Investigating Apps with the FIVES Criteria

Guest Post By Sean Sweeney,
Miss Speechie asked me if I would consider writing a
holiday-themed post, and I was most happy to do so! However, one of my main
interests is empowering SLPs and other professionals to make thoughtful choices
on app integration. Additionally, I like
to let people know about all of the resources “out there” that let us know
about the abundance of apps that were not designed for us as SLPs, but that we
can “re-purpose” for use in our therapies.
So, I thought I would gear a post around these resources and processes
rather than a specific app.
A quote I always like to present to groups when doing app
integration trainings was contained in the ASHA
, in a great article written by SLP Jessica Gosnell. In one of the first features on apps in the Leader,
Jessica described apps not only dedicated to SLPs, but also potentially
adaptable apps, and espoused a philosophy that I absolutely love: “A search
focused only on a specific profile of dedicated apps (speech production,
targeted language goals, augmentative communication) could miss many
well-designed apps that offer motivating and fun learning opportunities. This just emphasizes the need for high-quality app marketing from developers to ensure that we come across only the best applications for our needs. Using creativity, clinicians can reach beyond an app's intended target audience and
purpose and adapt it to support interventions.” (Gosnell, 2011) The issue is
that the App Store can be overwhelming, and clinicians need tools to begin to
sort through it and think about what can lie beyond that “intended target
audience and purpose.”
Some years ago when I started my blog, I wanted to present
not only individual resources but also a framework for evaluation. Since I like acronyms a lot, I created the
FIVES criteria, which I like to say is “very scientific and totally made up.” Downloading the right software for your goals can be difficult. For example, my friend often tells me that she chooses to Download from which offers her a wide range of freeware, software and apps to download.
FIVES is a set of criteria that SLPs and other educators can use to consider
potential resources, even before you download them, and make our best guess as
to whether they have the following features:
F-Fairly Priced: Based on the resource's usefulness, is the
price right? Will it have enough content to make it comparable to an analog
I-Interactive: Is it likely to engage our students through
interactive or creative processes?
V-Visual: Does it make good use of (in this case) the iPad's
visual potential, and provide visual scaffolding to our students that so
benefit from imagery?
E-Educationally Relevant: Does it relate in some way to
skills or contexts the students are needing in the classroom?
S-Speechie: Does the app have potential to be used to
address speech and language objectives? I often say that the app does not have
to do that on its own, it's more a matter of what you as a clinician can do
with or around the app.
With those being our criteria, let's look at an app
information resource that I really like: App Advice. App Advice is a blog but also a
series of apps that provide wonderful information about iOS apps. One of the best features of the site is its
“applists,” and look, they just happen to have one entitled Christmas Apps for Kids.
This applist contains 10 apps with descriptions of the apps'
functionality, as well as links to the iTunes link or App Store, depending on
whether you are viewing on your computer or iPad. Using a list like this, you can do a quick
FIVES analysis and see whether you'd want any more information on the app or to
download. I won't do all ten, but here are a few examples:
A Charlie Brown
F- A little steep at $6.99 but a quick click through shows
that it is on sale for $4.99 (and I happen to know it was an App of the Week
for free at Starbucks this week and, ahem, grabbed a few codes for Miss
Speechie to give away. Believe me, I give Starbucks enough money). Seems like a
possibility, price-wise. I'd buy a book that costs that much.
I, V- The description states “With its high production value, interesting in-app
interactions, and narration by the original voice of Charlie Brown, the app is
a fantastic way to introduce this beloved Christmas story to a whole new
generation of children.” Sounds like it might
have some nice interactive elements and visual appeal. I also can see from the
screenshots that there is a piano activity in which one can make the Peanuts
characters do their famous dance.
E, S- Any interactive storybook app is potentially Educationally
Relevant and “Speechie”, with opportunities to pose questions, target sentences
structures and story grammar.
Verdict: Looks worth a shot if you don't mind the
potentially religious elements, or can balance with content regarding other
religious holidays.
Santa's Christmas
F- $1.99 for minigames, not sure…
I- “This
app applies holiday packaging to classic games, such as Checkers, Sudoku, and
Memory, while allowing you to explore a wintry campus.” While exploring always
has potential (V), I am not sure about straightforward board/video games. It
can be hard to work on specific language targets in the process (E,S).
Verdict: Probably a pass.
Toca Hair Salon-
Christmas Gift
Not really fair for me to judge in this way as I already
know this app is a FIVES home run. It's
free, allows you to cut Santa's hair and target concepts, turn-taking, facial
expressions, etc.
Verdict: Get it, if you haven't already.
Picture Me® Christmas
OK, that title makes me want to brush my teeth with its
excessive sweetness. However, it's
nicely priced at $1.99 (F) and described intriguingly: “Children love to see themselves as the stars of the
show. This e-book makes that happen.” Any app that utilizes the iPad camera or
photos app as a creative resource is a personally relevant and very Interactive
option. Using the language in the book again is a conceptual/formulation task,
and it sounds like this app uses its interactivity as a scaffold to those goals.
As I read in a recent review of
Speech with Milo: Verbs
, “It is a lot easier to get kids to say ‘chicken' when they look like
they are in a chicken suit.” Brilliant Quote!
I'd go for it, particularly if I have younger students.
I sincerely hope that this sleigh ride with the FIVES
criteria will yield you many gifts throughout 2013. On, Download!
Gosnell, J. (2011, October 11). Apps: An Emerging Tool for
SLPs : A plethora of apps can be used to develop expressive, receptive, and
other language skills.. The ASHA Leader.

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