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Review: My First Songs


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Today we review My First Songs, an entertainment app, such as Kids Song Machine (also discussed in this blog). These kind of apps enhance one of the most important facets of iPad: entertainment.

In the complex world of children with special educational needs, parents often feel the lack of a tool or a strategy to help them with the leisure time of their children, or some times even those parents need time for themselves. On the other hand, visits to the doctor or waiting at the salon can be alleviated if we have any such app.

If you suffer any of these situations frequently, without really knowing what to do, keep reading.

Launching the application

When we start, the main screen allows us to go to the application help, which explains us the mechanics of the game, and to the direct access to the different game scenarios.

FirstSongs1 [640x480]

From the Help menu, and in a very simple way, My First Songs give us information about how works the game, which in any case does not have any difficulty.

Scenarios

The application consists of four scenarios, including a total of 15 songs. From each scenario you can choose the song you want to play.

Below you can see the first scenario. By clicking on any of the items shown, My First Songs will play the song associated with it.

FirstSongs2 [640x480]

The second scenario:

FirstSongs3 [640x480]

The third scenario:

FirstSongs4 [640x480]

And the fourth scenario:

FirstSongs5 [640x480]

During the playback of songs, 3 different types of elements appear and move along a bar at the bottom of the screen. These elements, depending on the type, will require some action and, in turn, that action will give us points which will be shown on the scoreboard at the top of the screen. Thus:

- Blue circle: You must hit only once on them.

- Orange bar: You should keep your finger on it.

- Purple bar: You must make the gesture of a circle on it.

In any case, the use of these gestures to enjoy the application is optional and its only purpose is to get more points at the end of the game. When the age, the abilities or the motor skills of the child does not permit to do that, you can skip this part of the activity without losing any functionality or fun.

Funny animations and music

Actually, the animations are the key to the success of My First Songs. The music is very important in applications for children with special educational needs: it entertains and relaxes. On the other hand, animations, funny and very showy, will maintain the attention.

FirstSongs6 [640x480]

Although the static images shown in this post does not convey all the attractiveness of the application, the animations played on the iPad are truly striking for children.

FirstSongs7 [640x480]

One step further

Although from my point of view My First Songs is sufficiently attractive thanks to its musical animations, it is also useful for stimulating attention and exercising motor skills. It’s just trying to accumulate points by interacting with the elements described by doing some gestures. This activity will be rewarded with a trophy at the end of the game. Anyway, as I said, this is something totally optional and does not impede to enjoy the app.

An iPod in your pocket with My First Songs can relieve those moments waiting in the post office, when the patience of your child has to go beyond the usual limits, and an explanation is not sufficient to understand the situation.

-Iván

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My FirstSongs 1.3

Web: www.myfirstsongs.com

Developer: RingzeroGame Studio

Languages: English

Functions: Entertainment, attention and motor skills.

iPhone/iPodTouch version: Yes.

iPad version: Yes.

Price: $2.99 / €2.39.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Which device to buy… in 2011?


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Note: this post is an up-to-date of another published six months ago.

So many similar names can be confusing at first: Apple offers the iPhone, iPod touch, iPod nano, iPod shuffle, iPod classic and iPad, and different models of each exist depending on the memory and other aspects. There are also generations (1G, 2G, 3G, 3GS-something like the 3.5 generation- and 4G for the iPhone; iPad and iPad 2; etc.). If we look outside Apple, we find many tactile cell phones and tablets with Android, Windows Phone, webOS, etc.

So what do we buy? Well, if you are looking for a device for people with autism, to run specific applications for them, based on tactile and visual technology, the list is much shorter.

Right now, the most advanced devices with the most applications available, are those from Apple. Many manufacturers (Samsung, Motorola, LG, etc.) are supporting an alternative known as Android, from Google, which has become the main alternative. Comparing available applications specifically designed for people with autism or other similar special needs, the list of Apple is close to 200, while Android has only 25 and still has many gaps.

There are still other options, such as Windows Mobile, Blackberry, etc., but for now (late March 2011) Apple is the logical choice and Android is the only plausible alternative although it is still somewhat immature. (I insist: I’m thinking on people with special needs).

iPhone, iPod touch or iPad
Between Apple’s products, what devices can run applications? There are three: the iPhone, the iPod touch and the iPad. Other iPod models (nano, shuffle and Classic) can play music and are great, but not for what concerns us here.

iPod touch
iPod touch

The iPhone is a phone with a generous touchscreen and the possibility of adding applications (more than 300,000) that range from games to drawing or office applications (word processing, email, etc.). It is quite expensive (from $499 to $699 in some countries) but usually you get it along a two-years contract with a mobile company (for example, in USA you can buy it with an AT&T contract, but you pay only $99 or $199 depending on the exact model). In these cases, you have to pay calls plus a fixed fee for the transmission of Internet data.

The iPod touch is like an iPhone without the phone features. It allows you to run the same applications than the iPhone and features WiFi connectivity, so that, for example, if you have WiFi at home you can use it to browse the Internet. It costs between $229 and $399.

iPad 2
iPad 2

As for the iPad, it is a kind of giant iPod touch with a touchscreen of 9.7 inches (versus 3.5 inches on the iPhone or the iPod touch) that can offer a lot of practical possibilities. iPhone/iPod applications run on the iPad, but there are over 60,000 specific applications for the iPad that take advantage of this larger screen. The iPad 2 (the latest model) costs between $499 and $829. (You can see more details of the iPad 2 in this review).

Apple has a strict control over prices, so you will not find significant price differences anywhere. Yes, there are discounts for students (and teachers) and, if repeated as in previous years, a Friday in late November (Black Friday) Apple offers discounts worldwide. In Apple’s web you will see pricing details and learn more about each device.

Which to buy?

If you are looking for a phone that, for example, can be useful for your child for running applications, my first advice is forget it! In my case, we started this way until my daughter, then four years, threw my wife’s new iPhone 3G into the toilet. Repairing it costed us more than $200. Anecdotes aside, it is more than likely that your child would like very much the iPhone, and then what happens when someone calls? Are you going to take it from him/her when he/she is running an application or watching a video? If you already have an iPhone you can use it to test it a bit but if you really capture the interest of the person with ASD, buy a device for him or her. Of course, if the person that needs a device also needs to use a phone, the iPhone can be perfect.

In other cases, this leaves us two choices: iPod touch and iPad. And now it is easy to decide: the first costs much less and it is the size of a mobile phone, and the second measures the same as a medium size book. You can wear the iPod touch in your pocket and keep it handy. It can be used to listen to music while walking and weighs very little. The iPad weighs much more and is more cumbersome, but when you are at home sitting quietly you will appreciate its larger screen. In fact, the iPod touch screen is really too small to run many applications. Yes, you can run them, but in some cases you need to have very well controlled fine motor skills to be effective, and that is something that rarely happens in people with ASD, at least in their youth.

My advice? Get both: the iPod touch for out of the house and the iPad 2 for home, but that adds a lot of money, so I suggest you try one of the two, preferably on loan, and make up your own mind.

How much memory?

Everybody asks me this question. My advice: the less, the better! Depending on the device, there are models with between 8 and 64 GB, but do not spend money on many GB. If you do not know what a GB is, do not worry. What interests you is that 1 GB is 1,000 MB, -strictly, 1,024-, so a 16 GB iPad have 16,384 MB of memory. If you do not know what it is a MB, keep calm.

How big is one picture? At most, in the iPad, 1 MB. Given that each application takes some MB or at most a few hundreds, it is easy to see that a lot of applications and thousands of images will not fill the 8 or 16 GB of the basic models.

So, why there are more GB models? Because these devices can store music and video, and especially the latter occupies a lot of space. If you plan to use your iPod touch or iPad to store tens of films, hundreds of music CDs, etc., then, yes, you might be interested in 32 or 64 GB models.

iPod touch
iPod touch

In my case, I have loaded into my iPad more than 100 applications of all kinds (for me and my children), 1,500 pictures, about 20 music CDs and 15 Baby Einstein video episodes for my daughter and yet I have not managed to finish the first 16 GB. So my recommendation is to not spend money on large memory models. Just in case I want to buy a new iPod touch I would doubt: the basic model costs $229 and has 8 GB, and the next model costs only $70 more but reaches 32 GB. If you plan to add music and video, maybe it is worth paying those $70 more.

3G and cases

Two more details: if you purchase an iPad 2, there are models that also have “3G” and cost $130 more. These models add a GPS and a 3G mobile data connection (for which you must pay a fee to a mobile operator), none of which I consider essential for the applications we deal here. If you are using the iPad to connect to the Internet and check email anywhere, etc., you might want this option.

Regarding the cases, protect your devices! Spend part of what you have saved by not having many GB on a good case. On the Apple Store Web you can buy devices and even cases, but for the latter I suggest you stop by a store and see what models are good, what colors you like, etc. There are thin and elegant cases, as the official Apple one, and other more bulky, padded and tough. Very few protect well the corners. You can also buy screen protectors, although I must admit that Apple puts a screen with a hard and scratch resistant surface. A cloth to clean glasses or camera lenses is also a good accessory for cleaning fingerprints, but this is a battle that never ends.

And now the final piece of advice: they are contagious! If you have some children at home and you begin to leave them an iPad or an iPod touch … well, life will never be as before. At home we are five and have only one iPad, and in recent weeks “I want the iPad” is something I hear every few minutes (and I even say!).

-Francesc Sistach

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10,000 hits!


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We have reached 10,000 page views!

We are tracking hits of the “new” blog with Google Analytics. This allows us to obtain interesting global statistics, such as the geographical origin of our readers. For now, we have already put the pin in 42 countries.

Thank you all for your support!

-iAutism team

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