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Review by Cresta Kowalski, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2017


Shapes and imagination meet in endlessly creative app

Subjects & skills
  • Math

  • Creativity
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: Shapes are the springboard for creativity as students animate their thoughts and ideas.

Cons: Animations have limited frames available.

Bottom Line: An engaging app that will allow students to think about shapes in novel ways.

There are many ways ShapeKit could be used in both a large and small group setting, and not all of them are in the math classroom. In math, the features of two-dimensional shapes can be reviewed as students create images. A creation challenge could be issued in the classroom, and the app could be the sketchpad for creation. The parameters of the challenge could be set; for example, make an alien creature with six eyes, a quadrilateral for a body, four non-quadrilateral arms, and at least two legs. Then, students can be left to create their creature and animate it for the class to watch. Another math activity could be an exploration where students are challenged to determine what two shapes -- when they are connected together -- make a new shape. The teacher could name the shapes to use or the teacher could just name the new shape they want to be made and allow students to explore on the app.

ShapeKit could be used as a creation tool in other subject areas, as well. In reading, students could illustrate a character in a book they're reading and animate it according to actions the character makes in the story. In social studies, students can create images of American icons and animate them using historical songs as the background music. In science, students can make pictures of plants and animals they are researching and animate them in their natural habitat. Opportunities for creativity are everywhere in a primary classroom, and this app can help educators unlock their ideas. 

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ShapeKit is an educational app that uses two-dimensional shapes as the basis for student creativity. There are three areas in the app: Make, Learn and Exhibit. After an easy tutorial, users land in the Make area to start their first creation. After choosing from one of six basic shapes, students can choose the color and size of everything they use -- making it a fully customizable experience. Shapes can be joined together along straight edges or joined using "joints" where the two shapes can be pivoted to move. To give users more creativity choices, eyes or particle flair can be added to the pictures. After the picture is finished, it can be animated using up to five frames; each frame allows the shape to be moved at the joints across the screen as the user chooses. One support in the animation area is the use of outlines showing the previous location of the shape; this helps to avoid overlapping animation or not enough movement. The animation is smooth and seamless as the frames progress and the creation comes to life.  

In the Learn area of the app, users can review the steps it takes to create an image in the app. The illustrations are easy to follow, and the narration supports the user in understanding what to do each step of the way. In Exhibit, users have the opportunity to submit screenshots of their projects via email, Facebook, or YouTube.  

On the surface, ShapeKit looks like an app that's just about basic shapes, but there's more than meets the eye. Students use two-dimensional shapes as the start of their thinking, but then they're stretched to combine these shapes into composite shapes in order to make their ideas a reality. While working, students can make adjustments to the size of their shapes and see just how shapes relate to one another -- all without having to be explicitly told by a teacher. This imbedded learning allows for students to continue with their creativity without interruption.

As students work through their ideas, ShapeKit doesn't complicate things with too many bells and whistles; the choice of embellishments is just enough to give students some fun additions to their projects without being too distracting. Although the app could offer more frames for the animations, it keeps things simple so that the creativity with shapes is at the forefront. Learning happens through the use of this app -- whether the student realizes it or not -- and teachers can be sure that student understanding of shapes and shape relationships will grow as well.   

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Bright colors and endless creation options make this a highly engaging app for students to use. Add in animations, and students will be able to work magic with two-dimensional shapes.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Simple approach to naming and defining the features of two-dimensional shapes is at the surface, but a deeper learning of composite shapes and innovation is at the heart of the app.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Support for the user is generous in the app, with the tutorials section and a text-to-speech option; outside of the app, there's no additional support except an email button on the developer's website.

Common Sense Reviewer
Cresta Kowalski Classroom teacher

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