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redridinghoodIdeal Binary last iPad book, Rapunzel, was a book I complained about because the plot is beyond awful. But the 3D pop-up special effects made the book a keeper. We just sucked up the fact that good guy in the story sold off her first born child for some flowers after he got caught stealing them – in spite of his efforts at deception -off someone else’s property.

So when Ideal Binary came out with Little Red Riding Hood, I ignored the $3.99 price tag and bought it immediately and trotted in out for my youngest son last night. As advertised, great 3D interactive fun – just what an iPad should be.

Well, grandma ends up cutting up the wolf and making a carpet. Really? This is a kids’ book. It is no longer 1968. We are still stupid but we are not that stupid. Why can’t the story have a theme of love and reconciliation? Why blindly follow this idiotic plot?

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George WashingtonWhat is the capital of South Sudan? I was excited to teach my kids this week the birth of a new country, South Sudan. The capital is Juda. Tonight, we are going to try to handwrite in on our maps the border between Sudan and South Sudan. (Hopefully, with a new border comes a new era of peace for the Sudanese people and that South Sudan has their own George Washington.)

Don’t get wedded to Juda, though. South Sudan is searching for a new capital because they do not believe Juda is the best city in the long haul to be the capital of the country. So when you teach Juda as the captial of South Sudan, make sure you let your kids know that it comes with an asterisk of “could be changed soon.”

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mathbingoMath Bingo is a iPad math app that works. How does it “work”? Every child – okay, only 5 but still – that plays the game enjoys it. And they are doing math. This is game, set, and match.

Math Bingo has an extremely simple concept: answer the question and put find the answer on the bingo board until you get bingo. If you get Bingo, you get a Math Bingo bug. The bugs are pretty cool, you can spin them and move them. (Clearly, this loses something in translation if you are not 5.) The game also has a few extras that are not worth explaining but, suffice to say, kids like them.

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This is my top 5 best iPad books for kids between 3-9 years old:

  1. Bartleby’s Book of Buttons
  2. Cosmo’s Day Off
  3. Morris Lessmore
  4. Cloud Bread
  5. Violet (the first two books of the series)

Bartleby’s Book of Buttons, Cosmo’s Day Off and Morris Lessmore you can take to the bank. These are the best children’s iPad books I have seen.

Cloud Bread is a little different – it is the English adaptation of a hit Korean kids’ book – but I think it is great. Cloud Bread has a fun story and great graphics.

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mazeplusWhy bother to give you kids mazes? Obviously, kids develop better spatial skills by working through a maze. But really. So what? I looked into this because I have been hitting mazes hard with my kids, if for no other reason that I was/am terrible at them. So I wanted to justify the educational value of mazes.

First, the studies seem clear that there is a relationship between motor development and spatial cognition. So that alone should get you into mazes. There is a also great predictive data on all kinds of good things with the Porteus Maze on which there are a lot of studies.. I was so interested I tried to buy these. But for $239? Let’s see what the iPad has.

I have probably 10 different iPad maze games. My favorite is Maze Plus. Maze Plus allow you to literally do the maze, drawing the line from start to finish with your finger that pulls a line behind you. The mazes are cute and fun. “Daddy, how does the pig get to the moon? An air balloon.” My kids really just love the game to the point where they think it is a treat to let them play it.

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L’Escapadou puts out a kids’ crossword puzzle called Montessori Crosswords. It started out as a really good – the only good one I have seen in fact – crossword puzzle for young kids learning definitions and learning to spell. It has evolved into a fantastic iPad app because L’Escapadou continues to make quality updates. They had a great update a few months back and, when I returned from vacation yesterday, I uploaded another great update that makes the game that much better.

The gist of the game is that it is a picture crossword. You see the picture and must spell the word. If you have a child learning to spell and learning vocabulary – albeit apparently British vocabulary – this game is a must get.

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Let’s start with the good: Ideal Binary has put together a beautiful iPad version of Rapunzel: it is downright brilliant and your children are going to love it, read good sophisticated children’s vocabulary. I can’t underscore this point enough: the quality of this iPad book is just fantastic.

That said… I hate the book. Rapunzel is just an awful story on every imaginable level. People were so dumb when they made up these stories. No one cared what impact it would have on children. The values of this book are awful. Sure, Dad, go steal from the witch, it is all good. The ends justifies the means. And that is not even the worst of it.

The quality of the interactivity in the Rapunzel iPad book is so fantastic I still read it – occasionally, including last night which precipitated this review – but I wince though most of it. The authors took some liberties with Rapunzel as Disney just did (I have not seen it). So why not go all the way in and make it a story that parents can actually read and explain to their kids?

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It is so easy to find “best of” lists of just about anything now. But Google “Best Private Schools in Maryland.” What you come up with is laundry list of school but no analysis of the best test scores, user rankings of the top schools, pretty much nothing. What you are left with is where you were before the Internet era: relying on anecdote and hearsay. We don’t even have a comparative “who went to which fancy Ivy League college?” list out there.

Our kids go to a private school that we absolutely love. So why are we always looking around? Because I’m not necessarily sold on the school – I’m sold on my kids’ current teachers. A school is only as good as your kids’ teachers.

If someone puts out a U.S. News & World Report type ranking of private schools in Maryland that provided real information, they would make a fortune. In the meantime, we are left with little to evaluate schools.

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Oklahoma State University released a study echoing my theme of the educational power of the iPad.

The context of this study was college students. The gist of the study is that the iPad is a powerful weapon for learning. The one thing that surprised me in the study is that it seems that the e-Reader was not as popular with students as I would have expected.

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WBAL writes an article about three disciplinary incidents at Maryland schools:

  • At Western High School in Baltimore, school official canceled the school’s Senior Banquet and Senior Farewell and a series of pranks escalated to poisoning the drinking water with unknown medication and substances. ( Poisoning is probably hyperbole but you get the idea.)
  • Northwestern High School in Germantown would not allow a girl to bring her friend to the senior prom because that friend dropped out of school.
  • Two Easton High School boys were suspended for carrying a pen knife and a lighter. Their defense? They were trying to repair their lacrosse sticks.

“Is this Overkill?” is the question WBAL is raising. I have no idea. I think “get tough” is good. Obviously, there is a point where get tough’s victim becomes reason and fairness. I can’t defend the school prom thing. It is silly and it is not discipline it is just being spiteful against someone who exercised his rights under Maryland law (I’m assuming the boy was 16 or older). But the other two? I have no idea.