Saturday, September 29, 2012

2 Favorite Apps to use for Graphic Organizers and Mindmapping

Tools 4 Students (99 cents, iPad only)
This app has 25 Language Arts templates for the classroom or speech and language therapy room, including Compare/Contrast, Reality/Make Believe, Problem-Solution, Story Elements and much more. You can fill in the templates, save them and email them. A dollar well spent!

Comparing Apples and Oranges

Working on reality versus make believe (and language expansions) with a second language learner. The book we used is Rabbit Stew.

Inspiration Maps ($9.99, iPad only)

This is a really nice app for getting thoughts and facts down quickly. I have tried other mind mapping apps in the past, and found this to much more intuitive. The really easy node making is great- tap a shape once and pull at the arrow at the lower right of the shape in the direction you want to place a node.  You can go simple or get fancier with different ways to manipulate shapes, font and text.  You can insert pictures as well. You can save the finished product to your iPad Photos, or email it to yourself, or send it to iTunes, Dropbox, or another app as a PDF or text.

There are about 30 templates to choose from- many geared towards older kiddos than mine, but there are a handful we will continue to make good use of with my upper elementary kids- and making our own is easy anyway. 
Inspiration Maps' KWHL Template: What I Know, What I Want to Know, How Will I Learn, What I Learned

Special Apps, Special Kids
Phew! You can easily zoom in closer, even closer than this screenshot!
Here's a quick brainstorm we made in Inspiration Maps to get all my students' thoughts down on the topic "Sports".

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

6 Educational Ways to Use Doodle & Sticker Apps

The App Store must have thousands of doodle apps and sticker apps, some of which I have found useful for a variety of purposes, including the creation of quick visual aids, handwriting activities, language expansion, story retell, social stories, and more.  A lot of these examples are interchangeable with other apps but here are some of my favorites and some of their uses- these were all under $2 at the time of this post:

Use as a Visual Aid or as a Token Board:

Easy Board
Easy Board (99 cents) can be used to drag icon "magnets" to the main screen and incorporate them into a drawing.  This is great for quickly reducing a frustration by drawing what is coming next with First/Then, circling Yes/No, showing a timer for a break, as well as numbers etc.   The great thing is the eraser will only erase the writing you add via the pen- the magnets will remain and can be reused for another activity. 

You can also turn the entire iPad screen into a board by tapping "Full" and then tapping the "Hide" button.  Easy Board can also be used as a Token Board- drag the number magnets on the board in order (or not-for extra challenge) and allow the child to cross off  the numbers at a set interval until they are done with the task.

Complete Writing Tasks:

Dime Paints
 Finngr Pro (99 cents) allows you to add any picture or image with writing, for example- it will show up dimmed so it can be traced more easily.   You can also do Rainbow Writing by writing over the letters or numbers practiced in a variety of different colors. 

Dime Paints (99 cents) also has an array of bright colors for rainbow writing and an insert picture feature, but the picture is not dimmed as it is in Finngr Pro.  There are FREE lite versions available for both of these apps.

Practice Articulation:

Doodle Buddy for iPad
In Doodle Buddy for iPad (FREE w/ ads, in-app purchases) choose the tic-tac-toe, dots background or hangman-depending on your audience- to practice sound(s) X number of times before each person's turn.
If you are adventurous, try Creative Doodle by Pamakids (FREE) - I can't figure out how to switch off the directions in Chinese, but  it is easy to maneuver around nonetheless.  You can use the app by asking the child to incorporate something with his/her sound into the picture- this allows recording.  

Work on Language Expansion:

Creative Doodle
Doodle Buddy for iPad (FREE w/ads, in-app purchases) has stamps or "stickers", stencils, brush or chalk drawing, plus the option to type on the screen or add a background, including a custom one from your pictures.  You can have the child request, comment, describe etc. to get the stamp in the place he/she wants. This has ads- it is best to set your iPad to airplane mode to use it, or you can do an in-app purchase to remove them. 
Depending on the student's level, elements he/she wants can be requested and drawn by you in  Creative Doodle by Pamakids (FREE), or the child can draw and describe the picture him/herself. 

Play Barrier games:
Work on Following Directions/Prepositions etc.

Animal Stickers

 These are especially great for working on prepositions! Choose one of the scenes from  Animal Stickers by Mind Juice Media(99 cents) Tell the child where to put each object or animal- in the tree, on the rock, behind the flowers etc.

Doodle Buddy for iPad (FREE w/ads, in-app purchases) even allows you to add your own picture background.

To make this a barrier game, use the same app with identical background loaded on two devices (or one device and one printed set of matching background/ cut out images).  Each team or individual instructs the other on where to place each object.  At the end they can check if they are correct or not.

*Other similar "sticker" apps that can be used for barrier games: Animal Stickers for iPad (by Matthew Maddock, has ads) Toddler Stamps HD (by Generate Learning), My Farm Friend Stickers (by Portegno Apps), Buildo (-several themes available- by Jajdo AB), Sticker Book (by, My Scene (by MyFirstApp), Pets in the House (by KandaBi- there are other themes by the same developer too)  One of my favorites is Techitot Pets, but it appears to have disappeared from the App Store. 

Work on Story Creation and Retell:


Educreations Interactive Whiteboard (FREE) has a recording feature that not only plays back voice but also retraces the lines drawn on the screen.  You can also insert images (even from the Internet or Dropbox too), add text etc.- there are quite a few colors to pick from for both drawings and text.  You can also save your projects and share them with others (or keep them private)  Doodlecast Pro is a (slightly) pricier alternative ($1.99 at time of post).

Creative Doodle (by Pamakids) (FREE) has several different categories of  "story starter scenes" to jump start a conversation or story-you can record your own voice and play it back.  (FYI the buttons are in Chinese, but it is easy enough to navigate through the app).  Kidoodle Apps has an app with story starters as well, Pirate Scribblebeard's Treasure with Oscar & Josephine by Kidoodle Apps ($1.99).  

Scribble Press (FREE) allows you to create your own stories or use an existing story template; do story retells, or make social stories.  There is a public gallery of shared books, but you can keep your books private.

Toontastic: Play, Create and Learn!
Toontastic: Play, Create and Learn! (FREE w/in-app purchases) lets you design and use your own doodles but goes way beyond this- it actually helps set up a story by walking the user through the selection of story elements.  You can follow the "story arc" - a setup, conflict, challenge, a climax, resolution- and choose characters and settings.  It even pairs music to match the "mood" of each scene. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

PRC: A Voice for Those With no Voice, or a Bully?

This is response to "an ongoing saga involving PRC/SCS and their claims of patent infringement by Speak For Yourself", an app that has been pulled at their request from both iTunes and Android's largest store, Google Play.

To understand the background on this, visit here:

Some background on PRC (Prentke-Romich Company)

This is not a mom and pop company, this is a multi-million dollar company.  One of  their most popular, or perhaps the most popular device, costs nearly $8,000.  Considering they just announced several months ago reaching their 10,000th sale of just this device alone, aside from their many others, this is clearly a very profitable business. 

This is not to say that because this is a large, profitable company they should not pursue legal action against other individual businesses they feel are infringing on their supposed patents.  That is for the court to decide-The real issue is that this very profitable company, which clearly had other means to address this situation, chose to take the low road by demanding Apple (and now Google Play) remove the Speak For Yourself app.   For a company whose slogan is "We believe everyone deserves a voice" TM, it is more than slightly ironic that this doesn't seem to apply after all.  When every voice matters, you don't pull that voice from the App Store without absolute concrete evidence that something illegal has been done. Just saying it's so does not make it so.

To further complicate matters, this decision was made at a time when PRC didn't even have an AAC app available- in fact parents and educators had been asking for this for years to no avail; PRC even said on its Facebook page I was reading not too long ago- a couple of months, perhaps- that they did not have any solid plans to develop an app in the near future.   It appears with the backlash, or perhaps in a misguided attempt to strengthen their court case, PRC has now hastily released one that just appeared in the app store on Aug.28th.  Apparently they could develop one after all, albeit only in the U.S. App Store- this is important to note- Speak For Yourself has been removed from international app stores, such as Australia's, but PRC chose to release its app only in the US market.  It's a bit telling, in my opinion.  This move might help explain why PRC has angered so many- isn't it a bit silly to refuse to enter a market, someone else designs something "similar" yet markedly different to meet a need, then PRC cries "Unfair", as someone just beat them to the punch?  The release is certainly great news for the new users (at least in the United States) that will find their voice through this app.  However, the company behind it does leave a bad taste behind. 

So what, exactly is the lawsuit about?
The lawsuit seems to center around the main assertion that they are too similar, and those similarities infringe on patents that PRC and SCS (Semantic Compaction Systems) owns. If you poke around on the Uncommon Sense blog, there should be some links to the actual documents claiming infringement, as well as a petition to return Speak For Yourself to the Apple Store.

Quite similar or the same?
In an anonymous comment in the blog post linked to above, a defender of/(spokesperson for?) PRC claims that unlike other AAC apps, SFY (Speak For Yourself) is "quite similar" to the technology patented by PRC.  I would like to point out that "similar" and "the same" mean two different things, particularly in the AAC world. What PRC is alleging as copying most see as innovation.  The fact is, similar means very little in the AAC world. Let's take two top-selling AAC apps: Proloquo2Go and TouchChat.  They are similar, and yet a user may be lost using one and be a pro at the other.  Why is that?  The reality is we are not talking about a  watch, a pair of sneakers or a pair of sunglasses here, we are talking about a voice!  It is the small subtleties in layout, design, vocabulary, functions that work for a specific user versus another-that set any AAC app apart from its competitors. I personally have trialed about 50 different communication apps and have yet to see one that is completely interchangeable with any other, no matter how similar.   I have seen a taste of PRC's new app, and I would love to get my hands on it to confirm what I can see through videos and screenshots- it's not the same! And if SFY isn't identical to what PRC is offering, then that means removing SFY is preventing someone from finding their voice.   If PRC truly prides itself on giving voices to others, why do they seem so intent on taking them away?

 Study PRC's app and Speak For Yourself, then decide for yourself- Is there room in the App Store for both?

Speak For Yourself has returned to iTunes!