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Rate That App

by Deborah Tomarakos
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Day 99, Project 365 - 1.29.10

Photo by William Brawley

More and more SLPs are using apps in therapy and more and more speech/language apps are flooding the app store.  I love to use technology and apps in my therapy sessions, but how do I pick which apps to use?  Honestly, as the market for apps and the number of apps increases, it is becoming harder to determine what apps to buy.  I wrote an earlier post about where to go to find apps.  I also have shared my spreadsheet of apps for speech/language listed by target area.

Today, I want to talk a bit about determining what apps are appropriate and useful in therapy or educational settings.  In order to make this decision, we really must talk about a rating system for apps.   I know some people love rating systems and some people hate them.  I have found that the more reviews I read, the more I want reviews to be to concise and tell me whether or not the app is worth my time and money.  With that in mind,  I have been searching the web to try to find a “good” system for rating apps.   During my search I found rubrics, guiding questions, checklists and star ratings.  After reviewing a variety of these sources, I developed two checklists and star rating systems for apps.   One checklist/rating system is for reviewing speech/language/educational apps and the other is for reviewing game/book/productivity apps.  The original idea for the checklists was based on a list created by Tony Vincent (more info about Tony is written further down on this page).

The basis of the system is to allot one point for each item on the checklist, adding up points for a total score.  The total score is then translated into a star rating.  I am hoping that this system will allow me to be more objective and consistent in my app reviews.  It will also allow me to post star ratings on iTunes as I know iTunes reviews are important to app designers.

Here is a preview of the App Review Checklists and Rating Charts:

If you would like to take a closer look at my checklists, you can download themhere and here.  As always, I am open to sharing.  My only request is that you link back to my blog, and provide any feedback for ways to improve the checklist and rating chart.  I know my system is not perfect and I will most likely tweak it as I use it to evaluate apps.

Some of you may be interested in reading more about the resources that I used to help me create my lists/rating charts.  You can find links and information below:

  • Speech Techie’s Fives Criteria:  Sean Sweeney of SpeechTechie.comcreated this criteria system for evaluating technology.  It is a general set of criteria that can be used when determining if particular apps are useful for speech/language therapy.  If you aren’t familiar with Sean, he is a certified SLP and technology specialist.  He is involved in app development at Smarty Ears and he presents around the country regarding use of technology in sp/lang therapy.  To learn more about his 5’s criteria, you can download his booklet here.
  • Evaluation Rubric for iPod Apps:  This rubric was created by Harry Walker, a teacher, elementary school principal and blogger (I Teach Therefore IPod).   I found that many educators site his rubric when discussing ways to evaluate apps.  I found several app review rubrics that were based on his original rubric for evaluating iPod apps.
  • Ways to Evaluate Educational Apps:  This is a blog post written by Tony Vincent of LearninginHand.com.  Tony shared a rubric and checklist he created for evaluating apps.  He also discussed several rubrics and checklists that have been developed by other educators and school systems.  The idea for the overall set up of my checklist as well as items to include was based on a checklist that he created called, Educational App Evaluation Checklist.  If you love technology and you don’t read Tony’s blog, you should start today.  His blog is an amazing resource for all things technology in education.

If you have any feedback regarding the checklists, I would love to hear from you.  Stay tuned for app reviews that include my checklist and rating system.

 (This post originally appeared on Speech Gadget.)

Deborah Taylor Tomarakos, MA CCC/SLP, has been pediatric speech language pathologist since 1994.   She has experience in both public school settings and in outpatient pediatrics.  She is currently employed by a public school system.  Deb has provided therapy services to children with a wide variety of communication deficits, including children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, CAS, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, language based learning disabilities, and literacy deficits.  Strong areas of interest include technology use in therapy, CAS, and literacy.  You can find her online at www.speechgadget.com where she shares therapy ideas, resources, websites, and technology integration tips. 

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Kim July 12, 2012 - 3:29 pm

The tweaks you’ve made look great! I’m looking forwarding to seeing more reviews!

Deb Tomarakos July 13, 2012 - 12:38 am

Glad you liked the tweaks. Hoping to write some more reviews soon.

Adam July 12, 2012 - 3:46 pm

There is no frustration like pouring over rambling reviews that lack salient info.

I think this xkcd comic illustrates this well!

Also, great tweaks for making reviews pertinent to their subject 🙂

Deb Tomarakos July 13, 2012 - 12:39 am

Hopefully others will find the rating scales helpful. Glad you like the tweaks.

Sean Sweeney July 17, 2012 - 9:51 am

Thanks for the mention, Deb- great work!

Jo Ann Mann July 23, 2012 - 5:23 pm

This is the type info that interests me, but I need apps for adults, including for use with tablets. The ease of portability and increased wireless installations in the retirement communities which I serve provide significant benefits for some patients in their health centers (SNF-like settingl.) I would welcome a link to a compilation of such apps.

cara December 4, 2012 - 12:26 pm

I love these rubrics for evaluating apps! Are there out there that allows the child to evaluate the app?? Just wondering…thanks

Gail W December 28, 2012 - 8:48 pm

Check out a new,functional and easy to use app called CommunicAide now in the APP store for iPads. It uses real photos and voices and is fully customizable.

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