Author Archives: theappfairy

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.
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Buckle My Shoe, an app review

photo 1I have loved using Anna Grossnickle Hines’ version of One, Two, Buckle My Shoe in storytimes for years.  With its quilted illustrations, the slight variation in text from the traditional rhyme (just enough to make it interesting, not so much that it becomes weird or unfamiliar), and the layers of detail that you can choose to explore with kids or not, depending on how squirrely your group is (How many buttons are on this page? Where did that red thread come from?), this book is rich with read-aloud possibility. I was delighted to learn recently that this book has now been translated into an app called Buckle My Shoe by appropro!

photo 3I am happy to report that the app stays very true to the book. All of the quilted illustrations are intact (with very subtle animations that add interest, not distraction) and in addition to the counting element of the buttons (which is even more apparent in the app than it was in the book), the app incorporates some interactive activities at the end of the book. The activities are all done with a “pile” of buttons at the bottom of the screen, and activities include sorting, making patterns, and making pictures with buttons. I appreciate that the activities are after the book, not disrupting the narrative, but instead furthering the learning and play opportunities. I also love that the activities each have a guided option as well as freeplay prompts. This is one of those hard-to-find apps that work equally well for storytime and for at-home play.

We asked a few other librarians to review the app as well and here’s what they had to say:

“I actually had a chance to use this app in storytime this week, since our theme was nursery rhymes! The book part of the app worked nicely as an addition to our fingerplay. We used our fingers to count along with the app and then did some motions for the words. It’s short enough that we did it twice and then counted to ten using the buttons. The app worked well; although it did quit on me and I didn’t think the animations were dramatic enough to catch and hold my large group’s attention. I also wish the font had been consistent throughout the book.

I did really love the extras! The sorting part is ripe for parent-and-child interaction, which makes me really excited. I can just imagine a mom or dad and a preschooler hovered over the iPad, carefully sorting each button and talking about where it belongs. It’s wonderful!” — Rachel Sharpe, Virginia

 

“I like the illustrations!  Super cute, “quilted” style images make for a very sweet app.

The one thing I don’t like is that when I tap on the images of the numbers, there is no voice over repeating that number.  So when I tap on the number “1” it should say the word “one”.  There is a voice over when I tap on the buttons, which is nice, but I think for a counting app, kids should be able to tap on the numbers and hear the word.  This app seems to be aimed at very young children who are still learning their numbers so hearing the words when tapping on the images would go a long way to reinforce the concept.” — Anne Hicks, New York

 

“This was a very satisfying app – simple and colorful and easy to navigate.  The beautiful fabric pictures were as appealing on the screen as in the book and I liked the moving elements with the read aloud of the rhyme.

I especially liked the Design screen with the button pictures and patterns but to me one of the most appealing parts was the sound of the buttons falling in a pile.  I could definitely see kids following the patterns and creating their own or sorting by size or color.

I could see recommending this app to parents as an early literacy activity since sorting and sequencing contribute to emerging literacy skills and there are abundant opportunities to work on those.  It’s a simple app but it offers a lot of skill building and creativity – moving the different buttons around is easy and gratifying.” — Laura Antolin, Illinois

 

“I recently used the app with some story time participants 15-24 months old. Fortunately I had small groups that week. Though the illustrations directly from the book are bold enough to use with a group other components are best suited for a one child and one grown-up interaction. One child was already familiar with “1,2 buckle” and eagerly touched the buttons on the iPad. Some children came up to touch the screen but others sat back and observed. The app is a lovely extension of the book. Users can choose to have the book read to them, in a child’s voice, or turn off that feature. Words are highlighted as they are read. The automated reader counts the buttons as the child touches them, in any order, and, once touched, the buttons can be moved around the page. Other features of the app include opportunities for counting, sorting, designing, patterning and matching. Success is built in to the counting feature, where a button appears when the user touches a finger on the fabric hand. If you are on the page with the number 2, for instance, only 2 buttons will appear no matter how many times the finger tips are touched. Such is the gentle nature of the app that, in other activities, there is no right answer, encouraging experimentation and creativity. Users can interact as simply as counting from 1 to 10 or get more advanced and sort Venn sets. All aspects of the app lend themselves to conversation which enhances early literacy skills: “Can you find the red heart button?” “How many green buttons do you see?” A gentle, satisfying tinkling sound accompanies the movement of the buttons which are a lovely array of bright colors, sizes and shapes offering all the fun of playing with real buttons without the choking hazard. Buckle My Shoe is a high quality, visually appealing app offering numerous components for educational and creative play. No external links.” — Nicki Petrone, Ohio

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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.

Sago Mini Monsters, an app review by Carissa Christner

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Sago Mini has created many delightful toy-apps for young children. Last week, I had an opportunity to use Sago Mini Monsters in storytime at my library and everyone loved it!  Gameplay is simple:

1.  Drag a monster silhouette up from the primordial goo at the bottom of the screen.

2. Decorate the monster using your finger to draw in one of 5 colors.

3. Tap on the checkmark to tell the game you’re done drawing on the monster and your monster will grow eyes, horns and a mouth (although if you don’t like those, you can pluck them off and different features will grow in their place).

4. Feed the monster foods that pop up from the goo (could be cake, could be a boot…)

5. After the monster has eaten, its teeth look quite dirty, so it’s time to brush!

6. Pull more accessories up from the goo (a hat! a bandaid! a lightning bolt! the options are vast.) and finish designing your monster.

7. Take a picture (or don’t) and tap on the checkmark when you’re ready to meet a new monster.

I love this app for the open-ended (but not overwhelmingly option-heavy) art play and for the silliness factor that makes users of all ages giggle. The storytime kids loved telling me how to design the monster (What color should we choose next? Should we draw spots? Stripes? Squiggles? Where should we put this mustache? Do you like these eyeballs?) and they loved watching it eat crazy food and brushing its teeth.  One mom told me that her daughter loves to use the app and then go into the bathroom and brush her own teeth.  Every time. Hooray for the sneaky health lesson!

For a limited time, it’s free in the app store (all decked out for Halloween!), so grab it while you can. Read about the other monster apps I used in my storytime here. Make your own Sago Mini Monster finger puppets by downloading the pdf’s here (then printing them at 25% and adding a strip of paper at the bottom to wrap around your finger).

New App Storytime in Madison, Wisconsin

Little eLit regular, Carissa Christner began a new app-based storytime series at the Madison Public Library last month.  Read more about it (and learn why it’s called the Supper Club) on her blog here.