This week we have been playing with the School Writing AU/NZ App. This new Windows 8 app is magic on a touch screen or Interactive Whiteboard. School writing AU/NZ is a learn to write app that uses specific writing fonts for Australian, New Zealand and a few other nations.

It opens with NSW Foundation Font as a default, but you can easily change fonts through the settings button. The App is currently free for educators. To receive your free registration code, download the trial, then go to Settings > Upgrade and enter an edu.au email address. You will receive your free code in an email with which you can then register.

When opening the app, it's easy to get going. The first choices to get started are:

  • Whiteboard - Shapes and patterns
  • Alphabet
  • Numbers
  • Sight words

I was struck by the depth of the app. At first I thought it was great writing over the guide lines, choosing the style of the guidelines I wanted, colour, thickness of pen etc, but then I realised I could play back my writing. What an amazing tool for developing self reflection and feedback in young learners! Once I delved a little more I discovered that there is audio to hear sounds and words, there is the ability for teachers to record their own voice, there is an ability to edit pre-created exemplar writing, and an ability to export files and create lesson plans. Teachers can even create their own lists and audio of words, letters, numbers, shapes, and patterns to bring in their own phonetics and other specific learning strategies.

Below is a set of the full features of the app:

  • A choice of 28 US, UK, South Africa, New Zealand or Australia approved plain and cursive school fonts.
  • A choice of 5 types of lined guidelines or no guidelines.
  • A choice of 3 tracing tactics – connecting the dots, tracing over the letter/number or tracing within the outlines with the starting points and visible numbered sequence of strokes.
  • A choice of 4 levels of colored pencil's thickness, which is usable for drawing and coloring.
  • Customise the default sounds allowing the students to listen the pronunciation and the phonetic sounds that you teach.
  • Customise the default images. Students can find their own images as an assignment itself.
  • Customised the teacher's tracing. This allows the teacher to change the sequence of strokes to suit your students’ needs. Replaying feature of the student’s last trace to check that proper stroke sequence.
  • A ‘Reset’ counter which allows permanent recording of the number of times each letter and number has been traced.
  • Creation and management of the multiple profiles for all the students in a class with the ability to see the exact number of the lessons being completed by each student.
  • Automatic (optional) emailing of students’ work to the teacher once the work has been completed.
  • Exporting and importing features for lessons, profiles and tracing customisations

Next I started thinking what a great activity this would be for not just young learners but for special education. It would be a great fine motor skill activity for many learners who need extra practice in this area.

It goes without saying that this would be a great app to recommend to homes with Windows 8 devices.

Find this app and many more on our PreSchool and ES1 Windows 8 Apps Pinterest Board. 

As you prepare for your new learners in 2014, why not have a play and see if this app suits your classroom? Share with us how you might use this app in the comments below.

Did you know that you can now purchase Windows Store Gift Cards? A great way to add apps to machines in your school.

Want to be a Guest Blogger? If you would like to  share how you use Microsoft in your classroom, please email aus-edu@microsoft.com and tell us your idea for a post.