Archive for the 'Family' Category

Fifty Apps for the iPad

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

Last year, I wrote that I didn’t need an iPad, because I had an iPhone and a Macbook Air. I still have them both, and they are still working out great. But my nephews got iPads for the holidays, and this is how I bond with them, so I had to get an iPad too. How’s that for a rationalization?

But now that I’ve bought one, I’m glad I did, because it’s adding value in ways I hadn’t anticipated. True, it is basically an iPod Touch with a larger screen, but that larger screen makes a big difference. There are a lot of things I can technically do with my iPhone, but usually don’t because the screen size is too small. And I’m finding it easier to do those things on the iPad.

So here are the top ten things you can do on an iPhone or iPod Touch that you can do better on an iPad:

1. Watch: I’ve been carrying around movies and TV shows on my iPhone for years, but I’ve watched more on the iPad in the last couple of months than I ever watched on the little screen. The Videos app (Included) is the very first app on my iPad. But I’ve also signed up for accounts with Netflix (Free app + $7.99/mo.) and Hulu Plus (Free app + $7.99/mo.) that let me stream video content from their impressive libraries. The combined monthly cost is far, far less than the Cable TV I’m canceling. And apps for YouTube (Included) and ABC Player (Free) help establish the iPad as a truly flexible video viewer you can take anywhere.

2. Connect: The power of social media has risen incredibly in the past year, and the App Store (Included) has kept pace. There are a variety of apps to help keep you connected, but I use Reeder ($4.99) as my Google Reader client, Friendly (Free) as my Facebook client, and Twitter (Free) as my client to access the Twitter account I finally broke down and created so that I could follow the national conversation where it seems to have gone. You can also consolidate the three, and much more, in one app called Flipboard (Free), which formats the content into a friendly magazine layout for casual browsing. There is also a WordPress app (Free), which allows me to blog on the go, and Yahoo! Messenger (Free) – actually an iPhone app – which lets users exchange text messages and participate in voice chat. And the iPad Mail interface (Included), designed for the larger screen, is much easier to use than its iPhone counterpart.

3. Read: The biggest surprise for me on the iPad is how much I love my Kindle app (Free), which lets me download books from Amazon and read them on the iPad. And these are real books that I actually want to read, not the limited eBook selection available through Apple. However, there are a lot of places online to get free books in ePub format, which can then be imported into your iTunes library and read on iBooks (Free), so you should definitely get it. I’m a fan of Offline Pages ($4.99), which allows you to save websites (from the iPad or from your home computer) and read them on the iPad, even after you’re no longer connected to the Internet. I also highly recommend the Shakespeare Pro app ($9.99) if Shakespeare’s your thing, and the Newspapers app ($2.99), which lets you access local newspapers from across the country on a daily basis.

4. Play: Any game you can play on the iPhone, you can play on the iPad, either in the original size, or expanded to fit the screen (sometimes with the expected loss of quality). But the expanded real estate has given developers something to code about, so there is a whole spate of new games and revamped versions of old games at the ready. Plants vs. Zombies is the absolute best game to ever grace the iPhone, and Plants vs. Zombies HD ($6.99) is even better on the iPad. Games like Cover Orange HD ($0.99) and Cut the Rope HD ($1.99), which combine tricky puzzles with engaging animations, demonstrate a new level of what is possible in portable gaming. Even the simple games, like Saving Seeds HD ($0.99) or Aces Traffic Pack HD ($2.99), really make you feel like you’re using a next generation device. I was able to play GT Racing: Motor Academy ($0.99) with my two nephews, each of us on our own iPads, racing each other on the same track. This was cool on a level they could not possibly appreciate.

5. View: I’d be remiss if I didn’t discuss how viewing photos is better on the larger screen, obvious as it may be. The iPad has a built-in Picture Frame feature, which lets the device function as a digital picture frame when it’s not otherwise in use. There are also apps that take advantage of the view, like Beautiful Planet HD ($0.99) that shows high-quality images from across the globe, and The Guardian Eyewitness (Free), which shows a different news photo every day. And The Elements ($13.99), the flagship app of the iPad, is everything it’s hyped to be: an interactive periodic table in which you can rotate high-quality 3D images of each of the elements. But it does take up almost 2GB of storage space, so don’t even bother with it if you’re only working with 16GB.

6. Work: The iPad is expensive to begin with, so it seems worth it to me to invest just a bit more in the iWork suite – Pages ($9.99), Numbers ($9.99), and Keynote ($9.99) – to add value to your device. I’ve also become fond of GoodReader ($2.99), which reads PDF files, and Teleprompt+ ($9.99), which allows you to load up text documents from your desktop and use the iPad as your own portable teleprompter. Try that with an iPhone.

7. Organize: I’ve actually not had a problem with the Calendar app on the iPhone, but the iPad’s Calendar interface (Included) makes it possible to see my whole month at a glance, which is a useful feature. As a MobileMe user, I like to use iDisk (Free app + $99/yr. for MobileMe) to coordinate between my desktop, laptop, iPhone, and iPad, but if you’re not a member, I’ve heard good things about Dropbox (Free app + Dropbox account). And I have to mention the Delivery Status app ($4.99), which lets you follow multiple packages from FedEx, UPS, etc. as they are tracked through the system.

8. Browse: The fact that the iPhone had a fully functioning web browser was a major breakthrough, but the iPad takes it a step further. It’s not only that the screen is larger, but also the fact that it allows you to view the full versions of your favorite websites, as opposed to the version optimized for mobile devices. Safari (Included) also syncs your bookmarks bar from its desktop counterpart (via MobileMe, I think), which I have found very convenient. It’s worth checking to see if the websites you frequent have their own apps as well. I recommend Google (Free), WolframAlpha ($1.99), and Articles ($4.99), which is a sharp-looking Wikipedia client.

9. Explore: Here’s how you know you are living in the future. Download GoSkyWatch Planetarium (Free) to your iPad. Then point it at the sky at night. It will display for you the same stars at which you are gazing, along with their names and even the constellations drawn in. Move the iPad around and the display will adjust. It’s also worth getting Solar Walk ($2.99), which gives you more freedom to move around the solar system and see what’s going on, including watching our own artificial satellites as they orbit around the Earth. The more expansive interface also breathes new life into old favorites such as Maps (Included) and Google Earth (Free).

10. Distract: So you’ve bought your iPad and now the kids want to play with it. What can you download to keep them out of your online banking app? The boys have their favorites, but Elena, who is now almost two, can work the icons along with the best of them, even knowing to hit the menu button when she’s bored with one app and wants to switch to another. Voting with her fingers, she recommends Sound Touch ($2.99), Art in Motion ($2.99), Tesla Toy ($1.99), and Drawing Pad ($0.99). Ian (age six) is really into roller coasters, so he enjoys games like New York 3D Rollercoaster Rush HD ($4.99) and Underground 3D Rollercoaster Rush HD ($4.99). But he really loves an app called Coaster Physics ($0.99), which lets him design his own roller coaster and then ride on it as he learns about kinetic and potential energy. He also likes to practice his Dolch sight words with All Sight Words ($0.99) and play Math Bingo ($0.99), while his older brother Jason (age eight) prefers MathBoard ($3.99) to hone his arithmetic skills. I highly recommend the BrainPOP Featured Movie (Free) and PBS’s SUPER WHY! ($3.99), two excellent educational apps by sources from whom we’d expect no less. And there are a whole host of apps that simulate baking different sugary confections, but Cupcakes! XL ($0.99) makes the best use of the iPad’s capabilities.

I certainly mean no disrespect to the iPhone. It’s still, hands down, the coolest thing I’ve ever owned, including the iPad. It has a phone and a camera and it fits in my pocket, so the new kid is really no threat. The iPhone is also better for listening to audio, recording voice memos, MusicID, and playing Doodle Jump or Catan. Most of the things I do with the iPad are things I wasn’t really doing with the iPhone anyway. So the iPad did add value after all.

And now all of my portable digital requirements really are met, and I therefore have no need for any new thing that should happen to be introduced by Apple or anyone else.

Do I?

Ten Kiddie Apps

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Last week, I posted a list of my ten favorite iPhone apps. Recently, I helped my young nephews (ages 5 and 7) load up their iPod Touches with some fun apps for them. I had to do some research to find the best apps, and I’m pleased to share my experiences with the Shakespeare Teacher community.

Here, then, are my top ten recommendations for iPhone apps for kids, presented this time as a countdown:

10. Cookie Doodle ($0.99) – You can select the type of dough, roll it with a roller, choose your favorite cookie cutter, bake the cookie, and decorate it with a variety of icings and candies. In the end, you eat your cookie, of course. A similar app named More Pizza! allows you to prepare a different kind of treat.

9. MiniPiano (FREE) – This is just a single-octave piano keyboard, but probably better to allow the little one to explore this free app than on your expensive baby grand. There’s also a Drum Kit that has a free “lite” version.

8. TeachMe: Kindergarten ($0.99) – This is a great little drill-and-skill app for your youngster to practice word and number skills. Correct answers earn stickers which can be placed on provided backgrounds. There is also a version for toddlers.

7. Skee-Ball ($0.99) – Flick your finger to roll the ball up the ramp and score points in this digital version of the classic arcade game. It’s fun for kids who know the real thing. There is also an Arcade Hoops app to simulate the timed basketball shooting game.

6. SpongeBob Tickler ($1.99) – If your kids are into SpongeBob, they’ll love this opportunity to poke and prod him to hear his different catchphrases. They can also explore different underwater environments, and play some fun games they’ll find there. There’s also a Phineas and Ferb Arcade for kids who like the cartoon.

5. TappyTunes ($1.99) – Select from a variety of songs from diverse categories, such as Children’s, Classical, Devotional (contains religious imagery), Holiday, Patriotic, and Traditional. The notes are pre-programmed, but they’ll only play when you tap the screen, so timing is still in the hands of the user. I would have thought this better for the younger ones, but I spent more time playing with this app than I’m ready to admit.

4. Feed Me! (FREE) – This is a fun educational game where kids drag the correct answer to a hungry monster, who makes entertaining sounds when fed. Some of the questions require some critical thinking skills. I don’t know how long this will stay free.

3. iSteam ($0.99) – Don’t let the “Hot and Steamy Entertainment” part scare you; this app is as clean as your shower door. If you like wiping steam off of glass, this app is for you. You can even import your own photos… and then wipe steam off of them! The kids love this one.

2. Treat Street ($0.99) – Mix and match parts of Halloween costumes, and then hit the street! Pick a house, knock on the door (or ring the bell), and see what you get. Most treats are good, but every now and then a mean neighbor gives you a bug. Good treats go into the bag, where they can be sorted and moved around. The little one once spent over an hour solid on this one, laughing the whole time.

1. Scoops ($1.99) – This is a great kids game, but I’ve been having way too much fun with it myself. You have an ice cream cone, and have to tilt the device to catch scoops of ice cream as they fall. Avoid the onions and tomatoes, though, because if you catch three vegetables, you’re out. As you build your cone, you eventually slip the surly bonds of earth and can pass by the moon, Mars, Jupiter, etc., which is extra fun for planet-loving children.

Actually, my nephews’ favorite app is Monopoly, but I left it off the list because you probably already know what that is. They also enjoy the Game of Life. If there are any good board games or card games you already play with them, you might check to see if there’s an app. I also left off The Moron Test (which they love) because it was on last week’s list. I also gave them a few fun apps on the presidents. I left this off the list because I don’t know if your kids are into the presidents. But whatever they’re into, check out the App Store. There may be an app for that!

And as I was typing this list, it may have already become obsolete. The iPad, basically an iPod Touch with a larger screen, has been released. It looks pretty cool, but I doubt I will buy one. I have an iPhone and Macbook Air, so all of my mobile information needs have currently been met. But I have started to think of the device, starting at $499, as a low-cost computing option for schools. But if you’re planning to get an iPad for your family, all of the iPhone and iPod Touch apps will run on it, and the device is certain to spawn a new generation of app development. So the conversation continues…

Word of the Week: Community

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

The word of the week is community.

It’s a word I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, as I’ve been doing a lot of leaning on my own community over the past few weeks. I’ve also been thinking about how new technologies and changes in society affect our idea of community.

Today is Wednesday. Since last Wednesday, I…

  • attended a Bris for my cousin’s son.
  • ended my 30-day mourning period for my mother.
  • participated in a live reading of The Comedy of Errors with a group I found online.
  • reconnected via e-mail with a close childhood friend I lost touch with 15 years ago.
  • participated in a learning community seminar about 21rst century schools with my work colleagues.
  • was called for an aliyah at the Bar Mitzvah of another cousin’s son.
  • visited my sister in the hospital and held my 10-hour-old niece.
  • conducted a day-long data workshop that helped a school identify a pervasive student learning problem.
  • began teaching The Merchant of Venice to an 8th-grade class who will be creating a video project based on the play.
  • joined Facebook.
  • was invited to present at a conference at the Folger on teaching Shakespeare in the elementary school.
  • participated in a webinar, cosponsored by the Folger and PBS, that brought together 176 Shakespeare teachers from across the country.

Traditional community structures such as family, school, religion, and professional networks are supplemented and even augmented (though never replaced) by technology and an increased focus on interconnectivity and collaboration. What I learned this week, though, is that there’s no substitute for being there in person.

Welcome to the world, Elena. You have big shoes to fill.

Conundrum: Blue Gene Baby

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

I had the pleasure of observing a science teacher teach a fantastic lesson on genetics last week, and it got me thinking about the mathematics behind eye color. This Conundrum will be purely a probability question (two, actually), so I apologize in advance for over-simplifying the science.

Assume that everyone has two genes that determine eye color. For the sake of the math, we will stipulate that each gene must be either brown or blue. An individual inherits one gene from each parent. A parent will pass on one of his or her own two genes with equal probability.

Brown is dominant, which means that if an individual has one brown gene and one blue gene, then the individual will have brown eyes. An individual will also have brown eyes if both genes are brown. Only an individual with two blue genes will have blue eyes.

Now imagine this hypothetical scenario: Susan and David are a married couple, and both have brown eyes. David’s father had blue eyes, and his mother had brown eyes. Susan’s parents both had brown eyes, but her brother Bill has blue eyes. Susan and David are expecting their first child, baby Jason.

Question 1: What are the chances that Jason will have blue eyes?

Question 2: Suppose Jason had brown eyes. Susan and David are now expecting a second child, baby Ian. What are the chances that Ian will have blue eyes?

UPDATE: Both questions answered correctly by Micah. See comments for answers and discussion.

Blog as Refrigerator Door

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

My nephew’s drawing made the local newspaper today.

I’m really impressed by the juxtaposition of the different objects in the picture. This is a kid who likes to make maps, which apparently stimulates spatial thinking, so maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise.

ShakespeareTeacher for my Father

Sunday, April 22nd, 2007

I haven’t blogged much about my father because, well, it’s not really that kind of blog. But we lost him to cancer about a year and a half ago. He was 60 years old.

I think he would have enjoyed this blog. He was the type of person who was interested in engaging in many different topics, whether they were in his area or not. I guess I inherited that from him. He’d have loved this blog. And even if he didn’t, he’d have read it anyway, because it was my blog and he was proud of me.

He would have left comments, too, I’m sure, and they would have made us see things in ways we hadn’t before. He could do that. He would have signed his comments Larry instead of Dad because he wouldn’t have wanted to embarrass me. But then I’d respond and call him Dad so everyone would see what a clever father I had.

Happy Birthday, Dad. We still miss you terribly.

The Ballad of Magellan

Saturday, February 24th, 2007

I’m off to the baby naming for Lilah, so no time to post anything original this morning. Instead, I leave you with this Animaniacs song about Magellan, that for some reason really cracks me up. Enjoy!

Welcome, Friends!

Saturday, January 6th, 2007

Now, this is strange. After my last post, Maps of War, both my cousin’s blog and the University of Texas picked up that I had linked to them, and they both linked back to my post. I didn’t know they could do that!

So now that I’ve been outed as a blogger, I guess the time has come to go public. And I think there’s enough content here now that I can start inviting a small group of people to come and visit. If you’re one of these people, then this may be the first post you’re reading. Welcome to my blog!

What would be an appropriate introduction to Shakespeare Teacher? How about an article from The Onion that gives the site a name check?

Theater Major Has Too Long Borne Shakespeare Teacher’s Blunt Upbraidings, Bitter Scoffs

November 20, 2006 | Issue 42-47

NASHVILLE, TN-Vanderbilt University theater major Sandy Heckscher said Monday that she has been stretched to the limits of her endurance by the “blunt upbraidings and bitter scoffs” of drama professor and Shakespeare scholar Ian Treatt. “Who breathes but’d rather be a simple whore, than lurk within this country of insult?” said Heckscher, who thinks Treatt is a “bad grader.” “O monstrous beast! How like a swine he lies! Grim death – that foul and loathsome moniker!” Treatt responded to the charges by saying only that he found himself amazed that theater majors “are too simple/To offer war where they should kneel for peace.”

Enjoy the rest of the blog, and if you find a post or two that speaks to you, feel free to speak back and leave a comment behind, so I’ll know you’ve been here.

Maps of War

Friday, January 5th, 2007

I came across this via a post by my cousin, TheMediaDude. It’s an animated map of who has controlled the Middle East for the past 5000 years, and it is quite simply the reason why computers were invented:

There are some other animated maps at Maps of War including one showing the History of Religion.

What’s there is great, but there’s not much of it, so if you’re like me, you’ll start to get a thirst for more historical maps. You can quench that thirst at the University of Texas Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection.