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Apps for early literacy and fine motor control

I was recently asked for the names of some apps to support literacy and letter awareness. Of course there are many ways to help children develop these skills and the iPad is just one method but it is an engaging tool in the toolbox for literacy learning. Prices are in Australian dollars and are correct as of September 2016. 256px-child_with_apple_ipad-212x300
My criteria in choosing the list below were:
  • evidence based theory behind the methods
  • engaging but not over-stimulating

Apps for early phonics

  • Hairy Letters (Nessy Learning Ltd) –  $5.99  (Anything by Nessy is great!)
  • Phonics Under the Big Top (Celeste Musgrave ) – $2.99

Apps for learning sight words

  • Phonics Read CVC (Joe Scrivens) – $2.99 or in a bundle with other apps for $5.99
  • Hairy Words (Nessy Learning Ltd) – $5.99

App bundles

There are two bundles of phonics and sight word apps which are excellent.
  • Tools for Teaching Reading (Reading Doctor) – $129.99 for the bundle of 6, $24.99 each
  • OzPhonics (DSP Learning Pty Ltd) – $7.99 for the bundle, $1.99 or $2.99 each.

Apps for tracing letters

  • School Writing (demografix pty ltd) – $7.99 (Uses Australian states’ handwriting fonts)
  • iWriteWords (gdiplus) – lite or $4.49
  • Little Writer Pro (Innovative) – $2.99
  • Ready to Print (Essare LLC) – $14.99
Most of these have an Australian or English voice which is probably less confusing for Australian children than an American voice
© Jacqui Kirkman, 2016
MEd, Grad Dip Teaching (Primary), BA
Specialist Literacy Teacher
Apple Professional Learning Specialist
Photo credit: By Intel Free Press [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
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Accessibility features in Apple devices

Apple features accessibility in all devices
Apple features accessibility in all devices

Apple designs products like iPads and iPhones with assistive features that allow people with disabilities to access the functions of Apple devices to increase their capabilities. These innovative technologies are built in iOS devices to make them powerful. Apple provides a set of tutorials explaining how to use the accessibility features. Assistive technology ensures accessibility of iOS devices to the aged, disabled and even blind. Apple accessibility features include:


vision_siriThis is Apple’s intelligent virtual assistant. It helps you do with your daily schedule. All you have to do to get its help is ask. It can send messages, leaves voicemails, turn VoiceOver on and off and schedule meetings. It can access all the other apps in an Apple device. All you have to do is give a directive which is something like “Remind me of my meeting on Sunday 10 am”.


This is a screen reader that helps you navigate on your iPhone or iPad screen even if you cannot see.

Speak Screen

Having a hard time reading texts on your screen? You can use speak screen to read your books or emails. You send a command to Siri to turn on Speak Screen for you and have all your documents read to you. It has features such as highlighting, adjusting speaking rate and changing voice dialect.


FaceTime video calls lets you catch every gesture and facial expression. It enables you to communicate in many ways. FaceTime is very useful to people who cannot speak. It is a high quality video with a fast frame rate. All Apple devices are equipped with FaceTime.

Hearing Aids for iPhone and iPad

Apple has collaborated with manufacturers who have designed hearing aids. They are efficient with a very high quality audio experience to help you have a wonderful iPhone or iPad experience.

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How to Get the Most Out Of Your Battery

One of the biggest concerns for people buying new phones and laptops is the device’s battery life. New devices are batterysporting longer and longer battery life. Apple even claims that their 13-inch Macbook Air can last for up to 12 hours! You need to be able to rely on your device when you’re on the go, so here are a few tips to make the most out of your battery life.

1. Turn off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi

If you don’t need them at the time, try turning off your Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are usually set to be looking for potential networks or connections, so by stopping them from doing that, you’re limiting a whole lot of background activity. They both also use a lot of energy while connected. So if you’re not browsing the web or using your bluetooth mouse, for example, try switching them off to see some extended usage time

2. Turn off Location Tracking

The same thing goes for GPS and Location Services. These are constantly tracking your location in case an app requires it. Making sure these are switched off should see a big drop in background activity and battery drain.

3. Lower Screen Brightness or Keyboard Backlight

This one’s probably pretty obvious. The brighter your screen and keyboard light need to shine, the more power they’re going to use. It may be hard to drop the brightness sometimes, especially if you’re outside. However this is one of the biggest power consumers your device has. So drop the brightness as low as you can, and you should see a much longer battery life. Also be sure to switch off any auto brightness settings, as these will keep trying to make your screen brighter, even though you’re trying to save battery

4. Enable Battery Saver Mode

Look for your devices battery saver mode, most devices have one. This may seem like a bit of a no brainer, but can sometimes be overlooked. Battery saver modes are absolutely essentially if you’re taking your device off charge for a long period of time. You may see a slight decrease in the performance of your machine, but the extended battery life will almost surely make it worth while.

5. Look for Battery Draining Applications

Most phones or laptops give you a way to check what’s using the bulk of your device’s power. Accessing ‘Battery’ from your iPhone settings for example, will tell you exactly what is draining your battery. It can show you as a percentage, what has used the most power in the last 24 hours or the last week. By analysing these lists, you can try to cut down on certain applications or programs in order to give you the most out of your charge.

6. Look for Background Battery Drainers

These same lists will also often show you how much of that power drain was while on screen, and how much was in the background. This is also important to make note of when trying to cut down on app usage. You may have to restrict apps from using your location while outside the app, sending push notifications or whether it can use your cellular connection. Background battery drain is usually the most overlooked when trying to save battery life, so make sure you look into it.

7. Service Battery

Finally, if you’re still noticing low battery life after all these steps, there could be an issue with your battery. If you take your device to an Authorised Service Provider, they are able to run the necessary tests to find out if there really is something wrong with your battery. If there is an issue, you can then take the necessary steps to have your battery serviced and get it back up and running.

Running out of charge while out and about can cause any number of issues like being out of contact with family or missing out on catching a rare Pokemon. You need to be sure that when you need it, your phone or laptop is going to be there for you. So by following these steps, your faithful mobile companion should be with you the whole entire day.

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6 Tips to Keeping Your Mac Running Fast

Why is my computer running slow?

It’s a question we’re often asked.

Making sure your machine stays running fast can sometimes be hard to keep on top of, but with a few simple fixes, you’re able to keep OSX running smoothly, even if your machine is a few years old.



  • Removing Malware

The first step is to make sure there is no malicious software slowing down your machine. There are some great pieces of software that can help you make sure your machine is virus free. Malwarebytes helps to remove anything that is slowing down your machine or potentially poses a threat to your machine. It also claims to “protect you from dangerous threats that antivirus doesn’t.” You can try Malwarebytes for free for 14 days, after that licenses start at $34.95 for 1 year.

  • Removing Mackeeper or similar software

You’ll find a lot of software out there that will claim to clean up your machine, when really, it’s doing quite the opposite. Mackeeper is the most notorious of these but certainly not the only one. Mackeeper, by definition, is malware. Malware being “a variety of forms of hostile, intrusive, or annoying software”. Mackeeper can be very difficult to uninstall at times, especially if you want to make sure it hasn’t left any lingering files. A great guide to uninstalling Mackeeper can be found here.

  • Repair Disk Permissions

When you install programs on your Mac, each comes with permission files. These files basically tell your Mac which users can do what with specific files. Over time these permissions get changed by other software and can cause lots of issues with the speed and running of your Mac. Luckily, it’s quite easy to fix this using Disk Utility. Spotlight search for Disk Utility, click on your hard drive (usually called Macintosh HD), and then click Verify Permissions or First Aid on newer versions of OSX. This will scan for any issues. If it does find any issues, you will either be prompted to Repair Permissions or it will begin automatically.

  • Remove Login Items

Too many programs trying to start up when you log in to your computer can result in a very, very slow log in time. If you open System Preferences, click on Users & Groups, then your user account, and then click on Login Items. From there, anything that you don’t require immediately on start up can be removed, hopefully resulting in a fast log in time.

  • Activity Monitor

Spotlight search for Activity Monitor and you will easily be able to see what is using the bulk of your processing power or memory at any given time. By checking what’s using the most of your CPU and Memory, you can decide whether those programs are worth keeping, worth shutting down or whether you might require an upgrade to your RAM.

  • Delete Old Programs and Large Unused Files

It’s also always important to go through your machine every so often and look for old programs or large files that you’re not using. A quick check through your Applications folder, or Control Clicking on folders to Get Info and find out how much space they’re taking up, can be incredibly beneficial in freeing up space on your hard drive and decluttering your machine.

A slow computer is one of the most frustrating things in the world these days, but by following these simple steps, you should be able to keep your machine running like it’s brand new. For more tips and news, check out our other blog posts, or sign up to our newsletter.

Patrick Kirkman

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Best Uses For The iPad

best uses for the iPad

The 10 Best Uses For The iPad.

For those of you wondering wether or not it’s worth investing in a new iPad we’ll run through the features that will ensure you get the most out of your device.

1. Surf The Internet From Your Couch

One of the great features of iPads is its portability. It has a larger screen than a mobile and can be fired up quicker than a Mac. This makes it perfect for surfing the internet from your couch. Perhaps you’re watching TV and have forgotten the name of a particular actor. No problem, Wikipedia is at your finger tips. You can also access social media, so if you like to live Tweet TV shows you can.

2. Play Games

With each new release of the iPad comes even better graphics, making the iPad a great tool for playing games. Most new iPads come with retina display which means a higher resolution and more pixels. One of the best uses for the iPad is on a family vacation to keep the kids quiet in the back seat on those long drives!

3. Read

It’s easy to forget that the iPad with all of its features is one of the best e-readers on the market. The iPad is increasingly becoming lighter and thinner. This makes it easy to read in bed. It also allows you to read books purchased from Amazon. Not only can you read books but it’s great for newspapers and magazines. It’s intuitive touch-screen makes it feel like your reading the real thing.

4. Help Cook

The iPad can be a great aide in the kitchen. The iPad’s easy portability means you can set it up on a stand in the kitchen and follow a recipe while you cook. There are some great recipe apps from the iTunes store making it unlikely you’ll ever need to buy a cook book again. It also means that if you, a family member of friend suffers from any allergy you can quickly check whether an ingredient is safe to use.

5. Listen To Music

The iPad is a great for music. You don’t need to have lots of music downloaded to your device to take make the most of it either. You can stream music from the internet or set up radio stations and custom playlists. New iPads support bluetooth. This means you can connect your wireless headphones to your device and listen to music without disturbing anyone.

6. Snap Pictures and Shoot Videos

The iPad comes equipped with an excellent camera for taking photos and recording video. The iPad Air 2 for example has an 8 megapixel camera. This makes it comparable to most smartphone cameras. What the smartphones don’t have though is the bigger display. The larger screen will ensure you don’t miss crucial details that might be missed staring at a smaller screen.

Once you’ve taken your picture or recorded your movie then the iPad has a editing tools. You can also download a multitude of great photo-editing apps. iMovie now comes free for iPad so you don’t need to be an expert to edit your own movie either. You can even put music to your video and create movie trailers.

7. Connect The iPad To Your TV

One of the best uses for the iPad is as central device for other technology items in your home. There are apps available that will allow you to use your iPad as a home stereo remote. You can also use the AirPlay feature on the iPad to connect to Apple TV.

8. Use The iPad As A Phone

If you have an iPhone then the iPad has many of the same features. You can use iMessage to send and receive texts as well as send and receive calls. With its larger screen the iPad is great for using FaceTime. If you don’t have an iPhone then Skype can handle all the features of a phone.

9. Gain Remote Access To Your PC

There are apps on iTunes that will allow you to access your Mac remotely if you have your iPad on-hand. This allows you to download files or email documents to yourself that you might need while on the go. You don’t have to worry about your mac going to sleep. There are apps that will allow you to wake it up as well.

10. Use It For Business

The best uses for the iPad aren’t just personal. The iPad is great business tool as well. Here are some of the handy features that you might like to use:

  • The in-built camera allows you to use your iPad as a scanner.
  • Microsoft Office is available on iPad
  • You can connect a keyboard to the iPad if you don’t like to use a touchscreen keyboard
  • If you don’t like to write using a keyboard you can dictate notes
  • The iPad makes a great POS for hospitality and retail stores and allows you to accept payments
  • The iPad is a great tool for spreadsheets and presentations