App Review: Avaz

Name (Google Play) Avaz For Autism
Developer (Amazon) Invention Labs
 Price  $99.99
Size (MB) 344
Type General Language
Type Specific AAC
SD Card Yes

My wife got me interested in becoming a Speech Language Pathologist.  I was actually going into computer programing at the time I met her.  The second biggest influence was a teenager that had cerebral palsy.  I became his caregiver, and began to program his DynaVox.  Realizing that I could help people communicate though computers (AAC) motivated me to become a SLP, but after starting my career I haven’t had the opportunity to work with many AAC devices.

Avaz

With that all being said I am excited to be able to review my first AAC app on my blog.  I was contacted by someone from Invention Labs and asked to review their app Avaz.  I found Avaz very intuitive.  It was fairly easy to navigate and setup.  I was able to create a new page, take pictures and setup communication buttons on page without any instructions.  The app design reminded me a lot of the DynaVox I programmed 10 years ago, but this app was much easier to use.

Avaz is highly customizable.  It has five voices to choose from. There are a child and adult voice for both male and female USA accents as well as a female Indian accent.  The speed of the voice can be adjusted along with the size of the pictures and caption text within buttons.  There is an option to enlarge the buttons when they are selected.  The default starting screen can be changed and returned to after each selection.  A message box can be used or taken away, allowing the choice of building a complete sentence before speaking or speaking after each selection.  Other options include high contrast, speaking as you type, speaking action keys, and using a password to access the settings.  The app makes it easy to switch between it’s picture and keyboard mode. The keyboard can be in either a QWERTY or ABC format.

I have contacted the app developer with a few ideas for improvement. The menu, home, and back buttons that most Android devices could be utilized better.  The back button can be used to exit the setting menu, but if pressed anywhere else it exits the app.  The home screen also exits the app and the menu button does nothing.  While within Avaz, the volume buttons on my tablet accessed the ringtone volume instead of the volume for the app (media), preventing me from making adjustments.  I recommended that they add the option of locking within the android app, to prevent accidental exit.

I was only able to try this app on my Lenovo A1.  I used this app as a starting AAC system for a child with autism.  It worked well for him and I could see this app working as day to day communication for someone at the picture or keyboarding levels.  The app is currently $99.99 in both Google Play and Amazon Appstore for Android.  I know $99.99 is a lot of money but when you compare it to the current DynaVox which costs over $4,000, it makes it look cheap.  With a great $200 Android tablet like the Kindle Fire HD, Nexus 7 or  $180 for the Samsung Tab 2,  you can get a AAC device and a tablet for less than the price of an iPad Mini.

Jo Frost Rewards – Amazon App of the Day

Amazon’s Appstore for Android has a behavior tracking app as the free app of the day.  I have installed and briefly looked at this app.  It looks like it could come in handy in therapy for tracking kids behaviors.  A list of at least 44 kids can be added and different behaviors can be added to each student. The tasks and behaviors  are currently setup for home use but can be modified.  Multiple points can be added at once by completing a task.  Points can also be added or taken away one at a time.  Percentages of right vs wrong are not tracked, only a total of points, but if you are an SLP that tallies correct answers (e.g., number of times /r/ is said correctly) this could be a very handy app.   Download it for free today only here.  If you would like to check Amazon’s free app of the day frequently bookmark this link.  If you don’t have the Amazon Appstore for Android you can download it by following the instructions here.

App Review: Puzzingo

Puzzingo

Name Puzzingo
Creator 77SPARX Studio, Inc.
Marketplace Google Play & Amazon Appstore
Categories Preschool, Elementary, Vocabulary
Price Free w/ in-app purchases (for Google Play)
MB 33.5 (bigger w/ in-app purchasing
Operating System 2.2
SD Card Yes
My Rating 5/5

Puzzingo or “Kids Puzzle Game PUZZINGO for Toddler and Preschooler with Animals, Numbers, Letters, and More” is a puzzle based vocabulary game.  Puzzle pieces are inside boxes which can be shaken to open.   Each piece is a noun with a written label and is named when selected.  The pieces can be placed into shaded areas to complete a puzzle.

There are currently two versions of this app available for Android Devices.  The version on Google Play (3.81) has the option of in-app purchases of additional puzzles.  The current version in the Amazon Appstore (3.36) does not have in app purchases.  Both apps are free and ad-free.  Many people are reluctant to purchase apps where in-app purchases are available.  The in-app purchases in Puzzingo (Google Play version) require parent verification.  As I talked about in my Security and In-App Purchasing post, I recommend all SLPs set up a pin code for on device purchases.  This will prevent clients or thieves from purchasing unwanted apps as well as in-app purchases.  For more information on how to set up the pin code, click the link to the post above.  With a pin code you can be assured there will be no accidental purchases on this app.

I was given an “all access pass” to the Google Play version by the developer to review this app and I am very impressed.  I can see why this app is one of the most popular apps on the market.  This is the best play-based vocabulary game I have used.  The Amazon Appstore version currently has (free) puzzles for toys, numbers, jungle animals, ocean animals, farm, picnic, and alphabet.  In the Google Play version, you have free access to juggle animals, picnic, dune bug, steam train, farm, sand castle, and costume shop for free.  With in-app purchasing you can get puzzles in each of the categories and sub categories below:

Trains: commuter train, train yard, city train, country train, space train, clown train, train station

Princess & Fairies: fairy house, fairy tailor, fairy rock band, fairy flight school,  frog race, pirate princess, princess

Holidays: Lunar New Year, Santa’s stable, snowball fight, Santa’s workshop, Christmas tree, harvest, New Year,

Cars: mini van, chopper, indie car, stock car, 4×4 truck, clown car, bulldozer, super bike, sports car

Animals: Jungle Animals (another), forest animals, fresh water animals, safari animals, polar animals, grassland animals, Australian animals

Space: observatory, alien hair salon, space station, consolations, solar system, astronaut, space shuttle

Core Concepts: numbers, colors, counting, ocean animals, shapes, toys, alphabet.

There are 12 – 32 pieces (vocabulary words) in each puzzle.  Some of the puzzles have short games to play after they are completed (e.g., racing game with the cars).  The developer occasionally adds more puzzles, so this list may be incomplete in a few months.  I recommend this app to be used as a play-based game during speech language therapy as well as for home use with all preschool and elementary kids.  This app is great for a preschooler, yet still engaging and educational for older children.  My 7, 9, and 10 year old children all like this game.  I have even learned a few words from this game.  I will be giving away a free “all access pass” to the Google Play version of this app this summer, so check back here for more details later. You can view the developers video below.

SLP Android Apps

Google Play

I am in the process of improving my list of Android SLP apps to include apps from Google Play, Amazon, and Nook.  I recommend using the Amazon Appstore when possible, because these apps can be shared with more devices than a Google Play account and it allows all the apps to work on Amazon devices if one is purchased.  While I work on putting together the detailed list like the one I made for SLP Android Apps in the Amazon Appstore, I have posted the names of 225+ speech therapy apps I have found in Google Play on my new page SLP Android Apps.

Amazon App of The Day: Timers4Me & Stopwatch Pro

Timers4Me & Stopwatch ProIf you have an Android device and you don’t have a timer/stopwatch, you should download Amazon Appstore’s  app of the day.  It is a highly customizable timer, stopwatch, and alarm.  The timer and alarm clock has a log which can be emailed. Multiple timers can be created and saved.  The stopwatch works well as a counter if you want to track something during therapy, but as far as I can figure out the data cannot be saved. This app can be downloaded or saved to “your apps” for free today (4/21/2013).  Click the app picture above or here to view the app. This timer appears to be much better than the one Amazon had for free in March and it has an alarm.

The Amazon Appstore can be downloaded on almost any Android Device.  Find out how to install it here.

App Review: Shake-a-Phrase

Shake-a-Phrase

Name Shake-a-Phrase
Creator Artgig Studio
Marketplace Google Play & Amazon Appstore
Category Story Starters, Parts of Speech, Vocabulary
Price $1.99
MB 7.1
Operating System 2.1
SD Card No
My Rating 4/5

Shake-a-Phrase is a fun app for students to get story starters, identify parts of speech, and learn new vocabulary.  There are three parts to the app Shake It!, Story Starter, and Quiz Me!.   Shake It! is a random sentence generator with definitions provided.  There are five themes: animals, fairytale, monsters, sports, and shake starter.  The shake starter (story starter) provides ideas of how to begin a narrative.  Favorites can be saved to a list.  Options in the quiz area let you select from 1 to 5 parts of speech you want to practice: nouns, verbs, adjectives, prepositions, conjunctions.  Students are asked to find these parts in sentences.  Correct answers are rewarded, but incorrect answers are not tracked.

I recommend this app for classroom and home use for students functioning in the upper elementary to middle school range.  This app would also be good to fill in the last few minutes of the therapy.  I was given this app to review it, but I am receiving nothing for my review.

Website Wednesday: Quizlet

Quizlet

Quizlet is a flashcard website, that allows users to create and share sets of flashcards.  Unlike some of the other flashcard websites Quizlet allows use of images in their sets.  Users can form classes (groups) to share their sets.  I have created two classes, one for speech and another for language.  Both of these classes have over 40 cards; check them out by clicking the links in the previous sentence.

The flashcards in Quizlet can be accessed without signing in.  Registering and logging in allows you to create cards, favorites, and join classes.  If you log in information in some sections are saved, but can be easily cleared for the next client by clicking “Start Over”. After you are logged in you can join my “Speech Therapy For Use With Clients” class by clicking here and my “Language Therapy For Use With Clients” by clicking here.  If you create your own flashcards don’t forget to share.

There are currently 7 ways to study flashcards directly from the website. The flashcard mode just allows you to navigate through the cards just as you would real flashcards.  There is a new flashcard mode (below the flashcards), which is showing up on my Chrome browser but not on Internet Explorer.  This works very well during therapy because it allows you to mark (wrong) cards for further study by clicking the star on the top right corner of the card, making it easy to track data.  The new mode allows the card to be spoken if desired.  Both modes allow you to choose which side of the card you want to show first. I will contact Quizlet about its new mode and when they are planning on making it the default.

The “Speller” mode shows a picture if available, says the target word, then prompts you to type it.  If typed incorrectly it repeats.  The “Learn” mode shows or speaks one side of the flashcard and prompts you to type the other side.  Data is tracked and you can complete another round until all incorrect cards are correct.  This works great with language cards.  The “Test” mode provides a quiz with part fill-in-the-blank, multiple choice, matching, and true/false.

There are two games also. Scatter is a timed game to match flashcard sides.  Space Race  prompts you to type one side of the card before the other side moves across the screen.

Much of this content can be accessed through the internet with a mobile device, but there are a lot of apps which allow offline use.  The best one I tried is Quizard which is available on Android, Amazon, Nook,  as well as iOS.  There is a free lite verison of Quizard on Google Play and Amazon.  Apple also has an official Quizlet app.  Windows phones and tablets can find apps here.

Quizard

Multiple flashcard websites can be accessed from Quizard.  To download Quizlet cards click Download Sets and Download From Quizlet. From here you can search for “subject”, “creator”, “my cards”, or “my groups”.  If you become a member of one of my classes, click my groups, log in and allow access. Then you can view your groups (classes) and select (download) the desired set.  Similarly you can view your favorites, or you can search for rwslp to find my stuff.

Explaining the details on how to use Quizard further would be quite lengthy.  If there is enough interest (comments)  in a tutorial, I can create a video.

With Quizlet you can now create and access hundreds of flashcards on your computer, smart phone, and tablet.

Security and In-App Purchasing

I work on a Native American reservation.  Last week one of the special education teachers I work with had her iPad stolen by a student.  Fortunately, she was able to find out which student took it.  She took the student home announcing “I am here for my iPad”.  She then got it back, but all her photos etc., had been removed.  I think she was fortunate that they didn’t purchase any apps using her account.   It probably helped that a lot of Navajo don’t have access to internet at home.

After seeing this story unfold first hand, I realized I need to beef up the security on my devices.  I added pin codes to all my devices to prevent a thief from purchasing apps on the device with my money.  Here is a link of how to add pin codes on Android, iOS, and Windows phones/tablets.   The pin code will be required for all app purchases after it is added.  If you have the Amazon Appstore on your device don’t forget to set up pin codes for it also.

Not only does using pin codes provide an extra layer of security if someone steals your device, it prevents accidental in-app purchases as well.  There are some great (freemium) apps that use in-app purchasing like  Puzzingo.  With pin codes, it is much safer to use these apps with children.

Lock screens also can add a layer of protection.  The Android lock screen even stumped the FBI, so it should make it hard for a thief also.

Lookout

There are some great security apps that can help find a lost device and lock it from use if stolen. I personally use Lookout Mobile Security.  It can help you locate a device by making the device scream, send you a picture of the person using the device,  and showing you where it is located on a map.   It can also lock your device remotely. I have heard  avast! Mobile Security is  another good security app.  Both of these apps are free.

Android Articulation Apps

I have tried 3 Android flashcard articulation apps and thought I would compare them all in one post. All of these apps are set up for individual therapy. None of them work well for doing articulation therapy within a group, unless you are crazy like me and have two tablets and a phone.

Name Pocket SLP – Articulation Quick Artic Sly F & V
App Store Google Play; Amazon Android Pit Google Play
Developer Synapse Apps Virtual Speech Center SlySpeechApps
Price $14.99; $14.99-Kindle Only Free w/ Registration Free
Size (MB) 44 93 11
Minimum Operating System 2.1 2.2 2.2
SD Card No No No
Data Track & Email Track Track & Email
My Rating 4/5 3/5 4/5

PocketSLP

Pocket SLP – Articulation

Pocket SLP – Articulation is currently my go to app for articulation therapy. First you type in or select the client’s name and then you can select the phonemes you would like to work on. This is the only app of the three that allows you to select more than one speech sound. It has 30 different speech sounds. Once inside the flashcards you can select which the desired target position for the phoneme: initial, medial, final, or mixed. Speech sounds can be worked on at the word or sentence level. The photographs are good quality. There are also model sounds as well as side and palate pictures available showing how each sound is produced.

You have a choice between correct, incorrect, and approximation when tracking the client; a normal or silly sound can be made with this choice or no sound if desired. The app auto advances to the next card after the choice, but you can swipe forward or backwards. Data from each session is saved into summary page and this combined data can be emailed. While using the flashcards correct, incorrect, and approximation totals are tracked, but when you finish and go to the summary page the data is separated into the different sounds and positions. The overall total is not available in the summary page. I find this annoying when making my session notes. If I want to report on the combined sounds (e.g., velars or final consonants), I have to add it all together again. It is nice to have the summary, but I have found it sometimes difficult to work with this long list of data.

This app does have a few problems. Most of these are typos within the sentence level flashcards, but some of the model sounds don’t work well either. I have contacted the company multiple times over the past year about these problems. They have thanked me for the emails, saying they would work on them, but I haven’t seen any changes. My latest email to Pocket SLP, detailing all the typos, can be seen here.

Synapse Apps recently upped the price of their Kindle Tablet version available on Amazon from $4.99 to $14.99. This version only works on Kindle Tablets. Pocket SLP newsletter frequently advertises that all their apps are under $5.00, which is true for their apps on iTunes. The app has a lot to offer for $14.99, but I feel like this price is inflated when I look at their stuff in iTunes.

QuickArtic

Quick Artic

Quick Artic is a very basic flashcard app with high quality photos. The flashcards are separated into final, initial, and medial of the phonemes “ch”, “f”, “g”, “k”, “l”, “r”, “s”, “sh”, and “z”. It also has medial “th”, initial voiceless “th”, as well as the blends “f”, “fl”, “fr”, “g”, “gl”, “gr”, “kr”, “sk”, “sm”, and “sn”. Only one set can be used at a time. Data is kept by clicking “Correct” or “Wrong”, but the data isn’t saved when you exit the set. The cards have to be manually changed. The app is free after you register on the developers website and login when you open the app for the first time.

SlyF-V

Sly F & V

Sly F & V has auto advancing cards and email options like PocketSLP-Articulation. It doesn’t have an approximation button or save each session’s data into a summary page. The app has initial, medial, and final sets for both /f/ and /v/. Only one set can be used at a time. Each flashcard has a picture (not photo), written target word, and sentence. The pictures are not the highest quality, but they are not terrible either. This app is the only one of three that has a voice recording of each target word (if card is tapped). You have a choice between correct and incorrect. Swiping to another card is not available. The emailed results include a total score and a chart showing whether each target word was correct or incorrect. Sly F & V is SlySpeechApps’ only free app, but they have 11 other speech apps ranging from $3.99 to $29.99. The developer’s articulation screening, apraxia, and final consonant deletion apps look promising, but I haven’t had a chance to try them yet.

Overall Impressions

All of these apps sized properly on both my phone and tablet. None of them store on SD cards or track multiple students at the same time. Currently, I find myself working on more than one sound at a time, targeting phonological processes with my younger students. Pocket SLP – Articulation has worked well for this, but I find its data summary cumbersome. It is currently the only one of the three that is available on Amazon.  SlySpeechApps’ pictures are not as good as the other articulation flashcard apps, but its data summary is superior.  I recommend Quick Artic for any novice app users, SlySpeechApps for slps who work with one sound and position at a time, and Pocket SLP for slps who work on multiple sounds and positions at a time (e.g., phonological processes).

Amazon App of the Day: Counting with the Very Hungry Caterpillar

Catterpillar

Amazon’s free app of the day is Counting with the Very Hungry Caterpillar. This app works on counting, vocabulary, quantity, and addition within five levels.  Kids are asked to select the food items  that the very hungry caterpillar eats within the story, quantities are of the food items are also targeted (e.g., “Please eat two apples”).  I tested this app and  would recommend it to speech language pathologists and parents with preschool and early elementary kids working on labeling food and quantities.

The Amazon Appstore can be downloaded on almost any Android Device.  Find out how to install it here.