Sunday, February 24, 2013

iPad app: ScrapPad - Scrapbook for iPad (for sequencing)

ScrapPad App
ScrapPad - Scrapbook for iPad on iTunes (free!)

What it is: A sophisticated easy to use, and fun, scrapbooking application. It provides a variety of backgrounds, borders, embellishments and stickers (organized by themes like holidays, seasons, etc.). You can import images from your album (or take new ones from within the app with your camera), resize, move and rotate them however you want (except cropping--I didn't see that capability in the app; but there's native cropping in iOS already).

The app responds very smoothly to repositioning, rotating and resizing elements. You can work on the canvass with the tools at your ready or in full screen mode taking advantage of more space.

When you've made your creation you can email it, save (I'm assuming each page separately) to your album, share on FB, or send it to the app publishers to print (for a fee of course). They do not include the option to save your creation as PDF or some other format that can be read in iBooks, which is too bad for the scrapbooker, but not a big deal for our uses.

Screen Image 1
How we can use it in Tx: One obvious use for this app is to create family albums, logs, memory books and the like (much like what I wrote about in my review of My Story from 3/3/2012). I won't elaborate on that idea as it's fairly intuitive. My more interesting idea for this app though, is to use it for sequencing.

There's a few apps out there that are dedicated to sequencing tasks, where a user is presented with 3-6 step common tasks, with an image for each step, and asked to put the steps in sequence. I haven't seen any free apps for this, but here's a review from "Speaking of Apps" of a $4.99 app dedicated to sequencing called Making Sequences. It sounds great and the price tag is not too bad for a Tx-dedicated app. But it only comes with 15 sequences.

So here's what I did. I created my own sequence photos. For this review I very quickly made 2 sets of 3-step tasks (one making the bed, another folding laundry). I could have just as easily downloaded clipart. I put both of my tasks together to simulate what the screen would look like with a 6-step task (but if I was using each of these I'd have only the 3 steps of each task on the screen at a time).

I added all 6 photos to my scrapPad canvass, resized them for best fit and rotated them for proper aspect. I switched to full screen mode and basically created a space where the photos can smoothly be moved around as needed (see Screen Image 1). And there you have it: a sequence task. The reason it works so well is that (1) you can use the full screen so there's no dedicated sequencing app out there that can beat the real estate available for the task; and (2) the dragging/placing of the elements (the single photos) is so very smooth. They don't "snap to", but neither do photo cards you would use for this task if you didn't have an electronic version. There's also no music, no grading, no animation. It's just an improvement on the low-tech version in the sense that it's a lot easier to quickly make new sequences, and if you want, you can make them with images from the client's immediate environment.

Screen Image 2
One can make a page for each task, and create a "scrapbook" with as many sequencing tasks as they bother making with no limits. You can size the images to your liking (I wanted to make them as large as possible while still having enough room to move them around). You can also add titles to each page (if you want to add context; I like to ask my pts what the task is before they start sequencing, but some need the context to perform the task).

Just to show the full potential of this app (so well beyond what I'd use it for) here's a scrapbooked (albeit hideously... I'm not much for scrapbooking) version of my 6 pictures on the canvass with the tools open, and the "export" window open so you can see the options it comes with (Screen Image 2).

Goals we can target in Tx with this app: Memory/STM and orientation goals (which I didn't discuss much but they are fairly obvious), focus and direction following, spatial reasoning if you want to do some actual scrap-booking tasks, and the one I suggest it for: sequencing and sorting.

Some specific examples:

1) For sequencing--the main use of this app I recommend--snap some photos of common daily activities, even specific activities of your client if you feel it's appropriate, import them into the app and size them so all steps of the sequenced task can fit, then move to full screen and let the client order the steps. Just as I describe above. There's really no end to the possibilities.

2) For sorting, download or snap photos of elements you can sort (items or animals that vary in size or number, people that vary in age, foods that vary in size or calories, whatever you can think of... just keep it clear) and create a task just like the sequencing one. Save these and over time you'll have a ton of fun sequencing and sorting activities in one place.

3) A fun STM task that allows for use of memory strategies is to create a page for a specific event or season (e.g., for Easter or a birthday). Create it with the pt, discussing the various elements you're putting in there and color decisions, etc.; make all decisions explicit and together. Then find some filler task you can do for 5-10min (whatever you think is appropriate) and return to this task: ask for recall of the creation you made together, and carefully use cues as needed to get as much recall as possible (cues can range from visual to discussing some of the decisions you made together, etc.).

Saturday, February 9, 2013

iOS/Android App: Counting Dots

Counting Dots App
Counting Dots on iTunes ($0.99)
There's also a version for Androids on Google Play (same price)

What it is: It is described as a colorful counting game for kids. The colors are vibrant but crisp and clean (if nobody told me it was for children, I'd just think of the layout as modern). Popping sounds and vibrations can be shut off as well. The task is one of counting, where you can count by 1's, 5's or 10's, and you can start with any number you choose (so if you start with "5" and count by 5's you'll get 5, 10, 15, 20, etc, just like in the screen image below; and if you start with "2" and count by 5's you'll get 2, 7, 12, 17, etc.).

A player is presented with dots in various colors and sizes with numbers on them, and the task is to select them in ascending order. The game playing happens in levels of increasing number of dots. First you're given one dot. When you clear that (by selecting the one dot) you are given 2 dots. When you clear those, you are presented with 3, and so on.

The background colors and dot colors are different each turn. The dots overlap, but the correct answer is always visible (though sometimes hidden by the previous answer). The sizes vary randomly (so 80 may be tiny and 85 large; but all fully legible and selectable). If you touch the wrong dot it shakes for a split second, nothing else happens. So there's no error reporting, there's no scoring and as far as I can tell, there's no end.

How we can use it in Tx: I'd shut off sounds and vibrations in the settings, and set the difficult appropriately for each client. Here's my opinion of settings ranging from easiest to most complex given the parameters of this app:

1. Starting with 1 or any number, and counting by 1's (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.)
2. Counting by 10's, starting with 10 (10, 20, 30, 40, etc.)
3. Counting by 5's starting with 5 (5, 10, 15, 20, 25, etc.)
4. Counting by 10's starting with something other than 10, for example 3 (3, 13, 23, 33, etc.)
5. Counting by 5's starting with any number between 1 and 4, for example 2 (2, 7, 12, 17, etc.)

Using an iPad with its larger screen is probably best. Ask the patient to perform the task (select the dots in ascending order, with a greater number of dots presented each after the previous one is cleared). You can keep track of accuracy by counting errors (error stats, as I mention above, are not kept; but the incorrectly pressed dot does shake for a split second providing a quick but not distracting or discouraging visual of an error if a therapist is watching for it). Maybe stop the game either after a certain time limit (play it for 5 minutes, for example, and note how many levels have been achieved in that time) or after the pt seems to get stuck a lot (hits the wrong dot several turns in a row). Definitely try to stop before frustration sets in, but do try to get to a level that is challenging for your client.

Goals we can target with this app: Sequencing obviously, providing a range of difficulty levels for this task. Certainly math (on the simpler level, although you'd be surprised how challenging it can be to sort the dots in ascending order as you get into the higher numbers). Memory (STM, working-memory) are addressed: it is actually pretty challenging to remember where you are in the sequence once you've been playing for a while, especially with distraction of colors and sizes of the dots. Visual field neglect and scanning are incorporated as the dots are spread across the screen, and again, the colors and sizes can provide competing stim. And if there's competing stim, focus and attention play a role as well as direction following. I wouldn't spend too long on this task, but it's a nice 5 minute exercise that can address a number of goals.

Some specific examples (or in this case, rather, just notes):

1. If you are working on memory goals, then note the fluency with which the sequence is carried out. That is, to play this game smoothly the player must remember what number they are on. If, however, they forget, they can still carry the task out by scanning the screen and finding the smallest number to select. So it would be up to us to see which strategy is being used.

2. If you are working on visual neglect or scanning, note accuracy involving the weaker side compared to the stronger.

3. Patients with focus goals will probably be most distracted by size differences between the dots. You may also want to add another layer to the task, where if a smaller number has a larger circle your client must somehow acknowledge it (verbally, for example) which will provide a divided attention aspect to the exercise.

4. For a reasoning/problem-solving (and math) goal you could set up the starting number and intervals, and let the client start playing with the goal of figuring out what the sequence is counted by (1, 5, or 10). Difficulty levels for this type of exercise are similar to those listed above, although it is fairly limited in that respect.