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!


PS This is a random picture of my dear children.


“Not Proficiency in Use, but Potential for Growth”


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


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?

Dr. Mom Finds Happiness at National Down Syndrome Congress 2012


I don’t know if I heard a word anyone said at this year’s National Down Syndrome Congress Conference until after I presented a session with two friends on Saturday afternoon. BUT after the butterflies vacated my stomach, after the adrenaline rush from presenting had subsided, Sunday provided some nice app surprises.

Dr. Sean Smith of the University of Kansas did a great presentation on apps for children with disabilities, including, especially, but not limited to Down syndrome. I jumped on to his wiki to find all sorts of great app info and you should too, but there seems to be a need for Flash to open it.

So thing one: Dr. Smith’s wiki is found at
Thing two: if you can’t get it on Safari, make a quick stop at the AppStore and download Photon, an app that will let you view items using Flash.

So, did you find anything good? I did. More to come…

Find My iPad!!!

I can lose anything. I lose keys like it’s my hobby. More than a few of my sentences start with “Where is the…?” or “Have you seen my…?” It is quite pathetic.

Today I lost my iPad. I was on my way back to work from visiting student teachers, and had gotten all the way to our parking lot when I missed it. I started looking frantically around in my car, (not the best idea when driving), and after pulling over, still no iPad. No student teaching notebook, no student teaching binder either. Honestly, I almost grabbed  my head to see if it was still on.

I pulled out my iPhone and tapped the Find My iPhone app. With this app, I could find the approximate location of my missing iPad!

Now, you may guess that the iPad should have been in the school somewhere, but a bit of time had passed and I wondered if someone had seen it, realized this was their lucky day and slinked out of the building with my stuff.

The good news was that it was indeed in the school building. And I didn’t even have to go there to find out! I could see the iPads approximate location on a map. It was right where I left it, at Mayfair School.

I didn’t bother letting the app play a sound on the iPad so I could hone in on it – – I didn’t want to frighten whoever might have been in the ladies room wondering what dip would leave her iPad in the bathroom and walk away.

That would be me.

Have you tried this app?

Meet My New Pal

This semester I have been blessed with 3 really nice classes to teach; 2 undergrad, 1 graduate. There are almost 50 students between the three groups, and it seems they are almost all named Kate. Well, Kate, Kathryn, Kaitlin or Katie/Katy to be more specific. Lovely young women all!

This proliferation of Kates should make it pretty easy to remember names, but  I have to grade each student individually, so  that’s where I need more. I need to differentiate Kate Smith from Kate Jones from Kate Hepburn. Usually I have my students create name tags and I make a seating chart at the beginning of a course. I use the name tags for a week or two, then try to wing it. This usually starts with me calling someone by the wrong name (unless it’s a Kate). The seating chart is only as reliable as the territorial types make it – some sudents like to roam in search of that perfect seat for a session or two, so one week Kate is second row third seat, but the next she gets replaced by Rob, the guy who got to class first and took her spot. I’ve been humbled by my poor memory for names in a too many situations. Enough already.

A colleague at work showed me an app called TeacherPal on her iPad last week. I realized this could be the short term memory pill I needed. TeacherPal is a personal organizer I can use to track attendance, grades and personal notes about each student — and it’s free! But the best part  about TeacherPal is that the information on each student can include their photo! I can even put the photos on a seating chart! So last week the iPad went around each classroom as students took one other’s pictures to add to my TeacherPal file.

The undergrads took my request for photos well. The grads took it like I would, with a grimace and some eye rolling. Some asked if I could wait until the next session so they could look better, but in the end, after I promised not to post their shots on Facebook, they too sent my iPad around the room for Picture Day.

After my initial explanation of TeacherPal, one of my students called out, “Be careful! Apps crash!”

Should I have backup? There’s a lot riding on this, but the format is so cool!

Is this iCloud territory? Is my record keeping safe in a cloud?


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 and on

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?