By Alison Hendricks
At the risk of sounding like a Mac advertisement: I am of the opinion that the Apple corporation is at the forefront of user-friendly technology. We have several Apple products and have been very pleased with their quality, logic and simplicity. Charlotte believed in exposing children to quality music, art and literature, and I am sure that she would have felt the same about technology. Therefore, most of this article will deal with the usage of Apple products. That said, many other brands of smartphones are catching up to the iPhone and a lot of the apps that are mentioned here are available for those phones. I would like to note that I am not an Apple snob nor am I suggesting that anyone throw out perfectly good equipment simply to buy Apple products, but technology becomes obsolete rapidly, and at some point upgrading becomes necessary. It might be worth waiting and saving a little longer to purchase quality equipment.
When adding technology and media to your curriculum, you could have an extra subject just for that purpose. For older children, that might be a necessity in order to have enough deliberate time to meet all your objectives. For my family, which consists of younger students, it is simply easier to integrate technology into our existing subjects. The following is a list, by subject, of how we have incorporated it so far, as well as how I would like to stretch our usage.
Bible– It is a little taxing to think of an ancient book being in sync with modern technology, but there are a few things that make navigating the Scriptures convenient. There are Bible apps, many available for free, and the one we use has a huge list of different translations. Since I memorized in New King James, our Bible study is NIV and our pastor uses ESV, it is no small task to get the wording right for memorization! On my iPhone, I can switch to NKJV and type in a few words of a verse and find it in NIV for my children to memorize. Plus, I always have my Bible with me!
History– Obviously the Internet, on whatever device you prefer, is a boon for finding out time periods and quick tidbits even though it can be unreliable resource for meaty, living history. One thing the kids really enjoy is narrating on our Voice Memos app. It’s basically a voice recorder, but I can email the narration from the app or download it into iTunes to save as an audio record. We don’t only use this for history, but for many other subjects, as well.
Math– There are a variety of math apps that quiz basic facts. While we don’t use these on a regular basis, they are nice for sitting in waiting rooms or at restaurants.
Spanish– Thank you iTunes! We are doing Spanish as much like Ms. Mason as we can, and iTunes is a definite helper. It is an easy thing to find Spanish folk songs, download them and play them on our various devices. We have an iHome (not an Apple product) which is basically a clock docking station with a set of speakers. We keep it in the kitchen and play it while I fix dinner. By the way, Jose-Luis Orozco’s folk songs are wonderful! Our other trick is an app called iLanguage. You type in a word, phrase or sentence and get an instant and accurate translation. I mostly use this during my planning time to find our six-words-a-day. One thing I would like to do, but haven’t, is put an Mp3 baby mobile in the baby’s crib so that he will have early exposure to Spanish and classical music.
Literature– Mac’s preloaded video software, iMovie, would be a great way to do some dramatic narration. Download video clips from your digital camera and then it is as easy as dragging and dropping to make a fairly professional looking video that can be burned to a DVD or uploaded to the internet. Map websites are another great way to get some geography in with those literature lessons. This is a feature I plan on making more use of in the future.
In response to the last article on book media, Elaine Mulkey commented, “I thought I would mention a favorite resource our family uses to read books in case others are not familiar with it.You can sign up for daily installments of a lot of great books at www.dailylit.com. DailyLit is free and most installments are very short. I like the service because it reminds me that it is time to read to the children and it is also handy to have the books available during situations where we find ourselves unexpectedly waiting.The installment is delivered to your email address every day at the time your specify. There are many other ways to customize the installment such as weekdays only, etc. If you read an installment and the children begin begging for more, you can immediately request the next installment. Often we will read several installments in one sitting. A few years ago, my husband and I decided that we wanted to read a piece of classic literature that neither of us had read before, so we signed up for the same book and received the same installment each day. It was a nice way to read a book together.”
Phonics– Using your smartphone as a recording device is an easy way to get in some reading practice. Today I used that ever-handy voice memo app for one son to record himself reading aloud while I helped his brother with spelling, then later, I listened to his reading when I could devote more attention.
Recitation– We, again, use the voice memo app to practice our recitations. I can record myself reading the poem, parable or hymn and then send a child to a quiet corner to practice. There are also quite a few poetry apps available. POETRY app from The Poetry Foundation, for instance, has poems arranged by topic or mood, and they can be shared from the app. There are also hymn lyric apps, but they appear to be mostly Mormon hymns.
Handicrafts– I know this is a pretty obvious one, but I think keyboarding and other computer skills fall into this category.
Art– This may not be what Charlotte had in mind, because I remember reading that each child had their own small copies of artwork to study, but printer ink is pricey, and the copies are often second rate. I can usually find whatever artwork I need in the public domain and copy it into a file on my Mac. Then we use our photo software to make it as big on the screen as we can get it and study it this way. I feel it is akin to seeing a painting on a wall and the quality is so much better than a print out! It is also an easy thing to make a slideshow or screen saver of the work or add the art to our photo books to enjoy as the kids grow up.
Music– iTunes has transformed the way we buy and listen to music. Wouldn’t Charlotte be amazed how simple it is to listen to the work of the masters? With YouTube, we can not only listen to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, but watch fantastic video of an orchestra performing! Our three-year-old surprised me at Christmas by identifying some ornaments of various stringed instruments, and I know this comes from watching orchestras on YouTube. A word of caution here, YouTube videos should always be previewed by parents, and the YouTube home page frequently pops open with some raunchiness that I do not want tender eyes to see (including mine!). So, I drag the internet window down to the bottom of the screen so that only the address line and search bar are visible. I can then type in what I’m looking for and drag the window into view when it has loaded.
Science, Nature Study and Geography– I must tell you about the iBird app! While it is probably the most expensive app I have, it is less than the cost of a field guide and so much better. You can look up birds by size, shape, state, time of year, habitat, colors, wingspan, leg color, tail shape, wing shape, flight pattern, bill shape and length, song and more! It will show you photos, drawings, and migratory maps. I am waiting with baited breath for someone to come out with iInsect, iTree and iRock…or iMineral so as not to be confused with a music app! Other technology uses for nature study are weather apps, compass apps and Google maps. We have made use of the flashlight app while camping and we love being able to listen to music as we hike.
Now you’ve seen all my techie tricks and it’s time to share some of your own in the comments!
Coming Soon- Visual Media: Yes, Yes, But is it Living?