Apps and EBP

Stream of Apps

Photo by Phil Aaronson

When I review apps, my years of experience play a significant role in my assessments of their usefulness. I rarely base my reviews on research to determine if the app is evidence based.  This is because research is time-consuming and the reviews of apps already takes a considerable amount of my time. However, I do check suspicious claims. A claim will strike me as suspicious if I suspect that the citation of research has been done to sell the app. Those of you who have read my earlier posts know that I have shown where a claim of an app being based on research is not supported by the research cited.

In this month’s ASHA Leader, Lara Wakefield and Teresa Shaber, in their article, “APP-titude: Use the Evidence to Choose a Treatment App,” noted, “App developers’ descriptions and customers’ reviews, however, may lack discussions of evidence and contain inherent biases. SLPs who use only this information may be relying solely on opinions and advertisements to make decisions.”  Wakefield and Shaber then discuss a five step process for determining if an app is evidence based. These steps are:

Step 1: Frame your clinical question using PICO (Population, Intervention, Comparison, and Outcome).
Step 2: Find the evidence.
Step 3: Assess the evidence.
Step 4: Search the app store and consult the evidence.
Step 5: Make a clinical decision and integrate the different types of evidence to determine your choices.

It is quite easy to do the research. Some app developers cite research in their app descriptions. Follow their lead and make sure the research does support the developers’ claims. ASHA has a database of thousands of articles. Do a search using a few key words and a screen will appear with various articles to peruse.

If one wants to be certain that a particular app meets evidence based standards, one needs to go that extra mile.

 

(This post originally appeared on Apps for Speech Therapy)

 

Mirla Raz, CCC-SLP, is a speech pathologist in private practice (Communication Skills Center) and the author of the Help Me Talk Book: How to Teach a Child to Say the “R” Sound in 15 Easy Lessons, How to Teach a Child to Say the “S” Sound in 15 Easy Lessons, and How to Teach a Child to Say the “L” Sound in 15 Easy Lessons (also available in Kindle). Her latest endeavor is her blog Apps for Speech Therapy.

Apps Targeting Language for Middle Schoolers

Visione e prospettiva divergente

Photo by mbeo

Far fewer middle school students need our services as compared to the number of preschool and elementary aged children who do. Those who still need therapy present with the unique challenges. After all, they still need our services. Finding apps for our middle school population can be challenging.  I have found a few apps that can be used with those students who have deficits in language.

Proverbidioms: After publishing this post, I downloaded this app. Rather than publish a new post, I decided to edit the post by adding my review of this app. T.E. Breitenbach produced an illustration, Proverbidioms, in 1975, that became a popular poster. It is now produced as an app. It approaches the understanding of 264 proverbs and cliches in two ways. The student is given a list of idioms. He selects one and then searches for it in a scene where a specific illustration demonstrates its literal meaning. The scene is busy but one can increase one’s specific area of focus by moving two fingers outward on the screen. This enlarges a specific illustration. This also allows one to scan the screen and see more detail. Once one matches the idiom and picture, a screen appears that defines the idiom and its derivation. If the child correctly makes the match on the first attempt, he is awarded a gold star, two attempts a silver star and three attempts a bronze star. I think middle school students will enjoy the pictures and the challenge of matching idiom and picture. A word of caution: some illustrations may be more explicit than one may consider appropriate for this age group.

Ages: 13 to adult
Ratings: ++++
Developer: Greenstone Games
Cost: Free for one illustration, $1.99 to $2.99 for additional illustrations

Word Stack Free: This app can be used to strengthen a student’s vocabulary and reasoning skills. It does so by presenting a stack of words. Each word is arranged in random order on eight blue stacked strips on the left side of the screen. The task for the student is to find relationships between words. Words can be synonyms, antonyms, or be made into compound words. To start the game, the student reads the starter word that is on a green strip on the bottom right hand side of the screen. The student looks to find a word on a blue strip that is a synonym, antonym or can combine with it to make a compound word. The student places the word selected on top of the first green strip. If the selection is correct, the strip turns green. There is now a two word green stack. Next, the student must find a word on the left for the new word on the stack. Again, it must be a synonym, antonym or combine with it to make a compound word. The task continues in this fashion until all blue strips have been correctly stacked and are green. If the word the student selects is incorrect, it cannot be stacked and returns to original position. I played a few rounds and found that, at times, finding the right word can be challenging. (A word of caution: words can be randomly placed until one is found that turns green.) To extend the task further, the child can be why the words are the same or opposite in meaning. If a pair of words forms a compound word, one can ask the student to use the new word in a sentence.

Ages: 12 to adult
Ratings: ++++
Developer: MochiBits
Cost: Free for 40 game stacks (one stack per game). One can purchase additional stack packs for $.99 each or all four stacks for $1.99.

Confusing Words: This is not the first time I have downloaded an app and then months later cannot find it in the app store. But I was able to find what looks to be a similar app, called “Which Word?” Both of these apps try to help untangle similar sounding words that tend to confuse such as affect and effect, passed and past or there and their. I have not downloaded Which Word? so cannot review it. However, it looks similar to Confusing Words but in a more pleasing format. Each word is defined and then used in a sentence. The confusion of similar sounds words can be most evident when students write. This app may help students better understand which word to use.

Ages: 10 to adult
Developer: Triad Interactive Media
Cost: $.99

Feel Electric: I reviewed this app a few months ago for my post on descriptive apps.  Feel Electric is animated, interactive and offers a variety of options for learning a range of 50 emotions. The student starts with What’s the Word to see faces of real people expressing each emotion. From there, the student can select her emotions at the moment, create a diary of emotions, manipulate the facial features of creature to show specific emotions and play a Mad Libs type game that, when completed, will create a zany story based on the words selected. There are three fun interactive games where the child needs to pair the facial expression with the written word. Each of these 3 games is scored. The app also allows one to add ones own pictures, music and videos. This is a great app to use with middle school students. It can be used to help tweens and teens identify and discuss a range of emotions they may be prone to feel. The app’s activities can be expanded to make this a fun language learning activity.

Ages: 5+
Rating: +++++
Developer: The Electric Company by Sesame Street
Cost: Free

(This post originally appeared on Apps for Speech Therapy)

 

Mirla Raz, CCC-SLP, is a speech pathologist in private practice (Communication Skills Center) and the author of the Help Me Talk Book: How to Teach a Child to Say the “R” Sound in 15 Easy Lessons, How to Teach a Child to Say the “S” Sound in 15 Easy Lessons, and How to Teach a Child to Say the “L” Sound in 15 Easy Lessons (also available in Kindle). Her latest endeavor is her blog Apps for Speech Therapy.

Does Technology Inhibit Our Engagement With Children?

toddler apps


Photo by jenny downing

I had an interesting online discussion with a colleague as to whether or not technology detracts from or enhances communication. She wrote, “…communication is a relational activity, it’s all about relationships. Should we be investing so much energy on encouraging children to engage maybe more with technology than they do with people? … Do we really need all of the apps in order to engage children with spoken communication or do we need to get back to the real function of speech and language which is to connect people with people?”

As a speech path, I fully agree, to a point. But does technology disengage children from human interaction? Does our enthusiasm for the iPad, and using it in therapy, have the potential for reducing the child’s interpersonal relationship with us and others? I believe the answer is that it depends on how we use technology.

Technology is a tool like any other, but with expanded possibilities. There are apps available that can be used as a starting point for conversation. New app innovation holds the possibility of animating the standard pictures we have been using in therapy for years. I find it hard to understand why that is a negative. As with all materials available to us, it all depends on how we put them to use. Letters replaced human messengers, books replaced human storytellers, radio and television took their place alongside live entertainment. Today’s technology is another medium of interaction on this continuum.

Another colleague offered this anecdote. “At the end of school last year, I grouped two preschoolers who I had been seeing separately and at the end, we used the iPad for some free time. Boy, was I surprised at the amount of spontaneous conversation between the two boys! They shared their favorite app, described how to play it, asked questions about the other boy’s app, and made helpful suggestions. I hadn’t gotten such spontaneous language from the one student for over a year of therapy!!”

(This post originally appeared on Apps for Speech Therapy)

 

Mirla Raz, CCC-SLP, is a speech pathologist in private practice (Communication Skills Center) and the author of the Help Me Talk Book: How to Teach a Child to Say the “R” Sound in 15 Easy Lessons, How to Teach a Child to Say the “S” Sound in 15 Easy Lessons, and How to Teach a Child to Say the “L” Sound in 15 Easy Lessons (also available in Kindle). Her latest endeavor is her blog Apps for Speech Therapy.