Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Great Online Resource to Learn How To Draw

It started with my oldest daughter asking how she could learn to draw "really real".  I tried checking out some "how to draw" books at the library, some were better than others, but overall both of my kids had problems following the instructions even in the most simple books where the new lines were a different color. I had to specifically point out each new line to them.  This became tedious when helping one child, and impossible when both were wanting to draw.

Next I went to the internet to see what was recommended.  I found numerous posts recommending Mark Kistler's site, especially among homeschoolers.  There are plenty of free videos on the site, and they are perfect for kids.  The marshmallow lessons are fun for all three of us, and are simple enough that my youngest daughter could do them when she was just three years old.  My five year old was able to do the slightly harder Online Video academy videos, and both kids liked the School of Imagination, step by step animated lessons.  

The lessons are perfect because they can pause the videos when they need to, and his dialog, pace, and drawings are great for people of all ages.  It took us a few months but we went through all the free videos, had checked out all his videos of his PBS show from the library, but the kids wanted more.  Unfortunately the subscription for his lessons are a bit pricey at $100 a year.  But I finally decided the cost was worth it and was going to buy it as a birthday present, but lucked out even more when I found a discount coupon on the internet. 

I highly recommend these videos and they are a great representation of when tech makes learning easier.

Drawings by Selena age 6

Drawing by Allie age 4

Thursday, July 11, 2013

My mistake equals free apps for you

Kids Pattern Recognition's update in the App Store is live and is now working! 

Unfortunately I made a big mistake and released an app that
wasn't functional.  I can't believe it happened to me.  Over a week ago I updated all my apps on Apple to remove affiliate links because they probably violate COPPA.  I tested all the apps on my devices and simulators and they all worked.  I uploaded them to Apple and they were reviewed and approved.  A week went by and everything seemed good, but then I got an email from a customer who had bought the app and said it would not open.  I panicked because the app was due to go free in a few hours and would be heavily promoted and the last thing I want is for thousands of people to download a bum app.  Apparently there was a bug in the release version I sent to Apple that was not a problem in the debug versions I was testing.  While I was frantically trying to pinpoint the bug I was seriously doubting my sanity in having started this business, as my husband was not home, and thus not only was I trying to deal with this crisis, but I had to feed and put my two kids to bed.

But all is as well as it can be at the moment because I have fixed the problem and have submitted the update to Apple, and even requested an expedited review.  Even so it will probably be at least a couple days before it is live, so for all you lucky people not only will Kids Pattern Recognition be free Friday and Saturday, but Kids Sequences, Counting and Patterns will be too, and it will be the app promoted for App Friday. Granted you won't actually be able to play Kids Pattern Recognition till the update is out, but you can pick it up for free now, and enjoy Sequences and Counting in the meantime. 

App Friday Will Be Exciting Tomorrow

Kids Pattern Recognition will be set free for the first time ever. :) If you haven't already liked App Friday's facebook page, go and do so now.

Monday, July 1, 2013

COPPA - Child Online Privacy Protection Act

Over the past few months I have been working with a group of people to organize an effort to educate developers and parents on privacy and technology.  The result of our collaboration is Moms With Apps a part of ACT 4 Apps. The group's official launch is today, to coincide with the deadline for the new COPPA regulations the federal government instantiated going into effect.

As typical of many bureaucratic efforts COPPA shines in some ways and is lackluster in others, whereas Moms With Apps makes a call to developers to follow the spirit as well as the letter of the law.  It's main efforts are for clear disclosure.  Please keep an eye out for the MOMs with apps logo and support the developers that are a part of this group as it filled with high quality developers.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Great Deal on a Great Android Tablet

This is an awesome deal on a Nook Tablet HD, especially because Barnes and Noble opened up the Google Play app store for their Nook Tablets.

Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Jackpot in Free MP3 Stories for Kids

There is something quite satisfyingly old fashioned about listening to a story told by a talented storyteller.  It gives me imagined nostalgia for the oral tradition and a time when bards traveled the country, sharing their stories, or a time when families gathered around their radios.  Which is where the site Storynory comes into the picture.  While it is more tech in its delivery than a bard or a radio, its essence is still the oral tradition.
Free MP3 Kids Stories

I discovered Storynory quite a while ago and have been meaning to share it, but kept forgetting.  I already shared Robert Munsch's free mp3 stories, but if you are looking for stories for a bit older group of kids is AMAZING!  There are hundreds of stories including a huge selection of original stories which are surprisingly good.  The majority of them better than most published children's books I read.  It is harder than you would think to make stories that both adults and children like, but Storynory has nailed it.

Natasha is the storyteller.  She has a wonderful British accent and does entertaining character voices.  We have listened to most of the Bertie the Prince stories, Katie the Ordinary Witch, Tick Tock Turkey and all have been hits, especially with my five year old daughter.

We mostly listen to the stories in the car either burned onto an mp3 disc, or by plugging in a phone or ipod to our stereo.  I also turn them on at night for my five year old in a pretty successful plot to keep her from coming out of the bedroom half a dozen times before she goes to sleep.  Though one night I forgot to limit how many stories played, and she listened to them for 2 1/2 hours before she came out of her room at 11:30pm asking for more.  Oops.

The easiest way to download the stories is to treat them like a podcast and get them via the RSS feed links  provided on the Storynory site.  For convenience I have provided some of the links below.  Storynory does have a main podcast link that gives you a different story and different character for each episode, but I, and my children, prefer to be able to pick out which stories they want and listen to, and listen to multiple ones of the same character, thus I choose to subscribe to each feed separately.

If you are unfamiliar with podcasts they are typically mp3 recordings, focused on a topic, usually delivered somewhat regularly.  Most often they are radio type shows, interviews, or in this case stories. (There are also video, pdf, and epub podcasts which deliver other types of digital content regularly). Usually you can download episodes individually via a website, or another, easier option is to use a podcast app.  A podcast app will notify you when new episodes are available, and more efficiently download and play the files.

For your desktop computer or apple device you can use the podcast section in iTunes.  Alternatively, for mobile devices, you can use the podcast app that comes on the iPhone, or download a dedicated podcast apps from Google Play.   For Android, I use BeyondPod.  Usually you can search for the podcast from an app, but some podcasts, like the individual feeds for each story series on Storynory will not show up through a search. For podcasts that cannot be found via search you have to copy and paste the link for the RSS feed into the app.

As far as I can tell Storynory gets money from a sponsorship from as well as selling some ebooks via Amazon and apps via The App Store.  If you like these stories, I encourage you to support their site through their products or by donation.

For convenience I have included the RSS Feed links for various subscriptions to below:
Right click on the link and select, "Copy link address" and then paste it in your podcast app.  From the links are at the bottom of each story series's description where it says "RSS feed for these stories."  Enjoy!

Storynory - Katie the Ordinary Witch

Storynory - Bertie the Prince

Storynory - Tick Tock Turkey

Storynory - Astropup

Storynory - Waking Beauty

Storynory - Chix

Storynory - Wiked Uncle

Storynory - Zoo Stories

Storynory - Jack and the Pirate School

Storynory - Rockfords Rock Opera

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Open Face Chinese Poker for Android and iOS

Open Face Chinese Poker for Android
I'm taking a little tangent from developing kids apps and am developing an app for adults.  The game is Open Face Chinese Poker and right now there is no Android version, so I am trying to target that part of the market as soon as I can.

I put up a new site,, to keep the two genre's separate.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Does the English Language Hinder Our Numeracy?

What if the language you speak either helps or hinders your number sense?  This thought occurred to me the other day after a series of events:

The first was my brother and I were watching our kids play.  His son, who is 2.5 was counting: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16.  He skipped 13.  Young children are often stumbling and skipping over numbers through the teens.  I commented that our numbers really don't make sense anyway.  When counting in Japanese it is very simple.  You say the words for one, two, three through ten, and then after that you say ten-one(11), ten-two(12), ten-three(13), ten-four(14), ten-five(15), ten-six(16), ten-seven(17), ten-eight(18), ten-nine(19), two-ten(20), two-ten-one(21), two-ten-two(22), etc.  Even when they write out numbers as words the characters follow the same pattern.  My point is, do Japanese speaking children stumble over the teens as much as English speaking children?

A couple weeks later my eldest daughter, who is in Kindergarten, was talking to her younger sister.  The elder was talking about the number 28, the younger asked, "How much is 28?"  The elder said two-tens and eight more.  Then I remembered her showing me a 100's chart and counting how she learned at school.  When she got to the larger numbers she would say two-tens-and-one (21), two-tens-and-two(22), two-tens-and-three(23), etc.  Sound familiar?

100's Chart
Understanding place value is a foundational math skill.  In the early elementary age children teachers strive to help the kids understand place value, so that when they starting adding multi-digit numbers they can understand WHY you need to carry.   Teachers have students do exercises like the one my daughter did at school in analyzing 100's charts, finding the patterns, and counting the numbers like she was.

Unfortunately there are kids who do not get enough of this practice, and have a harder time making the connection that twenty is the same thing as two-tens.  My sister, who was student-teaching third graders met a few such kids.  The curriculum had moved beyond place value and onto addition and subtraction, but the kids who didn't understand place-value also didn't understand why you needed to carry numbers. She said that even when counting, one girl seemed surprised every time she switched from one set of tens to the next (ie from twenties to thirties).  For these students the rest of their math experience will most likely result in attempting to memorizing the steps to solve a problem and will not understand the meaning behind the steps.  They will probably have a harder time estimating and will be less able to look at a final answer and be able to tell if it is in the ballpark of the right answer.

But what if kids have spent their whole verbal life practicing place value?  I would imagine their understanding of place value would come faster and easier.  Multiplication by ten becomes trivial.  What is two groups of ten or two times ten?  Two-ten!  Combine that with a metric measuring system (also base ten) and you have practical math skills that make logical sense being used from the moment a child is verbal.  I would imagine such a language would make it easier for their speakers to understand the connections and relationships between numbers.

Japananese, Chinese and Korean languages all count this way, and have strong math scores in international standardized tests.  Finland, Norway, Singapore, and Canada do not have languages that count this way and also have strong math scores.  The Thai langauge counts in this way, yet have low math scores. Obviously there are many confounding variables, and the language one speaks isn't the silver bullet to being good at math, but it is an interesting idea nonetheless.