IPG Children's Publisher of the Year

Articles tagged with: book apps

We're celebrating World Book Day with a price drop for Animal SnApp: Farm

Posted by Tom on Mar 07, 2013

As well as publishing a host of fantastic print titles, we’re also celebrating World Book Day with a price drop for one of our apps – Animal SnApp: Farm, illustrated by Axel Scheffler. For today only, you can get the app for just 69p (99c) on the App Store, down from £2.99 ($4.99).

Animal SnApp has SIX rhyming stories to explore, all with original artwork by Axel: Lucky Lamb, Cuddly Cow, Diggity Dog, Portly Pig, Gobbly Goat and Higgledy Hen. We’ve built the app especially with young children in mind: it’s very easy to use and navigate, focuses on a theme (farmyard animals) familiar to all pre-schoolers, with features designed particularly for pre-literate users, including text highlighting and rhyming text. And it also has stunning animation, fantastic music and sound effects, and lively child narration. You can watch the trailer above, and here’s Axel talking a little bit about how he illustrated the app:

And here’s the app on iTunes for just 69p.

Happy World Book Day – enjoy Animal SnApp!

An Editor's Choice Award for Animal SnApp

Posted by Tom on Nov 29, 2012

Our latest storybook app, Animal SnApp: Farm by Axel Scheffler, has received an Editor’s Choice Award from Children’s Technology Review!

Warren Buckleitner writes:

“Old MacDonald gets a British twist (boots are called “a Welly”, for example), right from Nosy Crow (see also Cinderella) in this make-your-own nursery rhyme. The app is a good choice for the young child … everyone will like the personable animals. This is an excellent language experience.”

The app website AppPicker has also published an interview with Nosy Crow on the making of the app, which you can read here.

And you can find Animal SnApp on the App Store for $4.99 (£2.99) here – we’d love to hear what you think of it!

Monday app news

Posted by Tom on Nov 26, 2012

It’s been a very busy Monday in the Crow’s Nest, and although this blog post is a little late in the day, there are a couple of pieces of app news that we wanted to share!

The video at the top of this post is a very early look at our upcoming app, Rounds: Parker Penguin, the follow up to Rounds: Franklin Frog. The app is coming along BRILLIANTLY and will be out in mid-December (and there’ll be a full trailer coming soon). In Rounds: Parker Penguin, you can learn all about penguins and life in the Antarctic, and help Parker by sliding, swimming, hunting, marching, dancing – all the things that penguins do best.

In other news, don’t forget that today’s the last day that you can buy Animal SnApp: Farm, the first storybook app from Axel Scheffler, for just 99c, before it goes back up to its full price of $4.99 tomorrow. Here it is on the App Store.

If you like Animal Snapp, don’t forget we also have two game apps by Axel – Pip and Posy: Fun and Games, based on the characters from the picture book series, and the fun, addictive and FREE game The Grunts: Beard of Bees – find it on the App Store here and tell us you high score on Twitter with the #beardofbees hashtag!

Buy one Nosy Crow app, get another for free!

Posted by Tom on Oct 26, 2012

This offer has now ended.

To celebrate the launch of Animal SnApp: Farm, our newest app, we have a very special promotion running until the end of the weekend.

We’re going to give away a copy of our Pip and Posy: Fun and Games app – a series of fun activities featuring the characters from Axel Scheffler’s charming picture book series – for FREE to the first 30 people to buy a copy of Animal SnApp: Farm.

In order to enter the competition, all you have to do is buy Animal SnApp (available for iPad 2 and higher and iPhone 4 and higher, for $3.99 in the US and £2.49 in the UK), take a screenshot of the app on your homescreen (to take a screenshot, press the ‘home’ and ‘power’ buttons together at once) and email the picture (which will be automatically saved to your Photos album) to [email protected].

We have only 30 copies of Pip and Posy to give away – we’ll count down on Twitter, so keep an eye on our @NosyCrowApps account to make sure you’re not too late, and once all 30 copies of the app have gone, we’ll put a note at the top of this blogpost.

You can find Animal SnApp: Farm on the App Store here.
And you can find Pip and Posy: Fun and Games (usually priced at $2.99/ £1.99) here.

And, for the first time, you can also see our trailer for Animal SnApp for the first time at the top of this blog!

Axel Scheffler's Animal SnApp is almost here!

Posted by Tom on Oct 10, 2012

We’re hugely excited that our next app, Animal SnApp: Farm, is almost ready. The app – which is Axel Scheffler’s first EVER storybook app – will be out later this month for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. It’s filled with lots of original artwork by Axel, along with incredible animation, fun child narration, our text highlighting feature, rhyming texts, and fantastic music and sound effects.

Animal SnApp combines a fun and innovative slider game with SIX original rhyming stories. You can swipe through the top and bottom halves of six different farmyard characters to make fun new animals (What do you get when you cross a pig with a sheep? Why, a peep, of course!), and unlock the rhyming story of each character by “completing” its two pieces.

To introduce the app to you, we’ll be showcasing a different new animal on Twitter every day… starting off with a peep!

If you’d like find out as soon as Animal SnApp is available on the App Store, you can sign up to our Apps Announcement mailing list here – and in the meantime, keep an eye on this blog and our Facebook page and @NosyCrowApps Twitter feed, where we’ll be posting new art from the app every day!

Cinderella wins a W3 Award

Posted by Tom on Sep 19, 2012

Our Cinderella app has won a W3 Award! The awards, which are distributed by The International Academy of Visual Arts, exist to celebrate creative excellence on the web and in mobile apps – and we’re thrilled to have made the list!

You can read more about the W3 awards here, find Cinderella on the App Store here, and watch the trailer for the app below.

Thanks, W3!

Bizzy Bear Builds a House has won a Parents' Choice Award!

Posted by Tom on Sep 17, 2012

Bizzy Bear Builds a House, our second Bizzy Bear app based on Benji Davies’ fantastic board book series, has won a Silver Parents’ Choice Award!

The Parents’ Choice Awards are the oldest nonprofit program created to recognise quality children’s media in the USA. There are several tiered award levels, and the criteria for the silver award are “excellent products that, like the Gold Award winners, are designed to entertain and help children develop universally ethical attitudes, and rigorous standards and skills … Silver Honors are highly prized – like the Gold Awards – for production and human values.”

In their citation for Bizzy Bear Builds a House, Parents’ Choice wrote:

“With pleasant voice acting, realistic sound effects, lively illustrations, word-tracking, and polite characters, it offers an excellent introduction to construction play, reading, and manners … Well-produced and charming, Bizzy Bear Builds a House will surely become a favorite amongst families with toddlers and preschoolers.”

If you’ve not yet explored the world of Bizzy Bear, you can find the app on iTunes here, and see our trailer below.

Thank you, Parents’ Choice!

An Editor's Choice Award for Rounds: Franklin Frog

Posted by Tom on Sep 12, 2012

Rounds: Franklin Frog, our first Life Science app in a brand new series which launched just over a month ago, has been recognised with the prestigious Editor’s Choice Award from Children’s Technology Review.

If the name sounds familiar, it may be because we blogged a few weeks ago about using apps in the classroom, a post partly inspired by a video review of Rounds by CTR, featuring Editor Warren Buckleitner and kindergarten teacher Chris Crowell:

Here’s some of what Children’s Technology Review said about Rounds in their print review:

“This innovative app stretches the definition of ebook, with a dash of Nosy Crow irreverence … The entire experience is high in child control, creating an excellent way to introduce children to the basic concepts of reproduction, without embarrassment … This is the first time we’ve seen this type of circular design, similar in ways to a play with different actors using the same sets. As you explore, you discover frog facts: that they drink through their skin and chew food inside their mouths by squashing it between their tongue and their eyeballs. The app makes it easy to swipe to guide frogs with your finger, to make them jump, swim and catch flies … All in all, this is an excellent new addition to the ebook genre that is worth the $4.99.”

You can find Rounds: Franklin Frog on the App Store here – and, to celebrate this new accolade, here’s a first look at a scene from our next app in the series, Rounds: Percy Penguin!

Apps of the future

Posted by Tom on Aug 31, 2012

We had a big apps meeting yesterday and began to make plans for next year and beyond, and there were several questions to which we returned when we considered our programme for 2013. What should our apps be? What should they do? Where, fundamentally, does the future of the story lie?

The ideas that we talked about weren’t, actually, radically different from the things our apps currently ‘are’: very interactive, filled with animation, original music and voicework, and with a strong narrative at their centre. These things are the basic building blocks of our apps – the challenge is re-arranging them into new and interesting combinations, and finding original ways of telling a story.

What’s the most important thing about a story app for you? Is interactivity more important than art? Is story more important than animation? What do you think the app of the future will look like? If you have a really brilliant idea for a new app, we’d love to hear from you (you can read our submission guidelines here) – and if you have any answers to these questions, please – leave your comments below!

Bizzy Bear Builds a House is out today!

Posted by Tom on Jun 21, 2012

Our new app, Bizzy Bear Builds a House, is out today!

It’s the second of our apps in this series, after Bizzy Bear on the Farm, and is based on Benji Davies’ brilliant board book, Bizzy Bear: Let’s Get to Work.

There’s lots to do – in Bizzy Bear Builds a House, toddlers can help Bizzy Bear on a building site by operating diggers, dumper trucks, and concrete mixers, painting a fence, unloading a pallet of bricks, hammering, digging, sawing, and lots more.

The app is filled with interactive surprises, original child narration, music, animation, and includes our new word-tracking technology for highlighted read-along text (which you can see in the trailer, above).

Kate says: “Bizzy Bear Builds a House, is a natural follow-up to our successful and highly acclaimed app, Bizzy Bear: On the Farm.This time, we’ve focused on movement and machines, inviting children to interact with the exciting grown-up world of the building site. In this app, as in all of our apps, we’re encouraging children to link having fun with stories, and to link stories with text.”

You can find the app on iTunes here, and we’d love to hear what you make of it – please do leave your reviews on the app store, or write to us on Twitter or Facebook.

Download our press release.

A new chapter for Nosy Crow apps

Posted by Tom on Jun 11, 2012

We’ve got exciting news! Today we’re launching text highlighting, a brand new feature in a series of free updates for our storybook apps.

Our word-tracking technology creates highlighted read-along texts: the words turn from black to red in time with the fully-dramatized audio readings. The multi-awarding winning 3D Fairytale apps The Three Little Pigs and Cinderella, and highly acclaimed Bizzy Bear apps, Bizzy Bear on the Farm and the upcoming Bizzy Bear Builds a House, will all carry the new feature.

The update will be free for any app that you have already purchased, and you can find them on iTunes here to buy or update:

Download The Three Little Pigs
Download Cinderella
Download Bizzy Bear on the Farm

We’d love to hear what you think of this new feature – if you’d like to send us a message, you can get in touch by email, posting on our Facebook page, or writing to us on Twitter.

Cinderella wins a Junior Design Award

Posted by Tom on May 22, 2012

Cinderella has won a Junior Design Award for Best Story App!

The awards are run by parenting magazine Junior and celebrate “the very best and most beautiful products on the planet” – so we’re thrilled Cinderella is one of the winners!

The judges said:

“The highly interactive nature of this sweet retelling of the classic tale, from Nosy Crow, makes it a winner. Telling the well-loved classic tale of the rags-to-riches romance of a young girl, Cinderella, who is forced into a life of drudgery by her wicked stepmother and two ugly step sisters, there is of course the ultimate fairy tale happy ending! There’s plenty for your child to explore on every page, with lots of interactive fun as your child helps Cinders tidy up, and transforming her into a princess fit for a ball. Your child even gets a starring role appearing in the mirror – and spot a cute bird in each scene.”

Two apps were Highly Commended in the same category: If Poems and Dear Zoo – and you can read more about all of the awards here.

Find Cinderella on iTunes.

World Book Day is here - and our apps are on sale!

Posted by Tom on Mar 01, 2012

We blogged about it yesterday, but here’s a little reminder – to celebrate World Book Day (which has the Twitter hashtag #WBD2012) we’ve dropped the price of ALL of our apps to just £0.69/ $0.99/ €0.79 for one day!

The apps can be found on iTunes with the following links:

Find Cinderella on iTunes here
Find The Three Little Pigs on iTunes here
Find Bizzy Bear on the Farm on iTunes here

Enjoy the apps, and Happy World Book Day!

Another Birthday... and another price drop!

Posted by Tom on Feb 24, 2012

Last week, The Three Little Pigs turned one, and we marked the occasion with a weekend price promotion. This week we have an even more exciting birthday to celebrate – our own! Nosy Crow turned two on Wednesday (a blogpost on the subject from Kate may be forthcoming), and as well as enjoying frankly absurd quantities of cake (Kate made an excellent clementine one, and Michelle from Imago brought in a magnificent chocolate and raspberry affair), we thought this time we’d launch a promotion for our most recent app, Bizzy Bear on the Farm. Today and all this weekend you can buy the app on iTunes for the special price of $1.99/ £1.49/ €1.59 (here’s the link).

Bizzy Bear on the Farm is the first app we’ve made based on an existing print book – Bizzy Bear: Fun on the Farm, from the brilliant Bizzy Bear series by Benji Davies – and we’re planning several more Bizzy Bear apps this year (the second, Bizzy Bear: Building Fun, will be available from March).

The app has been fantastically well-received. It won the Editor’s Choice Award from Children’s Technology Review. The Guardian wrote “There’s loads of easy and satisfying interactivity in telling the story of Bizzy Bear’s farm visit … Simple interactivity creates multiple permutations of text which encourages careful listening and makes repeating the familiar activities full of surprises.” The Literary Platform said “Young children will love this app. It’s bright, fun and engaging with plenty to keep little fingers occupied.” And in the New York Times’ Gadgetwise blog, it’s described as “Full of clever talking animals and barnyard jobs that include gathering eggs, herding sheep and riding a horse. Every page has hidden surprises that support the story.”

So if you haven’t tried Bizzy Bear on the Farm yet, now’s the perfect opportunity – help us celebrate our birthday, and help Bizzy out on the farm!

Buy the app on iTunes for $1.99/ £1.49/ €1.59.

Cinderella wins a Publishing Innovation Award!

Posted by Tom on Jan 24, 2012

We’re absolutely thrilled to hear that Cinderella has won a Publishing Innovation Award from Digital Book World!

The awards recognise the best-in-class across twelve categories of book apps, eBooks and enhanced eBooks. Cinderella won in the Juvenile App category, and Kate was in New York to accept the award last night – she tweeted a picture of it here.

Also amongst the winners were The Magic of Reality by Random House in the Non-Fiction App category, British Library 19th Century Books by BibloLabs in the Reference/ Academic App category, and Decoded by Jay Z, also by Random House, in the Transmedia Project category.

You can read the full list of winners here.

Matt Mullin, Community Relations Manager for Digital Book World, said “Well-designed ebooks and apps are not just beneficial to a publisher’s brand – they are essential to a publisher’s business. When publishers surprise and delight their readers, they gain advocates who will talk about, recommend, and discover more of their quality work. We are proud to honor this year’s winners because each demonstrates excellence that inspires creators and readers alike.”

Looking back at 2011, our first year of publishing

Posted by Kate on Dec 31, 2011

2011 was Nosy Crow’s first year of publishing. We published our first book in January.

It’s been an incredibly busy and full year, and I find it hard to sort through the events and impressions of the past twelve months to write anything coherent.

But here goes…

The books and apps we published… and signed up

In 2011, we published 23 books for children aged 0 to 14. 8 were board books. 7 were picture books. 8 were fiction titles for children aged 6 to 14. Here they are in reverse publication order finishing, at the time of writing but this will update as publication dates pass, in December 2011.

We published 3 apps: The Three Little Pigs, Cinderella and, just days before Christmas, Bizzy Bear on the Farm.

We signed up a further 38 books and 8 apps for 2012, and already have projects scheduled for publication in 2013 and beyond. You can already find out about some of the forthcoming books (in publication order starting, at the time of writing but this will update as publication dates pass, in January 2012) and about some of the apps.

Selling at home and abroad

Working with Bounce, we had books sold and promoted in a huge range of UK sales outlets from independent booksellers through bookshop chains and online book retailers to supermarkets and toy shops.

We’ve travelled on Nosy Crow business and/or to speak at conferences to the US, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, Holland, Italy, Mexico and Brazil.

We launched partnership deals with Allen and Unwin for book distribution in Australia; with Candlewick Press for illustrated book publishing in the US and Canada; with Carlsen for apps in German and with Gallimard for apps in French.

We sold rights to books in the following languages: French, German, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese, Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Polish, Hebrew, Chinese, Norwegian, Greek and Korean.

Nosy Crow authors on the road

Nosy Crow authors were at numerous literary festivals, including Hay, Edinburgh, Bath and Cheltenham, and staged countless events in schools, libraries and bookshops.

Nosy Crow on the move

We moved offices from our second office in Lambeth to our third office in Southwark (it’s always cheaper south of the river) as our staff grew from 8 to January 2012’s 19, including part-time people and “attached freelancers”. We’ve lost members of staff too (which is a real rite of passage). Two were only with us on a temporary basis and went on to roles that they had planned before they joined us, but Deb Gaffin has just left us to take on a marketing and partnership strategy role at Mindshapes. We are very grateful to her for helping us shape our first apps and the thinking behind them. Andi Silverman Meyer who has known Deb since they were at school together, and who has been fantastic at getting us US coverage for our apps, is joining Mindshapes too.

Spreading the word

We have reached a lot of people with Nosy Crow news of various kinds.

Nosy Crow as a company or Nosy Crow books or apps have been in the Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Tribune, USA Today, The Gadgetwise Blog of The New York Times, Wired Magazine, The Daily Mail, The Times, The Guardian, The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph, The Independent, The Scotsman, Prima, Junior, Good Housekeeping, Kirkus, School Library Journal, The Melbourne Age, The Australian, The Huffington Post and many great children’s book, parenting, technology and app blogs. We’ve had terrific coverage in trade press and websites including Publisher’s Weekly, The Bookseller, FutureBook, BookBrunch and The Literary Platform. The quickest look at the first few pages of a Google search result for Nosy Crow gives a sense of the range of coverage – and, where it’s third-party coverage, how positive it’s been. We’ve had more than our fair share of TV and radio coverage too, and coverage, through our Gallimard and Carlsen links in Figaro, Marie Claire and Buchreport.

This year, we had over 74,000 unique visitors from 161 countries to the Nosy Crow website and almost half a million page views. Over half of our visitors have returned to the site. The site’s got information on everything from our commitment to paper-sourcing standards to our latest app reviews, and we’ve used the blog section of the site to write about subjects as diverse as library closures, Martin Amis, the thinking behind our apps, chocolate cake, the formation of the child reader, Steve Jobs, Charles Dickens, the role of supermarkets in bookselling and Wilson household New Year traditions.

From around 1,300 Twitter followers for @nosycrow (bit of a guess, this, but based on the numbers we had in September 2010) this time last year, we’ve built our @nosycrow following to over 5,700 and our @nosycrowapps Twitter following grew from 0 to over 1,800. I wrote about Twitter here. We’ve 1,250 Facebook fans.

Recognition

Our apps were included in so many “best apps” listings in the US, UK, France and Germany that it’s difficult to list them here. They won several awards, including, most recently a KAPi award for best ebook and a FutureBook Award for best children’s app which were both won by our Cinderella app. Our ratings in the iTunes app stores are excellent.


Our KAPi award

We won the Mumpreneur Inspiring Business Mum of the Year award, and have just been named in The Independent as one of the six book people or organisations who wrote glorious chapters in 2011

A measure of success

We invoiced over a million pounds in sales.

What went wrong?

It would be ridiculous to pretend it was a year without disappointments or irritations. The much-investigated drainy smell in the bathrooms at 10a Lant Street continues to baffle. The many cakes we make and eat continue to contain a lot of calories. Camilla had her bag stolen and we had to have all the office locks changed. There are one or two important UK retailers who still haven’t stocked our books. There are several countries to which we’d hoped to sell rights but haven’t yet managed to do so – Japan for example, but there are good reasons for that. We didn’t always (though we did generally) agree what books we wanted to publish and how much we wanted to publish them. We offered for some books that we didn’t manage to buy, a couple of which I still feel sad about. One or two books (and I mean “one or two”: our strike rate has been good) didn’t sell quite as well as we thought they would. We had to cancel a couple of projects because they just weren’t working out the way that we’d planned.

Thank you

But it’s been a very good year.

Whatever we achieved in this first year, we did it in partnership with our many authors and illustrators, new and established, and with other artistic collaborators, such as composers, audio experts and paper engineers. Without them, we have nothing to publish. We threw a party to say thank you. You can see the pictures at the top of our Facebook page.


Our author party in The Crow’s Nest in Lant Street a few weeks ago

And whatever we’ve achieved in this first year, we did it thanks to the support of publishers abroad; booksellers of many kinds; librarians; reviewers; bloggers; literacy organisations; literary and illustrators agents; printers and print managers; talented freelancers; and, of course, the parents and grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends, teachers and librarians who have bought and read our books and apps to, with and for children.

'Appy Christmas - holiday price promotion on our Three Little Pigs app

Posted by Kate on Dec 20, 2011

This week we’ve launched a holiday promotion.

We’ve decided to lower the price of our first app, The Three Little Pigs, over the holiday period, as a way of introducing people to our work. We’re taking the price down to $1.99 US/£1.49 GBP/1.59 Euros from now until the end of the day on 2 January 2012.

We think that many people will get iPads and iPhones and iPod touch devices this Christmas (and we know from multiple reported surveys that many people want one). We also know from what we’ve seen of sales of eBooks post-Christmas that many people who get a new device at Christmas seem to spend the days immediately afterwards loading it up with content.

One of the challenges of making apps is getting people to find your app, and, once they’ve found it found it, getting people to buy something that (lite versions notwithstanding) they can’t try before they buy. We think that new iPad, iPhone and iPod touch owners may be particularly cautious about buying apps if they haven’t bought them before. We hope that, by lowering the price of our first app, people will be encouraged to find out about Nosy Crow and maybe even try out the other two apps we’ve published this year.

We’ve just released Bizzy Bear On The Farm. FutureBook described it as “unmistakeably Nosy Crow in design and quality … The app will further Nosy Crow’s reputation in this field, which can only bring relief to ‘bizzy’ parents looking for quality and safe content for their children.”

Meanwhile our second app, Cinderella – has won, in the last month, a KAPi award, a Futurebook award, a Digital Storytime 5-Star Award, and been named one of 2011’s 10 Best Apps by the School Library Journal.

And, by the way, The Three Little Pigs was no slouch on the awards and critical acclaim front, and is – because it’s been on the market longest – our bestselling app.

We’re confident – based on the five star reviews that we’ve received from people on the app store apart from anything else – that once you’ve shelled out for a Nosy Crow app, you won’t be disappointed. Lowering the price of The Three Little Pigs for a limited time is a bit of an experiment. The app market is still in its infancy, and developers like us are still working out what the best way of selling our products might be.

So wish us luck!

If you have an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch and have managed to withstand the temptation to buy a Nosy Crow app, we hope that this offer will just nudge you over the edge.

Nosy Crow's "Bizzy Bear on the Farm app" available on the App Store today! [VIDEO]

Posted by Deb on Dec 14, 2011

We are thrilled to announce that our third highly-interactive storybook app, Bizzy Bear on the Farm, is now available on the App Store for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.

Using the touchscreen, children aged two and up can explore the farm and help Bizzy Bear with all his chores. They can, for example, feed the pigs, put sheep into their pen, pick apples, gather eggs and drive the tractor!

This is our first app based on a Nosy Crow book series – our popular Bizzy Bear board books for children. But we’re not just squashing the books onto a phone or tablet. While the board books feature chunky tabs to push and pull, the app includes lots more simple ways for little fingers to explore the story, and the words are different too. The children’s voices reading the story, the farmyard sound effects and the specially-composed music make things even more fun.

We’re excited to bring the interactive features we’ve developed in apps (like The Three Little Pigs and Cinderella) for slightly older children to a younger audience.

The app is designed for toddlers and focuses on listening skills, following directions, and completing tasks. Bizzy responds to every touch with encouragement and help.

Download the App from iTunes

For more information

We hope you enjoy Bizzy Bear on the Farm.

We’d love to hear what you think.

An educator's perspective on apps: interview with Nancy Barth

Posted by Deb on Oct 18, 2011

Since we released our first app, The Three Little Pigs, we’ve been hearing from educators that apps are playing a role in their teaching. Apps aren’t replacing existing teaching materials, but in some cases are complementing them. Nancy Barth, a former teacher and now a tutor in California, reviewed our Cinderella app and wrote about how she used it with her students. We were intrigued and contacted her to find out more. Here’s what she had to say.

1. What is your background and what work do you do now?

I started out teaching hearing impaired children in 1974. The visual appeal of apps would have been an asset for them. After that, I taught in a variety of general education and special education positions. I retired two years ago and started tutoring kids and adults with dyslexia, autism, and other learning/language disabilities.

2. When did you first start using apps with students and why?

I have four grown daughters and two grandsons, and I received an iPad1 from my daughters for Christmas. I immediately saw the potential uses to help me with my tutoring. I started looking for apps that would enhance the teaching of foundational reading skills, such as phonemic awareness, phonics and comprehension. Then I discovered the world of interactive books!

3. What impact have you seen from apps?

The learning opportunities for kids with autism and other learning disabilities are wide open with apps. They promote social interaction, language development, motor skills and more.

Kids are willing to work on all kinds of routine skills when they are embedded in apps. For example, apps like Wood Puzzle-Maze reinforce visual-figure ground, fine motor and motor-planning skills.

An app like Sound Literacy gives the teacher/tutor/parent great flexibility in working on phonemic awareness and phonics. I love having letter tiles that won’t fall off the table or get lost when the student is making words. It can also be projected on a screen to use with a whole class.

My nephew, who has autism, has wonderful story ideas, but putting pencil to paper is a huge struggle. I found an app called Sound Note, which allowed me to record his ideas while I typed along. When I couldn’t keep up, all I had to do was tap a word in the transcript, and everything he had said would play back. Then, My Writing Spot and Storyist helped me organize his work, and Book Creator made it possible to put his story into book form. After almost four months of talking and typing, his book is over 100 pages long!

4. What are some of the ways kids of different ages can benefit from reading book apps?

My grandson was 2½ when I got my iPad. He enjoyed reading stories with me, and then listening to them on his own. Now that he’s three, he likes recounting the stories and especially likes tapping on characters to hear the dialogue in apps like those from Nosy Crow.

Older kids benefit from book apps that highlight the words as the story is read to them. They are able to record themselves reading and this allows them to practice fluency in a non-threatening setting. Book apps like My Word Reader: Are Whales Smart, or What? highlight several of the more difficult vocabulary words. When the student taps on the word, a graphic depiction of it pops up.

While not strictly a book app, The Civil War Today takes learning American history to new heights by making primary source material available. There’s nothing like reading a diary entry or a letter in its original form. (And just in case that handwriting is a bit too spidery, it has text versions available, too).

5. You recently reviewed our new Cinderella app? How would you use this app as a teaching/learning tool with different aged children? What skills could the app help them develop?

I love Cinderella just as much as I love The Three Little Pigs. While I was writing my review, I happened to have the Common Core Standards (U.S.) out for a lesson I was planning. I decided to apply the standards at various grade levels to Cinderella. As I noted in my blog, Cinderella addresses standards for every grade K-5. I have no doubt that standards for middle and high school could be applied, too.

As you can see from the excerpt from my blog (above), using Cinderella as a teaching/learning tool helps younger children develop retelling skills, understanding of story components such as plot, setting, character, point of view, and determining a central message of a story. I especially liked how the app addresses the goal of having older children compare text and audio-visual presentations of a story.

6. What do you look for in an app?

I look for apps that are intuitive, multi-level, and enticing. I am a stickler for accuracy when it comes to the pronunciation of sounds, especially vowels, in phonics apps. I like apps that can be used in a variety of ways. For example, Milo’s Storybook was designed by a speech therapist. There is a record function to encourage the child to describe what is happening on the page. I’ve used it to pose questions for the child to think about before they go to the next page.

I look for apps such as Preposition Builder, when I want to work on specific language skills, because it keeps records by students and generates email reports. This is really helpful for keeping in touch with parents and showing growth.

7. What advice do you have for app developers?

If you’re going to make apps for children to use in school, take some time to review the educational standards of the country/countries you are focusing on. Better yet, observe at your neighborhood school and talk with teachers about what would enhance learning in the classroom.

While game-like apps are fun, apps that truly enhance and support the teaching-learning experience are more likely to be incorporated into classrooms.

I’m personally always on the lookout for an app that would allow me to record a student reading a short passage so I could analyze it for miscues. I would also like a built-in timer for checking fluency and something that would calculate words per minute and accuracy.

I would also like a book app for older kids that would allow kids to tap on an icon and see a question that relates to the content of the page, or that models making predictions of what’s to come. And of course, I would like a way for the child to record their answers!

8. Do you see any difference in the way parents vs. teachers can use book apps?

As a grandparent, I use book apps to let my grandson entertain himself while I’m working. I also read them with him, just as I would any book. As a tutor, I use book apps to specifically address the individual child’s needs, such as fluency or comprehension.

9. What advice do you have for teachers who might want to use apps in the classroom?

Make sure that students can benefit from using the apps independently. Get apps that address a specific need, such as phonics, or that are multi-functional, such as book apps. It’s better to have a few high quality apps than a multitude of so-so ones. Get apps that contribute to the learning experience.

Thank you Nancy!
This conversation sparked our interest in how teachers are using apps in the classroom. Are you an educator using apps? If so, we’d love to hear from you on Facebook or in the comment field below.