In this post about Minecraft yesterday, I wrote a footnote about educational-ish1 apps on my iPad:
On my iPad, I have a screen full of educational apps that the kids can work with pretty much anytime they want without asking.
I posted a screenshot of that page on Twitter, and I wanted to follow up with some App Store links as well as some links to other apps that people tweeted back at me. (Note: my kids are 6 and 8, so YMMV.)
Minecraft Pocket Edition - Duh. It doesn't do quite as much as the full versions available on other platforms, but they're improving and adding stuff all the time and the touchscreen experience is great.
Mate in 1 - A game that challenges you to find the checkmate using just one move. Ollie takes chess after school once a week, so I downloaded this for when he wants some extra practice during the week. See also Mate in 2.
Monument Valley - This is a straight-up game, but it's so well-made (I lovethe soundtrack) and the logic puzzles are genuinely challenging that I'm happy to let them work with this one. Ollie has made it all the way through while Minna is still on level 9. Gonna get the Forgotten Shores IAP too.
The Numberlys - This one has ceased to be educational for my kids, but it's great for the younger set.
Crazy Gears - 99 levels of mechanical puzzles involving gears.
Hopscotch - Use an intuitive drag-and-drop interface to build games. It includes many video tutorials for learning how everything works.
And here are a few recommendations from others that I am eager to try out:
Lots of good stuff there...I've downloaded a few already. I really really wish the App Store had a try-before-you buy policy. I have no idea which of these apps the kids will actually like/play and it would be nice not to have to spend $50 to find out. Anyway, thanks to everyone who shared their favorites. Let me know if I've missed anything great!
As you might have guessed from reading this here web site, I tend to have an expansive definition of what is educational. Hence, "educational-ish" to adjust people's expectations.↩
The Mozart Project is a book about the life and music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Or is it an app? Stephen Fry calls it "a completely new kind of book"...you read it in iBooks but it acts more like an app than anything. Over 200 pages of text by leading Mozart scholars is accompanied by hours of music, videos, photo slideshows, all sorts of other goodies.
Curated and authored by some of the most respected experts, The Mozart Project gives new insight into the life of a musical genius, providing the ultimate experience both in terms of contributors and the carefully selected playlist of music and images that they have chosen to feature throughout the book.
My friends at Tinybop have unleased their second app for kids: Plants.
Unearth the secrets of the green kingdom! Explore the world's biomes in this interactive diorama: conduct the seasons, rule the weather, ignite a wildfire, and burrow down with critters and roots. Temperate forest and desert biomes are featured in the first release of Plants. Buy now and get the next two biomes-tundra and temperate grasslands -- for free when they're released.
So how do we find content for these magazines? It's a question we wracked our brains on long and hard before deciding that the most valuable service for our readers would be to craft issues around individual subjects -- think barbecue, pizza, or pies -- by combining the most popular recipes and features in our archives into single, elegant collections.
My friends at Tinybop have released their first app, The Human Body, in which "curious kids ages 4+ can see what we're made of and how we work, from the beating heart to gurgling guts". Kelli Anderson did the illustrations for the app and they look amazing. Can't wait to try this out with Ollie and Minna.
Christoph Niemann's first interactive picture book. Swipe and tap the 21 animals and be surprised at how they react. This app combines the charm of hand made animations and Niemann's wry humor with state of the art technology. What would an elephant in your bathroom do? Can a dog breakdance?
Four little thumbs-up in my household for this one.
DrawQuest is a new iPad app from Chris Poole's Canvas. It's a super-simple drawing app that is sort of a combination between Draw Something and Instagram. I suck at drawing, but I've been using it for a few weeks and it makes me want to draw more.
REWORK_ is an album of Philip Glass's music remixed by the likes of Beck, Amon Tobin, and Nosaj Thing. There is also an interactive iOS app that lets you play around and remix your own Glass compositions.
REWORK_ features eleven "music visualizers" that take the remixed tracks and create interactive visuals that range from futuristic three-dimensional landscapes to shattered multicolored crystals, and vibrating sound waves. People can lean back and enjoy REWORK_ end to end, or they can touch and interact with the visualizers to create their own visual remixes.
In addition to the visualizers, the app includes the "Glass Machine" which lets people create music inspired by Philip Glass' early work by simply sliding two discs around side-by-side, almost like turntables. People can select different instruments - from synthesizer to piano, and generate polyrhythmic counterpoints between the two melodies.
The app was made by Scott Snibbe's studio...I fondly recall his Java applets. (BTW, "fondly recall his Java applets" is neither a euphemism nor something that anyone will understand 5-10 years from now.)
Our app is called Mixel. It's a collage-making tool and a social network rolled into one. With Mixel, anyone can create and share digital collages using images from the Web, Mixel's library, or your own personal photos from Facebook or what's right on your iPad.
Mixel is such a great name...can't wait to play with this when I get home tonight (I left my f'ing iPad at home today).
Morris Lessmore may be the best iPad book in the world. In July, Morris Lessmore hit the number one spot on Apple's iPad app chart in the US. That is to say, Morris Lessmore wasn't just the bestselling book, but the bestselling *app* of any kind for a time. At one point or another, it has been the top book app in 21 countries. A New York Times reviewer called it "the best," "visually stunning," and "beautiful." Wired.com called it "game-changing." MSNBC said it was "the most stunning iPad app so far." And The Times UK made this prediction, "It is not inconceivable that, at some point in the future, a short children's story called 'The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore' will be regarded as one of the most influential titles of the early 21st century."
Codify is an iPad app that allows you to code iPad games on your iPad.
We think Codify is the most beautiful code editor you'll use, and it's easy. Codify is designed to let you touch your code. Want to change a number? Just tap and drag it. How about a color, or an image? Tapping will bring up visual editors that let you choose exactly what you want.
Codify is built on the Lua programming language. A simple, elegant language that doesn't rely too much on symbols -- a perfect match for iPad.
In the briefest of flirtations with non-corporeality in this, his first (and likely final) iPad-only comic strip, our otherwise normally corporeal cartoonist and former McSweeney's guest-editor Chris Ware attempts to address how, in some relationships, the act of touching seems to shift over time from that of affection to aggression. Chock full of his trademark constipated drawings and strained, overwrought text, the reader will also be pleased not to afterwards find him- or herself laden with a pamphlet or book to discard the next time he or she changes apartments, homes or relationships; like the 99 cents that instantly vanishes from one's bank account upon purchase, all 14 speedily-swipable digital "pages" with their tucked-away animations and mildly disorienting transitions may easily be wiped from one's computer's memory with precisely the opposite degree of difficulty which one simply cannot forget that night of screamed obscenities at one's (now ex-) girl- or boyfriend. (Please note, however, that all 99 cents and the rights attendant thereto remain, in perpetuity, the sole property of McSweeney's and its satellite concerns.)
Touch Sensitive is a comic and unlike the other e-books in this store. It was crafted specifically for the McSweeney's app and is available only in iPad format.
Mr. Chang said that he had talked to television networks about doing a program, but that this offered more freedom and more possibilities, as well as providing research and development for his restaurants. "We were able to go a little deeper than we could have on TV, without being constrained by the networks," he said. "They wanted yelling. They wanted everything but education."
The Feed is a new (free!) newsreader app for the iPad that syncs with Google Reader. I've been using Reeder and it's been good, but I'm not a big fan of the one-at-a-time display; I prefer the River of News approach. The Feed combines the River of News approach with a nice simple design...a lovely design, IMO. Here's how one of the app's developers put it:
The basic idea is similar in layout to Google Reader, as we both like it. You have your news items in a long scrollable canvas. A set of arrow buttons let you quickly jump from one article to the next. Articles are marked as read as you scroll past them.
The Japanese no-brand retailer Muji is taking an interesting approach to their iPhone and iPad apps. Instead of just having a product catalog/store app (although they have that too), they're also offering apps that are very much like the products they offer in their real-world stores. There's a simple calendaring app that syncs with Google Calendar, a notebook app for sketching and note-taking, and an app called Muji to Go that combines a bunch of different functions that travellers might need (weather, currency exchange, power socket guide).
Fresh off several years as Design Director of nytimes.com, Khoi Vinh gives his opinion of the current batch of iPad magazine apps. I think he's right on.
My opinion about iPad-based magazines is that they run counter to how people use tablets today and, unless something changes, will remain at odds with the way people will use tablets as the medium matures. They're bloated, user-unfriendly and map to a tired pattern of mass media brands trying vainly to establish beachheads on new platforms without really understanding the platforms at all.
The fact of the matter is that the mode of reading that a magazine represents is a mode that people are decreasingly interested in, that is making less and less sense as we forge further into this century, and that makes almost no sense on a tablet. As usual, these publishers require users to dive into environments that only negligibly acknowledge the world outside of their brand, if at all - a problem that's abetted and exacerbated by the full-screen, single-window posture of all iPad software. In a media world that looks increasingly like the busy downtown heart of a city - with innumerable activities, events and alternative sources of distraction around you - these apps demand that you confine yourself to a remote, suburban cul-de-sac.
The launch highlights the mounting pressure on Apple Inc. to give publishers a way to sell their magazines more than one digital issue at a time. Executives from the New Yorker and its publisher, Conde Nast, say the true value of apps like the New Yorker's can't be realized until readers are allowed to purchase subscriptions.
"It is important to the New Yorker that we have offerings that allow long-term relationships with the consumers," said Conde Nast President Bob Sauerberg. "Obviously, we don't have that in place for the moment with Apple. We are very keen to do that."
The NYer app is modeled after the Wired app. The app is free but each new issue is $4.99. Current magazine subscribers appear to have no option but to buy a completely separate issue if they wish to read the magazine on the iPad. As a subscriber, what exactly am I paying for if I already have the content in magazine form? Is the $4.99 simply a convenience fee?
Uh oh, this one is going to be a big timesink. Timetub? Timelake? Anyway, try out Solipskier and feel the rest of your day slipping away. My top so far: 18.7 million...I got a lot better once I tried it on the iPad. (via waxy)
Over the past few days my first three apps became available on the iTunes store: Gravilux, Bubble Harp, and Antograph. I've been dreaming of this day for twenty years: a day when, for the first time, we can enjoy interactive art as a media commodity no different from books, music, and movies.
1. Why is there a comma after "The Pulse News Reader app" in the laywer's note to Apple?
2. The very same NY Times ran a positive review of the very same Pulse a few days ago. Doh!
3. Seems like all the Pulse guys need to do is unbundle the NY Times feeds and open the actual nytimes.com pages into a generic browser window and all is good.
4. I wonder why the Times et al. haven't complained about Instapaper yet. It might not technically infringe on copyright, but magazines and newspapers can't be too happy about an app that strips out all the advertising from their articles...as much as we would all be sad to see it go.
OMG, Alice for the iPad, paper kids books are dead.
Alice for the iPad is indeed really nice:
My nearly 3-year-old son loves using the iPad. At best, the iPad is a proof-of-concept gadget for adults -- they'll get it right by version three -- but it's perfect for kids right now. It's just the right size for little hands and laps and the interface is simple, intuitive, and easy to learn.
However, I'd like to assure the childless Rose that if paper books ever go extinct (they won't), paper children's books will be the last to go, particularly among the pre-K crowd. E-books are "broken" in several ways that are important to kids, not the least of which is that paper books are super useful as floors in really tall block buildings.
What amazes me is that you don't feel like you're using a website, or even that you're using an e-reader on a new tablet device -- which, technically, is what it is. It feels like you're reading a magazine.