Smarty Ears newest app, Language Empire for iPad, has just been released! I was thrilled to have been given the opportunity to review it. As always, I watched the video tutorial. This is helpful in guiding you through the steps to set up student profiles, identify and use settings, and how to start playing.
There is a quick play option, but with quick play you do not keep data.
You can choose up to 5 players!
You set up student profiles by putting in their names and then having them choose an avatar ( there are many cute themed ones ) or a photograph to represent themselves. On this screen you can also choose which settings you want. One of the options is that you can have questions written and read to the student, or just read to the student with no text display. One of the features I liked was being able to choose if there should be a ‘buzz’ sound or if the choice should just disappear when a student answers incorrectly. I have some students who are very sensitive and hearing a buzz sound when they answer incorrectly can be a bit upsetting. When you choose these settings however, they are for everyone, not individual students.
The students you select then appear at the bottom of the screen. You drag the students picture to the desired Empire. There are 8 to choose from: Predicting, Inferencing, Sequencing, Figurative Language, Which, Why, How, and Vocabulary ( Phew, that’s a lot! ). The aspect that I loved, was that you can have a student work on multiple areas in the same session. You are able to re-select these areas each session to accommodate the targeted goals for the day.
For certain areas you to choose a level of difficulty. This allows you to increase the level of difficulty as students progress.
Here are some screen shots of each area. Labels for the targeted area are located at the top of the screen.
As reinforcement incentives, students can earn trophies that are themed to match the different Empires. As they collect trophies ( there are quite a few ), they will appear in the students trophy case.
When your finished playing you can allow students to see the trophies in there case or you can view their results.
Results are displayed in a graph ( WOOHOO! ) and as a percentage for the areas targeted. You can share, print, or email these if you need. I like using this feature to print the information for IEPs so that parents have a visual of their students progress.
So to wrap it up…
Pros: This app covers 8 areas that students frequently have goals for. I was very excited to see targets for How and Why, as there are not many materials that focus on these areas. The questions are made applicable to real life, which I feel is helpful for students are more ‘black and white’ thinkers . You are able to use this app in groups as large as five, as well as, target multiple areas per student/ per session. This app allows you to choose to have questions be delivered in a written/verbal or strictly verbal form. This is nice for students who are working on listening comprehension. I like the reinforcement of collecting trophies as a motivator. I can see my students trying to see who can fill up their trophy case first. Finally, it keeps track of data and displays it in a graph form.
Cons: Sometimes the graphics can be a bit busy, which may distract some students at times. Also, while the aspect of having the questions read to the student is great, I wish the answers could be read too. It can be a bit challenging reading upside down at a table for my students who are struggling readers.
Language Empires – TOP Learning Apps for Communication and English Language Arts Skills
Language Empires by Smarty Ears is a massive app focused on teaching students about a variety of communication skills. From answering basic questions to more in depth reading tasks, the app covers many different topics in a unique way. As a teaching tool, I can easily see this being a top pick for educators.
Language Empires is an enormously in-depth experience, providing students with a huge variety of skills to practice. Developed by speech language pathologists, this app showcases a wide range of communication tasks. Using eight ancient civilizations as the map for these skills, players explore the realms of Which, How, and Why questions, as well as Predicting, Inferencing, Figurative Language, Sequencing, and Vocabulary.
Parents and teachers begin by creating files for students who use the program. By choosing an image or avatar and customizing student profiles, adults can hand pick which tasks students should focus on. Simply drop a player into any or all of the civilizations for practice. When users are finished, teachers can access score reports to check on the percentage of correct answers, as well as a graph of overall performance. Sharing results is easy with options to open in a variety of programs and formats including mail or print.
The program is similar for each of the eight civilizations. Players are read aloud short scenarios and asked a question related to whichever skill they are working on. Users select one of three choices. A note here that while the question is read aloud, the answer choices are not. Most answers choices are at an upper elementary reading level.
What Fun Educational Apps Liked
Language Empires earned a top pick status for educators, not just because of its enormous size but for the depth of skills available for practice. How, Which, and Why questions are by far the hardest type of question to answer. Giving students a place to practice these is genius. The other skills covered are also all essential skills, and honestly, I’ve not seen any apps dealing with inferencing or predicting. Having the Figurative Language, Vocabulary, and Sequencing all in the same app just makes a teacher’s life a little easier! The level of question is of moderate rigor, making the app appropriate for upper elementary students. All of the different skills come with 2 or 3 levels (customizable on the main map), except Figurative Language and How questions. Additionally, the ability to track and monitor student accuracy is a boon to any parent or teacher. It holds students accountable for their progress by giving adults a chance to assess independent practice.
A Note to the Developer – I would love to see the app offer an option for the answer choices to be read aloud as well. I teach low level readers and without the ability to read the answer choices, the app becomes dependent on a teacher to assist the student. I’d love to have this app be completely independent.
Overall, this app has a ton to offer teachers and parents looking to increase student communication and English Language Arts skills. The questions are challenging, the interface easy to use and engaging, and the sheer wealth of skills impressive. I’ve already introduced this one to my students and they are loving it!
Language Empires is available for download via the iTunes App Store – iPad and iPad Mini app
This app was reviewed by Sarah Emerling, a mom, a special education teacher, and a technology coach. She is a self proclaimed nerd with a passion for incorporating technology into education and you read her findings at The iLesson Lady
I was just notified of a new app from Smarty Ears called Reading Rehabilitation Toolkit. I was fortunate enough to be provided with a copy to check out and try so I can share it with all of you! This app was designed for those working with adults but I can see how it can easily be adapted for working with school aged students. Keep reading to learn more about this $9.99 app:
This app was created by a Speech-Language Pathologist and includes 6 different activities. It automatically links up with the Therapy Report Center application. You can chose to use the “quick start” or pick a student/client from the list you have generated so you can track the data.
The 6 activities: 1.Word-Images match: In this activity, the app provides your student or client with a word and an image. They must match accordingly using their phonics and reading skills. Then students have the opportunity to read and record their responses and rate their reading skills.
2.Image-Words match: This activity is the reverse of the above. Students/clients are provided with an image and they must select the correct word using their reading skills. Again, you can record the production of the word. This is great for articulation, self-correction, and extra practice.
3.Phrase-Images match: This activity provides users with one phrase and they must identify the corresponding image. Just like the other activities, again they can record their responses after they have selected the appropriate image.
4.Image-Phrases match: This activity is the reverse of the above. They are provided with an image and they must select from choices the appropriate phrase.
5.Read & Answer: Users must attempt to read simple questions and answer based on the provided scenes. This works on answering questions and reading comprehension.
6.Phrase Building: This activity shows an image and three words. Students/clients must read the words and understand how to put them together to produce a short phrase. This activity requires a variety of skills and is the highest level of them all. Once they have moved them into the appropriate phrase placement, they can practice reading it out loud and record it.
Skills this app works on:
Self-monitoring and self-correction
I don’t currently work with adults but I can see how this app would be great for those working with adults with aphasia.
Last but not least, this app does collect data and generates score reports.
by Rick Waters ’95 Updated: Wednesday, January 09, 2013
Barbara Fernandes ’08 MA is the founder and CEO of Smarty Ears apps, an industry leader in speech therapy and assistive technology. (Photo by Carolyn Cruz)
Barbara Fernandes ’08 MA still calls it the “a-ha moment.”
In fall 2008, she was a first-year speech pathologist and language evaluator for the Irving school district, the only bilingual therapist in the district, when she met Michael, a 5-year-old preschooler who had not spoken at school in his first two months. His teacher suspected autism.
Fernandes knew the boy liked cars and trains, but he had little interest in talking or looking at flashcards with her. He did, however, think her mobile phone was a toy with which he could entertain himself.
Rather than put the device away, Fernandes did a search for “transportation,” downloaded some images of various vehicles and handed over her iPhone.
“Boat,” the boy whispered. “Plane.”
His voice grew louder and more assured.
“He just began naming them. I was just trying to get him to speak, for him to say a word, and this unlocked him,” she said. “I never expected to have that kind of immediate response.”
The iPhone was less than a year old then, but Fernandes realized paper flashcards were an ancient technology and mobile devices had worlds of possibility with images and sound and animation.
A technophile growing up in Brazil, Fernandes tinkered with her own website growing up and had come to the United States to study assistive technology, but now she had a vision for how it could be used in schools and homes with children with disabilities and their parents.
In fall 2009, she published her first app under the name Smarty Ears. It featured the entire phonetic alphabet with corresponding sounds, words and images for each letter or blend. She took it to conferences and got a lukewarm response.
“Most people were very resistant at first, but some were really intrigued,” she said. “I was surprised it wasn’t 100 percent.”
But families loved it. What used to be a frustrating daily practice was now being seen as play.
As word-of-mouth spread to practitioners and they tried it, the app began selling fast. By then, Fernandes was about to release her second app — on conjugating verbs — and had four more in the works.
In the spring of 2010, Apple released the iPad and Smarty Ears “really took off,” she said.
“It pushed me to make my old apps better,” she said. “The tablet is really the ideal size for working with children.”
Now, Fernandes has 60 apps in English, Spanish and her native Portuguese and is considered a pioneer in the speech therapy industry. Ranging in cost from $1.99 to $49.99, Smarty Ears apps are the No. 1 brand with more than 150,000 downloads and are used in more than 40 countries, covering language development, articulation, autism, aphasia and voice disorders.
Fernandes and her husband Jonathan, a former English teacher who now helps craft the curriculum, employ six programmers, illustrators and interface designers. Smarty Ears has published 26 authors in nearly every practice within speech pathology and language evaluation. The company also has an 11-member advisory board of experts, parents and teachers.
Those first Smarty Ears apps seem primitive compared to the ones the company makes now, which include games, stories and animation that rival computer games and Saturday morning cartoons. Voice recording and camera technology also soup up the experience, allowing students to listen and watch their own mouths form phonics and sounds. There are also sophisticated reporting components built in, which track students’ scores and allow speech therapists to monitor progress.
Now, Fernandes is a highly sought speaker at conferences and is considered an expert in assistive technology.
“I have people come up to me now who just want to shake my hand or take a picture with me like I am some personality,” she said. “It’s gratifying to see the impact this is having.”
As you download the Therapy Report Center the first thing you must do is to add your students ONE by ONE. There is no easy way out of this step, this is a MUST do. However, this is the last time you will do this step! It took me a few minutes to enter 22 students on TRC.
After you are done entering ALL your students you are ready to start taking advantage of the features of TRC. However, if you already own Smarty Ears apps, you must be careful on how to use this application to avoid deleting data accidentally.
There are two main functions on TRC that you will start using after you add your students:
If you have a brand new Smarty Ears app or if you have an app that you do not have any data built in yet and you would like to automatically add all the students into that app you can just tap on “ export students” and select the students to export to the app:
Within a few seconds you have your brand new app ready to go with all the students:
If you have an Smarty Ears app that already has all the students entered on it, you DO NOT have to export the students from TRC on to the app. That step was already completed by you manually so there is no need for you to do it again. Save the joy of doing this for when you download a new Smarty Ears app.
Exporting students FROM TRC to Smarty Ears app is a step ONLY needed if you have a brand new app.
2. Exporting data from all apps to TRC:
If you already own Smarty Ears apps and have data on those apps that you do NOT want to lose, you should NOT export students FROM TRC to the app. The exporting students from TRC and importing data to each student functions are NOT related to each other.
Once you have data from any student from any compatible Smarty Ears app, all you have to do is to export the results from the app on to TRC.
Let’s use the example here of Language Empires:
You can see I have the data from Ben Aflik and all I have to do now is to export the date obtained with Language Empires on to TRC:
Once TRC is loaded you get to pick the student you want to place that data on to. Technically you could just place that data anywhere, under any student. TRC does not know where that data came from- all it knows is what you tell it to do: You must tell it to copy this data on to the correct student. Therefore, it did not matter how you got that student on Language Empires at first place. All it matters is that now you have the data from Language Empires organized on TRC with all the other possible data you might have imported to that student:
Once the data from Language Empires is placed on TRC this is how it should look like:
After you have imported the data from Language Empires once, you can now import data for this student from any other compatible app! Happy TRC use!