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Pokémon Go: The Pros, the Cons and other Random Thoughts

Pokemon Go: Pros and Cons

As someone on the wrong side of 50, even one who has been very active in the tech world for a long time, I was fascinated to watch how fast Pokémon Go became a thing!

It seems almost bizarre that the app now has more active users than Twitter, but as the first augmented reality game that is readily available to almost everyone (who doesn’t have a smart phone these days?) I suppose it is not really that surprising.

My curiosity was piqued as soon as I heard one of my kids telling another one of mine that they had to get this app. And so, for the purpose of “educational research”, I downloaded it a few days later. And I have been playing it ever since 🙂

But as I am an adult, and a parent of a teen, and a teacher, I have tried to stand back a bit and think about the game in a more analytical way than most of the players. Don’t expect anything profound here, but I thought some parents who perhaps haven’t tried it out might like to read this post.

Pokemon Go screenshot

Firstly, some random thoughts

  • Niantic has created a really great game – simple yet with plenty to keep one playing for a long time
  • Augmented reality games are now going to be the new rage. Expect to see many many more like this – but none are likely to have the same impact, of course.
  • Also expect existing augmented reality apps to suddenly become more popular. I just discovered there is a Zombies, Run app that allows you to be part of a story, and you guessed it, you do a lot of running!
  • Niantic programmers are going to be working long hours as the app is still very buggy! It often (for me ‘often’ equals about 8 times out of 10) fails to load and the app freezes regularly.
  • The sales of external battery packs could soar. This app eats through your battery in no time at all! (You can prolong battery life by using low power mode).
  • It’s going to be interesting once school starts up again. If Pokémon are roaming the school corridors along with the students, the number of students late to class and the inventive reasons for being late could escalate.


It’s fun to play – watch this video of kids teaching their gran to play!

The Pros
  • As has been mentioned repeatedly online, it does get kids and teens up and moving! My friends have reported that their teens now ask to accompany them on errands to find Pokémon, Pokéstops to replenish supplies and Pokémon gyms to train their Pokémon. They are also going for walks as this is the only way to hatch eggs. The app can detect the speed at which you are moving, and so you really do have to cover the distance on your legs. The shortest distance is 2km but I know some eggs require you to walk 10km!
  • I have not yet visited a gym but I know that’s where you go to train and fight. Even without knowing the details of how it will work it is obvious that strategy is going to be involved. And that gets the players using their brains.
The Cons
  • Players will do stupid things. Like trying to break into a medical facility at night to catch Pokémon. (This happened in my home town) And not looking where they are going (Niantic has a big warning as you open the app – but well, you know how it goes – look at all the accidents with people taking selfies!)
  • Players will do inconsiderate things. Like trying to catch Pokémon in the parking lot while a funeral service was in progress. (This happened at my home church).
  • Some players will get addicted. Pokémon Go will become their purpose in life. But those people would likely always find something to become addicted to anyway.
  • It uses data – so families with multiple players may have extra charges on their cellphone accounts as a result. So far this hasn’t been a problem for us, but we aren’t playing much in non-wifi areas.,

Overall, I think Pokémon Go will do for augmented reality apps what Serial did for podcasts – make people aware of what they are. I am excited to see the way augmented reality can be used in education.

And in my house, there is no unhealthy obsession with the game, just an increased desire by some of us to get out and moving a bit more. If an app can make exercise more enjoyable – that’s a good thing in my opinion.

I am sure the craze will die down somewhat in a few weeks – but no doubt thousands will keep on playing and hopefully the end result be healthier and mentally sharper players.

What do you think? Are your kids playing? Are you?

DuoLingo – an app that makes language learning easy

Duolingo app


DuoLingo is one of my favorite apps as it has done a great job of making language learning easy and enjoyable. It is available as both an iOS and Android app – as well as a web-based program. And it is FREE!!

DuoLingo works for any student who can read. We have mainly used the Spanish one – but there currently 8 languages to choose from.

It assumes you are an absolute beginner but if you aren’t, you can test out to get past the easy levels.

The exercises range from matching pictures to words to translating whole sentences. You don’t get to move on until you master your current level but you the gamification elements in the app that award you points and cups as you work, help you stay motivated.


DuoLingo Matching

DuoLingo cups


So far almost everyone I know who has used it, likes it.

Here is what Suzette LaPorte Ayo, FundaFunda’s online Spanish instructor thinks about DuoLingo:

  • Can test out of levels or go through them- your choice
  • Uses listening and pronunciation
  • Reminds you when you have missed a day
  • Earn rewards which you can then use to dual with others
  • Mixes vocabulary with grammar
  • There is no way to see all of the material available and choose or skip around – only within a certain level.
  • Need internet connection

Duolingo Translate

In our family we have used it as an extension to Spanish classes. My one daughter’s take on it is this:

  • The point-earning nature of it and how you have to “level up”. The competitive nature in me feels driven by that. B
  • It’s also nice because it builds on your knowledge and forces you to keep practicing and reusing things you have already learned. It feels effortless, yet the more I use it the better my Spanish becomes.
  • I wish more could be done with the points – more extrinsic motivation I suppose.
  • I enjoy it immensely. Every time I return to Duolingo and invest daily time in it, I notice how i become more comfortable in my vocabulary and grammar. Now they have the “coach” feature which allows you to set personal goals and then will remind you to come online and practice. And its minimal effort on a daily basis – i just put in 10-20 minutes a day andI see dramatic improvement. The key is consistency.
DuoLingo Coach
My one son had this to say:
  •  Ease of use (can do it wherever/whenever on my phone)
  • I’m not sure if it teaches the grammar super well
  • It is more of a help with starting out a language.
  • It’s a good way to get extra practice in.

If you have used it, please post a comment about how you have found it. And if you haven’t, go sign up online, or download from Google Play or the App store.

Pocket Law Firm: a fun Civics app that teaches the amendments

Pocket Law Firm app

Do you know your constitutional rights? Do you know what each amendment relates to? And do your students and children know?

If you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, then I can recommend the iPad app from iCivics (you can also play it online here as ‘Do I have a Right?’) which makes learning these things a lot of fun.

You start by choosing who you want to be and then you select a partner.

Clients start to arrive at your law firm. It is your duty to meet them and hear their problems. If you think their constitutional rights are being ignored – introduce them to a lawyer who can help them. Initially, only your partner is available but as the game continues and your firm earns prestige points for winning cases, you can hire more. Each lawyer comes with one amendment they are experts in – and then as the game progresses they sometimes acquire more.

Pocket Law Firm Screen

It is your job to make a correct match to a lawyer who can help – or to refuse a case where the client does not have a real right.

Pocket Law Firm Screen

The game is played over 7 days and things get busier each day. Prestige points can be used not only to hire lawyers but also to upgrade the waiting area so that customers are prepared to wait longer, and to purchase adverts in the local newspaper.

The office gets really busy and it is hard to remember which amendment is which (you can get in-game help but that wastes time so you WANT to remember). And you have to think strategically how to spend your money at the end of each day.

Pocket Law Firm screen shot

I like this game – a lot! I have played it 3 times and each time I have done a bit better. I keep playing because it is fun – but I have also learned that the 2nd amendment = right to bear arms ,3rd = soldiers can’t be quartered in your house, 4th= no unreasonable searches, 5th= double jeopardy and government can’t take property without compensating you, 8th = no Cruel or Unusual Punishment, 13th = no slavery and 14th – equality under the law. All of these I could not have told you 3 days ago before I downloaded the app. By the way – I wrote those down from memory and didn’t cheat at all. I was actually surprised by how well I had remembered.

And did I mention the app is FREE? It is.

So if you have an iPad – go grab it now from the iTunes store. If not, you can still enjoy the game online. There are a number of other games from iCivics on their website. And there are lessons plans for teachers. These lesson plans are really detailed and even provide creative worksheets (not the usual boring ones I was expecting).

Any one used this app or the online games? If so, how have your children / students responded to it?

Best Math App?

DragonBox App

I believe I have found the best math app currently available! It is definitely the best Algebra app available and also one of the best educational apps I have discovered.

I am referring to DragonBox.

A friend told me a about it a few months ago, and my memory was jogged when I saw it mentioned recently and so I went ahead and bought the  Algebra 12+ version.

I got hooked almost immediately. At first it was easy. The point of the game is to get the DragonBox alone. You use ‘negative’ images to cancel out ‘positive’ ones. Then you learn to apply the distributive property to equations. And factor them. And to work with fractions. And to do all the other functions required in algebra. But it is all done as a game.

Initially you work with images. Slowly letters are introduced.

Dragon Box Screen

You pass a level by getting the box alone BUT you only get an extra star if you do it under the required number of moves. And you get another star if you have simplified the equation as far as you can go. I had to replay many levels to get all the stars! (And yes, I played the game the whole way through!)

DragonBox Hard

There are 10 chapters with 20 levels in each. And once those are done, you can then practice further with actual algebraic equations.

Although students – even elementary age students – will be able to learn how to win without adult help, they will need someone to explain to them exactly what is happening. The developers intend  the app to aid the teaching of algebra – not to replace the teaching.

Watch this video to understand the philosophy behind the game.

I think this is such an innovative idea! There are very few apps that I have found that I have been so excited about. DragonBox combines the element of fun with teaching a complex concept in a masterful way. It is worth every cent!

The original version (DragonBox Algebra 5+)  is intended for children as young as 4 and is an intro to algebra. For older children just go ahead and get  DragonBox Algebra 12+ as it incorporates the first version and then goes further.

Both Android and ioS versions are available.

If your kids have played it, let us hear what they thought about it.

Review: Chronicles Timer & Stopwatch App

This timer and stopwatch app can be used for anyone, but as I blog about children and education, I will focus my attention on how it can be used in this area.

The app can be used on any IOS device. I installed it on my iPad and played around with it a bit and then gave it to my 13 year old with instructions on what I wanted her to time. I told her I would show her how it works, but when I went to ‘help’ her a little later, she was already using it and told me it was completely obvious what one had to do. So – there is the first positive – it is very easy to use.

Another positive is that there is a ‘light’ version which is free, so you can try it out before you decide if you want to buy the full version. The light version does contain some advertising and limits you to 2 users and 5 activities

So – what did I get my daughter to do? I asked her to time herself doing her math and literature homework. I was interested to see exactly how long it actually took. So, how can this help? Well, I have seen that students working at home get distracted very easily and stop to check Facebook, Instagram, text their friends etc. Timing work reminds them to focus on the work. And if the amount of work is about the same each day, but the time taken varies a lot, parents can take a look at why that is the case. It could also indicate a student is struggling with a new area they are studying.

Recording the time taken to do work can also add a bit of gamification to doing work – students can see if they can beat their previous time to finish work (accurately of course!)

And being able to look back over weeks and months can give a good picture of what progress is being made. For instance, if every time a child has reading to do, you get them to record how long it take to read a certain number of pages (keep this number the same), then over the weeks you can see if reading speed has improved (I know not all books have the same words per page but it will give a general picture).

In all the above examples I have used the ‘Timer’ on the app. But with one swipe you can select to use the ‘Stopwatch’ instead. (This is the only non-intuitive thing in the app – I had to read the ‘help’ to find out that swiping toggles between the 2 modes).

How can you use Stopwatch? You can use it to limit the time a child spends on an activity ie tell them to work on math until the alarm goes off (can also be set to vibrate). Or you can set it to let them have some fun on their iPads, Facebook etc until the alarm goes off and then they have to get back to work. Of course, anything that has an alarm can achieve this, so I think the Timer function is the more useful part of the app.

One more way this app can be used that will benefit seniors applying to colleges / for scholarships. If you use this app throughout your high school career when you do community service work, you will have accurate totals to give when forms ask what community service you did and how many hours you spent. It would be great to be able with one touch to look back over the 4 years and see how much time was spent on each volunteering opportunity. You can even go into ‘Settings’ and choose to export the the calendar in CSV format if that would help.

If you student does 4-H and is in a state like ours that uses portfolios to evaluate what they have done in their projects, once again, this would be a great tool to record the time they spend on activities.

With so many different applications, it is probably worth trying out the free version of Chronicles and then if you find it useful, you can migrate to the full version.


I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Elfishki and the Unwelcome Guest App Review

Don't mess with my riding dragon! :)

I offered to review this iPad App which is an animated story book. This is aimed at younger children, both those who still need to be read aloud to (they can choose to ‘listen’ to the story) or those who can read simple books.

The visuals are beautiful – bright, happy, and will definitely appeal to children. Take a look for yourself:

Once they have finished reading the story, or listening to it being read, they can then play a fun hidden objects game.

The story is set in a fantasy world where creatures called Elfishki live. And one of them finds himself the host of an unwelcome guest. Please note: a witch is referenced in the story, so if you don’t want your kids reading about witches, this one isn’t for you.

You know what they say:  You take care of your dragon, your dragon will take care of you. :)  #iPad #education #app #kids #children

I must say I was rather disappointed with the actual story. It was sweet enough and had a nice moral – children learn one is more likely to get positive reactions from people when they are nice to them. But – it definitely lacked the qualities of good literature. The writing is not in the league of the children’s authors I still enjoy even as an adult.

I love the idea of this app, and I love the visuals. If the actual story had captivated and enchanted me, I would have rated it 5 stars.

If you are just looking for an interactiv story that will amuse a young child, or for a new reader to practice with you may want to get Elfishki and the Unwelcome Guest. It is available in the App Store.

Please note: It only works on an iPad.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

PandaBoy App Review

I volunteered to review PandaBoy: Challenge Accepted as I loved the concept of the app. Set against the backdrop of the Olympics, PandaBoy must save the day by bringing an eternal flame to London, after the original Olympic flame is extinguished by a storm. PandaBoy will need to overcome difficulties as he travels across 5 continents to achieve this.

Previous reviewers described the game as a fun retro video game and as it seemed to incorporate geography, I thought this could be a great find.

I must say I was disappointed with the reality. Cute graphics – yes; any educational merit – no. As in nothing. The backdrop is a world map but the player only sees it in passing as he moves from one challenge to the next. And although the background of each level is an appropriate picture for that area (eg pyramids for Egypt), it is so much in the background that I only noticed it the third time I played it, and probably only because I was grabbing screen shots for this review.

I love computer games and apps that are genuinely fun AND have an educational element. This app could have been what I was hoping for if between levels there was a longer pause and maybe a photo or two of the geographic area PandaBoy has arrived in. Just a little something to slip some learning in there alongside the fun.

I do want to end this review on a positive note. While my 12 year old daughter and I did not really find the game fun, my 10 year old nephew LOVED it!! He did say it was a little hard to work out what to do at first, but he told me that once one plays 4 levels, one is “addicted”. (Yes, that was the word he used). I promised him he could play it every time he visited with us. He definitely would give it a 5 star rating for pure enjoyment, so if that is all you are looking for in an app, PandaBoy is definitely worth the money! Here is a video of how the game plays.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Fuzzy Logic: A great app to teach thinking skills

Fuzzy Logic is a great puzzle app that will teach children critical thinking skills. It will challenge adults too!

This is an easy game to understand – clear the screen of all the “fuzzies” to move on to the next level. And to do that you just need to get two fuzzies of the same color to bump into each other. Some fuzzies change color when they bump into fuzzies of a different color eg red and white merge to become a new pink fuzzy.

If this all sounds easy – well, the first few levels are. Then you have to really think and plan and strategize. My 12 year old is much better at this than I am, but with perseverance (and sometimes her help) I can eventually clear each level.

Highly recommended.

Available for iPad, iPod, iPhone and Android. A free version is also available.

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