COMPUTER CORNER

Reviewed by
Bill Gillespie and Rosemary McDowall

Our friends from Shiny Things have released two new apps for iPads and iPhone. The apps, Quick Math Jr and Shape Lab, build upon the Sydney-based developer’s already impressive collection of educational software.

Quick Math Jr helps children aged three to seven learn the important foundations of mathematics. Children can practise counting, skip counting, subitizing (the faculty of instantly judging quantity), ordering numbers, mental arithmetic, formal addition and subtraction. Subitizing refers to the rapid, accurate, and confident judgments of number performed for a small numbers of items.

Quick Math Jr also helps children with their handwriting skills. As a child plays through the five fun games the program will dynamically adjust the level of difficulty so students are always receiving questions that are specifically designed for them. Students can become creative with the “Monster Maker” and watch as their own characters appear in the games. Quick Math Jr will definitely help students become confident in mathematics.

Shape Lab is the latest app from Shiny Things and uses an open-ended iPad tool that teachers can tailor to suit any child from kindergarten to year 6. With a focus on exploration, discovery and creative problem-solving, the app helps students with everything from shape recognition and pattern forming through to angles, measurements, symmetry and much more.

Creating an app with such limitless potential inevitably involves some pretty cutting-edge technologies, and Shape Lab is designed to provide as interactive an experience as possible. Its “Shape Recognition Engine” allows children as young as three to draw perfect shapes directly onto the screen. Its shape-snapping feature then enables them to fit shapes together quickly and easily to form pictures and patterns.

Students can use gestures to draw and move shapes around the screen, flip them, rotate them, copy and paste them, manipulate them by changing sides and vertices, colour them in and even cut them into other shapes or divide them up, then piece them back together again. You can even use photographs in the background to encourage real-world shape recognition.

Coming soon are measurement tools and a feature named Airshow that will enable teachers to demonstrate tasks and concepts by mirroring their own iPad screen across all the iPads in their classroom. They can even set up activities on each device which their students can then continue to work on individually. When paired with projection tools, Shape Lab becomes a replacement for interactive whiteboards. It enables both teacher and student-led presentations and individual student work, all through the one tool.

Acknowledging teachers as integral to the learning process, Shiny Things has sought to create a tool that allows teachers to easily harness technology and incorporate it into their everyday teaching practice. Simultaneously, students are empowered to develop 21st century skills such as creativity, communication, collaboration and higher order thinking.

If you are using iPads in the classroom and you have a focus on maths then we suggest that you head over to the iTunes store or to the Shiny Things website and see what these creative and award-winning people have to offer.

Software provided for review by Shiny Things. Bill Gillespie teaches at Elanora Heights PS and Rosemary McDowall is currently on secondment. They can be contacted at computer_corner2000@yahoo.com.