By: Lois Brady
What app should I use? This is a common question form family member(s), teachers and therapists trying to answer the question, “what are the best apps to fit with the individual needs of their child or student?” Unfortunately there is no one answer, every person is an individual with a unique interests and learning style.
There is an overwhelming flood of information, in the media today. Feature matching is an effective tool to assess the usefulness of a particular app based on characteristics of the user. By matching features available in an app with the user, their environment and abilities prior to purchasing that app you maximize the probability of a good fit. This allows you conserve your time and money and increases the effectiveness of your iPad as a learning tool. Download the
As technology continues to progress and morph, so must our ability to gauge the suitability of this technology for our children and students. To this end, the Quick Feature Matching Checklist has been updated to include the features; animation, photo personalization and remote prompting.
By using the newly updated Feature Matching Checklist you can effectually wade through the plethora of choices to find the most suitable app(s) for your child’s needs.
Animations / Actions
Apps that contain animations or incorporate videos are becoming very popular for teaching language concepts, verbs, social skills, tasks, etc. They not only let the student see a model of the activity but are engaging eliciting increased focus and attention. Apps such as InnerVoice AAC, Noodle Words, WordToob, VAST Pre-Speech and First Phrases harness the power of action and go beyond flashcards to teach communication and important life skills.
The ability to personalize an app by adding a photo of yourself or your favorite character increases the “fun factor” and buy-in of any educational material. StoryBots, InnerVoice AAC, Toca Boca and others are taking the iPad to a whole new level for learning and communication. Look for photo personalization if you want to tap into the power of edutainment (educate + entertain). Research indicates that when communication is fun, people communicate more.
Remote prompting is a new approach to teaching communicative independence, using iDevices (iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch). This technique allows learners to receive a prompt on their iDevice that guides them to the correct response. Using InnerVoice AAC, prompts are sent via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth from the educator’s device to the user’s iPad to ensure the child will perform the correct skill and reduce the probability of errors and frustration. Remote Prompting reduces confusing verbal explanations that interfere with the communicative intent or message.
Data / Tracking
If you are an educator or therapist, then data/tracking student progress is not only important but a huge time saving option. Many educational apps not allow the user to collect and save data for a single or multiple students as well as take notes. Check data tracking features prior to buying to help increase your efficiency. Parents can also monitor progress on goals at home.
The proper fit for voice output can support the acquisition of both language and speech. Research has shown that students on the spectrum prefer synthesized voice output over the human voice. Also, students with auditory processing challenges may respond better to high quality synthesized voices. However, not all students have the same preferences or respond to voice output in the same manner. It is highly desirable feature to have a choice of both synthesized and digitized voice for those apps that have an auditory output component.
Having the ability to add personalized pictures and content to any app is highly motivating for the student on the spectrum. Having the convenience of customization features within the app can save time and allow the user to create individual lessons/communication boards on the fly. Adjustable difficulty levels reduces frustration when a task to too challenging and allows a student to move up levels as they master concepts.
Does your student recognize icons or symbols or are real pictures preferred? Some apps give the user a choice of real pictures or choose from a library of icons/symbols.
Sounds & visuals can be motivating or distracting to a child trying to complete a task. Having the choice to turn them on/off without leaving the app is a feature that makes using the iPad a seamless educational tool.
Whether you are self-monitoring or being monitored by a parent/educator, having the ability to track progress can facilitate success.
Share / Email
Being able to share student work and accomplishments with others is my favorite feature. Parents may want to share a memory book with family, therapists may want to share student progress with other educators and individuals may want to share thoughts/ideas with friends via social networking.
Know what fine motor skills an app requires prior to purchase. What are your child’s/student’s motor abilities? Do they have the ability to interact with a particular app, are they working on motor skills within the app or do they enjoy lots of tactile interactions.
The price category is for reference only. Price should not be a feature to consider when determining if an app is a good fit for a child or student.Educational materials usually have a high cost. The introduction of the iPad and apps has significantly reduced the price of communicating and learning. A pack of flash cards, board game or workbook can cost from $9.99 to $ 89.99. I am happy to pay $0.99 to $49.99 for materials I can use over and over with high motivation, attention and interaction.