Friday, June 13, 2014

ChatAble---A Wonderful Versatile App

I occasionally review apps--though not many.  I blog about the ones I find useful to me with my kids.  That's a small fractions of the apps out there.  So, when I write about a useful app for an iPad, I really mean what I say.  The best apps are versatile, high quality, and enable the children to grow their communication skills over time. 

Recently, the makers of ChatAble 1.2 offered to let me review their app.  Just to be up front about this---it was given free to me.  Often, when people ask me to review something, I decline, but after looking at the website, I thought this showed promise with my kidos, so here we are!

ChatAble is primarily an app for augmentative communication.  Here is a description from the company website, Therapy Box:

 "Create and use symbol based grids... or use photos to make visual scene displays. Or, take both and create a hybrid page! ChatAble is unique and will help to change people’s lives. Easy to set up, people of all ages and abilities can use ChatAble to communicate at home, school or with their friends! The possibilities are endless with ChatAble!"

 At $159.99, this is not an inexpensive app.  Why would you encourage your school, or your assistive technology team to make this purchase?  Here are a few reasons.

1. ChatAble turns an iPad into a dynamic display communication device.  There are thousands of symbols available at your fingertips, programming pages is easy, and multi-levels can be created. Features are listed here and I love how links to music, videos, and webpages can be integrated into the device
2. Not only is this an AAC app, there is also an ability to create visual scene displays with hotspots. Hybrid boards can be created with both icons or pictures for communication, and a scene.

example of hotspot in a scene on the right, with cells on the left.

3. This app is versatile.  The best apps can be used in many different ways.  Once I studied how to program pages, take pictures, setup a visual scene, and add hotspots, I was then able to think about my actual lesson plan for a speech/OT group.  The app then became a tool to teach commenting and labeling with sentences. Literacy instruction also was included.

Examples of use during a speech/OT group with the theme of friendship
Using my own creation, Friends book, I created a communication board in this app so the children could label each picture with a few words.  They enjoyed the voice output, and the teachers really liked how engaged they were. The goal was to use two nouns along with 'and' to match the pictures in the book.
Conjunction in blue, and the link in the lower right is to a visual scene I created.
Once we finished the book, I had each them chose a friend in the visual scene.  The 'hot spots' (blue boxes) activated short spoken sentences. 

A couple of the kids can actually type, so taking it a step further, the typing feature was then used.  I liked how symbols automatically appeared.

A couple of the kids can also write.  This was an interesting feature---write with your finger, and it's recognized! This may work with a stylus too.

Below is an introductory video from the developers.  Go to their website to find out more. There are multiple settings for countless features which can be tried.  I've only scratched the surface.  I'm grateful that I was given this and appreciate the opportunity to share my experience with all of you.

 The best apps and programs I've had allow me to mull over uses, expand my thinking, and get me excited about integrating technology into teaching.  ChatAble does all of this, and probably more.  I've only begun to explore the possibilities.

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