When we configured our iPads earlier this year, I knew one of the limitations would be the fact that we’d be “stuck” with a set group of apps until I was able to configure the iPads a second time. I looked through all of the apps installed on my teacher iPad and chose 21 apps that I thought were essential. At the time I felt like I’d chosen a pretty solid list of apps that would keep us going for quite a while. Unfortunately, we were only a few days in to using our configured iPads when I realized a huge, glaring oversight. I’d installed very few apps that were designed to promote creativity. Even worse, the app that I’d intended to use with my students to create journal entries had become glitchy. That left me with two less than ideal apps for creating student work. I love both Show Me and Educreations, but they weren’t necessarily designed for journaling or for student use. The process of using those apps to journal added a few extra steps that preschoolers don’t need when they’re working on iPads.
I made it my immediate task to track down some apps that children could use to create. The longer we have classroom iPads, the more obvious it becomes to me that the apps that allow children to create their own learning are the most valuable. Drill and Practice games definitely serve a purpose in classroom iPad use. They are a great way to support the individual needs of students that are either overwhelmed by the curriculum or require more challenge. But our iPad use has got to go beyond games if it is going to be meaningful and have significant long term value to the children.
I found six apps that I thought could provide a variety of ways for children to create art and writing on the iPad.
This is the app I’m most excited about. When I started looking for good apps for journaling, I emailed Kristi, at iteachwithipads. I knew she’d done similar work with her Kindergartners and I thought she might have a suggestion. She suggested Paper Desk Pro and what a great suggestion it was! My favorite feature in Paper Desk Pro is that children can make an audio recording of themselves reading back their own writing. So if one of my students writes “i wnt to pla blks” he or she can then make a recording of themselves reading, “I want to play blocks.” They can also either draw a picture, or insert a photograph that they’ve taken. I’ve been surprised that most of my students have chosen to draw their own picture rather than use a photograph. I can create a notebook for each of the four children that use a single iPad so that all of their work is stored in a unique location. Students can either type their words or write them with a stylus and they illustrate their writing with digital colored pencils or highlighter. Interestingly, they’re particularly drawn to that highlighter! I’m not sure what the appeal is.
Below is one of my student’s PaperDesk Pro Play Plan entries. He wrote that he wanted to play with “blaks” (blocks). He chose to write rather than type, and then he drew a picture of the blocks.
Blocks are often a popular choice in our class. There’s not much better than watching a group of preschoolers construct something awesome with a set of classic wooden blocks. This second student also wanted to play with “blocs” (blocks). He also chose to write rather than type, and figured out that a smaller pencil point would make for neater writing.
I also installed iDiary for Kids on the iPads. While Paper Desk Pro was designed for adults, iDiary was designed for kids, and as a result, the user interface is a bit more kid friendly. It has almost all the same features as Paper Desk Pro, plus a few more that cater to the children. My students are drawn to the friendly cartoon animals and bright colors. Again, I’m able to create one notebook for each child. iDiary has an automatic password feature for each journal. I set each child’s password as his or her name, and so far, the password feature hasn’t thrown any of them. Another unique feature of iDiary is digital stickers. My children haven’t really used them in their writing, but I’m excited about the possibility of using them for a math practice lesson. (I’ve got that math activity planned and ready to go, watch for a post about it soon!) The one feature iDiary lacks is the audio recording feature. There is no way for the children to record themselves reading their own writing. The fact that it’s missing that feature is a disappointment, but not a deal breaker. So far we’re really enjoying iDiary.
Below are a couple of iDiary entries from my student’s Play Plans. The first student decided to type her entry. She wrote that she wanted to play with “Poepkis” (Polly Pockets) and then took a picture of one of the Polly Pockets houses and inserted the picture into her iDiary page.
This next little guy wanted to play with “Cnaec” (K’nex). He also chose to type his entry, but he wanted to draw his own picture of the K’nex.
While the name leaves a bit to be desired, this is a fun app. (One generally tries not to talk about “doo doo” with preschoolers. Those conversations rarely end well. ) We haven’t done anything spectacular with the app yet, but the kids love it, and it was free! It does have ads, which I’m not thrilled about. If the kids continue to do a lot with it, I will probably splurge for the full price version just to get rid of the ads. The kids can create fun vibrant designs with neon colors that practically jump off of the screen. I’m looking forward to seeing what kinds of activities I can create around this app.
This is another app that my students have really enjoyed, right from the get-go. The students can draw with a “pencil” or stamp shapes onto the canvas in a rainbow of colors. The kids get positively giddy when I show them all the colors they have to choose from! It definitely gives a 64 Crayola Crayon box a run for its money. At this point we’ve only used the app for free exploration, but I see a lot of potential to use it in teaching. I’m excited by the work my students have already created independently.
This app reminds me of MoMA art lab, except that it has a “clay” option too. Because the two apps are so similar, and because I was running short on funds, I didn’t actually install this app on our student iPads, but I have it on mine, and I think it has a lot of promise. There are fewer colors to use, but a few more options in terms of ways to manipulate the various shapes. It’s also a tad bit more user friendly than the MoMA app. It’s very simple to rotate shapes and to shrink or grow them in size. If the MoMA app weren’t available, or if I had unlimited funds, this is definitely an app I’d consider. The free version gives you a sense for how the app works, but it only allows you three of the nine possible colors. so you really need the full version to start creating your art.
This is another app that I didn’t actually put on our iPads, but one of our Kindergarten teachers fell in love with it. She thought it was so much fun that she wanted it on her own iPad! It’s by the creator of the Imagination Box app above, Sebastian Bachorzewski. The children create their own sock (or mitten) puppet with a variety of fun materials including buttons, zippers, fringe and yarn.
I am so excited that we have so many apps for creativity on hand now. I feel like this really opens up the doors for us in terms of the kinds of activities we can begin to ask the students to do.