I've always loved trading cards. When I was a kid I used to collect and trade cards feverishly. There's something in that desire to complete sets that caused me to spend stacks of pocket money on various collectible cards and stickers.
Then there was the social element - standing in the playground in huddled clusters as you feverishly reviewed a friends collection whilst echoing those eternal words:
And the bartering process would begin. It was an integral part of the joy and looking back it was amazing how much genuine emotion these little pieces of paper could elicit from us all.
Then Top Trumps came along and switched the collection process for a competitive element. It was fresh, it was different but it was still cards. These golden days passed with adolescence though generations since have enjoyed their own iterations of these classic childhood constructs, from Pokemon to Match Attax to pretty much any TV show or film produced. Seriously - there are Downton Abbey trading cards:
Long before the advent of mobile technology, I used to create Top Trump style card templates in Microsoft Publisher. Quite often I'd use them in maths when covering shapes. I'd have kids select categories such as number of sides, number of right angles etc, draw the shape and then play each other. The ability to create your own cards using apps on the iPad has evolved in the last year or so as the options available to educators have increased. I'm going to take a look at some of the choices, how they can be harnessed and what grades they're best suited to.
Since I'm in the middle of a massive binge-watch of the awesome Vikings show, I'm going to use the central character, Ragnar Lothbrok as the subject for all the sample cards so you can best appreciate the different effects offered by each app.
Before we get to the main apps on the list, I have. A couple of honourable mentions...
Honourable mention: DECKROMANCY I was going to include this on the list but it's just so damn finicky to use!
Honourable mention: POKECARD This would have made it to the list proper if it didn't crash all the time!
Ok so what about the apps you can actually use? Let's look at five good options
TOP TRUMP IT Simple, effective and easy for even Younger students to utilise, the official Top Trumps app allows cards to be generated using an image and three user-defined criteria. The cards look great and there's a decent selection of vibrant themes to apply including Pirates. A good choice for primary age kids.
One downside is the need for an email address to login (I smell a marketing ploy perhaps) but this can be sidestepped using a teacher or school email account if students are too young.
The ability to apply Top Trumps in the classroom is only really limited by your own creativity. Some ideas could include:
- characters from a story ( great for eliciting differences in characterisation) - ancient gods for a history topic - famous buildings as a part of a geography project - animals within a specific habitat - famous artists - world leaders (great for a topic like WW2) - materials (as a part of a scientific study of their properties)
DECK I found Deck whilst putting the most recent Chemistry of Combos together. I'd had an idea for a combo using Top Trump It but the app developed a bug and you couldn't sign in (long since fixed by the way) so I looked for an alternative. Deck is very similar and although the cards don't look quite as polished as with Top Trump It, the app does have certain advantages. There are more categories for one which are controlled to provide a score out of 100 via a simple slider interface. There's also a short bio box for adding some additional details to a card.
The category types are locked to the card theme but there is a custom theme option wherein you can choose both the style of the card and the categories. You can even opt to switch from percentage to text-based levels which avails even more potential for the app to be harnessed - especially by older students.
RWT TRADING CARDS Better suited to older students due to the depth of content, Read Write Think's excellent Trading Cards app is a great tool for educators. Each card has a wide range of details that can be incorporated and text prompts appear to support students as they fill them in. There's even more on the back of the card - which you could always leave blank for less able students to allow for differentiation.
Naturally an image can be added and the style of the card can be tweaked before export/printing. What really makes this app special though is the categories of cards that you can make. The app includes choices like Real Person, Fictional Character, Real Place and even just Words. This versatility is unparalleled and allows you to create cards for everything from Bilbo Baggins to vocabulary itself.
BIG HUGE LABS TRADING CARD Not an iOS app as such but a web tool that will work on the iPad, Visit http://bighugelabs.com/deck.php to access the app and begin designing your card. These are also trading cards rather than Top Trump style cards so there are no criteria to assign but you do get a space to upload an image alongside a title and a decent sized text box for further details.
One thing it does have that the others do not is the ability to choose up to seven icons to tag the card with (like you would get on a Magic/D&D style card.) With over sixty icons to choose from, including numbers as well as common symbols, there's definitely room for variety. Assigning these symbols meaning as a group could then allow for comparisons between cards. You can also use the same symbol more than once so for example, a Viking card could be assigned a 'skull level' out of seven to represent his viciousness.
Simpler than the RWT app, it could be a viable option for those wanting to make trading cards based on characters or historical figures in a shorter time frame or with younger students.
CARDCRAFT This app is designed to allow you to create cards for Hearthstone.
No, I don't know what that is either but that doesn't change the fact that it produces some stunning looking cards, is easy to use and does allow for three criteria to be applied as well as a short descriptive block of text. The app actually allows you to generate cards under three categories - minion, spell and weapon. I'd suggest ignoring the spell category and using either of the other two to create cards for characters.
Due to the battle themed criteria and card styles, it only really suits certain topics you might cover (ancient history, fantasy stories etc) but you just need to see the final card designs to be suitably impressed. Cards can be assigned to one of five rarity levels which simply affects the colour of the central jewel emblem but you can also elect to make the card a gold card to change the overall design.
So that's the five apps I promised but I do have one final pick...
EXPLAIN EVERYTHING What's EE doing on this list?
Well quite simply - design your own cards from scratch! The most versatile app going, it definitely provides you with the tools you'd need and you'd have ultimate flexibility too. If you wanted you could design a template and seed that to students via a file sharing service or literally make them do the whole thing themselves. This could prove a worthy extension task for the gifted students in your classroom.
AUGMENTED REALITY CARDS As a way to round of this feature, I thought it'd be worth dropping this little app combo concept in to add a layer of augmented reality to your cards. It seemed especially pertinent since the very first time I saw AR in action was with a pack of Transformers Top Trumps about five years ago!
Using ChatterPix, you can give a voice to the characters on your cards. Simply take the source image into Chatterpix and add a mouth to record something relevant to the card's subject. This can then be augmented onto the physical card when it is printed off using Aurasma! If you are creating a card from scratch using Explain Everything, another option could be to create the image for the card in Morfo then record the video to augment onto the card straight in there.
Ok that's me done. I'm off to watch the next episode of Vikings.