacher.



Kathy's List of Ways to Use QR Codes in the Classroom | Laughs

QR codes are a great way to show jokes, anything that requires an answer.


Link to Web Page

Kathy's List of Ways to Use QR Codes in the Classroom | Link to Web Page

Display student work posted on a blog or school website. (Edmodo page)


Homework Assignments

Kathy's List of Ways to Use QR Codes in the Classroom | Homework Assignments

Post homework assignments through a QR code.


Wifi Password

Wifi Password (we use this in our home) - our school used to have different passwords for the teachers and the students.
I got the idea here::

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Mobile Education Store Book Apps Offer it All

Title: Pines to Vines – Forest Biomes
Rating: 5 stars
Ages: 7 – 12
Price: $18.99 (well worth it)

I do not want to sound too excited but  Mobile Education Store’s new book app series, Crack the Book, is the closest thing to perfection in replacing the old school textbooks. Their first offering, Pines to Vines, is a science textbook app that explores in depth the forests biomes. Developed in conjunction with Oregon State University’s Department of Forestry, the app not only offers interactive features we would hope to see such as videos, interactive maps, narration, and interactive quizzes; but the golden key to this new series is that it presents the user with a choice of five different readability levels within each book app. This makes it possible for students to access the science content at individual independent reading levels. Once comfortable with the content students reading at first and second grade levels can challenge themselves and switch to a higher reading level. If students are are reading at a fifth grade level but reach a section that they find challenging, they can step down a level and have the meaning deconstructed for them.

Under settings users can choose the type size, have the text read aloud, have test questions read aloud, ask for images in the tests, use speech to text dictation, and have their work synced with dropbox.  Accessing the company’s website gives you access to lesson plans, work sheets, activities, study guides and standards correlations.  The  videos give the reader comparative insights into different types of forests, maps spin and zoom, and the captions to the visually compelling photos gives readers additional avenues that lead to better comprehension.There is nothing this company has not thought of when considering both differentiated instruction and teacher needs. There are many more features in this app series but I want to leave something for you to explore. Because of all it has to offer the app is priced at $18.99 but I feel it is well worth the price. This is close to, if not perfection, in what a mobile textbook can bring to today’s classroom. I cannot wait to see what they do with space and the human body. Great job Mobile Education Store!

Look for other titles in the series:
Seashores to Sea Floors
Aquatic Earth
Cycles of Earth
Parched Planet

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Apps that Make it Easy to Make a Book

Want to make a book? By choosing the right app, it is easy for Preschooler through Adult to author their own ebook. Read the descriptions and get ready to write.


Headline for Kathy's List of Book Creation Apps
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Kathy's List of Book Creation Apps

These are apps that help users, children through adult, create their own ebooks. Some export to PDFs, ibook or to other apps.
Kathy's List of Book Creation Apps | Book Creator for iPad
Description: The simple way to create your own beautiful iBooks, right on the iPad. Read them in iBooks, send them to your friends, or submit them to the iBookstore. Ideal for children's picture books, photo books, art books, cook books, manuals, textbooks, and the list goes on.
Grade1 through adult
BUY $4.99
Kathy's List of Book Creation Apps | Storybook Maker
Super book making app for young children. Fun interface. Choose from many backgrounds, stickers, photos, fonts, draw with large palettes - in short, creativity unleashed!
Grade 1 through grade 5
BUY $2.99
Kathy's List of Book Creation Apps | Storybooks: Starring You! by StoryBots - Read Personalized Children's Stories for Kids, Parents, Teachers
These are ready-made templated stories where children can put their own photos and names into the prewritten story to make them part of the story's action. This is for the not-ready-to write-yet crew and can be used to introduce them to the concept authoring. Has a couple stories for free then you can buy additional stories through inapp purchases.
Kathy's List of Book Creation Apps | My Story - Book Maker for Kids

Description ----- The best storybook creator just got much better! ----- Create and share ebooks by adding drawings, photos, and stickers. Then record your voice on every page and share your story with friends, family and classmates. We've made My Story super teacher friendly by adding multiple authors and syncing across multiple iPads through Bright Bot!
preschool through grade 3
BUY $3.99

Kathy's List of Book Creation Apps | LEGO® Friends Story Maker

Designed for creative minds of all ages, LEGO Friends Story Maker offers hours of LEGO fun. Become the author of
beautiful multimedia stories using simple tools like drag & drop, stamps, voice recording, backgrounds, frames, and page captions.
You can even take pictures of your own amazing creations to capture stories as you build!
Directed to elementary school girls

Kathy's List of Book Creation Apps | bookPress - Best Book Creator, Print or eBook

Create a book on the iPad. Print it or keep as an eBook! bookPress lets everybody write a custom book in minutes. Offers lots of templates
so you can do yearbooks , travel books or books for fun.
Grade 3 through adult

Kathy's List of Book Creation Apps | Book Writer - eBook, PDF creator

This app creates a very basic ibook, add a picture then add text, then allows it to be placed in the ibook store. For the same price other apps give you templates and stickers to work with.
All ages
BUY $1.99

Kathy's List of Book Creation Apps | eBook Creator
This is a full service ebook creator. Choose page orientation, transitions and add your own sounds. It offers 11 different
styles of library shelves to place your final product in.
Grade 3 through adult
BUY $3.99
Kathy's List of Book Creation Apps | eBook Magic+ ePub, PDF, Photo Book maker &amp; JPG collages
Download eBook Magic+ ePub, PDF, Photo Book maker & JPG collages and enjoy it on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. The
App for making Books, Pages and iBooks with the most output & share options.
* Read yours in iBooks, Order a Printed Book online, and share with friends.
* Optimized for creating any type of book: photo albums, children’s books, scrap books, text books etc.
Grade 4 through Adult
Buy $4.99
Kathy's List of Book Creation Apps | StoryBuddy 2
Make a basic photo book.
All ages
BUY $2.99
Kathy's List of Book Creation Apps | Super Duper StoryMaker
Description With Super Duper StoryMaker, you can create all the picture and photo stories you want and tell them over and over - plus, you can make your own photo albums, special occasion cards, comic books, etc.
Grades 1- 5
BUY $4.99
Kathy's List of Book Creation Apps | Book Magic

children grades K-2 to make picture stories with. It has clip art they drag in and then they create around it.

Kathy's List of Book Creation Apps | Strip Designer

Users can make their own comic strips.
Grades 3-12
BUY $2.99

Kathy's List of Book Creation Apps | Toontastic: All Access

A very creative open ended way to create cartoon strips.
grade 2- 12
BUY $19.99
FREE versions for educators

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