App Review: Keezy

IMG_4447I recently used an app called Keezy in a storytime I was presenting all about music. The app was originally designed for professional (and aspiring) musicians to use as a sound mixing board, but it has a super-simple interface that makes it into a very flexible tool easy enough for kids to use and full of possibilities for different ways to use it.

The main screen of the app consists of 8 colored squares. When you first open the app, you can touch each square to hear a pre-recorded default recording. Some of the sounds are rhythms, some are synthesized voices singing, others are short musical riffs. You can play them one at a time, or layer them in any way you want, pressing as many as all 8 at once.

You can also choose one of the other pre-recorded musical mixes to hear a different selection of sounds.

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But the real beauty of this app comes when you choose the “+” symbol from the options menu.

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This option will take you back to the main screen, only this time, there is a small microphone symbol on each square.  Press on a square to record your own sound clip and once it’s recorded, the microphone disappears to let you know that that color now has a recording associated with it.

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Of course, you can record musical clips (I had my storytime group echo back a few bars I sang to them and then we listened to ourselves on the playback), and one of my favorite features is the fact that there are 8 squares, allowing a full octave of individual notes if that’s what you want, but…. you’re not limited to music. You can record any audio as long as it’s not longer than a few seconds! Some ideas I’ve thought of include:

  1. Recording animal noises (or your own voice making animal noises) for a guessing game.
  2. You could incorporate this app into a re-telling of one of those cumulative tales like “Too Much Noise” and record your audience making each of the animal noises before you begin telling the story and just press the button each time when it’s time to hear that noise in the story.
  3. Same thing for the song, “Bought me a Cat” (of course, the audience can still sing along if they want to!).
  4. You could do a MadLib story with a group and assign a part-of-speech to each color square (as long as your MadLib has no more than 8 blanks) and ask kids to come up and record a word for each square, then as you’re retelling the story, just press the square to playback the word at the right time.
  5.  You could have kids write an 8-sentence story and record a sentence for each color, but in a scrambled order and challenge a friend to figure out which order the colors should be played in to make the story make the most sense.This is a great, easy-to-use, open-ended content creation app with so many possibilities to explore.  Oh, and did I mention? It’s FREE! What will you make with Keezy?

Carissa Christner is a librarian with Madison Public Library.

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Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.

Evaluation of New Media: Chapter Five of the Little eLit Book

We are happy to announce the release today of the fifth chapter of our book, Young Children, New Media, and Libraries. This chapter, “Evaluation of New Media,” was co-authored by children’s librarian Claudia Haines and social worker Carisa Kluver. It’s available by clicking here, or on the image below.

Evaluation of New Media

To read more chapters from Young Children, New Media, and Libraries, please visit the “Book” tab of this site.

This project, with many contributing authors, has been a work in progress for some time. Chapters are being released once per month, on the 15th, until all chapters have been published here. At that point, the entire work will be put into a single PDF ebook document, including appendices and other additional materials.

Kalley’s Machine Plus Cats: App Review, by Awnali Mills

When my friend Rachel Sharpe emailed me about this wonderful app that I just had to try, I jumped right on it because she has great taste in apps. Once again, she was right! Kalley’s Machine Plus Cats ($2.99 iPad/iPhone) is a fun little story with great graphics and interactivity and worked well in storytime.

Kalley's 1The story is about this wonderful machine that a little girl named Kalley has invented. On each screen, she shows her father different parts of the machine, each one interactive. You can pull the levers, push the buttons, use the puffer and the smasher, paint things different colors (and combine primary colors to create secondary colors), and sort things into different bins. Kalley’s father thinks all of this is wonderful, but he’s baffled by the point of all this machinery. At the end of the story, the little girl finally explains that this machine makes food so that her father won’t have to go to work, but can stay home with her. Sadly, her father explains to her that he works for more than just the ability to purchase food, and Kalley proclaims that she’ll just make machines to do those things too!

And, that’s the story behind the app. The developer came home from work and his daughter had designed this machine on paper for the very same reason that appeared in the story. The developer turned her idea into an app as a way of possibly making her dream of daddy staying home a reality. I like a heartwarming-tale-meets-cold-hard-technology story as much as the next person, but it doesn’t make a bad app into a good one. Fortunately, this is a pretty good one.

Kalley's 2What I liked: The interactivity is pretty fabulous. There’s enough stuff here to keep kids playing with it for a long time, and it’s sneakily educational. Being able to watch as cats play around the machinery, and using the machinery to try and tease them is fun (cats cannot get hurt). You can also remove the cats as one of the options. You can have narration or not as you choose, and have background music or not. It’s easy to navigate, and there are no ads or in-app purchases. I loved that it featured a girl as the engineer. I love the message that kids have the power to create things to improve their lives.

What I didn’t like: The “puffers” and “shrinkers” on my app didn’t work, although the screenshots shown on the app’s website show them working. While this is disappointing, it didn’t lessen the charm of the working machinery. Some of the word choices irritated me, particularly when the girl tells her father, “It stamps shapes of the things that you choosed.” Yeah, I know that it’s a little kid speaking, but obviously incorrect grammar makes me a little crazy.

Kalley's 3I liked this app enough to use it in a food-themed storytime. I wasn’t sure how all the interactivity would translate to a storytime setting, but I managed to work some of the machinery while I was reading, and worked some of it after reading the page—practicing ahead of time is crucial here. If I had to do it over again, I would lower the volume a bit (I had it on full blast) so that the noise of the machinery didn’t compete with my voice as much. The kids were glued to the screen and seemed to enjoy the story. I meant to make the app available for play after stories, but kids were mobbing the flannelboard I had made available for play and I got distracted. Maybe next time!

 

Awnali Mills works in the Children’s Dept. of a public library and she gets the snot scared out of her by sudden loud sounds coming out of apps she’s trying out. She blogs at The Librarian is on the Loose.
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Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.

Touchtronic ABC’s: An App Review, by Lisa Mulvenna

I am always looking for a fun new way to promote early literacy and Touchtronic Letters is a great product. I picked my set of 26 lowercase letters up from Lakeshore Learning as I was setting up a recent program where kids and parents could come and play with recommended apps.

Touchtronic ABC’s is a free app for kids who are working with letters (ages 2-7) and uses the Touchtronic Letters. There are three games in this app that work with different levels of letter recognition. The games do require some fine motor skills as users need to find the correct letter to match to the screen.

Mystery Door is the easiest game and has the user put your letter in a window. When this happens, the door will open to show an item that matches that letter. For example, if you use an M, the door will open and you will see a monkey. You will also hear “M is for monkey.”

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The second game is called Letter Bubbles is a little more difficult.  You match letters to bubbles that carry different items.  For example, if you see an apple in a bubble, you will put the A on the bubble to pop it.  The narrator will also say “A is for apple.”

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The third game, Word Machine, is for a little older user.  The game has kids adding the last letter to three-letter words.  Users are shown a picture as they hear the word spoken out loud.  They are then asked to find the missing letter.  In this case, I heard “fox” as I saw the fox and was asked to find the O to complete the word.

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From a public library perspective, I would either circulate the letters as a kit where customers can download the free apps to go with them or use them in a program where kids or parents get to try out apps.  They would also make a good early literacy station if you had a way to monitor the letters so they didn’t disappear.

 

Lisa Mulvenna is the Head of Youth/YA Services for the Clinton-Macomb Public Library and one of the three co-founders of MiKidLib.  You can also find her blogging at http://www.lisaslibraryland.blogspot.com or on Twitter at @lmulvenna.

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Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.

Inventioneers: An App Review, by Awnali Mills

IMG 1 InventioneersYou know one of the things I love? When you download an app ‘cause it’s free and get Absolutely Hooked On It. That’s how it was when I found Inventioneers by Filimundus AB (iTunes/Android). Normally, I’m all about apps for preschoolers, but I was intrigued by the thought of learning physics by making my own inventions—not usually a preschooler thing. “Okay,” I thought, “I’ll bite. It’s free, and at worst I can just delete it.” To start with, I was just going to see how the app worked. I tried the first section and after much fiddling (bit of a learning curve) got my invention to work. I was so excited! I went on to the next page and got that one to work, too. Then I realized that the little stars floating around were prizes. If I could get parts of my invention to hit them, then I got a bonus! An hour later I had to drag myself away.

The free download of Inventioneers offers one open “chapter.” This one chapter is more than enough to tell you whether you’d like to make the one-time purchase of $1.99 to open five other chapters and the Create Your Own Invention section. Each chapter is actually a setting in which you create inventions to solve problems. There are 42 “pages” in each chapter, each page offering a progressively more difficult task.

So maybe, like I was, you aren’t quite sure how an app can let you explore physics and make inventions. In the app, gravity works on objects, as does force. You build inventions, taking these forces into account, to accomplish tasks. To start with, the app lets you work on simple problems, only giving you the props you need to make your inventions. Sort of like handing you all the pieces to a slingshot, telling you that a rock needs to hit a can and letting you figure out how to put the pieces together to accomplish the task. At first, you aren’t quite sure what to do. Then, through experimentation, you figure it out.

IMG 4 InventioneersSo, what sort of raw materials does the app give you to accomplish these tasks? I’m so glad you asked, but I’m not going to list everything because it’s extensive. Here’s just a sample. For building there are funnels, boards, pipes, bricks, and cheese (who knew?). Things to drop, things to throw, and things to balance on all make an appearance. And then there are things like gears, spokes, fans, motors, ramps, horns, clocks, springs, balances, fire, explosives, and more. There are also these little guys called Inventioneers. They are tiny characters in the game “with special abilities like blowing air, creating fire, magnetism, and shooting lasers.” All these materials REALLY come into play once the game is unlocked and you can access the Create Your Own Invention section. The chapters give you a task to accomplish but the Create section allows you to imagine your own task.

My only complaint, if any, was the fact that you’re allowed to set up parts of your invention to begin in mid-air. This wouldn’t work in real life, obviously. Maybe it’s just me, but I couldn’t figure out how to make some of my inventions work without this quirk. Once I accepted that things work a bit differently in app-world, I got on just fine.

This app isn’t for preschoolers. It would be appropriate for parents and elementary kids to sit down together and work through the problems (if the parent could resist taking over!). I can see it sparking all kinds of conversations and tinkering with physical objects. This would also be a fantastic app to have available on children’s area tablets in the library or for free play in classrooms. The vast number of possibilities and the educational aspects make this app worth the in-app purchase price.

Awnali Mills works in the Children’s Dept. of a public library and she gets the snot scared out of her by sudden loud sounds coming out of apps she’s trying out. She blogs at The Librarian is on the Loose.
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Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.

Rhyming FeltBoard: A Demonstration with Felt Board by Software Smoothie, by Katrina Bergen

After the positive reception of my last video demonstrating how a digital felt board can support pre-literacy development in storytime, I wanted to share another example. Here is a Software Smoothie Felt Board presentation of words that rhyme, a pre-literacy presentation for three to five year olds learning to connect sounds to letters and words.

Katrina Bergen, student, CalstateTEACH
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Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.

New Media in Inclusive Early Literacy: Chapter Four of the Little eLit Book

We are pleased to announce the release today of the fourth chapter of our book, Young Children, New Media, and Libraries. This chapter, “The Role of New Media in Inclusive Early Literacy Programs & Services,” was written by children’s librarian and doctoral candidate Tess Prendergast. It’s available by clicking here, or on the image below.

New Media in Inclusive Early Literacy Prendergast

To read more chapters from Young Children, New Media, and Libraries, please visit the “Book” tab of this site.

This project, with many contributing authors, has been a work in progress for some time. Chapters are being released once per month, on the 15th, until all chapters have been published here. At that point, the entire work will be put into a single PDF ebook document, including appendices and other additional materials.

Sago Mini Doodlecast, by Claudia Haines

Sometimes a familiar app used in a different context with children other than the intended audience can have surprisingly positive effects. Such is the case with the app Sago Mini Doodlecast and a recent library visit from a group of middle schoolers with special needs.

sagominidoodlecastSago Sago, a company full of talented app developers, targets young children, and Mini Doodlecast most often finds success with kids under 6 and their fun-loving families. It’s an open-ended app that offers users a blank slate on which they can draw images with a variety of tools. Sure, there are a lot of drawing apps and, really, paper and a pack of crayons can be entertaining, but Mini Doodlecast uses the digital format to make the drawing experience different and, in some cases, better.

As soon as iPad users begin drawing or writing within the Mini Doodlecast app, the process is recorded. It’s not just that you can save a final still image to the device’s photo library. In this app, the act of drawing and writing is recorded as video along with audio which might include intentional narration, music, or even chatter between a child and adult or multiple children. The explanation behind a budding artist’s green lines, the conversation about shared moments recreated with stick people, and questions about color choices are all saved. The three together–video, audio and final still image–offer a magical opportunity to bring a story, and the story making, to life.

As I was waiting for the middle schoolers to arrive for their visit, I was playing around with my iPad prepping some apps for other programs. I quickly realized that Mini Doodlecast’s storytelling features would appeal to many more than the youngest iPad users I already knew loved the app. I decided at the last minute to share it.

After I read a couple of stories, I brought out my iPad and showed each of the visiting students how the app worked. The small group of tweens each came with an accompanying adult, so together we were able to customize the iPad experience to each student’s abilities, which varied greatly. I sat with each pair so the iPad was up close where the student could easily reach the iPad and see their work. I’ve used apps with this group before during their annual visits, but this time I was sure to use Guided Access. As with lots of kids, the Guided Access kept the focus on the app instead of frustrating the app user because of accidental navigation away from their work in progress.

Each student was fascinated by the results of their finger movements, but everyone got something different out of the app. One girl in particular loved the playback feature. As she drew, her companion sang a song familiar to her which made her break out in giggles! Sago Mini Doodlecast recorded the whole thing; laughter, bright images, and even a soundtrack. The girl got to hear and see the whole thing and was clearly impressed when she recognized her own voice and her companion’s.

Everyone has a story to tell. Let’s give everyone an opportunity to share theirs.

 

Claudia Haines, Little eLit Curation Coordinator
Youth Services Librarian
Homer Public Library
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Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.

App Review of Hansel and Gretel: Lost, by AnnMarie Hurtado

What makes a great book app? There are many viewpoints on this, but for me I think a great book app has to tell a good story and use animation and interactive elements to further the comprehension of the words in the story, rather than simply distracting the reader. One book app which meets my criteria for a great book app is Hansel and Gretel: Lost by PB & J Publishing.

unnamedThe interactive elements actually move readers through the plot, which is a real win for beginning readers. The reader makes Hansel throw his breadcrumbs, and watches as little forest gremlins gobble them up. The reader helps Gretel climb the tree to see the witch’s gingerbread house. They later help Gretel kick the witch into the boiling pot and bust her brother out of his cage.

The screen elements are well-synchronized with the narration. For example, when the reader mentions a gopher digging a hole, the gopher pops up, and when the reader says the children looked to the left and then to the right, their view changes accordingly.

But let’s not focus only on the technological aspects of this app—the point of a book app is the story! The story is a good retelling, infused with lots of humor. It is a bit less creepy than the original; for example, in this version the children have loving parents who do not abandon them. The illustrations are cheerful and also help to make the darker aspects palatable for small children. The witch is grotesque yet comical. The spoken narration is lively. There are funny moments added into the story, like Gretel dipping the witch’s glasses in butter, and scrubbing worms off of the witch’s foul feet.

One of my favorite funny parts is when Hansel dares Gretel to go into the forest. Each time the reader taps on Hansel, the words he uses change, and he goes from calling his sister a “chicken” to calling her a “scaredy cat” or a “timid tuna.” He acts out the animals and makes animal noises. I like the early literacy aspects of that. I think kids will like it too, because having the ability to alter Hansel’s dialogue is very empowering.

My one complaint with the storytelling is that the character of Hansel is not as kind or as resourceful as the Brothers Grimm’s Hansel. Some of the original Hansel’s smart ideas are suggested by his sister in this version. But I don’t think this will be noticed by children, and anyway Gretel has always been the ultimate heroine of this story. I can see why the creators made this decision: it shows a clear change from the mean Hansel who calls Gretel a scaredy cat to the grateful Hansel who is proud of how brave his sister is. That adds an interesting new layer to the story, one which children will relate to.

Both the storytelling and the animations that enhance it pull the reader in and make the reader are a part of the story. When my four-year-old reads this story, I see that she is fully comprehending everything and reacting to it with either laughter or horror. And that is what great storytelling is all about!

 

AnnMarie Hurtado is a youth services librarian with Pasadena Public Library.
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Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.

Pre-Literacy in Storytime for Toddlers: Using Felt Board by Software Smoothie, by Katrina Bergen

When I was the children’s librarian at the Dixon Public Library my favorite iPad app for story time was Felt Board by Software Smoothie. Since leaving that position, I have been in a teacher preparation program that requires iPads and the use of apps in the classroom. Preliteracy as well as literacy instruction is emphasized. In reviewing the concept of Same and Different, an important precursor to organizing the visual world and learning to read, I thought of Felt Board and the fun ways children can recognize and distinguish shapes, letters, numbers, colors, size, etc. The Sesame Street song “One of These Things is Not Like the Others” started running through my head over and over again – a great sound track for a Felt Board presentation. Here’s a demonstration:

Katrina Bergen, student, CalstateTEACH
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Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.

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