47 posts categorized "Web/Tech" Feed

Two Apps Making Math Learning Fun for My Daughter

I don't usually do app reviews on this blog, but I wanted to mention a couple of apps that my daughter LOVES that are helping to keep math fun for her. You should consider these more recommendations than formal reviews. 

First, some background. My 5 year old daughter enjoys playing games and watching shows on her Kindle Fire. This is something she is allowed to do only within defined time limits. Her teacher recommended / suggested that the kids work at home on math using an app called ScootPad. And I tried to do this, despite the fact that my overall goal is to limit the amount of time that my daughter spends using her device.

It turns out that my daughter, who really enjoys math, HATES ScootPad. As we've experienced it, the app consists of a series of quizzes. They are repetitive and too easy for my daughter's experience level (she went to a fairly academic preschool). I tried to get her to get through them, because I thought that if we could get through the early ones, more challenging material would follow. But we never made it, because she was literally crying with frustration, and I eventually stopped having her use it. I'm not saying that ScootPad doesn't have value, and wouldn't be a good fit for some kids. But for my daughter, it was taking away her joy of learning

Sushi-monsterFortunately, there are two apps that my daughter really enjoys playing with that are helping her to build her math skills. The first one is from Scholastic, and it's called Sushi Monster. It is only available on iPad and iPhone, so I have to let her use my iPad to play it. Scholastic's website says:

"The game, which meets Common Core State Standards, offers students practice, reinforcement, and an extension of math fact fluency in a completely engaging and challenging way. Students will strengthen reasoning strategies for whole number addition and multiplication by helping monsters make a target sum or product. Students earn points, stars, trophies, and personal bests to challenge themselves and unlock new levels of play.

The addition mode gives kids a solution, and asks them to select which numbers add up to that solution, from a displayed set of numbers. Then you get another solution, and you pick from the remaining numbers to try for that number sentence. If you choose the wrong numbers for one sentence, you probably won't be able to complete successive sentences.

Each round increases the number of choices, so the game gets harder and harder as you go. If you successfully get through one level, the next level has higher numbers to work with. (E.g. at first you might be choosing which two numbers add up to 10, eventually you are selecting which numbers add up to 120 or 900 or whatever).

There are fun sounds, and it's very fast-paced and entertaining. Then you get virtual points and stars and such, which my daughter does find motivating. There's also a multiplication mode, which we've dabbled with, but she's not quite ready for it. But my general view with this app is that she's excited about it and asking to play, while practicing doing addition and even multiplication in her head. She basically learned that 20 plus 20 is the same as 2 plus 2, with an extra 0 at the end, by playing around with this app. 

Hungryfishss1-150x150More recently I found several recommendations for math-based apps in Jo Boaler's book Mathematical Mindsets. We tried a few of them out, and found one that was a hit: Hungry Fish from Motion Math. This one is available on iOS and Google platforms, including the Kindle tablets (which is definitely a bonus for us). Here's the Motion Math description:

"Your fish is hungry – hungry for numbers! This fun addition and subtraction game for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch has instant addition: touch two numbers together to instantly add. Most addition games teach in the form 3 + 4 = __; Hungry Fish challenges players to find different ways to make a 7 (1+6, 2+5, 3+2+2, etc.). There are 18 levels of challenge (for 4-year-olds to adults) and bonuses to customize your fish with new colors and fins."

So, it's similar to Sushi Monster, but with an underwater theme. The fish has a number on it, and then bubbles float out with different numbers on them. Kids have to combine the bubbles to make the number displayed on the fish, and then the fish eats them. As the fish eats, it grows bigger, and the kid is getting points. At certain intervals, you earn a new color with which to decorate your fish (which my daughter again finds motivating). She's experimented with the addition, subtraction, and negative number levels. In the latter, the target is a negative number, and you have to combine positive and negative numbers to get to the total. The first few times my daughter played this app she was positively giddy with how fun she found it. 

I've found it interesting to watch her with this app. There are lots of different ways to combine the numbers to get to the target numbers, in some cases. She doesn't just have the answers in her head all of the time (particularly for the two-digit numbers), but she uses strategies, like combining smaller numbers at random until she gets something that she recognizes will lead to a solution. Sometimes she sets the difficulty level too high and gets frustrated, but it's easy for her to slide it back to an easier level. She is sometimes learning through trial and error, which is how a lot of learning happens. I am happy to see her using this.

We don't get "credit" at school for using Sushi Monster or Hungry Fish. And I only let my daughter use them as part of her device limit, not on top of that limit. But if she's going to be on the device, I can't tell you how happy it makes me to see her practicing math effortlessly, enjoying herself, while continuing to build her knowledge and intuition.

Do you all have any other math app recommendations for us? 

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

New RSS Feed for Blog, and My New RSS Reader Selections

My blogging host, TypePad, recently added FeedBlitz integration. I was already using FeedBlitz to send out my blog newsletters (daily and bi-weekly), but after finding some quirks in my existing RSS feed, I decided to create a new one via FeedBlitz. Here's are the links:

Feed: http://feeds.feedblitz.com/jensbookpage

Mobile: http://m.feedblitz.com/jensbookpage

Email: http://www.feedblitz.com/f?Track=http://feeds.feedblitz.com/jensbookpage&Publisher=202824

As far as I know, the other feed will continue to work, too. But on the new RSS readers that I've been testing, this new feed looks better (paragraphs, images, etc.). It also eliminates a weird glitch that I was seeing by which Feedly displayed the date that I created a post, rather than the date that I published it. Since I often hold reviews until closer to publication, this was irksome. 

So, if you feed this blog via RSS reader, it would be great if you could switch to the feed above. 

Speaking of RSS readers, as many of you know, Google Reader is going away on July 1st. After much experimentation, I've settled on a new solution that I think will work for me (though it won't be right for everyone). I've decided to use Feedbin on my computer. Feedbin is a paid service ($2/month), and it's actually pretty bare-bones, but it's simple, and does what I need it to do. The main reason that I chose it is that it offers direct integration with the Reeder iPhone app, which I like (one-time cost of $2.99).

I was using Feedly on my desktop, but I didn't like their iPhone app, and I found the Google Reader migration process fussy and difficut. I was using Feedler Pro on my phone, and I loved it, but it relied on Google Reader support to sync to my PC, so I had to drop it for now. So, on the advice of this article (which I found via this Twitter post) and after various other research and testing, Feedbin and Reeder are what I'm going to work with. For now anyway. 

A Small Piece of Good News for Me

Amazon has worked out their tax issues with California, and my site is once again an Amazon affiliate. This means that if you click through from any of the book links on my site (in the sidebar or in posts) and you make any purchases on that visit to Amazon, I will receive a small commission. The commission will be on anything you purchase during that session, whether it's books, toys, or garden sheds. These commissions will never allow me to retire, but they do help me to buy books and to defray the costs from my blog.

Anyway, just wanted to let you all (and the FCC) know that I'm back in business as an affiliate, after a break over the past couple of months.

iBooks vs. Kindle App on iPad

I recently did a little experiment while on my trip to KidLitCon and the East Coast. I read Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick as my first eBook, downloaded to the Kindle app on my iPad 2. I also read Harlan Coben's Shelter on my iPad, using the native iBooks app.I found pros and cons to each. (Please note that here I'm talking about the Kindle app on the iPad, and not the Kindle itself.)

I found the Kindle app more readable right out of the box (fonts, fontsize, relative contrast of text and background), though these things are somewhat configurable in the iBooks app. The iBooks app does let you change the font, which is nice, but the old-school part of me thinks that I shouldn't be monkeying with the font of books I'm reading anyway.

I initially liked that the iBooks app shows page numbers, but was less pleased when I realized that the page numbering does not correspond with the page numbers of the hardcover. Of course this makes sense, given that you can change font size, etc. It's more a nod to old-school ways of knowing where you are in a book. The Kindle app just shows you what percentage of the way through the book you are. I respect what the iBooks app is trying to do in giving the feel of a printed book (the right-hand side of the screen also shows ruffled page edges). But the net result is that the iBooks screen feels more cluttered, while the screen when using the Kindle app is cleaner. The Kindle automatically hides all of the options (book location, home button, etc.), while the iBooks requires an extra step to hide them, every time you reopen.

So, on a pure reading experience basis, the Kindle app wins for me. But of course there are other factors.

Both products have integrated Google and Wikipedia search, and the ability to bookmark pages and add notes to the text. You can also link to Twitter and Facebook with the Kindle app, to share excerpts of books (kind of cool, though I'm not sure I would do it). The iBooks app lets you add notes (like sticky notes that you can write on), and then email them to yourself (it doesn't email text from the book, just your note and what page it was attached to). The Kindle app by default automatically backs up all your annotations at Amazon.com, and includes them in "popular highlights". This bothers me a bit, even though I frequently share things that I like in reviews. Perhaps it's because when I flag something in a book that I'm reading for review, I might flag because I like it OR because I don't like it. But I can turn that off.

Both products include dictionaries. The Kindle dictionary was a bit less intuitive to use, you have to press down on the word for a surprisingly long time to make the definition come up. The Kindle app puts a short definition at the bottom of the page, below the text, with an option to click for more detail. The iBooks app has a longer popup definition to start with. So again, the Kindle version is a bit less cluttered.

But the bottom line is that these apps have largely the same functionality, with each having a slight edge in one area or another. Although I preferred the less cluttered look of the Kindle, I could easily get used to either reader. I think that the decision of which to use is going to boil down more to who I trust to store my book content than which of these two apps provides a better reading experience. I think the jury's still out on that ...

What I think I'm going to do for now, though, is continue to purchase a few titles that I'm particularly interested in reading, and read them on my iPad. I prefer this to starting to accept review titles for my iPad, because I still have some kinks to work out in terms of using the notes features and writing reviews. I still find paper books easier on my eyes, and a more enjoyable tactile experience. I like being able to see, from the thickness of the book, how much I have left. I like seeing my "porcupine" of post-it flags sticking out a book. But I will say that being able to load a few books up onto the iPad for trips is very nice, as is being able to read in an otherwise dark room (on the plane, in bed, etc.).

New Logo for Jen Robinson's Book Page

After 5 1/2 years using a logo that I had licensed, but didn't own exclusive rights to, I decided that it was time to procure my own, unique logo. I have no graphical design skills myself. However, I am fortunate to know someone who does. I commissioned the talented Sarah J. Stevenson with my logo design, keeping to a "growing bookworms" theme, and I'm quite pleased with the result. What do you all think?

My thanks to Sarah for her patience with me, and for her professionalism during the design process. I'll be working on new bookmarks and business cards soon!

Blog Housekeeping

I noticed recently that my blog was becoming slow to load. So today I spent a bit of time on blog housekeeping. I cleaned up a bunch of sidebar items that seemed to be slowing things down, and the blog is loading MUCH more quickly for me.

I also replaced some relatively static lists that I had of books that I was interested in reading with a list that I intend to be much more dynamic. I created a list of those books that catch my eye in other people's reviews (those that I've been highlighting in my "reviews that made me want the book" feature), and added a note for each with a clickable link that goes to the review. (Something that I didn't know you could do in TypePad book lists, but that's working well for me now.) I still intend to do the RTMMWTB features as blog posts. But since I seem to be having trouble getting to those in a timely manner, I'm hoping that this will allow me to highlight great reviews on other blogs more quickly, while also keeping my own sidebars more dynamic. I'll add new books to the top of this list, and have the older ones gradually drop out of sight.

In the interest of more dynamic content, I also added a small Twitter feed (with my last 3 tweets) right below the Between the Roundups Literacy News Widget. I'm testing this out, and will see if I decide to keep it or not.

Next task is to do something with my enormous blogroll. I'm of two minds about it. On the one hand, I think that blogrolls are a nice resource that people can use to find new blogs. And I've typically been pretty open about linking to new blogs. On the other hand, I do think that content on blogs should be a bit more dynamic, and that a list of 300+ children's and young adult book blogs is overwhelming (not to mention the fact that I'm sure I have some inactive links in there that need to be cleaned out). So, work still to do there.

But for now, I'm satisfied that my blog is a little more dynamic, and a lot faster to load. Happy Friday, all!

"Between the Roundups" News Widget

Jpg_book008 Earlier this month, Terry Doherty and I announced some changes to the way that we were going to do the weekly children's literacy and reading news roundups. This was in response to the fact that the roundups were getting bigger and bigger every week. While we've been thrilled that there's so much news to report, we were concerned with a) the roundups getting too large and b) getting the news out in a more timely manner.

As part of revamping the roundups, Terry took on a project to find a better way to share some of the links that we find. And she's been hugely successful - I am VERY lucky to have her as a partner in these literacy roundups, that's for sure. What she's done (thanks to some very helpful advice from Andrea Ross) is set up Del.ic.ious accounts that we're both using to share news in four different categories: raising readers, literacy news, 21st century literacies, and events.

Today, she also set up a great new widget using WidgetBox, with which you can, if you like, display these news links on your own blog. You can see the widget in my right-hand sidebar, near the top. You can switch between the four tabs, to keep the one you like best on top. If you click on "Get Widget" you can install it on your own blog. If you create a (free) account on WidgetBox, you can change the width of the widget, to match your blog's setup.

Terry has more details about this widget, and some other widgets that she's experimenting with, at Scrub-a-Dub-Tub. As for me, I'm going to be working on sharing more children's literacy links on Del.ic.ious and Twitter. We welcome your feedback!

New Blog Feature: ShareThis

Sharethis_logo_new At the suggestion of someone on Facebook, I decided to try a new widget for my blog. It's the ShareThis application. Below each of my posts, next to the Permalink, there's a little logo like the one to the left and words ShareThis. Clicking on the logo or the words brings up a pop-up window that you can use to share the current post via email, or post it as a note or update on other social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter. You can even use it to create a short blog post on another service, with a comment and a link back to the post in question, should you ever want to do that. 

I've done some testing of this for the other services that I use, and I think it's pretty cool. Obviously, I have no particular expectation of anyone sharing any of my posts in other places. But if you do try it, and you have any problems with it, please let me know. And I'd recommend that you think about installing the application on your own blog, too. I know it works for TypePad and WordPress.

I'm feeling so cutting edge, all of a sudden! Or, you know, whatever the word is for one who experiments with social networking.

How My Blog Has Changed My Life

TypePad, the blogging service that I use, is holding a 5th anniversary celebration. The marketing folks asked TypePad users to share stories about: "how my TypePad blog has changed my life." Since my blog has certainly changed my life, I decided to participate. You can find my story on this page (but there's something weird about linking to TypePad from a TypePad blog - here's the full link: http://www.typepad.com/about/celebrating-5-years-of-typepad.html). Currently it's the fourth story down, though I imagine that other stories might be added. Here's a brief excerpt:

"I was always an informal advocate for children's books and raising readers... My blog has allowed me to take my literacy advocacy to a new and previously unimagined level, in a way that would have been impossible before the advent of blogging."

I do think that this is true. Blogging allows someone like me, someone who doesn't have a formal library or teaching background, to participate in the conversation about raising readers. I feel very privileged to be here.

And, for the record, I've been quite pleased with TypePad as my blogging service. I hope that they'll be around for another five years.

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

New Blog Photo

I decided, after two years of looking at it, that it was high time for me to replace the photo on my blog. This is a hard thing for me, because I so rarely like photos of myself. But I do like this one, especially because when I look at it, I know the history of the uncropped version of the photo. In any case, it's high time for me to have a photo in which I'm not wearing sunglasses (it was a very rainy day, actually).

This photo was taken using Susan Taylor Brown's camera by an employee at Hicklebee's Books, during National Ambassador for Young People's Literature Jon Scieszka's visit to Hicklebee's in January. You can find more details about that visit, and the uncropped version (with Jon Scieszka) here. Thanks for remembering your camera, Susan, for thinking to take the photo of me with our new National Ambassador, and for going to the trouble of sending it to me! Your thoughtfulness now has a semi-permanent place on my blog.

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

Some Administrative Notes

I just wanted to mention a couple of blog-related things to you all.

  1. If you comment on this blog, you may have noticed that I've started requiring "catchpa", where you have to copy a series of letters and numbers from a graphic before your comment will be accepted. I find this annoying as a commenter, but spammers have made it necessary. Since I turned this on, comment spam has markedly decreased. Sorry for any inconvenience.
  2. You may have noticed that at the end of all of my reviews, I've been including bibliographic information about the book (publisher, age range, etc.). A friend who uses this blog to find book suggestions for his two children asked if I could make a change, to move the information to the top of the review. That way he could see at a glance if the review would be relevant for him, and not have to spend time reading reviews of books that weren't of direct interest. I'm all about saving people time, and I thought that this was an excellent suggestion. Since some of the bibliographic information is more detailed, I decided to leave that at the end. Therefore, I've started splitting the reference information about the book into two sections. Author, title, number of pages, and age range at the top, publisher, publication date, source of books, and links to other reviews at the bottom. Please let me know if you think that there would be a better way to organize this information, or if you think that this works. I especially want the reviews to be helpful to parents, librarians, and teachers who are looking for book ideas for kids.
  3. There's a link going around by which you can have the content of your blog rated, following the standard movie ratings. For anyone concerned about such things, Jen Robinson's Book Page was rated PG. It probably would have been rated G, except for some references to "dangerous", and one reference to "death". That dratted Dangerous Book for Boys!

Online Dating

Mingle2 - Online Dating

Blogging the Kidlitosphere

Our own Betsy Bird of A Fuse #8 Production has an article about Blogging the Kidlitosphere in the May/June issue of The Horn Book Magazine. I haven't received my print copy yet, but the full article is available online. My favorite quote from the article is this:

"Every day more parents, teachers, librarians, scholars, authors, illustrators, and readers are discovering and creating blogs of their own in an effort to add something to the general discourse surrounding books for kids. You can avoid blogs and suffer few consequences, but this new technology offers a remarkable way to talk about children’s literature while adequately supplementing already existing media."

Way to go, Betsy! The website also include a list of Kid-lit Bloggers to Watch, with short descriptions of each site. Welcome, to all Horn Book readers who have clicked through to visit this page. And thanks, Betsy, for making us all look good with your well-informed piece.

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.