Shape Lab by Shiny Things is an extraordinary new learning tool for teaching geometry and so much more. It is a must have for teachers and those involved in visual arts. Using either a template such as a grid or a blank page, it allows the user to in fact “connect the dots” by playing with endless possibilities to define space. This open playground experience helps to bridge the gap between the abstract and the concrete, by giving form and space meaning. There is a teacher’s guide in an iBook form and downloadable lesson plans through a link to the Shiny Things website. This app can be used for many applications other than geometry, and will prove to support invaluable life lessons to students as well, i.e. how many socks can be placed in a drawer, art, sewing, navigating a car/map reading, home repair and construction.
On opening, you are presented with a choice, between opening a document and creating a new one. There are 9 different patterns ranging from a basic grid or graph to complex circular grids as well as the basic blank page. Importing photos is also a snap from the camera roll. This allows teachers to construct lesson plans and work sheets as documents that can be shared via AirDrop or email. I would highly recommend reading the teacher’s manual to learn about the possibilities of using the control panels, and how to create and import documents.
Once a document is selected, begin to add shapes by either drawing with your finger or a stylus. The shape tray contains pre-made shapes in a sub menu to get your creative juices flowing. Shapes can then be edited by moving, rotating, resizing, or snapped into alignment. Undo, redo, copy and paste are also options to help you further refine, compare and contrast the use and function of forms. Here, Art teachers can import photographs, and have students learn the basic components of drawing by finding the shapes within certain objects – a house is a square with a triangle on it. History teachers can replicate maps. Math and Science teachers can create graphs for data collections. The list is endless. Working with form and shape teaches us about spatial relationships and that there is a world out there so much bigger than ourselves. The world is then full of possibilities, and I think this is part of the lure of building blocks, games, and apps.
Now to the next step….Shiny Things doesn’t stop at the mere presentation and initial experimental play with shapes. Now it is time to manipulate and play in dimensional space…impressive, no? Students can not only color their shapes, they can also make them move to the foreground, background and make them transparent. Learning about near and far space directly impacts body awareness and helps kids learn to grade their control. The scissor icon on the drawing page, allows users to divide up their shapes, and take them apart. By printing out the dispersed shape and then practicing cutting will have kids more invested in improving scissor skills because it is something they made. They then can present it to their peers as a puzzle and have them try to guess the shape. If that is not enough, there is another tool to play with – the flip tool – which is one cool instrument. With the flip tool, once a shape is selected, you can change its presentation to 3 different views. The magic however, is in the transition from point A to B, and watching it flip. This teaches form constancy and orientation through direct experience, but also seems to be a starting place for going from 2D to a 3D world. It is mind blowing to say the least.
In summary, Shiny Things has come up with one powerful tool for teaching about the form and shape of things with Shape Lab. The capabilities and application to use this app are extraordinary and crosses many grade levels and subjects. I would highly recommend this for any teacher or for those wanting to experiment with visual arts.
About the Author
Jo Booth has been an Occupational Therapist for over 30 years, and currently works in Pediatrics with early intervention. She sees kids newly diagnosed on the spectrum as well as medically fragile kids. She loves to move, explore and play everyday; so that “her kids” grow up to be healthy independent learners.