ArcSoft’s Link+ 3 puts media in its place: your classroom’s projector, TV or large screen monitor. The software scans computers and the school’s network for all the available photos, audio and video and then plays what you want. The program converts low resolution items to near HD quality and works only with PCs, but an iPad version is on the way. There’s a two week trial to see if it fits into your teaching style; it costs $50.
Digital finger painting is fine, but a big disadvantage of the iPad – first or second generation – is the lack of an included stylus for close work or drawing. There are dozens of add-on pens, but only Griffin Technology’s Crayola ColorStudio HD combines hardware with software for a complete classroom art experience.
Aimed at early learners, the key to the Color Studio is its large digital pen. It requires a single AA battery and has an on/off switch but lacks any sort of battery gauge. When you turn on the digital crayon, an oval with the Crayola logo lights up and changes color while it’s being used. On the downside, it doesn’t correspond to the color being used.
While it doesn’t need it, there’s a cap that covers the soft rounded writing element and a ring for tethering it to a tablet or wearing on a chain around your neck. The problem is that the cap doesn’t snap onto the other end of the pen and there’s no place to put it when you’re using the pen. In other words, it’s likely to get lost before the end of its first school day.
After downloading the iPad app, the pen and software work together. On top of a blank canvas where kids’ can let their creativity run wild, Color Studio HD has pre-made coloring pages as well as ones that you (or kids) can make. There are plenty of hidden interactive elements as well as sound effects so that budding artists won’t lose interest. Happily, it’s easily to turn the audio off.
As is the case with other iPad apps you can zoom in and out by squeezing your thumb and forefinger together or apart. On top of the expected crayons, the drawing tools available include brushes, pencils, blunt or sharp markers and the always-popular eraser. At any time, you can use a tool that pours paint right onto any part of the digital page.
Although each drawing implement comes in three tip sizes and there’re 75 colors to choose from, the pen isn’t pressure sensitive and you can’t add textures to the digital paper. The Crayola software is only for the iPad, but the pen works with other iPad apps and other tablets that use a capacitive screen,
Along the way, the program explains how it works and makes suggestions, but there’s no traditional help area for specific questions. The program works with both finger and pen input, but for best results you need to set it to which you’re using. There’s an annoying slight delay between touching the screen with the pen and when the colors appear.
When the budding Picasso is finished the image can be emailed, sent to FaceBook or printed, provided you have a wireless printer that works with the iPad. The best part is that you only need one digital pen, not a big box of crayons to pack up and put away at 3PM.
+ Great combination of hardware and software
+ Good drawing templates
- No paper textures
- Pen isn’t pressure sensitive
- iPad only
Words are words and pictures are pictures with no overlap, right? Wrong. With Chris Coyne’s Context Free Art, you put the paint brush down and pick up the keyboard. All you do is start typing key words and parameters in the left hand window and periodically hit the render button to see what you’ve created in the right window. It’s a lot like programming in that there’s a constrained language that you need to learn to create a specific idea. It works with PCs, Macs and a variety of Linux systems and comes with an electronic 150-page manual as well as a variety of works created by users around the world.