Thursday, February 28, 2019

How to download free Android Apps as .APK files using the APK downloader

During our tablet training for teachers in Limpopo and Gauteng last year we needed to easily share free apps with the teachers in a way that the apps wouldn't take up a lot of space on their tablets. This post highlights a great way to share free apps without having to download them again. You download apps from the Google Play store as APK files. This is a manual process.

What is an APK file?
APK stands for Android Package Kit and is the file format that Android uses to distribute and install apps. It contains all the elements that an app needs to install correctly on your device. It doesn't install the app on your device unless you ask it to. The main thing to note about APK files is that you need to be sure they are legitimate and not files from malicious developers that have somehow added their ransomware to the Play store.

How do you download an app as an APK file?All you do is download the apps from Google Play on to an SD card using a special downloader called APK downloader (, You store them on the SD card as APK files. When they need to be used, you. install them from the SD card on to your Android device.
Here is the process explained more fullyLet's look at this step-by-step.

Step 1: Use your PC for this process and not the Android tablet in this case.

Step 2: Search for the apps you like using the Google Play Store

Step 3.
Open APK downloader from

Step 4: Find the app you are looking for
Search the Google Play store and find the app you want to download to your SD card. In this case for Kidoko Free the URL is


Step 5: Type this URL into the APK downloader page and press GO.


Step 6:
Find the download button

It will take you to a page with plenty of details and where you can download the file.


Watch the file download

Add this file to your folder of Android apps on your computer and then transfer these to your SD card. Whenever the app is to be used click on it in the SD card and install it.

This was a great way to share the relevant apps for each training quickly and effectively on the teachers' Android tablets when needed.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Free reading sites to use on World Read Aloud Day – or anytime!

1 Feb, is World Read Aloud Day. Exciting reading activities are taking place all over the world. People all around the globe are reading aloud together and sharing stories on this day, to promote literacy as a human right that belongs to all people. It is important to celebrate days like these that put reading in focus. However, reading aloud to children should take place every day! In my previous blog post, Reading aloud to children - is it important? I wrote about what some of the research studies show about the importance of reading aloud to children.

Taken from the Nalibai site
Activities we will see happening on Read Aloud Day
Here are a few examples:
  1. Some people create their own special one-on-one read aloud moment at school or at home. The Litworld website gives a read aloud guide that shows how to read to children effectively.
  2. Many teachers connect virtually with authors, classrooms, and more for a special read aloud session using Skype.
  3. Some classes around the globe read to each other via Skype.
  4. Many websites such as KidLitTV have some read aloud sessions where children can watch people reading awesome children’s books.
Our World Read Aloud Day celebration in Grade 3
I am the computer teacher at my school, and my Grade 3 class celebrated World Read Aloud Day in the computer lab. In this post I want to tell you about some of the things we did on WRAD and show you some of the reading sites we visited.  

1. World Read Aloud Day with Nalibali
Here in South Africa, Nal'ibali (isiXhosa for “here's the story”), a national reading-for-enjoyment campaign to spark children's potential through storytelling and reading, always does something great for World Read Aloud Day. Every year on World Read Aloud Day, Nalibali commissions a brand-new story and translates it into all 11 official SA languages. This year's story is "Where are you?" written by Ann Walton. It can be downloaded from their website free of charge.  Nalibali encourages adults and caregivers across the country, to join them in reading it aloud to children on WRAD (World Reading Aloud Day) They have called this the #WRADChallenge2019. 

We downloaded the story and read it together, aloud, in our computer lesson. 

After that 
the class visited a number of websites to see what they were about, and then they selected and read a story from one of the following sites, aloud. but softly!

2. The African Storybook website
This is a wonderful local website that has a huge amount of Grade R-4 beautifully illustrated Creative Commons picture storybooks that one can read, translate, change etc. I have done numerous activities using this website. The stories are in many different African languages - one simply has to choose English. The storybooks can be read online or offline, or downloaded from the website and printed. All the storybooks are available for free. The website is also available as an app that one can download. 

3. Storyweaver website
This is a wonderful website from India that has a huge amount of Creative Commons beautifully illustrated stories. It works on similar lines to the African Storybook website in that the 
storybooks can be read online or offline, or downloaded from the website and printed. All the storybooks are available for free. They also focus on Indian languages but all one has to do is type in English for a large variety of lovely stories. The website was awarded a substantial grant from Google which enabled it to expand its storybase to 11,154 stories in 136 languages.

Both of the above story websites make use of four levels in reading:

Level 1: Easy words, word repetition, less than 250 words
Level 2: Simple concepts, up to 600 words
Level 3: Longer sentences, up to 1500 words
Level 4: Longer, more nuanced stories, more than 1500 words

4. Storyline online
This is a popular children's literacy website created by the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, which provides free storytelling videos and resources for parents and teachers to foster a love of reading in children. The stories are nearly all, if not all, in the form of videos.

5. Litworld This is a site I haven't used much yet, but I plan to explore it. LitWorld is a nonprofit organization founded by literacy expert Pam Allyn in 2007. LitWorld works with a broad coalition of national and international partners to ensure that young people worldwide can experience the joy and transformation of reading, writing, and storytelling.  They have an interesting approach in that their year-round, child-centered programming is designed to develop each of the 7 Strengths which LitWorld sees as inherent in every child. LitWorld’s 7 Strengths are: Belonging, Kindness, Curiosity, Friendship, Confidence, Courage, and Hope.

Studies show that one of the most important things we can do for our children, at home and at school, is to read aloud to them. The benefits are enormous when this becomes an ongoing practice. Why not make reading aloud to your class a daily habit? 

Monday, January 28, 2019

Reading aloud to children - is it important?

World Read Aloud Day is coming up on 1 Feb 2019. Exciting reading activities will take place all over the world. People all around the globe will read aloud together and share stories on that day to encourage teachers and parents alike to read to the children in their care. 

Let’s think about the importance of reading aloud to children. Is it important? In this post I plan to put reading aloud in perspective and take a look at what some of the studies on reading aloud show.  

1. Reading to young children gives them a headstart in life
Studies show that one of the most important things we can do for our children is to read aloud to them when they are young. A study conducted in a partnership arrangement between the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research uncovered some interesting information. The key finding was that frequency of reading to children at a young age has a direct causal effect on their schooling outcomes regardless of their family background and home environment. The study shows that there is an important role for parents in the development and educational performance of their children. Parental reading to children increases the child’s reading and other cognitive skills at least up to the age of 10–11. This is an early-life intervention that seems to be beneficial for the rest of their lives.  
Taken from Unsplash

2. Children need 1000 hours of being read to before preschool
 This fits in with what I heard about reading before preschool at a reading conference not too long ago. The Dean of Education from Rhodes university quoted a study that showed that If we can develop independent readers by Grade 3, we can almost predict academic success at school. However to become independent readers by Grade 3, he said, children need to have received 1000 hours of being read to before entering preschool. 

Just hearing the written word helps them develop their vocabulary, strengthens their memory, and nurtures their imagination. Children who are surrounded by print and immersed in great and well-told stories are more curious, confident, and motivated to learn. Stories help our kids develop empathy for others, curiosity about the world we live in, and they stimulates critical thinking.

Our goal must be for our children to start reading for enjoyment, meaning and understanding on their own. If we can get the children in our care interested in reading for enjoyment, we are setting them up for success. Reading for pleasure makes a big difference to children’s educational performance. 

Taken from Unsplash

3. Research shows the importance of parents reading with children – even after children can read
A study ‘Interactive reading opportunities beyond the early years: What educators need to consider’ by Margaret Kristin Merga found in the Austrlaian Journal of Education, was highlighted in an article by the author. She found that “hared reading experiences are highly beneficial for young people. Benefits of shared reading include facilitating enriched language exposure, fostering the development of listening skills, spelling, reading comprehension and vocabulary, and establishing essential foundational literacy skills. They are also valued as a shared social opportunity between parents and their children to foster positive attitudes toward reading. When we read aloud to children it is also beneficial for their cognitive development, with parent-child reading activating brain areas related to narrative comprehension and mental imagery. 

4. The Benefits of Reading to Your Unborn Baby.
I was curious to see if there was any research on reading to babies in the womb and was surprised to see that there is a lot! Science indicates that reading to baby in the womb helps develop early language learning.

A study at the University of Oregon found when pregnant mothers were given a recording that included a made-up word to play near the end of pregnancy, the babies were able to recognize the word and its variations after they were born. They could discern this by neural signals emitted by the babies that showed they recognized the pitch and vowel changes in the fake word. The babies who heard the recording most frequently displayed the strongest response, suggesting that infant language learning begins in utero. The researcher says, “Our findings indicate that prenatal experiences have a remarkable influence on the brain’s auditory discrimination accuracy, which may support, for example, language acquisition during infancy. “ A website ‘Womb to World: Reading and Talking with Babies’ highlights some of the research done on reading aloud to babies in the womb.

A great article on the Baby Centre website called ‘Reading to your baby’ suggests that it’s never too early to start reading to baby. Babies recognize their mother's voice in the womb, so why not make reading aloud a habit while you're still pregnant? Another article ‘Womb to World: Reading and Talking with Babies’ gives some very practial tips on how to get started. Joining the local library is a great way to start.

Statistics from local websites
The PUKU website in South Africa gives some interesting global literacy statistics about reading. Here are two examples:
  • Reading aloud to children every day puts them almost a year ahead of children who do not receive daily read-aloud reading, regardless of parental income, education level or cultural background. (Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research)
  • If all children in low-income countries left school literate, 171 million people could move out of poverty. (World Literacy Foundation)
The Times Live in an article ‘80% of Grade 4s can't read, literacy survey reveals’ quoted that ‘Almost four in five Grade 4 pupils fall below the lowest internationally recognised level of reading literacy‚ and South Africa is last out of 50 countries in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (Pirls 2016).’

There’s no doubt about it – reading improves the mind. It has a multitude of benefts to us as humans. We need to start early in the home to ensure academic success at home. “The pen is mightier than the sword.” As parents and teachers let’s join in on the fun on World Read Alud Day on 1 Feb 2019

Monday, October 15, 2018

October '18: Student Blogging Challenge #2: Writing quality comments

My two classes are enjoying participating in the free Edublogs Student Blogging Challenge.  This is a great way to learn about Internet safety and blogging at the same time. If you would like to add some students from your class to this challenge it is not too late! Find out more at:

We are in week two of the challenge and this week’s post is all about writing quality blog comments. I am adding some of the highlights in this post.

Benefits of commenting
This is taken from the Week 2 Blogging Challenge post found at:  

"Here are ten reasons why comments are important:
  1. Comments turn your blog from a static space to an interactive space. This means it’s not just you talking. There is interaction. 
  2. Back and forth conversations are fun and you can learn a lot. 
  3. Because comments are not instantaneous (like online chat or text messaging), you can have more time to reflect, research, or think about your response. 
  4. When someone leaves a comment, they can leave feedback, constructive criticism, or give you new ideas. This can help you grow and learn. 
  5. A commenter might suggest something that you didn’t include in your post. You can learn new perspectives. 
  6. When you have an authentic (real) audience, it’s more motivating! You know someone will read your post, so you will probably put more effort into it than if you were just writing something in a notebook. 
  7. Commenting can be an ideal way for busy parents to get involved in the classroom. 
  8. You can learn how to interact politely and how to have conversations. 
  9. You can meet new people and form friendships. 
  10. Students who don’t have their own blogs can enjoy the benefits of blogging by being a participant in the comment section.” 
How to comment
Week 2's tasks included discussing good commenting skills, creating a ‘How to comment’ page' on their blog and making a set of commenting guidelines, time permitting of course. Kathleen Morris from Australia, who is running the challenge, added this lovely commenting image this week,

A video on how to commentThis video is featured on the Edublogs page. I like it! Sling’s class in Canada has completed this must-watch video on commenting.

Interesting pointers from this week's Student Blogging Challenge post
1. Each week the best posts from the previous week's Student Blogging Challenge are featured in the 2018 Student Blogging Challenge Flipboard Since I only see my classes once a week, we won't have time to do all the lovely activities. We plan to dip in and take out what is important for us.

2. Some teachers like their students to make screencast videos about commenting. This is what Kathleen says about making your own video. "To make the video you could use a free Chrome extension called Screencastify . Loom is another good tool for making screencast videos if you use the Chrome browser. If you use an iPad you can make a screencast without any special app. Tony Vincent shows us how to do that in this graphically."

I had no idea you could do this on an iPad. How awesome!

This week's task for my classes
Write an encouraging post on four blogs from another country. Use this frame:
Hello. My name is (use your online name)
I like this post because...........
Ask a question OR add some new thoughts about the post
I think your blog.......
Please visit my blog (add your blog address)

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

October '18: Student Blogging Challenge #1: Introductions, online safety and avatars

I have joined two classes to this year's free Edublogs Student Blogging Challenge. It is the 21st Student Blogging Challenge - two a year for the last ten years You can join your students individually which is what I have done or you can join as a class. It is a great way to learn about Internet safety along with 1550 other students from 27 countries and six continents around the world. My two classes are very excited about it.

This week's post is all about Introductions. We will be creating poems about ourselves using our online names. I gave my two classes this poem outline to complete:

Online Name
Three descriptive traits
Who lives in Cape Town
Who enjoys…… (at school)
Whose hobbies are….
Who likes... (food)
Who thinks….
Who loves…
Online name

Instead of adding a photo we use an avatar. An avatar is an image that you use to represent yourself on the internet. It’s like a character that represents your online identity. In the past we have made different avatars - I rather like the way does their avatars so we will use that site to create ours. 

The other things we learn about this week is online safety. We are introducing ourselves online in a safe way - not revealing too much about ourselves. I like the poster that Kathleen Morris from Australia (who is running the Blogging Challenge) has added to the post.

This week's tasks for my classes
  1. Register for the Blogging Challenge
  2. Add the Blogging Challenge badge to your blog
  3. Create an avatar using and add it to your blog.
  4. Make sure you have an introductory poem about yourself on the blog
  5. Add your avatar and poem to a collaborative slide show.