Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Be a ground breaker designing apps

The iPad and apps are here to stay and have the potential for dramatically altering the manner in which we provide services. The interactive ability of apps is one feature that makes it stand out from the traditional materials we have spent a small fortune accumulating. Another feature is action or moveability. Figures can move across the screen to demonstrate concepts or ideas.

What we do not need is more of the same old same old. By that I mean, apps that transfer pictures from our standard manuals onto a screen. I looked at a company that promotes itself as designing apps for our profession. The standard manual/card pictures appear on the screen. They are uninspiring and unimaginative with minimal to no interactivity and no intriguing animation. I viewed their tutorial for articulation. The apps are as boring as the manuals we have used in therapy for years. Plus, they cost as much. Fortunately, there are free or cheap apps, that for now can be adapted to our language therapies such as opposites (see my earlier posts), prepositions, categories, associations and more. Unfortunately, there are none yet for articulation/phonology.

If you are a creative speech path who is interested in doing things differently, now is the time to bring your ideas to fruition and stand out. Here are some questions I feel are worth asking:
1. How will the app appeal to students?
2. How do I make the app a learning experience without boring and useless drill (something speech paths use way too much)?
3. How do I present material that is not the same old stuff I've bought in card and manual form?
4. How can I make my app inspiring?


  1. I agree that some of the apps are really uninspiring. I don't have the technical know-how to design, but even still in grad school I do think about what could make some of the apps better and inspiring.

  2. Heather - You don't have to be a technical designer to create apps - you just need to know one. What we need are more SLPs to AUTHOR apps - meaning you create the content and draw up your own ideas for the layout and interactivity.

    You can pay a private techie to code it for you and then release it to iTunes to get 70% of all sales on your app (Apple takes 30% off the top of ANY app they sell). Or you can go to a company already designing, producing, and advertising apps for SLPs (such as Smarty Ears) and get a smaller royalty off the sales of your app without worrying about paying someone up front to code it. With this option you can also slouch off a considerable amount of responsibility for updates and maintenance of the app over time.

    To answer your unspoken question, I have co-authored an app and have a second app in development currently so I'm speaking from experience.

    I would encourage ANYONE who has an idea of how they would like an app to function, to author it! Please, SLPs, we implore you to start trying it!

  3. Couldnt agree more with the need for SLPs to create more imaginative and appealing apps. As a profession we are creative and dynamic but these skills are only just beginning to be reflected in SLP apps. Speaking from experience, developing an SLP app is an exciting and rewarding (if not time consuming and!!)experience.

    Our app (Splingo's Language Universe)targets language understanding and listening skills. Importantly it makes use of the unique dynamic functions of the Ipad and Iphone - drag and drop, aminations, audio etc that appeal to childrens natual facsination with technology.

    Go for it SLPs!!

  4. Well put, Lexical linguist.

    This is a learning process, similar to writing then publishing a book. I decided to self-publish the Help Me Talk Right books and I'm happy I did.

    I'll admit that it was scary at first. It seemed that publishing was only what big knowledgeable companies did. How could one person like me do it? I did my research and found that the publishing business is not as onerous as I had imagined. The initial start-up costs were quickly recouped with sales. Reprints and update expenses for the books were far less than the initial costs. Yes, one does need to put in the work, but it is worth it because what you put into it, you benefit from in satisfaction and monetarily. I absolutely found the process was much easier than I had anticipated.

    I have started searching for an app developer to bring to fruition my first app. Right now I am learning about costs. I plan on posting periodic updates on the process as I go through it.