Monday, March 30, 2015

10 Spring Break Apps and Features for your kid's iPad

The calendar is about to flip to April and with that comes Spring Break, at least here in West Michigan. It's been another brutally cold and long winter and I personally can't wait to get to some warmth, relaxation, and time with my family away from the daily school routine. As families prepare to hit the road or just enjoy some time off here are ten great iPad apps and features for Spring Break 2015.

  1. Off Switch - It's not an app but probably the best feature of any electronic device for Spring Break is the off switch. Shut down for a while and unplug. Focus on all of the natural and analog adventures you can have even if it's just for an extended period each day. off buttonUnplugging completely might not be that easy though for the family facing a 24 hour drive, hours in airports, or suddenly now faced with a whole week at home together. The following recommendations are to help keep kids' brains, creativity, and fun going throughout the week. They're not in any particular order as far as one being better than another, just great apps.

  2. Keynote - This is more than Apple's version of PowerPoint. Not only is it a really powerful presentation maker, it's a powerful design tool as well. After a week of taking pictures and video of their adventures, kids can spend the ride home assembling all of their memories. Keynote is free on all iOS devices purchased since the Fall of 2013. Keynote is car friendly because most features aside from sharing are not wifi dependent.

  3. Maps - If you're on the road this break, give your kids part of the navigational duties. When I was growing up, we would travel most summers across country from Arizona to Michigan. My sister and I learned so much about geography and math when we rode shotgun with the big Rand McNally atlas on our laps. The iPad's built-in Maps app or its Google counterpart do way more than a print atlas. You can search for restaurants, upcoming gas stations, hotels, and more. Maps requires an Internet connection so in the car, kids might need to use the one on your phone.

  4. Cargo-Bot -

    [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="191"] Cargo-Bot app for iOS[/caption]

    Here is a game based on doing work at the shipyard, but every kid I know thinks of it more as the beloved claw at 90% of America's pizza joints and grocery stores. Kids have to program the claw to move crates in a series of puzzles that gradually increase in difficulty. This app is ladened with advanced problem solving and an introduction to computer science in that in order to move the claw, kids have to assemble directions as if they were coding an app. Building this type of logical reasoning transcends many different subject areas. No Internet needed.

  5. Replay - Here is a fabulously easy-to-use movie editor that provides stunning results. In fact, this app is so good, Apple used it in its product launch of the iPad Air 2 in October. The killer feature lies in the app's ability to analyze your photos and footage for tempo, sound, and color. High-end effects like lens-flare, background color, and music are all added automatically and can also be adjusted manually. It's actually called Replay Video Editor for Instagram but no Instagram account is needed. Internet is only needed for sharing projects or buying advanced features. Remember to always, always, always shoot your video horizontally! Here's a sample of what you can do literally in just a few minutes with Replay. This was some really, really rough drone footage we took over my house.
    Screenshot 2015-03-30 12.38.30

  6. IXL - Sometimes the math drill apps get a bad rap, but I am a firm believer that in the proper dose they can do a lot of good as building computational fluency is essential. Without a strong handle on basic facts, kids are greatly hampered moving forward into more complicated math. IXL is a great app that works all math standards from Pre-K on up. Many schools have student subscriptions. Check with your kid's school to see if they do and get the username and password for your trip. You'll need an Internet connection so it might not be the best for the car or van, but incorporating a little math never ruined anyone's vacation...not completely anyway.

  7. Penultimate - Here is a notebook app where kids can doodle, journal, or draw-up inventions. Because it is digital, they have an endless supply of paper and no crayons will melt all over your interior when left on a hot backseat. Any photos on the iPad can be easily inserted into sketches and if they have an Evernote account, your kids can sync their creations and keep them among their other notes on the cloud-based free service. Internet is only required to sync or share.

    [caption id="attachment_1025" align="alignleft" width="1536"]IMG_0455 Penultimate App from Evernote[/caption]

  8. Google Drive - This one is more practical over exciting, but many schools issue students Google Apps for Education accounts. With the Drive app, kids can upload all of the photos and videos they shoot with the iPad to their school accounts. When they get back to school and get the "What I did over Spring Break" essay assignment, they'll have tons of visuals to insert. Requires Internet.

  9. Kindle App - If your kid can handle reading in the car or on an airplane without getting sick, load that iPad up with good books. The iBooks app lets you do the same thing with books from the Apple Book Store but if you are an Amazon Prime member you can take advantage of the lending library and can "borrow" one free book a month for the Kindle. Internet is required to download books, but not needed once loaded.

  10. Tinkerbox HD - This puzzle app is ridiculously addictive and involves engineering one contraption after another. Getting a ball into a basket gets increasingly more difficult as new conveyor belts, levers, and ramps are introduced. It works scientific concepts and logical thinking but in the end it is just fun.

No matter where you are headed or if you are just sticking around home, these apps all can fend off the dreaded "I'm bored" and keep brains firing all week. A few others to explore include Canva, Photoshop Mix, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Snapseed. Whatever you make, make sure great memories are at the top of the list.

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