They Were the Best of Apps, They Were the Worst of Apps

The doc’s been gone for a while. She had a crisis of tech. Not giving up on it, mind you, just not knowing what to say about the three, count ’em three iPads in use in her home. One iPad, the one I call my own but that really belongs to the university I work for, is up-to-there with apps and I can’t actually upgrade to iOS7 unless some serious purging happens — which it won’t because I’m an app hoarder. Nic’s 1st generation cracked iPad, well…but that cute little Mini, the one he’s using in the community, the one with Snipbase and VisTimer, apps that have really made things happen for him…well, they didn’t like the new operating system.
Hey Snipbase and VisTimer, send help!
Gerry

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PS This is a random picture of my dear children.

“Not Proficiency in Use, but Potential for Growth”

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Those were the words of the tech person in our district, after I brought to the team that it was time to take the leap and purchase an iPad mini for Nic, with Proloquo2go and some spiffy transition apps. These words of she-who-knows-her-tech were a bit of a rallying cry, I think. It’s not about whether Nic or any child is “ready” or “worthy” or whatever — it”s about having a support to grow with and grow from. If we think that a child needs to be “ready” to have a voice, there is something very wrong with our thinking.

Don’t ya think?

Autism Apps — Worth a Look

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I’ll be teaching a grad course on communication for students with autism this fall — Dr. Mom is feeling a little challenged here, but in a good way. My research has of course contained a bit of app searching, and I came across one that I really liked, though I think the name — “Autism Apps” — may discourage those of us who are not specifically searching autism. Me, I’m thinking about autism big time right now, but in real life, Down syndrome and intellectual disability are #1 on my hit parade because of my son Nic — just to go all mom on ‘ya for a moment. (I’ve actually never checked to see if there’s an app with Down syndrome in the title…would that be weird?)

Anyway, Autism Apps is not a bad little freebie app. Good search tool, with links to app info and App Store. Wish they’d called it something else though, because there’s good stuff on there for kids without autism too.

But then, what WOULD you call it?

For a Moment, I was Tekkier than a Teenager!

My daughter Courtney is my go-to-girl, my at-home tech support, and it’s just one more thing I love about her. But yesterday as we were driving in the car, I asked her a question she could not answer.

The question was, “do you know what a Dropbox is?”

And I got to tell HER — Dropbox is a miracle!

Special thanks to Rosie P. for introducing me to http://www.dropbox.com, where I downloaded a Dropbox app for my iPad and Dropbox for my work and home computers. When I put my stuff — all those files and such that I don’t want to lose — into my Dropbox, I can pull them up wherever there’s a Dropbox! I log in on the iPad or on the computers and everything I’ve stored from all my locations is there!

Oh, Joy!

Of course, that’s probably the only tech question Courtney won’t have an answer to for the rest of my life.

Which is just fine.

This App or That App? More from Kathy Schrock

Here are the remaining 6 of Kathy Schrock’s 10 criteria for a worthwhile educational app, again with my comments in parentheses.  Good stuff to keep in mind:

6. Student motivation: are students motivated to use the app and select to use it often?    (Nic can find his SkeeBall app no matter how deeply I bury it, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. I find that for Nic it helps for me to preview and mess with the app so that I can anticipate problems before they occur and get him so frustrated that he begs off and bolts for the TV.)

7. Reporting: is assessment/summary data available electronically to the student/teacher? (The TeachMe series that Nic keeps track graphically with checks and Xs that we both can look at to see how he is doing in the language arts and math it features. He loves these apps, but their full titles, TeachMe Toddler and TeachMe Kindergarten make me wish the app developers knew how well their software worked for kids like Nic, even though they are older. They have their market with the little ones, for sure, but I have another market for them if they ever wanna talk!)

8. Sound: Does the music/sound in the app add to the educational aspects of the content? (Or do they make your teacher/parent dive into their desk drawer for headphones?)

9. Instructions: Are the instructions included in the app helpful to the student(Do students read the instructions? Do you? Or do we just start tapping around until something happens? Oh, dear, now I’m giving myself away.)

10. Support page: Does the app’s supporting Web page provide additional useful information? (Not just sales pitches for other apps!)

More Kathy Schrock iPad links can be found at www.kathyschrock.net/ipadblooms and on www.kathyschrocksguidetoeverything.com.

Wow, Kathy Schrock has a guide to everything? Can she help me lose 10 lbs.?

Wait, there are apps for that, too. But they’re on my iPad.

Everyone’s a Critic! The App Evaluation According to Kathy

According to ed tech guru Kathy Schrock, there are several things to look for in an education app that’s worth your while. Here are the first 5 of her 10 criteria. My comments are in parentheses:

1. Curriculum connection: Are the skills reinforced connected to the targeted skill or concept? (Sounds like a given, right? Not always.)

2. Authenticity: Are the skills practiced in an authentic format/problem-based environment? (I want these skills to have life beyond the app. Kids like my Nic often have trouble generalizing.)

3. Feedback: Is the feedback  specific and result in improved student performance? (Have you ever noticed that sometimes the feedback for getting something incorrect on an app is more exciting than what happens when you are correct?)

4. Differentiation: does the app offer flexibility to alter settings to meet student needs? (I love it when an app can grow with its user, and offers increasing levels of challenge as targeted skills are mastered)

5. User friendliness: can students launch and navigate within the app independently? (I am old and often a little clueless when an app isn’t immediately accessible because of the assumptions the designers make about what the user understands about its navigation. Do not make me feel older and more clueless or have to call one of my kids to explain it to me. And do NOT frustrate a child so that they refuse to try after too many unsuccessful attempts to get the app going.)

More to follow! Comments welcome. And special thanks to Kathy Schrock for all her work in ed tech through the years. She continues to be a teacher’s pal, and a parent’s too.

My Coke is diet, my apps are lite

I was thinking of calling this entry, “Hey, this app is crap!” but I felt a little skittish about being crude in the title — okay, so I’ll just be crude in the first line.

My friend Helen inspired today’s post because she was disappointed in an app she had found. As a reading specialist, she did not see the app as having a viable purpose — simple vocab but complicated activities…I respect her knowledge of reading enough to know that there was something to this. I forgot to ask her whether she bought the app outright or had just grown to hate the lite version.

I love lite versions of apps. They give me the opportunity to kick an apps tires before committing what are sometimes big enough bucks to its purchase. But no cost, low cost or high, what keeps an app from being crap?

According to tech guru Kathy Schrock, there are several criteria.

1. Curriculum connection

2. Authenticity

3. Feedback

4. Differentiation

5. User friendliness

6. Student motivation

7. Reporting

8. Sound

9. Instructions

10. Support page

I will describe these in future blog posts. In the meantime, send along your favorites — and if you find any crappy ones, let us know those too!

I’m so excited, I just can’t hide it…

If anyone’s wondering, I went with Chore Pad. Both apps were great for the purpose, but Chore Pad was more visual. Nic needs visual.

Anyway, I am so excited! My little blog will soon be linked to the website of the Delaware County Down Syndrome Interest Group.  I look forward to meeting other parents of children with Down syndrome and sharing iPad ideas and experiences.

Meanwhile, Nic and I spent a big hunk o’time today working with new apps that I found. Nic is not the sit-compliantly-and-let-Mom-try-stuff type, and not all apps are SkeeBall or Angry Birds, so we alternated some more seriously themed learning apps with fun apps and YouTube videos from the circus. Stretched the young man’s attention span considerably, and I got to see which new apps I might want to keep and which will be gonners. (New favorite: “SmartyPants School”)

How about you? How do you keep your children on the more serious academic apps when they know “SkeeBall” is just a click away?