Conversation Coach: A few weeks ago I was getting ready to review this app. Here’s what I had written at the time: “It took me a fairly long time to learn to all the options available. But, that may be electronically challenged me. Even though the app’s Help section does a good job explaining how to use the app and make changes, I found myself going back and forth when trying to make changes.” Before posting my review, I contacted the developer, Jan Hopkins at Silver Lining Media, to ask her a few questions. She told me they were in the process of updating the app. I decided to wait for the updates. Glad I did. The updated app now has an "Intro" that offers a clearer road map of the workings of the app. My feelings of electronic inadequacy have diminished, but just by a bit.
This app has many facets to it within three general modes of use: talk, tell and practice. Talk mode focuses on the give and take of conversation. One person waits until the other has spoken before responding. Then it is the second person’s turn to wait while the other person responds. Visual assistance for turn-taking is in the form of a ball. The person who has the ball talks while the person without the ball waits. A picture of an icon saying, “Sh,” is an additional visual cue to wait one’s turn. Tell mode turns the app into a communication device, allowing the user to make requests and comments. A very nice feature in this mode is that various options demonstrate the sequence of events for everyday tasks such as dressing, getting ready for school, the child’s day at school and more. In practice mode, the user practices two-way conversations, with the iPad functioning as the other person. Questions are randomly asked by the device and the user is given response choices.
This app is complex on many levels. There is a learning curve for navigating the app before it can be used with clients. The easy part is deciding the mode of use. Once that is done one needs to select the category of conversation from an extensive list. For instance, will the child work on greetings, feelings, clothing, or holidays? One can personalize the program further by adding one’s own pictures, recordings, and text. I found this part challenging. Until I got used to using Editor, I found myself writing down the editing sequence explained in Conversation Setup. I thought I had to remember if I were editing for the Tell or Talk mode if I wished to challenge my brain or make my life easier and write the mode down. When I thought that there must be an easier way, I looked back at the screen and noticed that the information was right there at the top of the screen. Now the challenge was to remember what I had changed as I exited Edit and went to Play mode to see if I had edited correctly. Success! I think the challenge of recalling my edits had to more to do with the randomness of my editing rather than the complexity of the editing. I edited the recording for one picture rather than a set of pictures and I was not making changes for a particular child.
I like the clarity and rate of the narration. For readers, the text is clear. Color and black and white photographs are the visuals. Their quality is good. In Player Setup one can select specific conversations to display, whether or not the user is a reader, sound or no sound and the lag time for the computer’s turn.
As I worked on getting to know this app, I thought about its target population. The first group that came to mind was children who had difficulty with turn-taking or staying focused while waiting one’s turn. The app can also be used by an individual who needs a communication device. I can see this app getting a lot of use in a class for children with multiple handicaps. Autistic children and others challenged by conversational tasks are groups for this app. Children with organizational and executive functioning challenges may find the way that the app presents the sequencing of daily events helpful. Parents of children, whose communication skills are severely limited, will find many ways to use the app.
Have any of you used this app? I would appreciate hearing your opinions and will post them to share with others.
Developer website: Silverliningmedia.com
Cost: $49.99 for the full version; lite version is $1.99 which includes full access to the editors for the first 24 hours.
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