Three Apps for Play and Learning

Three Notable apps this week are all proven winners, and worthy of TWA Top Picks. The first is an app intended for ear training – or the prerequisite skills needed for learning about music. The second will help aid the teaching of personal hygiene habits for wee ones by reading and engaging in off-screen discussion and play. And lastly finding something to do on a blustery day.   400x40000bb-2Easy Music – Give kids an ear for music by Seven Academy is an extraordinary new app that focuses on the foundations of music theory. The spacious natural setting of the interface promotes a sense of grounding and the ability for kids to settle and focus. It was conceptualized by musician and educator Michael Emenau and illustrated by the talented Tanya Lam. The parent’s section is extensive and contains every possible way to get the best from the app including off-screen activities to help kids generalize the material. Easy Music was intended to introduce kids to recognize notes, pitch, rhythm, and melody; but has a much further reach, especially to the special needs population. There are 2 modes of play, practice mode, with guided activities in teaching notes and melody recognition, counting beats, rhythm, and pitch recognition; and the Sand Castle which is a virtual sandbox in which to compose music. Here kids can interact with three landscapes to learn and record compositions. Parents, teachers or therapists can monitor their progress by creating an account. Monitoring can be held for up to 40 children. What is particularly interesting is the use of the app with pre-verbal kids. By playing, sensory sensitive kids can habituate themselves to sounds by controlling the input. The ability to also teach the nuances of language is presented with all its fluctuation and intensity. And most importantly, presents it without the hang-ups of trying to produce words. The app also helps kids to experience rhythm and that directly translates to human performance. Therapists often use rhythm for completion of tasks and to control the rate or speed at which a task is performed. It helps not only initiate action but also lends itself to making smooth coordinated movements. It would be fascinating to study the effects of playing this game in such areas as auditory processing, praxis, and self-regulation skills. Highly Recommended.   400x40000bb-1Achoo Gaboo by Pixure Books Publishing is an adorable storybook app about an elephant who has a problem with sneezing – and these are not dainty little sniffles and sneezes, but giant bubble bursting ELEPHANT ones. The storyline centers on Gaboo and his attempts to rid himself of these horrid sneezes, and all the antics he goes through to be gone with them. You see, "When Gaboo achooed, rainbow bubbles flew”, and “Out of the blue, he’d cause a hullabaloo.” Kids love playing Ahh, Ahh, Ahchoo…and by initiating play adults can model what to do when the sneezes or coughs are upon us. I love the artwork; it’s beautifully rendered in exquisite detail while remaining clean, fresh, and uncluttered. This is not a tap-happy app. All interactions are part of the story and have a purpose for modeling behaviors or to keep a child engaged. Page turning is linear, and kids are encouraged to proceed by an arrow that lights up after interacting with a page to prevent kids from hapless scrolling before the story is read. You are able to navigate back to reread or play in a page with a simple swipe of your finger, and a  nice amount of time is allotted to play within and process the story. The text is lilting and rhythmic. It also has enough predictability to help kids participate in the reading by yelling out, “AhhhhChooo” and serves as a bridge for identifying beginning sight words and sounds. Check out this little gem of a book, it's perfect for wee ones everywhere! There is a wonderful activity guide filled with lesson guidelines and crafts that can be found here. Highly Recommended.   400x40000bb-3What to do on a wintry and blustery day? Check one of the many creativity apps from Labo Lado Inc. Don't let the Santa on the front fool you, this app can be used season round. Labo Paper Plate- 15 paper plate projects not only fine-tunes eye-hand coordination, but also the ability to sequence, follow direction, and define space and time. The projects are beautifully thought out and most can then be made off screen as well. This is especially priceless in introducing arts and crafts to kids who either are dyspraxic, and need steps broken down into smaller and safer chunks, or kids with limited movement. One of my favorites is the spinner, by throwing color on a plate, you can set it in motion, and watch it spirograph in action. Love the fact that kids can turn off the music in a settings bar that is separate from the gated parent's section detailing their other spectacular apps. Labo always comes to the rescue when you need something to do, and is an inspiration to parents, teachers, and clinicians. Like all their apps, this one will be used for years to come. Highly Recommended.   Jo Booth OTR/L has been an Occupational Therapist for over 35 years, and currently practices at EasterSeals of SEPA, Montgomery County Division mainly focusing on Early Intervention. It is an APS (Approved Private School) and home outreach based setting. She has also worked in Adolescent and Adult Rehabilitation. Writing reviews for Teachers With Apps have been a tremendous opportunity and experience to share and learn with others.
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1 Response

  1. Hi there and thanks for the review and recommendation for EASY MUSIC.

    I’m Michael Emenau, and Easy Music was based off of a series of games that I teach my piano students. When I began teaching piano, I used a traditional method, i.e. Put your hands here, here are the names of the notes, and then taught them how to read music, play scales. Etc…

    I realized that this was not how I originally learned music (my first instrument was the drums). I just played, listened and figured things out. It was fun, and everything I learned from that time period I have retained through my entire life. Later as a classical musician I learned lots of very difficult (and interesting) music, none of which I can now remember how to play. The difference was that former method used the ears as the primary source of information gathering; the latter was learned through my eyes.

    So I began teaching kids how to learn by playing by ear and found that although it was a challenge for some kids (and often more so for the parents who had expected their kids to have a traditional music pedagogy), they students had more fun, and once they learned a song, they never forgot it.

    EASY MUSIC provides these basic building blocks on which kids and can learn to teach themselves. Once their ears are open, music becomes quite simple… it really does!

    This project started as a work of love and my desire for everyone to open their ears and play music. Due to the great team involved it has evolved into something, which I would have never imagined. So please spread the word. Music can and should be fun and it need not be such a mystery.