Demonstration of the ‘Explain A Website’ App for the iPad

I came across a fantastic screencasting iPad app in the App Store called Explain A Website. Most of the screencasting apps out there are very similar to each other in that they allow you to record on a whiteboard that you can annotate and add photos to. However, Explain A Website has a embedded web browser that allows users to record screencasts while navigating and interacting with websites.  Below is my first attempt at a screencast using the app explaining HWDSB’s website/database of iOS apps for education that was recently launched this past June (

Early Learning With a Sock Puppet App

I am becoming more immersed in the world of Kindergarten by virtue of my daughter being in junior kindergarten and by my involvement in an exciting Early Learning Project in my school board. As I read through the Full-Day Early Learning – Kindergarten Program, I was encouraged and excited to see a curriculum that is child-centred, inquiry based and integrates learning through the arts and play. The Document states that, “Oral language is the basis for literacy, thinking, and relating in any language…Full-Day Early Learning-Kindergarten programs should be rich in language-oriented activities and resources that build on prior knowledge, that are relevant to the lives of young children, and that provide opportunities for thinking, problem solving and experimenting.”

Learning to read and write is essential to succeed in school and in life. However, I’m intrigued by the oral component of the early learning curriculum. Oral language is so important for early learners like my daughter to express her thinking, to problem solve, and experiment. So when I came across the Sock Puppets app, I got very excited. The app is very similar to the Puppet Pals app in that you can select your own sock puppet characters, background, and props. However, in the Sock Puppets app, the puppets actually lip sync to the sound of your voice and after you record your 30 second puppet show, you can save it to your iPad and also share it on YouTube. Any recording type app like Sock Puppets provide opportunities for thinking, problem solving and experimenting. My daughter and I quickly improvised and created the puppet show below using the app. She chose the characters, background, and the mic as a prop. I see this video as a learning opportunity for Ava and I to have a discussion on what to do in situations where sharing is an issue. The next puppet show that we create can show how this situation can be resolved. Ava can playback, review and recreate the puppet show as many times as she wants until she is satisfied with her creation. Stay tuned for the next episode of I Want to Sing

Using the Mental Note App for Assessment in Pre-K and Kindergarten

As my oldest daughter entered Junior Kindergarten last week and my youngest entered her child care centre, I officially became immersed in the world of early learning programs. My first real eye opener was the fact that almost all assessment in child care programs and kindergarten is done through observation and based on children’s oral language.  For educators, this means A LOT of documenting.

I noticed in my youngest daughter’s childcare program, they document by taking many pictures and writing down anecdotal notes for each pictures with the style of learning (ie. visual, auditory, kinesthetic). They told me about the large amounts of time that goes in to this kind of documentation. My immediate thought was how technology could be used to effectively enhance this process of assessment. There must be an app out there somewhere that could help with this kind of documentation.

Well, the other day, I was speaking to the Early Learning Program Consultant in our board and such an app exists! It’s called Mental Note and according to the website, it combines pictures, voice recordings, sketches, and text all on the same page.

So if a student is demonstrating some style of learning, I could take a picture, audio record what I am observing, annotate the picture using the pen feature, and add a few words of text to briefly describe what the student was doing. All of the notes taken can be stored on the iphone/ipad/ipod touch but the notes can also be e-mailed as a PDF with the audio as a separate attachment or backed up in the cloud to your Dropbox account.

I installed the Mental Note Lite app for free (but only comes with a maximum of 2 notes) to my iphone and tested it out and I was very impressed. The full version costs $2.99 and comes with unlimited notes.  Here is a sample of a note that I quickly took of my daughter playing (without the 11 second audio clip).