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Review: Animals iSpy


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The app of which we speak today is a puzzle, which, in general terms, we could include in the category of leisure / entertainment, but by the characteristics of the app would go a step further and I would also add it in the category of learning.

Animals For iSpy embrace a wide range of ages, since it is a very simple puzzle composed of several ordered categories scenarios, where the figures are not split up as in classic puzzles, but are fully formed and treated to fit them into the outline provided for this purpose within the scene. When trying to fit a figure in a profile that is not for it, the application avoids it. However, when it is properly inserted, the figure gives a confirmation tone, and then verbalize that confirmation.

The app consists of multiple scenarios such as farm animals, marine animals, etc. Each scenario contains about six figures that at the start leave their hole and mess around the scene, being each scene as a separate puzzle in itself.

More than a puzzle

But why should iSpy Animals said it could also be included in a learning section? Well, because this puzzle goes a step further, and when the scenario is completed successfully, the app initiates a series of questions that can become a challenge in terms of the different abilities of users, verbalizing questions such as “Where’s the cow?”, prompting the user of the app to touch the cow on the screen, correcting the user when a mistake is done and starting again the question following a “trial and error” mode, so that the app does not finish the battery of questions until you have answered all of them correctly.

In the case of children with some form of ASD, this second part of the puzzle becomes a challenge because they must maintain sufficient attention and be responsive enough to address the question, besides being able to understand and respond appropriately pointing to the appropriate figure. Not all children with ASD will be able to perform this second part of the puzzle, since the spectrum is very broad and variable, however, iSpy Animals can become a good tool for working attitude and attention.

During the whole process different motivational elements are present in the app, as very bright colors, an appropriate musicality and interaction between the user and the elements of the scenarios, but also if all this were not enough, based on the results at the end of the scenario, the app evaluates the process and the results are scored by giving a star of different categories depending on how good or bad have them been, but always rewarding in some way, something so important as positive reinforcement in children with special educational needs.

-Iván

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Animals iSpy – Junior 1.2

Web: www.toytek.co.uk

Developer: Toytek Ltd.

Languages: English, French, German and Spanish.

Funciones: Leisure (puzzles), learning with visual and audio reinforcements.

iPhone/iPod touch version: Sí.

iPad version: Sí.

Price: Lite and full versions are free.

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Review: Kids Song Machine


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This time we will discuss another application of Genera Interactive, as they are demonstrating their ability to make very complete applications, with impeccable operations and above all very colorful, which is a real advantage when trying to capture attention and motivate children with special educational needs.

A few weeks ago I published an analysis of TouchyBooks, another app by the same company, but I think it is worth mentioning another of their apps. Although TouchyBooks is not designed to support children with ASD, it could be classified in the category of leisure. At the same time it provides another way to relate and react to certain stimuli, something that sometimes, even through the game, is very good for these children.

Children songs

Kids Song Machine is an app that contains 10 songs, all English versions of popular classics, and is available in versions for iPad and iPhone / iPod touch. There is also a Spanish version, called “Canciones Mágicas Infantiles”, which contains 6 classics and uses the same artwork, but for now it is only available in a version for iPhone / iPod.

The presentation is through a classic machine that allows you to select the musical theme, using a retro-style interface that is very intuitive to use.

The majority of children with some form of ASD usually like the music, and even sometimes music relaxes them, and although it’s not specifically designed for children with special educational needs, it can give very good results using music to help connect. Through music it is much easier to engage them and involve them in an activity, so Kids Song Machine can be a useful tool to share activities with them.

Interactivity power

Our other major ally: motivation. Genera Interactive has once again managed to exploit the magical features of the iPad to interact with us, accompanying each song with related images to the theme song that allows that kind of interaction. That is, every scene has some sensitive tactile elements that react in certain ways when you touch them, which is guaranteed to delight children and, most importantly in this case, motivate and retain their attention.

-Iván

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Kids Song Machine

Web: http://www.generainteractive.com/apps/kids-song-machine

Developer: Genera Interactive

Languages: English, Spanish (named “Canciones Mágicas Infantiles”).

Functions: Leisure, children songs with animations to maintain the attention.

iPhone/iPod touch version: Yes (1.2.4)

iPad version: Yes, but only in English (1.0.4)

Price: Free lite version including a song; full version at $1.99 / € 1.59.

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Review: TouchyBooks


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This is an application clearly focused on leisure. Most probably you have installed on your iPad an application developed by Apple that allows you to manage the books and documents in your device. Yes, we are talking about iBooks. In fact, the application that we review today has much in common with iBooks, but with some significant nuances that differentiate it clearly and make it particularly attractive to children, including those with special educational needs.

Children’s titles
TouchyBooks is a children’s bookstore application that allows you to purchase, read and manage a collection of books offered. It’s devoted to the youngest members of your household, and includes some classics titles and more recent titles at very competitive prices and in three languages (English, Spanish and French). Currently there are 13 stories available, and it’s targeted for children aged up to 12 years old, but the Spanish company Genera Interactive promises to launch four more stories every month. To do this, it has already established partnerships with various publishers.

Why is TouchyBooks suitable for children with special educational needs? Primarily because this app operates on iPad / iPhone and by design it’s a very interactive device that is especially intuitive for children and particularly stimulating for children with special educational needs. TouchyBooks provide that extra motivation with elements that grasp children’s attention.

Secondly besides narrating the story, every scene in TouchyBooks includes a number of elements that react to touch and produce noises which arouses interest and encourages the child to maintain attention on the development of the story.

A free story
The details of TouchyBooks and the extreme simplicity of its interface follow a pure minimalist Apple style which is both colorful and fun. It includes interactive entertainment as the fun animations and sounds in each story, make browsing the stories a complete pleasure.

Sometimes, however much someone tries to explains something to you, you need to try it yourself to form an opinion, and in this case, the people at Genera Interactive have made it very easy. The application is free and once downloaded it allows you to obtain a free story, “Moon Secrets”, so you can experience for yourself this combination of music, narration and interactivity in a simple story which is very suitable for children.

-Iván

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TouchyBooks

Web: www.touchybooks.com

Developer: Genera Interactive

Languages: English, Spanish, French.

Functions: Leisure, children stories including animations and sounds to maintain the attention.

iPhone/iPod touch version: Yes (1.0.2)

iPad version: Yes (1.0.1)

Price: Free including a story; other stories cost between $0,99 and $2.99 (tipically $1.99) / 0,79 € and 2,39 € (tipically 2.39 €)

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Review: Wood Puzzle


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With this application, I start the “Leisure” section, in which my intention is writing about applications that are non-specific for people with ASD or other syndromes but that I consider particularly interesting for their leisure time. Yes, they are generic applications, but in my search to find applications that are suitable for my daughter Sara I look carefully at some aspects of the graphics interface, audio and visual aids or how is the flow of the game. From my experience with other children without autism who I have around, they also appreciate a well designed application with such care.

Wooden puzzles

Who has not ever played with wooden puzzles, where you have to fit a few large pieces of very different shapes? In the App Store (the Apple application store) you can find some of these applications. I have tried many of them, because my 5 year old daughter loves wooden puzzles, and no doubt I’ll stick with Wood Puzzle.

The game starts directly featuring 15 icons, one for each wooden puzzle. (A second screen lets you see another 3). You just touch an icon and the corresponding puzzle appears, initially already completed so you can see how it has to be once finished. From there, there are three options: touching the word “shake”, which moves the different pieces all along the screen, physically moving the iPad to equally spread the pieces, or just waiting a few seconds to see how the puzzle spreads automatically.

When I show my friends the iPad and its possibilities, to run Wood Puzzle and shake the iPad to move the pieces is one of the parts that cause more surprise. My daughter prefers to wait for the pieces to move automatically. She is still a child and lacks the strength to shake the iPad.

How do you play the puzzle? Simply by dragging each piece to its place. When the piece it is more or less over its position, it is laid automatically and you can hear a sound that resembles a piece of wood that fits into another one and, sometimes, and extra sound (eg, when placing a frog you hear “croak”). Some of the puzzles even have their own background music that sounds while you move the pieces. After completing the puzzle, sometimes it sounds a special music (the plane does the typical “Broom”) and there is always an applause at the end.

A few seconds later, the next puzzle appears, and so on. It’s a simple application, but the quality of the graphics and the sounds, the good sensitivity of the movements of the pieces, the sound after placing each piece or when finishing the puzzle, … everything seems well adjusted and finished.

Options

The game features two very useful additional options: rotation and “babymode.” When you activate the rotation, the pieces are not only scattered across the screen but also rotated. That means that to place each piece you must rotate it to achieve the proper orientation. To this end, a circle appears around each piece, and by moving it you rotate the piece For “advanced” users, it is undoubtedly a very good option that adds difficulty to the game.

At the other end, for novice users, the “babymode” provides a kind of autopilot. A puzzle appears, the pieces are scattered and the player may move and place pieces, but if he does not do anything, the game will do it progressively. As in the normal mode, when a puzzle is finished another follows. This mode helps the child to be distracted for a longer time and allows their parents to leave the child alone for a while. I would like that the game had more patience and give more time to my daughter, but it’s a minor detail.

Complete

If you had used an earlier version of Puzzle Wood, I advise you to update and test it again. The improvements that the developers have introduced are particularly adequate, in my opinion, for children with special needs. I have played some role in these improvements, which I explain in A trip to iDeviceLand.

If you do not know Wood Puzzle yet, try it. It has an excellent design, the two options discussed allow you to increase or decrease the difficulty level, the sounds are very well accomplished and act as reinforcements to keep playing, and the game flow makes it accessible to children with ASD and children in general. The developer, Digital DoReMi, has several other similar games including thematic puzzles (Easter eggs, soccer and Halloween) and even other applications, which certainly also deserve attention.

-Francesc Sistach

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Wood Puzzle

Web: http://www.doremidigital.com

Developer: DoReMi Digital

Languages: English. (But there is nearly no text and it does not has any influence on the game).

Functions: Wooden puzzles.

ViPhone/iPod touch version: Yes (3.3.1), with 21 puzzles.

iPad version: Yes, Wood Puzzle HD (2.0), with 18 puzzles.

Price: 1,59 € / 1,99 $ for iPad, 0,79 € / 0,99 $ for iPhone

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