Thursday, December 19, 2013

Ansel & Clair: American Bowling

Ansel & Clair- American Bowl
Ansel & Clair: American Bowling by Cognitive Kids, Inc. (Universal 99 cents- intro price, FREE Lite Version available)  

Another great Ansel and Clair app is out, this time an American history app with a whole new type of game play - arcade meets trivia.    My boys have learned so much from the Ansel and Clair apps, and now it is time for Mom's American history/ government schooling to begin! I should have paid attention more way back when, but I am a language arts type gal. No worries, this will help me catch up to my peers.  This newest app has a different retro cartoon feel with bowling as a reward for correct answers. We just started playing and my 9 year old has already schooled me on several answers, no need for me to tell you which level we were playing!

To play, read the trivia question and pick from one of four answers displayed.  (You can choose from a bank of easy, medium or hard questions)  If you are correct further information to support the answer pops up- press the green check mark when you are ready to dismiss it. Then comes the fun! You get to bowl!  String together three correct answers in a row and you'll earn a power up; as you choose correct answers you also earn new themed bowling balls to add to your collection. The bowling balls have iconic images like The Statue of Liberty, Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks- you can click on each one in the bowling ball gallery to learn about what each ball represents.

 If you are wrong the answer will turn red and the correct answer box will turn green- this may be too fast for some- I would like to see a pause feature so this information can be absorbed at a slower pace. One feature I would love to see for more kid solo play is narration. It is a feature in another Ansel and Clair app, Little Green Island, that I really appreciated- my 6 year old needs help from his brother or I to read many of these questions. Not that I mind joining in- this is fun.
There are settings to control background music separately from sound effects too, for when you've heard one too many eagles screeching. A hit with the kids.

Perfect road trip material!

What I love

Educational content with embedded historical media to support trivia questions!

Bowling fun!

Retro cartoon style with a mixture of real images and cartoon style drawings

Family friendly - gated links to App Store for example

Visual Cues to guide user

Scoring- View a percentage total of your responses

Wish List

Narration- this would be helpful for students with dyslexia or vision impairment.  I don't mind acting as narrator, but it would be a useful option. Developer Note: The app is designed and ideal for kids who can read independently. However, younger kids can enjoy the app with an adult.  We are considering the possibility of including a narration option.

Enter to win one of three codes for Ansel & Clair: American Bowling here:

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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Fun with Verbs & Sentences HD by Hamaguchi Apps

Fun with Verbs & Sentences HD
 by Hamaguchi Apps for Speech, Language & Auditory Development. $15.99 for iPad or iPhone version at time of review; Lite versions, 99 cents each. )

Fun with verbs & Sentences by Hamaguchi Apps is a sentence building/ syntax/ verb tense app developed for young learners with special needs. It is also great for working on expanding basic vocabulary and concepts like he/she. It's getting a lot of use with my young students with developmental delays- it is a natural transition for graduates of the developer's app, First Phrases, another big hit with my young students. If you are familiar with other apps by this developer, you will know they are engaging and well suited as a therapy tool- the settings are very flexible and include data tracking.

Watch a video tutorial of Fun with Verb and Sentences here:
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How to play

As you will soon find out, you are not limited to one sentence structure - the settings allow you to practice several different sentence structures: Verb only, Subject +Verb, Subject + Verb + Object, and even Subject +Verb+ Prepositional phrase. You can also choose random play where the latter three sentence structures are presented randomly. You can use either present continuous (is + ing) or select from both regular and irregular past tense verbs. To play, the child is prompted to pick each element of his/ her sentence from a field of three. First three choices for the subject are presented, while the narrator asks "Who do you want?"

These choices are always the same- The girl, the boy, the bear, or you can change the settings to use he/she instead of the boy/ the girl/ the bear. The child will continue to be presented with three choices for the verb/action, for the object or prepositional phrase. The narrator will confirm the child's choice by repeating each part back. After the child has picked out each element of the sentence structure, a narrator will speak the sentence (this narration can be shut off in Settings) and an animation will be shown illustrating it. (Much appreciated feature: Touch the screen to pause the animation if needed!)

After the animation the child will have a chance to tap the color coded buttons to hear each part of the sentence. The child can still view the animation above the sentence structure buttons. A recording button allows the child to record himself. There is a listen button where the child can play back what he/she said, and a "Check" button to touch with the correct language model spoken. Then a "prize" will be awarded (control how often this plays in Settings). The child will pick from 10 items (dinosaur, car, train, butterfly etc.), and that item will be hidden in a bubble for the child to discover.

Practice sentence structures at the child's pace
The app provides scaffolding to help children build language skills at their own pace. When the "verb only" setting is chosen for example, the narrator will still state the Subject, then the Verb "The girl". "Pop". and model expanded utterances, "The girl is popping. She's popping". After being presented with the model, only the green Verb button will show, and the child will be asked "What is the girl doing?" The child can record an answer and check their recording against the recorded verb model "popping".

Flexible Settings
I have already mentioned many of the flexible settings while describing how to play above, and there are quite a few more. You can choose to display text along with the narrations, and even turn the recording off if desired (all my kids adore this feature though!). You can choose to NOT select parts of a sentence, and instead only practice recording sentences via the "Watch & Say" option in Settings. You can control whether the next screen is automatically shown, or whether the screen change is manual. You can choose to shut off the progress tracker, and hide scores.You can hide visual support (color coded circles with icons) under the Cueing button in Settings.

You can also easily add new student profiles to the app, set up new groups to add those students to, or access their data via the Users tab on the main screen.

My favorite feature however is the Verbs button, where you can select EXACTLY which verbs you want the child to practice, and control which verb tenses are used. You can also select 'random' verb play under this feature.

Data Collection/Scoring

There is a scoring system on the left hand side of the screen. The therapist will need to tap the ovals representing each sentence element to record a correct response. After a session ends the scores can be saved and a thorough report for the session can be viewed then or at a later time. The report will display the settings used along with scores for each type of sentences structure and items missed etc. You can also create a PDF of the report, send it via email or even print if you have a wifi enabled printer.

Parental Lock Feature

I don't need this feature for this particular app since I work side by side with a child when using it, but it always makes me happy to see developers think about limiting social media and App Store access for their young users. This particular lock requires a two digit addition problem to unlock external links to the App Store, where additional apps from the developer can be viewed.

Wish List

A request from one of the SLPs I work with: Ability to change to third person singular for sentence structure , i.e. "The girl knocks on the door." (Another app from this developer- First phrases-comes close to this. It uses an imperative Verb+Object or Verb+ the + Object structure, "Eat the banana" "Pop the bubble" "Open the door" etc.)

A setting where all 3 items must be presented before a child can select. I have a student who impulsively taps the first or second choice before all the choices have been presented.

I would love for the prize to make a sound and do a short animation when found hidden in the bubbles. They kind of just unceremoniously appear after the bubble pops and then grow bigger in the center of the screen. It would be so fun if the train let out a whistle or a puff of steam and so on.

Ability to set the color for each sentence element- to better fit in with existing sentence structure color coding systems we are currently using.

For scoring-Ability to have a "partial" correct response noted somehow, for when my students say "eat" instead of "eating" etc. perhaps a note feature accessible during game play?

Enter below to win a free code for Fun with Verbs & Sentences HD:

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Gripcase iPad & iPad Mini case

Gripcase by Gripcase USA
(for iPad 2, 3, 4 or iPad mini $34.99 - $39.99 ; optional stand is $19.99) Share This on Twitter


This has to be the lightest at 7.05 ounces! Obviously this won't be providing as much screen protection with its more open design, but it should protect (actually I should say has protected) from accidental drops.  The openings on each side of the case serve as handles; all the ports/buttons are easily accessible. There is also an optional stand available. I could see this case being perfect for relatives and friends who hand your kid their iDevice with no case (or is that just mine?)- slip this puppy on easily and have more peace of mind. You don't really want to pay back Grandpa for his broken iPad, do you?

Gripcase is an affordable, lightweight, protective iPad case for children and adults. It has quickly become a favorite of mine. Did I mention again how light it is?  It is a dream! I was a bit worried about the openness of the screen but the wide lip and handles around all edges of the case do offer really good drop protection- I dropped it because I decided to not use the handles and stack it on top of a pile of books I was holding- not recommended but passed the test with flying colors!
If you have a kiddo who likes to drop things on to the screen that is a point you will need to consider. If there are difficulties with spitting/drooling, you will definitely want to invest in a quality screen protector.  There is easy access to all ports and this case is very easy to put on, and of course easy to remove, although not unintentionally- the iPad is very snug inside the case and I have had no worries about it coming out on its own.  You'll just want to make sure the person using this is able to follow ground rules about keeping the case on. 

Here is a great video highlighting how protective Gripcase is:

The material used for Gripcase is soft but firm if that makes sense- and of high quality.  I think it has held up really well to my child's occasional biting habit too.

 I absolutely love how there are handles all around the case.  There is also a nice give to the handles. They are flexible and when the iPad is resting on your lap they bend to fit against your waist comfortably- no poky handles here.  In fact, this is the case I have seen my son get into the most odd (comfy) positions ever.  This lightweight case with handles on sides certainly allows my tiny 5 year old to use the iPad more freely.  We also were able to easily attach a strap (not included) to the case and carry it over the shoulder in landscape or portrait position.

For table use, Gripcase has a great optional stand accessory that also doubles as a charging station- there is room to store an iPod or iPhone and some cables in it, which I really enjoy.  The stand is sturdy but fairly light- light enough to take with you if needed. As it is a bit bulky, it would be good to have it remain at home or in the classroom (If you are looking for something more portable for on the go, you can purchase lightweight folding stands at stores like Office Depot.)

What I love:

Optional Stand w/space for cords/ iPhone or iPod
Flexible but strong
Handles on all sides of case
Easy to put on
Easy access to all ports
Good drop protection

Wish List:

Built in screen protector
An optional portable stand
An optional shoulder strap accessory

For a comparison of a dozen plus Hand-y Cases, see here.



Thursday, December 5, 2013

iSequences Review

iSecuenciasiSequences by Fundación Planeta Imaginario (iPad and Google Play, $2.99 at time of review)

Apps for iPad, by Fundación Planeta Imaginario
iSequences is an app for practicing sequencing skills/ ordering of events, available in the Apple App Store and Google Play. I am very pleased to have these sequencing card sets as we have actually used them to work on a variety of goals: ordering of events, using past tense, story re-tell, using descriptors, using pronouns, and so on.  The kids find the sets engaging.  Another huge plus is that the app is multilingual.  You can access sequencing activities in English, Spanish, Catalan, English or German.  Update March 2015- the iOS app version now allows you to add your own photo sequences!

There are two levels of sequence cards to choose from. The settings are very flexible- you can select or deselect an entire level to work with, or only select certain sets of cards that you want to focus on.  There is a in-app manual but the interface is very easy to navigate anyway. There are both 3-picture and 4-picture sequencing sets in each level for activities with titles including: Washing your hands, Getting dressed, The banana peel, Traveling by plane etc. there are 100 sets to use covering a variety of activities- there is even one called "Turning on the iPad".
These are not step by step visuals for teaching a child what to do, these are pictures you can use to assess how well a child can recognize the correct order of events in a sequence. The child is presented with 3 or 4 cards mixed up randomly- the child must drag them into the empty spaces under the cards into the correct order. If the child is correct he/she will be rewarded with a quick animation.  If the child is incorrect, the images will be rescrambled and the child can try to put them in the right order again.  During play if the screen has not been touched after a number of seconds, an alert will sound to remind the user of the task at hand (A recent update has made the length of time for this alert adjustable- This is really helpful for students who need more processing time).  The app will also prevent a child from automatically tapping another response after a mistake- the picture dims a bit and doesn't accept touches for a moment in order to allow the child time to choose more carefully.  
After each sequence is completed  the child is asked to predict what will happen next/ how a character will feel in the sequence by choosing one of three additional cards.  In the feelings activity  if you tap the wrong choice it will simply disappear as an option; another can be chosen until the correct one is picked . For the what happens next feature, the correct answer flash after a mistake; once the child drags the correct image into place an animation will play again.  The kids really enjoy the prediction activity and it gets them talking- I have them explain both why an answer was correct and why the incorrect choices were wrong.  The latest update has made this a lot easier- you can now control the length of pause time between the animation and the next sequence.  Some of the incorrect choices are really silly, which they get a kick out of- like the mailman tearing up the little boy's letter after his friend receives it. (The prediction activity can be turned off via settings).

This does have links to social media but because I have only used this app in a therapy setting where the iPad is in my full control, it has not been an issue for me. If you plan to have a child practice on their own and this concerns you, put the app in airplane mode first.
 I have a couple of wish list items that would be icing on the cake- I'd like if the empty slots the child puts cards into could be labeled 1,2,3, (4). as a simple visual guide for where the child should drag the cards. I also wish there 5-picture sets of cards, as some of my kids are ready for this.   iSequences is a very useful, affordable therapy tool to have in my app collection and I look forward to seeing what comes next from  Fundación Planeta Imaginario.    

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The screenshots below are of the updated iOS app allowing the addition of your own photo sequences: