Thursday, February 23, 2012

Toca House

Yay! It's finally out!  Toca House was available for purchase today, February 23rd. It is priced at $1.99.  There are five main characters. As you would expect for a 'home' theme, there are different rooms and areas (outside) with 19 mini-games.
First Floor (front door): Knock on the door to access a mini-game...the child must decide which gifts/packages/items belong to each character. You must look at the expressions of the characters, the character who 'wants' the item will change their facial expression or eye contact VERY subtly (great for paying attention to subtle social clues!). Another mini-game includes a mailman dog...the child must sort and deliver the mail to the correct mailboxes (matching game). UPDATE: My son found a mini-game that I missed, eating/picking blueberries.  The character appears at random.  
Second Floor (laundry): Complete mini-games such as ironing clothes, hanging up clothes on a line, washing clothes, etc.
Third Floor (kitchen): Washing dishes, putting groceries/food away, vacuuming, mopping, sweeping, washing the windows, etc.
Fourth Floor (living room): Putting logs on a fire/lighting the fire, vacuuming, hanging pictures, mopping, sweeping, etc.  My 4 year old quickly told me that the match was 'just pretend' and that matches are NOT to play with...glad he beat me to that conversation!
Fifth Floor (bathroom): Cleaning up spilled shampoo/soap, mopping, giving a character a bath, mopping, vacuuming, sweeping, etc.
Outside: Mini-games include cutting the grass, sorting leaves (based on color), planting flowers (based on color), etc.

**You can go to any floor that you wish, you do not have to start at the front door or the first floor!  

How will I use this app? (just a few of my ideas)

  • Language: 
    • Vocabulary: Lots of great opportunities to label and describe household objects.  
    • Following directions: give directions (from clinician or peer) to child, ex: "Go to the 3rd floor", etc.  
    • Describing/Giving Oral Directions/etc: I had 2 students use this app to play "I Spy".  They needed to find an item somewhere in the house while their partner was looking away. The student then needed to describe the item to the peer. "It's in the room where people relax.  (other student would need to locate the living room) It's something you play with.  It's on the middle shelf. It has colorful arms and legs."  (Student hopefully guesses the robot).  We also reversed the activity and the students needed to ask each other questions. "What room is your item in? What category is your item in? What parts does your item have?"  "What do you use this item for?" etc.  This is a fairly complex task as it requires students to use a hierarchy (asking general to specific questions).
    • Cause/Effect: Have the student identify what might have caused the spill, and identify what the effect will be after you complete the task. 
    • Making Predictions and Inferences: Have the child make predictions about what jobs they might need to do in each room.  Ask questions such as, "What do you think will happen next?"
    • Verb Tense: Discuss and practice verb tenses, ex: I will sweep the floor, I am sweeping the floor, I swept the floor.  
  • Articulation: 
    • Clear Speech: Have students practice using clear speech strategies (loud voice, pauses between words, all sounds, all words, big mouth movements) when producing sentences pertaining to each scene, "I see an ironing board", "The girl is unpacking the groceries". 
    • Sound Production: You could use this app as an incentive following structured drill practice of target sounds. If targeting /s/, you could also do /s/ sentences: "I see a..."
  •  Social Language/Social Skills/Pragmatics:
    • Turn taking: Have students alternate turns to complete a mini-game.  Students can take the responsibility for whose turn it is. Many of the games involve moving items, such as tossing laundry into a dryer...this is great for rapid back and forth turn taking between students.
    • Look at the characters for facial expression: What are they thinking? Who wants the innertube? How did you know? Who doesn't want the duck? Where might we use the spatula? Why do you think the girl wants the basketball? How did you know she wanted the ball (what clues told you)?
    • Role play: Use this app and then do real-life role play with objects, great for social skills as well as expressive language skills. 
    • Joint decision-making: Have the students discuss which floor they would like to try.  Great for teamwork, persuasion, turn-taking, and considering feelings of others.
    • Non-verbal communication: Have the students use non-verbal communication (eye contact, head nods, facial expressions) to select levels and activities.  
Ok, that should keep my students busy!

I can't wait for my 2 kids at home to see that I bought it!  They have been earning stickers and *just happened* to earn the required amount last night! (Yes, that was cleverly timed on my end).  

Here are some screen shots:

The characters are interesting and unique as with all Toca Boca apps. My son likes to ask and make predictions about why they chose certain characters, or who the characters remind him of. I see lots of background features, such as another house in the distance and also a pond with a ball...perhaps these will be additions?  We can only hope!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Articulation Station Pro

Articulation Station Pro is a really wonderful app for articulation. Purchased for $49.99 (sale price, regular price is $89.99) for the entire set of target sounds. It is expensive, but extremely well worth it (try waiting for a sale). The app is very user-friendly...I have not noticed glitches and I have had zero occurrences of the app shutting down.
  •  You begin by selecting the sound that you would like to target. Next you select the level: words, sentences, or stories. Each level has some additional options, such as flashcards vs matching game (word level);  rotating vs. unique (sentence level); and level 1 vs. level 2 (story level).  The level 1 stories have pictures. The level 2 stories do not have pictures and appear to be mixed positions (initial, medial, final).
  • The data collection is very easy, you can select students before you start the session, or if just one student is using the app, you can wait until the end to save the data to a student's name.  
  • Scoring each production is also easy, simply touch the check mark (correct) or x (incorrect). 
  • The pictures (real pictures) are clear and appropriate for children.
  • You can select multiple sounds (touch the conversation bubble icon with the plus sign).
  • To review data, touch the clipboard with the person figure. You can then look at data for each student.  You can also touch an individual session to see which words were correct/incorrect.
  • For multiple students during one session, go to: clipboard with person icon (data/names screen), touch the icon with 2 bodies at the bottom (multi-user icon), select up to 6 students from the list, touch begin...this will take you to the sound list page...touch a student name, select a sound target, then the level, and word position, touch begin....touch the next student name (along the top) and repeat the process. Touch 'begin'.  Touching the 'begin' button is key after selecting all of the levels for EACH student, otherwise you will have to re-enter the information. You can now begin the session...just make sure to touch the button to select which student is practicing for each turn...the app will switch to the right sound!  Very clever!
  • When adding a student, you can even add an email to be associated with that scores can be sent!
  • I work with students K-8th grade. I am confident that the majority of my elementary and older elementary students would enjoy the background.  I am not sure if students grades 6th-8th would feel the background is too immature or not.  The pictures are appropriate, but the very cute background (which I love), might be too juvenile for my older students.  
  • The /r/ sound is divided into initial, medial, final, and blends; however, when I target /r/ medial, I generally target words such as 'garage', 'giraffe', and 'carrot'.  While some of these are included in medial /r/ in the app, other words such as 'shirt', 'tart', and 'cards' are included, which I consider more of a final /r/ blend, not medial /r/.  That's just my personal view students who are practicing medial /r/ find it easier when there is a vowel following the /r/ and then a consonant. I just skip the final blend /r/ words and only target the words I feel are truly medial /r/. It would be cool if there was a separate option for final /r/ blends. It's a very minor inconvenience for me considering the great value of this app.
  • Additional settings (wrench icon) include: showing or removing the scoring buttons, playing or removing the scoring sounds, including audio (auditory models), and setting passing criteria (80% or 90%)
  • My students have mentioned that they like the data is even simple enough for them to find their name and look at their scores.  They enjoy sending the scores via email to their parents.
  • For parents, I think this is a good app for home practice.  The free version includes the /p/ sound, which may not be the target sound that your child is working on, but you can try the app out and see if you like the layout.  You can then purchase individual sounds that your child may need to work on. The Pro edition included the entire consonant inventory (very useful for professionals/teachers/etc).
Okay, now for some screen shots...normally, I just select screen shots from the itunes store; however, since this is a pricier app, I figured people might want to see lots of pictures, so I took screen shots, sent them to my email, and uploaded them here.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Lego 4+

Lego 4+ is a FREE app that my students and my son/daughter LOVE!  Legos are such a hit among kids, so pairing it with an app is awesome.  The app begins with the child making choices to build a vehicle.  Initially, there are limited choices, but as the child progresses through the levels, additional features are available. The child will need to pick a base for their vehicle, wheels (or feet, love the feet), a driver/front of the vehicle, and a back to the vehicle.  For students, I have them describe what they are picking and they must tell me why they picked a certain part. My daughter picks the feet because she loves the pitter-patter as they run!  She also picks the boy driver for the front of the vehicle, adding that it is her 'big brother'.  She picks the girl for the back of the vehicle, because obviously that is her! The next part of the app is a course where the vehicle moves and collects lego 'coins'.  Additionally, if you pick the helicopter vehicle, you can fly. If you pick the police vehicle, there is a siren, etc. After you finish collecting the coins, there is a build a lego structure.  These structures are later visible in the background during the course part of the app.  All in all, this app is a must have for lego-enthusiasts, students, and anyone with young children! 

Here are some shots from the Apple Store:

Friday, February 3, 2012


I have been using QuickVoice quite a bit lately, I really like it. It is basically a voice recorder, but has so many uses! I use the FREE completely suits my needs.  Here are some of the ways I have used it lately:
  • Articulation:  I model the targets, the student repeats.  If an auditory model is not needed, the student simply says their word list on their own.  We record sets of words and use playback to score/identify correct productions.  I also email the recordings to the parent.  This way, the parent has an opportunity to hear how I model the word and how the student says their targets during production practice. This is my FAVORITE use of this's great for showing others how to do homework/drill practice in other settings. I have also used this app for auditory bombardment for listening lists and minimal pairs.  The student can wear the earphones so that they are getting increased amplification.
  • Language: The students and I use this app to record sentences, vocabulary lists, word banks, name it.  They can personalize their sentences or word banks by entering their names for the title.  A student could even record a short story or ideas...and then proceed to written form. 
  • Auditory Repetition: For student working on memory or auditory processing, I can record sentences for them to repeat.  
  • Auditory Listening Tasks: This app could definitely be useful for auditory training at any level: word lists, repeating sentences, listening to paragraphs, etc.  The clinician/teacher would just need to record the information in advance.
  • Grammar: I have added a series of sentences that contain grammatical errors, the student can listen and then hit 'pause' when they hear a mistake. 
  • Following Directions: Record a variety of oral directions for students to follow. 
This app is because the student can be in charge of hitting the play/pause button, or they could use earphones.

Other uses:
  • Spelling Tests, Quizzes: could be recorded and a student could wear earphones to take a quiz 
To email the recording, simply touch the arrow button at the bottom left corner, a prompt will appear.