Saturday, November 16, 2013

'Appy Hour Review: Inclusive Tech Apps Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of Inclusive Tech 'Appy Hour Review.  This group of apps addresses slightly different tasks and skill development compared to the previous song based counting apps.  These apps are best for children with exceptional needs who are using cause and effect efficiently and you want to help them make more choices within their play or work on timing for switch activation.  Overall, if you find one app you like, chances are you will find others that help excite and engage the learners into persevering with the task.

Little Lost Penguin*
Cost: $2.99
Ease of Use: Available in a single switch or touch based mode, you must help the Little Lost Penguin cross six obstacles and feed him along the way. Honestly, I purchased and tried the app without knowing much about it.  I learned by trial and error what was expected (like the kids would have to do).  This app addresses problem solving skills because the player needs to figure out and wait to jump at just the right time.
Visuals: Of course the penguin is cute.  The visual are more complex than the previous cause and effect apps, but it is made to engage different skills for different learners.
Auditory: Gentle waves in the background, and swoopy jumping sounds accompany the penguin and help bring attention back to the task.
Engagement Factor: I swear it was inspired by Happy Feet.   Most of my students are not ready for this app quite yet but I am hoping as they grow, this app will support their needs.
Overall: This is a cute beginner app to bring the students to a new level of skill development, when they are ready. I give it 4 out of 5 Coffee Cups.

Treasure Island*:
Cost: $2.99
Ease of Use: This app can be used as touch based, single switch, and two switch modes. Goal of the game is to find the treasure by scanning and selecting a square on the map.
Visuals: The map is presented as a grid of 9 squares. Once you touched a spot, a dark blue foot stamps on that section of the map.  I don't feel it is contrasting enough and wish I could modify the stamp in a different color at times. However, the benefit of the blue stamp is that is not overly distracting that the students do not perseverate on it.  You have to weigh your needs.
Auditory:Hopefully you children don't scare easily, sometimes the creepy skeletons will say boo and laugh at them. But generally the sound effects that accompany the squares are not too scary.
Engagement Factor: I have boys, work with a lot of boys, it was nice to have a pirate game! Once you find the treasure you get a song and dance from the pirate himself.  The map and location of the treasure changes slightly in each game so students can't memorize location.
Overall: This app can be used to develop step scanning skills. Scan, scan, scan, select. And its fun to go on a treasure hunt.  I give it 4 out of 5 Coffee Cups for the Arrgggghhhhh factor.

Ease of Use: This is a simple cause and effect app that can be play with touch base, single or two switch mode.  The tired old man is trying to sleep, and silly musicians keep interrupting him. Depending on the switch you activate, you will either open the door to disrupt the old man's sleep, or the old man will pop up and say "Shhhh!". 
Visuals: Simple black background helps to decrease visual stimuli.  Bright, clear, and animated images are  to watch.
Auditory: If left alone, the musicians will play their instruments for about 15 seconds. But you can interrupt them by selecting the tired old man and he will tell them to SHHH!  There is no other extraneous noises, which is good to limit distractions.
Engagement Factor: The children really get a kick out of waking up the old man.  I swear that is an innate desire of most children.
Overall: Shhh! is fun and great way to explore the use of two switch mode.  5 out of 5 cups.

Big Trucks:
Cost: $2.99
Ease of Use: This is a simple cause and effect app that can be play with touch base, single or two switch mode.  Interaction strictly makes the trucks make sounds and move on and off the screen. 
Visuals: Simple black background helps to decrease visual stimuli.  Bright clear truck images that have animation are pleasurable to watch.
Auditory: Each truck has a unique sound to go along its activation.
Engagement Factor:  Using the two switch activation, a child can build choice making.
Overall: This is a decent app for those with significant and complex needs.  It happened to flow with the preschool curriculum discussing stories like Goodnight, Construction Site. The students did appear to get less engaged after about 3-5 minutes, since they prefer the song based apps as previously reviewed.    I give it 3 out of 5 Coffee Cups.
Aunty Maggie's Recipe
Cost: $2.99
Ease of Use:This is a simple cause and effect app that can be play with touch base, single or two switch mode.
Visuals: You get to chose 1 kid from a field of 4 that you want to make into a monster. Touch the brightly colored potions to add as many as you want to the cauldron.  Then touch the goblet to have the child drink it.  The child turns into a colorful monster and does a dance.  After the dance the child returns to normal to start the process again.  There is a quick X to return to the field of 4 child select screen in case the player wants to change it up.
Auditory: The setting is a spooky house, so the crickets are chirping in the background, which after a while, I wanted the option to shut it off.  But when you select the potions or the cup, it has a pleasant and reinforcing sound that indicates the player made a choice.
Engagement Factor: I really like this game. My five year old (and even the 8 y.o.) really likes this game. This game is fun to develop choice making, reasoning skills, hypotheses in an engaging monstrous way. You can build on language skills by asking what color? What do you think is going to happen? How many potions do you want to use? Do you like or dislike your monster?
Overall:  You really can have a lot of fun differentiating to the goals specific to your child.  5 of 5 Coffee Cups.
The one thing I wish I could have access to is a quick exit to the app's home screen.  In most of the apps, you have to exit the app completely then reenter into the app.  I have talked with the developers but they have tried diligently to limit the visual distractions which is why they don't provide the quick out.  But they understood my concerns.  So whether or not you like or dislike an app, I urge you to share your feedback with the developers via app store reviews, emails, or blogs.  It takes feedback to make things the best for the intended users.

*apps with this star means I purchased it independently.  The others I received a code to download it for free.  My thoughts, as odd as they are at times, are my own and are not influenced by the company.

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