Monday, June 20, 2011

Madera and Figaro Save the Day

App Name/Publisher: Madera and Figaro Save the Day/Lyn and Line LLC

DescriptionMadera and Figaro is an interactive book app in which the two main characters need to scramble and solve problems in order to make their town's party happen that night (after a storm damages the stage and party grounds).  There is minimal text in the story, but much audio narration and interactivity. Readers will guide Madera and Figaro to complete tasks such as moving piles of dirt out of the road and decorating a cake through drag and drop movements. The app is reminiscent of the "Living Books" series in that there are many "hidden" animations one must tap to find, but there is, again, more interactivity here than in that series.

The list of tasks the characters must accomplish- kids can choose the order, making this a good app for return visits.

Therapy Use: This app can be used to elicit a lot of language through referencing the pictures, actions of the characters, concepts and categories involved. Madera and Figaro's interactions with tools, shapes, colors, and musical instruments invite the teaching of categories in context.  Additionally, the problem-based nature of the story will provide good opportunities to model and elicit spatial, causal, and sequential concepts and structures.  Additionally, the clear narrative structure makes it a good model for story mapping.

The stage, once fixed, can be used to explore musical instruments.


App Benefits/Likes: Fun, story-based interface with embedded language targets.

Cautions: Animations can be a little sticky at times (used on iPad 1)

App Summary

Skill(s) Targeted
Articulation & Phonology (if target words emphasized by clinician)
Expressive & Receptive Language
Literacy

Age/Grade Levels Targeted
Toddler
Preschool
Kindergarten

How to Activate
Isolated finger point
Touch and release
Hold and drag

Type of Device
iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
Universal

Cost
$.99

Would you recommend this app?
Yes

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/madera-figaro-save-the-day-hd/id370842004?mt=8

Reviewed by
Sean J. Sweeney M.S., M.Ed. CCC-SLP

Review Date
June 19, 2011

Monday, June 6, 2011

iOS 5, Coming this Fall

Apple is very much in the news this week as its Worldwide Developer's Conference (WWDC) is taking place in San Francisco, a gathering that always brings about news on new technology. For more on what the WWDC is all about, check out my vocab roundup over on SpeechTechie.

If you are here, it is a safe assumption you are interested in mobile technology, and one of the big announcements coming out of WWDC (as of Monday's keynote address by Steve Jobs) is regarding a new operating system for iOS devices coming out this Fall. This free upgrade will give your iPad, iPod, and iPhone (assuming the device is new enough) a new brain of sorts, and a promised 200+ new features.  Check out this video below and see what iOS 5 will be all about:



There are a number of things I like here, including that the operating system will be "easier and more intuitive" to use, likely a win for both clinicians and our students.

What else will help us from a therapists' perspective? Well, I certainly like the idea of the Reminders app for checklists and hints as to what we need to get done, all synced with our calendars in iCal.  Additionally, with the coming of the FREE iCloud service (also announced at WWDC to debut this fall), this type of data can be automatically present across multiple devices.  Think of what that could do in terms of reminding you to schedule IEP meetings and complete testing by certain dates...

The "Tabbed Browsing" and "Reader" features both promise to make Safari much more usable as a browser on our devices, with tabs improving organization and multitasking while browsing, and the promise of fewer distractions when students are reading webpages.

The "Split Keyboard"--hmmm, can an OT chime in on that?

"Not owning a computer" is something that will be made possible because with iOS5 and iCloud, you will now be able to update, backup, and sync your device to the Internet rather than your computer.  This is overall a positive thing, as it may encourage clinicians to utilize these more affordable devices if they are their only options to integrate technology in their therapy and workload management.  On the other hand, I am having trouble of letting go of my "you still need a full computer" mantra, both for productivity purposes and for the Flash and other types of interactive activities that are free online (unlike many apps) and DO NOT work on iOS devices.  However, someday I think I am going to have to let go of that.

There are a number of items here that are more for personal use than educational application, for instance, text messaging from iPad.  I think I would only turn that (and the Notifications Center) on in the summertime, as I use my personal iPad in therapy!!

So, what do you think of these developments?  What are you excited for/concerned about?

Speech with Milo: Verbs



App Name/Publisher: Speech with Milo: Verbs/Doonan Speech Therapy

Description: This is a great program for working on verbs usage. It is designed for children to play independently, but by turning off the sound, it quickly becomes a great tool for clinicians. When a child is playing alone, he simply touches Milo’s belly to get him moving, and the action he is doing is stated (“write”) and then when the “Phrase” button is touched a voice clearly describes the action that Milo is doing (e.g., “Milo is writing a story”). The spoken phrase is always in the present tense, but by turning off the sound, the clinician can use the actions to work on a variety of goals…

Therapy Use: The app comes pre-programmed with a vast number of verbs, which can be chosen by the clinician to address specific goals. Once verbs are chosen from the master list, Milo acts out each verb for a few seconds. The screen does not move onto the next verb until the “next” button is pressed. This feature is particularly helpful for a clinician as it provides time for the child to describe the action and for the clinician to give feedback before moving on to the next action. The action can also be re-played by simply touch Milo’s belly, giving more time for learning.


Another great feature is that Milo “takes a break” after ten actions have been presented. At this point, the child needs to feed Milo some cheese before moving on to another set. This keeps kids motivated to keep going, or provides a clear stopping point, whichever works best.

App Benefits/Likes: The best part of this app is the extensive verb list and the fact that you can choose specific verbs each time you play. I like it for working on past tense, because you can program a list containing either regular or irregular past tense forms. Another benefit is the very engaging animation. Kids love it!

Cautions: Once kids figure out that they can activate Milo and the “next” button, keeping them focused upon the objective at hand can be tricky. This does make it a great vehicle to work on impulse control though…

App Summary

Skill(s) Targeted
Articulation & Phonology
Fluency
Expressive & Receptive Language

Age/Grade Levels Targeted

Toddler
Preschool
Kindergarten
Early Elementary (Grades 1 – 3)

How to Activate
Isolated finger point
Touch and release

Type of Device
iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Cost
$2.99

Would you recommend this app?
Yes

Hyperlink
http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/speech-with-milo-verbs/id405441288?mt=8

Reviewed by
Karen S Head, MS, CCC-SLP
Children’s Therapy Associates
all4mychild.com (coming June 2011)

Review Date
June 1, 2011

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Instacast

App Name/Publisher: Instacast/Vemedio

Description: You know that time you spend driving to work?  It's pretty much lost time that almost no one enjoys.  You can reclaim that time by using Instacast for Professional Development on-the-go. Instacast allows you to stream (rather than download) podcasts that will give you a lot of food for thought as you drive to work. The advantage of streaming is that the podcasts don't need to take up room on your device or computer to be deleted at a later time.  Instacast will also of course work over a WiFi-only connection.  In my several weeks of testing this app (thanks to a recommendation by Meg Wilson of iPodsibilities), it has worked seamlessly and, unlike other streaming apps, remembers where I left off in the podcast when I return.

Therapy Use: Instacast gives you very quick access to audio that can inspire you in your work with students.  If you are looking for a place to start with podcasts, I strongly recommend both EdReach's  EdCeptional (search for EdReach within the app and consider checking out their other casts), a weekly discussion of issues around special needs and technology, and SLP/AT Chris Bugaj's A.T.Tipscast, an overview of assistive technology with an eye (ear?) toward presenting practical tips that can be used in our consultations as therapists.  Both of these resources have accompanying blogs with link summaries; you can visit these at some point after your drive to further explore and solidify what you learned. As Instacast gives you access to a wide variety of podcasts, it will also be useful in your work with students.  You may choose to work with podcasts that explore curriculum in a fun way, or as a context to develop auditory comprehension strategies. You can use Instacasts built-in directory organized by genre to browse and find podcasts that would work for your students. Be sure to preview podcasts before use with students to ensure they don't contain anything dodgy.

App Benefits/Likes: Simple, usable interface, no bugs! No need to manage podcast files.

Cautions: May be frustrating to use in car in locations with weak 3G signal. Also, be aware of your data plan, as streaming audio can eat it up if you have a small allowance!

App Summary

Skill(s) Targeted
Expressive & Receptive Language
Literacy
S-LP Tools/Organization

Age/Grade Levels Targeted
Upper Elementary (Grades 3- 6)
Middle School/Junior High (Grades 7-9)
High School (Grades 10 – 12)
Adult

How to Activate
Isolated finger point
Swipe
Touch and release
Hold and drag

Type of Device
iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Would you recommend this app?
Yes

http://vemedio.com/products/instacast

Reviewed by
Sean J. Sweeney M.S. M.Ed. CCC-SLP

Review Date
June 1, 2011