Thursday, September 29, 2011

Speech and Language Development with the iPad

The iPad platform provides teachers with lots of good resources to assist in developing children's speech and language.  The features of the iPad allows Apps that provide students with the ability to interact with words with all their senses.  They can listen, see, touch and record while developing their vocabulary, language, articulation and grammar skills.

Speedy Reader  ($2.99) is a good example of an App that provides students with practice on contextual words around specific environments, in a simple but engaging way.  Words and matching photographs are displayed and the student chooses the correct matching word.  The images are high quality and the students has options to have the word read aloud to them and to work individually or with others.   If you want to try before you buy, Speedy Reader has a lite version for free.

The range of Apps Talking Tom, Talking Gina, Talking Ben and the latest Talking Larry are another example of Apps that can sometimes be dismissed as just a fun game but can be used in really great ways to build speaking confidence and understanding of language.

The Talking Animals repeat back what is said to them. Children can hear what they have said and self correct their own speech in an easy and fun way.  As the animals repeat in their own silly animals voices, students who don't like the sound of their own voice find this very non threatening.  It helps improve language and grammar as students start to realise that they need to say things in a certain way (first person) if they want the talking animal to repeat it as if they are referring to themselves. Talking Larry even whistles the tune you play on the onscreen piano.

There are a number of websites with reviews and lists of good Apps that can be used in both speech development and therapy:

Apps for SLPs - this is a very informative and user friendly Google Doc that while aimed at Speech Pathologists provides good information on a range of language and communication apps.

Using iPad and iPhone Apps to support Speech and Language Development.  Another useful listing of Apps arranged by categories such as vocabulary,  articulation, etc.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

iPad for Music Education - Part 3

SoundPrism (free) - This is an extremely interesting and, as it turns out, a very in depth piece of music design. When you open up this app you may brush this off as another Beatwave, everywhere you place your fingers it sounds nice, in tune and in the right key, but(!) when delving further it reveals itself to be quite intricate, what I think to be, composing machine.

On the left you have the bass notes (which you can have the names of the notes come up in the settings, recommended for class/teaching use) and on the right you have the notes designed in the such a way that if you hit 1, 2, or even 9 at the same time it'll do perfect chords. Minor and major chords are cleverly designed as dark and light lines on the right and 6th and 7th chords are as easy as where you position your bass note relative to the chord and vice versa.

Being a songwriter myself I can see amazing opportunity for someone who doesn't have a total grasp on music theory to get into writing songs or melodies straight away. This is something I would've loved at school as songwriting/composition was not pushed, I remember doing 1 composition assignment and that's it. From the demo video it's clear the app maker wanted people to feel the emotion of making music without the tediousness of music theory and they've succeeded greatly.

I could go on forever about the midi component in the pro version ($16.99), the limited but excellent sounds/instruments (mostly synth), the keyboard that you can bring up to show you exactly what notes the app is producing and the great demo videos but I'll just let you dive into it yourself. You will be surprised.

Aweditorium (free) - I know from experience that high school students keep to their own music style, rarely venturing into other genres of music, and though you can force "What Do We Do With a Drunken Sailor" and some jass in front of them, its seen as old and ineffectual to them. Enter the music discovery apps starting with Aweditorium, allowing the user to navigate new and varied music easily and entertainingly.

From the moment you open this app you can see it's simple and stylish design with the band photo tiles appearing on a large canvas of music landscape, the touch is smooth and responsive and in the top left hand corner you can see little dots of where people are on the music map in real time.

From the get go it urges you to tap the centre tile, as you do you get pulled into a high res photo of the band and a song instantly starts playing. You tap between two screens while in this mode, a lyrics mode and a information mode, the latter has pop up speech bubbles of
information on the band (a la VH1's "Pop Up Video") obviously written by the band themselves. Also in the information mode is a peace symbol which is a share function for Twitter and Facebook (this also counts how many earthlings have shared the song), a heart symbol which you can fly to different songs by the same artist and download the song on iTunes ("a song means a lot when a song is bought" it reads) and links to video interviews and music videos all watched within the app.

The only downside is that there is too much indie (as in the genre) music. There is an underground in all types of music but it's indie music that is the main aspect of this app and Triple J, it is the music of the moment but there needed to be more varied types of music to make this a true music discovery app.

KCRW Music Mine (free) - This music discovery app is an offering from American radio station KCRW who is a leader at supporting new music (Triple J for the States). It has the same sort of design as Aweditorium but this one is sponsored by unobtrusive ads and isn't as slick. Though swiping through the tiles (however jittery) the tiles on the sides sort of attach and unattach in a very cool manner. Also different is from these tiles there are songs, videos, radio DJ sets updated daily and also KCRW's streaming radio station.

Once listening to a song you can share it, buy it, listen to other songs by the artist, look at photos, get video, view blogs that have mentioned the band and view their full bio. Truly a tremendous way to show an artist and have info on them for students to experience all the band has to offer.

As for the music collection, there is still an over presence of the indie genre and there are more artists that you would actually know (which isn't particularly a good thing for a music discovery app, I mean I saw Radiohead and Joy Division in there) but it is much more varied than Aweditorium, for instance right now I'm listening to a Spanish dub step song. In terms of finding more genres for the students to experience, I'd have to say KCRW Music Mine wins out.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Literacy Apps

The Central Coast Children's Foundation (CCCF) in Monterey California has put together a very useful list of Literacy Apps.  While aimed at Adult Literacy the list also includes a category of apps that can be used with young children who are beginning to develop their literacy skills.  The list provides details of the App and what it does as well as the costs, platforms it  can be used on, and any reviews available.  The following link takes you to the downloadable pdf on their website.
Adult literacy Apps list. 

Special Needs Apps for the iPad

Steve Jobs and Apple didn't forsee the extensive use of the iPad for people with Special Needs.  However the easy to use swipe design, portability and accessibility features are making it a very useful tool for many people with disabilities or learning difficulties.  Add to that is an extensive range of Apps that can be used to assist with literacy, communication, living skills and more.

On this blog we have put together a list of websites that have useful Apps for Sepcial Needs students accessible via the Special Needs Uses tab at the top of the blog.

In this post we look at some Apps we have recently trialed.

ACT Spell  is an app that aims at targeting specific vocabulary and assisting motor, visual and neurological skills.  Users or facilitators of the App can access a set of aready installed word banks or create their own word banks of words or phrases depending on their need.  To adapt for users needs in terms of visual communication or mobility issues users can adjust button size, background colours and hear text to speech. The only negative can be the voices used to read about the letters and words.  While they can be adjusted in a number of ways they are not very natural.  Apart from that for $2.99 this very easy to use App has many possibilities for students with a variety of special needs.  See the video below to see how it is being used by one person.

iWritewords $2.99 (A free lite version is also available to trial)
This App is useful for teaching handwriting and encouraging fine motor skills.  It's bright colours and fun way of drawing the letters making this a very engaging App.

Literacy Skills Sampler.  In a previous post we reviewed the Social Skills Sampler.  From the same company wand with the same features of being able to personalise the set of literacy videos comes the Literacy Skills Sampler.  This App provides videos around recognition of basic words in certain social situations, ranging from shopping to warning signs etc.

ProloQuo2Go helps people who have difficulty communication ranging from people with autism.  Press pictures and words on the iPad and it will speak the words out loud.  While it is not one we have trialed yet and the App seems expensive at $199, it is a less expensive option than many other Augmentative and Alternative Communication solutions and many people are finding it very effective.  See one child using it to communicate with his Mum about his favourite food.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

iPad literacy research

 iPads Make Better Readers, Writers
THE Journal reports: In a research paper titled “Unlocking Literacy with iPad,” Ohio English teacher James Harmon found that state-compiled statistics indicate that those students with iPad access in the year leading up to the Ohio Graduation Test had a 6-percent greater chance of passing the test’s reading portion than those without, and an 8-percent greater chance of passing the writing portion. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

New ebook Apps for Primary

That all time favourite nursery rhyme Winken, Blinken and Nod is reimagined in this quirky little App ($1.99).  The art work is very beautiful with a layered collage look.  This App can hear you speak the words and the words and animations follow as you speak the text.  This interactivity is an innovative idea for ebooks.  We found that there was a delay in the words being highlighted as you read which could be confusing for some children and in some cases it didn't pick up on your voice.  However you can tap the words for the story to continue.  It would have been good to have a Read aloud function too that read the story to the children.  However it is still a App that children would find it very engaging.

In Harold and the Purple Crayon children interact with story with the ability to  colour in Harolds drawing.   Lots of interaction and suprise elements to be found in the Touch Tale mode as well as a read to me and read aloud mode.  $7.49 at the App store.

Blue Hat, Green Hat is another favourite book that is available as an App ($1.99).  With simple repetitive words, focusing on the the 4 primary colours and clothing words it is a very colourful and engaging app suitable for early readers.  You can tap the animal characters to get them to do different things.  The fun comes with the poor turkey who is always wearing things the wrong way.  Children can use this app to reinforce common words and colours as well as learn independence about getting dressed.  On top of this they get to have fun seeing what the animals get up to when you tap them.  A thoroughly enjoyable book that will have everyone going Ooops!

Listening and Language

The Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children has just released an app aimed at developing children's listening and language skills.  It has been created by listening and spoken language specialists and is one of a series of Apps that are being created and will be released soon.

 The first app in the series, Old MacDonald, is now available on the iTunes app store for 99 cents.  To learn more about the app visit the RIDBC website

Firefly Pix is a very engaging free app that can be used to learn new vocabulary.  Watch hundreds of fireflies create a beautiful picture of simple letters, words, numbers or shapes.  The App will speak the word.  It also provides quizzes and a drawing component.