Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Be a ground breaker designing apps

The iPad and apps are here to stay and have the potential for dramatically altering the manner in which we provide services. The interactive ability of apps is one feature that makes it stand out from the traditional materials we have spent a small fortune accumulating. Another feature is action or moveability. Figures can move across the screen to demonstrate concepts or ideas.

What we do not need is more of the same old same old. By that I mean, apps that transfer pictures from our standard manuals onto a screen. I looked at a company that promotes itself as designing apps for our profession. The standard manual/card pictures appear on the screen. They are uninspiring and unimaginative with minimal to no interactivity and no intriguing animation. I viewed their tutorial for articulation. The apps are as boring as the manuals we have used in therapy for years. Plus, they cost as much. Fortunately, there are free or cheap apps, that for now can be adapted to our language therapies such as opposites (see my earlier posts), prepositions, categories, associations and more. Unfortunately, there are none yet for articulation/phonology.

If you are a creative speech path who is interested in doing things differently, now is the time to bring your ideas to fruition and stand out. Here are some questions I feel are worth asking:
1. How will the app appeal to students?
2. How do I make the app a learning experience without boring and useless drill (something speech paths use way too much)?
3. How do I present material that is not the same old stuff I've bought in card and manual form?
4. How can I make my app inspiring?

Another app targeting opposites

I think I'll make this post a short one. Instead of going into a lot of detail about the app, I'll give the basics and then make my recommendation.

Baby Cortex,  the developer, has put out 11 apps to date of which a large number are musical apps such as Baby Piano, Baby Classical Mozart and other famous composers.  Baby cortex apps are colorful with large images and interactive. Many of the apps are free but without distracting advertisements sitting/floating/ blinking on the screen.

The opposites app uses animal pictures to demonstrate each opposite concept. Two animals are hidden somewhere in the scenery on the screen. To expose one animal, the child touches somewhere on the screen. The animal appears and a child's voice states the concept the animal represents. The child then needs to touch somewhere else on the screen to expose a second animal representing the opposite concept. The first picture on my screen was an arctic scene. I touched the snow covered tree exposing a polar bear standing. I then touched the rocks next to the polar bear and a baby cub appeared. With the appearance of each animal, a child's voice does a short narration: "This polar bear is standing up," "This polar bear is sitting down." Tap on each polar bear and the child says, "Stand" or "Sit." The words "stand" and "sit" also appear above the animals. There are 10 different scenes, each with its own set of opposites.

There is a music icon that I immediately turned to off to spare myself the annoyance hearing the same constant background music. There are arrows at the top of each screen that, when touched, move one to a new picture or the previous picture.

I'll continue to review other Baby Cortex Apps in future blogs.

Suggested uses: opposites, object parts, vocabulary, location
Ages: 2.5-4 years
Cost:  free
Rating: +++