Up in Pieces

image    Last week I trialled using the free app Up in Pieces with my Year 9 Indonesian class. Students really enjoyed the app and actually asked for more puzzles. Any app that can generate that sort of enthusiasm in a languages classroom full of 14 year old teenagers definitely needs to be considered.

Basically, Up in Pieces turns photos into playable jigsaw puzzles. You can import any image from your Photo Library into the app. This means your puzzles could come from photos taken with the iPad camera, images saved from webpages, screenshots taken in any app, collages made with a collage app like Pic Collage, etc.

Creating a puzzle is quite simple, click on the word Create and select the image you wish to use. At this point you may be required to crop a little from each side of your image, so you do need to be careful that no important parts of your puzzle will be removed. Next select the number of pieces you would like your puzzle to have, and by turning on rotate, pieces will be randomly rotated therefore making the puzzle a bit more difficult to complete. Your puzzle is then created and saved.

Once saved your Up in Pieces puzzle can be shared via emailing the link. Students must have the Up in Pieces app installed in order to use the link. When you choose to share a puzzle, it is uploaded to Up in Piece’s server and is available via a hyperlink. To get the hyperlink, your options are to share it by Twitter, Facebook, or Email. As I cannot use Twitter or Facebook at my school,  I chose to email the link to my students. Firstly by emailing the link to myself, and then using the bulk email function forward it to my class. I did run into difficulties as students were unable to open the link, though this could be due to permissions on my school’s network. So to make the link work I did have to manually email each student. A tedious process. Next time I might embed a QR code with the link. Though not sure this will be successful.

Whilst I did have a minor technical hitch, I am planning on using this app across all year levels that I teach as my students really enjoyed using the app and it is another way that encourages students’ communication skills.

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Thinglink

image    Thinglink is a free app which allows users to add text and videos to an image.  Yesterday I trialled using this app in my Year 9 Indonesian classroom to great success.  I supplied students with a image on our current unit, “A visit to a village” and then asked students to label the image with as many words as they could.  Once completed, as a class we had a brainstorming session where students volunteered their words.  By the end of the activity students added more sentences and words to their Thinglink image, revised on words previously learnt, and with the prompts from me, added new words to their existing vocabulary. This link is a sample of a student’s work.

http://www.thinglink.com/scene/416391432232763392

Thinglink is very easy to use, students select an image and then tap where they want to add text.  I would definitely consider using this app in my classroom again as it does encourage writing and  speaking.

Too Noisy

image   My language class is often loud, and ordinarily I do not have a problem with this as learning a language obviously involves students speaking and communicating with each other. In fact, it is an absolute joy to see my students actively participating in speaking and language games and associated activities, however there are times when I do need to manage the noise level to a more comfortable level. This is where the Too Noisy app becomes a very useful addition to the teacher’s toolkit.

This cute iPad app has been designed to assist teachers keep the noise levels in the classroom under control in a fun and engaging way. It does take the negative focus away the teacher, which I quite appreciate, because as the noise levels increase in a classroom and reach an unacceptable level the background graphics change to reflect this and this gives a visual indication to the students that the classroom has become too noisy without teacher intervention. The background picture changes as the noise level lowers or rises. As some activities in a classroom can have a higher level of acceptable noise, the sensitivity of the app can be adjusted to suit. This app is free, however if you buy the paid version called Too Noisy Pro it has the same background but when the noise gets too loud it looks like the screen cracks and has a loud noise to get the attention of the children.

Splashtop 2

imageAgain the app I am reviewing is not a languages app, however, it is a very useful addition to add to your teacher’s repertoire.

I am increasingly becoming more reliant on my iPad in the classroom, not just for teaching but also for administrative tasks, so much so I no longer take my laptop to any of my classes and long gone are the days where I take a CD player to class.

I do my online roll marking with an app, all my sound files are stored in my iTunes library which I can access whenever I want and most of the student activities are done with various apps. However while I am enamoured with my iPad I still do use my laptop quite often, as both of these devices have their best uses. This is where I like using Splashtop 2.

Have you ever had the occasion where you are in class and about to start an activity only to realise that you have left the activity in your office? Or perhaps you want to show a DVD but forgot the actual DVD. As much as I don’t want to admit it, this has happened to me, thankfully not regularly, however I have found myself in that position. Splashtop 2 enables you to, from your ipad, access another computer, and then take control of the secondary device. You can project your manipulations to Apple TV or via a digital projector. While there are numerous ways to access your computer from anywhere, such as VNC or LogMeIn, Splashtop 2 is unique in that it emphasises multimedia, and is capable of streaming audio as well as video. That means, if I want to show a DVD, all I need to do is load the DVD into the DVD drive on my laptop, and when I am ready to show it, I can do so from any location providing it is on the same network.

To use this app you must first download the Splashtop Streamer for the computer(s) you would like to access. Once installed, you need to create a login for the Splashtop service.

As mentioned, you need to be on the same Wifi network as your computer in order to use the free version, however you do have the option to purchase the “Anywhere Access Pack” that provides connection regardless of the network.

I believe this is a great app in the teachers toolkit, as it gives you access to all your documents held on your laptop or PC, and for free you can access from anywhere within your school network at anytime.

Trading Cards

image   Trading Cards is a fun, easy to use and a very useful free iPad app. My younger students love to collect trading cards, so rather than just collecting cards, this app encourages students to create their own.

Trading Cards app is very easy to use, as within each stage in creating a Trading Card you are given question prompts which are very useful as it helps students with their writing.

This is a card that I made. It took no time at all.

image

I love that my students now have another option and fun way to write in the target language.

Using the onscreen prompts students can create cards on almost any topic, and I really like that this app does encourage writing in the target language.  Some examples for use might be to create cards on topics such as

  • About me
  • My pets
  • Family members
  • Describing people

As you can see from my example images can be added to cards and once completed cards can be saved and shared via email and also saved to your camera roll.  Students then have the ability to share their cards with other students.

Be Funky

imageDon’t let the name of this app put you off as it does sound like we have re-entered the 1970s but Be Funky is a great little app that you can use for basic photo editing including modifying the brightness, contrast, cropping, vibrance, warming and cooling. Be Funky has a happy interface, and its no-fuss editing features make it very easy to use.

While this app is designed to be used on an iPhone and as such is an iPhone app, it works quite well on an iPad.

As well as basic edit functions you also can add effects and text to your images. You are able to preview your image using the different effects before electing to save via the thumbnail previews. Once edited to your liking images can be saved to various social networking options or saved into your camera roll.

The app is free, and what I appreciate is there are no irritating ads which usually accompany free apps. The app can be used by both teachers and students as it allows you

  • to create images with text which can then be used in other apps
  • to create flashcards both hard copy, or within an app such as Bitsboard
  • to create images which can be used in digital stories or posters
  • to create images which can be used on any topic

Bookpress

image   Bookpress is a free app that allows you to create digital ebooks. There are preset templates you can use to create storybooks, cookbooks, picture books, etc. However, you can also use the blank template to create any kind of book. Bookemon, the creator, provides bCloud for storage of your books or you can store your books locally onto your iPad. eBooks can be shared and then viewed on an iPad, provided that the iPad has the app, or you can view the books online through a web browser.

I quite like this app as it is intuitive to use, making creating a book a very easy process. I created this eBook in less than 5 minutes.

Sample eBook

While, unlike Book Creator you are unable to record the story, this app does have the advantage that it is free.

Bookemon also provides edCenter, a free, private, secure environment for teachers and students to create, collaborate, and share their books. Email addresses are not required for student accounts.

This app could be valuable in the languages classroom as it gives students another avenue to

  • Produce digital stories
  • Encourages writing and reading
  • Used in collaborative project work
  • Used to create a class book on an excursion
  • Create a ‘how to’ book
  • Create a class book on any topic, for example my Year 8 class will soon be doing the unit on food, this app could be used to create a class recipe/cookery book