We have been making apps since 2009 and throughout the years we have made hundreds of updates throughout our apps. Creating educational apps requires a great deal of upkeep. We always want to make sure our apps don’t get left behind. When we started creating apps in 2009, the iPad was not even out yet. While it does seem like another lifetime, it was just the other day. Our apps back then were the most advanced apps at the time they were created, however if you were to play with some of those original versions today you would certainly be disappointed in Smarty Ears.
As Apple makes each device more advanced, we also strive to make sure all our apps are also as wonderful as each new device. Updating over fifty apps take a significant amount of time and effort on our part and we absolutely love looking at our apps with critical eyes and ask ourselves ” how can I make this app better?”. Each year, we probably release updates to each app, as Apple updates their iOS systems.
Updating apps is a must at times, when Apple’s operating system goes through major changes and makes apps simply stop working or causing strange behaviors.
Customer feedback is also something we always take note when updating our apps. We love receiving suggestions from our customers and we try very hard to look at every suggestion and criticism as an opportunity to make our app better. While our apps go through in-house testing, clinicians and parents out there can have major insights as to how certain features would be helpful to specific children and adults we aim to help though out apps.
Many times, when we create a new app we realize we should have used that new feature on all previous apps and that’s how we go back and start implementing that new feature on all our apps, such as the compatibility with the Therapy Report Center app.
Some other source of insight of our updates comes from chatting with users at conventions. As we have just returned from the 2016 Asha Convention in Philadelphia, we are pumped with ideas of new features for some of our most loved apps. If you have a suggestion, write to us, we would love to hear from you.
Ultimately, we strive often to make sure anyone who opens and buys Smarty Ears apps feel like they have just unlocked the best of what is out there, regardless if that app is a brand new release or an app that was created in 2009.
Reading and speaking are directly related. Though you can read without speaking, thoughts usually come from absorbed information in which reading is a big part, and speech is the expression of thoughts.
Reading, including reading comprehension, therefore, can be a problem for children with speech difficulties. In fact, studies have shown that children who have difficulty with spoken language are often at risk of having reading problems.
Phonological processes have also been found to be critical in learning, and acquiring different fundamental skills like reading and spelling. Phoneme awareness is also used as a predictor if a student will turn out to be a good or poor reader at the end of third grade onwards. A high level of accuracy in the projection is reached using phonological tests.
Apps to the Rescue
Considering that today’s generation relies on mobile devices, a technological approach to the aforementioned dilemmas will be effective. The use of technological learning environments usually fall into two categories: to remedy specific skills through individual and repeated practice, which means self-use or; to bypass barriers of the disability through compensation, which means external assistance.
Apps generally fall under both, meaning they can be operated by the user again and again, and they can provide the support the user needs. As such, they become effective tools for aiding children and students who lack reading skills and/or have speech deficiency.
Reading Comprehension Camp is a collection of stories, spread across multiple levels to facilitate and measure improvements in reading skills. There are quizzes, which can further gauge the development of the user.
It also has in-app data logging system to help educators, therapists and speech-language pathologists who use the app as a teaching tool. A microphone feature is included as well to record the student’s progress in fluency and intonation.
Sentence Ninja, on the other hand, works more in a game-like experience. Understanding sentence structure and word order is a crucial piece of developing reading comprehension skills, and the app makes for an engaging and fun way for students to learn these subjects.
Bridging the gap, however, can also go the other way around. Users can start on the other side with articulation apps like Articulate it! for practicing pronunciation skills. Aside from single player, it has a multiplayer option, which can give clinicians the edge when working with a small group of students.
Built-in text-to-speech (TTS) functions of smartphones are also now used for reading practice to bypass several reading issues. These include decoding and low levels of phonetic awareness. Additionally, TTS can decrease reliance on human support, providing a sense of independence for the reader.
Virtual assistants (VA) work in a similar way, albeit in a conversational manner. Tech resource O2 mentions that premium handsets like the iPhone 6S now have a smarter Siri, along with other enhancements. It can be used as a practice platform, which may be available 24/7 for the user.
Furthermore, since VAs are computer simulations, users will not feel the fear of being judged and/or receiving feedback, given that students who lack skills and have deficiencies normally have low self-esteem and self-confidence. Same with other apps, these types of software let the user learn at their own pace and comfort level.
When using technology and apps as tools, improving reading comprehension and overcoming speech deficiency is made easier. Students, parents and corresponding medical and psychological professionals all benefit from the process, considering that for learning to be more effective and successful, a collaborative effort should be applied.
Exclusively written for Smarty Ears Apps by Teaching JB
There is a lot of social fabric that we take for granted because it just seems invisible to us. It’s so integral to our everyday lives that it just fades into the background, but that simply isn’t true for everyone… Little social norms that seem like nothing to you and me can be really overwhelming and daunting to many students. This can be even more pronounced of a problem for students with autism or other special needs, as it can even cause a fair degree of anxiety. Social Quest has become the go-to-app for older students who struggle with social skills as it gives real practical practice for learning to reflect, predict and practice good social etiquette and problem solving skills within everyday life so that they feel better prepared and less stressed as they encounter social situations in real life.
Practice Real-world situations in the home, school and community —- This app does a brilliant job of covering real life things that will likely come up in the places they will spend the most time. This pragmatic approach makes it easy to see the real world carry over.
A third of the app is based where kids spend the most time— HOME: If you’re a parent you know first hand that just getting kids to get along better with those they live with is so important for the quality of life to both the child and the rest of their family. Basic family life has so many important social situations many of which will be vital for the rest of their lives. Home includes the following areas as sub targets with — living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and the garage/yard.
Another third of the app is based on SCHOOL— let’s face it if you’re a teacher or an SLP you really want things to go smoothly for your student, not to be selfish but it makes your day go so much smoother and you feels great knowing the student can move from different areas of the school without you there to help them. If you’re a parent, you don’t want to be worrying about what goes on when you’re not there. You’re probably already aware of the difficulties your child has in social situations and it is a big relief knowing your kid is walking into them a little more prepared. School includes the following areas as sub targets with classroom, auditorium/library, cafeteria, hallway/office, yard/gymnasium
The last third is divided into common areas in the Community— eventually you want the student to be successful not just at home and at school but at places they will most frequently visit. Community includes the following areas as sub targets with grocery store, mall, restaurant, neighborhood, movies, doctor/dentist office
There’s more than one right answer— time to promote flexible thinking! — rarely is life like a math equation with just one right answer. So often there are multiple appropriate decisions that could have been made. Teaching flexible thinking is crucial in getting students to start making better social decisions. By recognizing that there is more than one right way can alleviate the stress of the situation. It also builds those critical thinking skills that are so important in day to day life. The receptive mode (multiple choice) of the app contains two correct answers for every question. In the settings you can decide whether the student must find both correct answers or if one correct answer is sufficient. This is great as a scaffolding technique so that the app can be more at the student’s current individual level. If the student is very successful finding both correct answers in the receptive mode then we have a more challenging setting to match their needs “expressive” mode.
In the expressive mode (open ended responses) of the app students can receive credit for multiple correct answers. You can mark multiple incorrect answers too, but the importance is that it is a big progression when a student can finally start envisioning for themselves the multiple appropriate ways to handle a situation!
There is an enormous amount of content on Social Quest— 850 questions. Don’t settle for all these second rate apps in the app store that are out there that only have 10, 20, 30, or 50 questions. Fortunately, Social Quest was developed by Smarty Ears who has been a leader and an innovator that have over the last 7 years solidified their status as the Gold Standard of apps in the Speech therapy and Special Education community. They design all of their apps to make sure that it is something you can use often without much repetition. All of their apps have been thoughtfully designed from the inside out by a real SLP and a real teacher— this is not just lip service they know what its like to be in the classroom and they care about the experience that both the adult SLP or teacher experience as well as they care about the success of the student.
It has a Fun Game-like-approach that makes being a “social detective” engaging. From the “teleporter” than brings students to their target areas, to the “Hall of Rewards” that stores the trophies students earn while playing the receptive mode, this app incorporates some of the techniques that make video games fun to teens to make for a more engaging experience while practicing Social Skills.
Throughout the years we all have gotten the routine of articulation testing down: Look for clean protocols, or buy them if we run out, find the test and dig out the scoring book. During the test we rush to transcribe what we have heard and then we spend double the time we spent with the child scoring and writing the report for that assessment. Yes! It was painful. Lucky someone said, “There has to be a better way!”.
Technology and brilliant minds have made the process of speech assessment so different. Back in 2010, a screener for articulation was released called Sunny Articulation and Phonology Test. It could be used as a screener or as supplemental data from your traditional paper and pencil test that we have all used for way too long. The Sunny has been sold around the world and it has conquered the hearts of thousands of speech paths around the world. It was way ahead of the curve and it still is the best articulation screener available on the iPad.
The reality was that many school districts and governmental agencies still rely and demand the use of standardized assessments. That’s when Smarty Ears partnered with a company in Texas to create and standardize an assessment tool that would be universally used for bilingual students as well as monolingual Spanish or English speakers. That’s how the Bilingual Articulation and Phonology Test was conceived. BAPA uses the technology behind Sunny to become a stand alone fully standardized articulation and phonology assessment tool. It was released in 2013 and it has quickly become the preferred choice among bilingual clinicians in the assessment of articulation and phonology skills.
In 2015, Smarty Ears listening to the feedback from clinicians, decided to create an English only version of BAPA, with a lower price point for clinicians that are only performing English assessments. Using the data collected for the creation of BAPA, Smarty Ears separated the English only portion of BAPA and created iTAP, the Test of Articulation and Phonology.
The bottom line: When it comes to Articulation screeners/ Articulation tests there are really only 3 apps worth your consideration: Sunny Articulation & Phonology Test, iTap, and BAPA. Which one you pick will depend solely on your needs as a clinician.
All three app are wonderfully designed to make your life as a Speech Therapist as easy as possible. They all feature:
a. Ability to enter student’s name and track progress over time;
b.Tests all phonemes of the English language including clusters;
c.Offers two options: Screening & Full Assessment
d.Ability to record student’s production with the same tool you are using to administer test;
e.E-mail test results immediately after administration;
f.Provides immediate positive feedback to students throughout the test administration;
g.Sample recording of target word is available as you touch each image;
h.Ability to add notes on the app during the assessment.
Which one to pick really depends on your needs.
Here are the real key differences that set them apart:
It is Standardized
It is Standardized
for English monolinguals, Spanish monolinguals, and English / Spanish Bilinguals
We’ve seen the question a million times on Facebook, twitter and other social media:
“What is the Best Articulation app?”
This well intentioned question often comes up from someone who is either just became a Speech Therapist or is a Newbie to the world of app on the iPad, or perhaps someone who is just overwhelmed by the amount of apps that are out there and available. Usually a host of passionate responses spark up. If we are being honest though, its really hard for most people to give a completely fair response.
Usually this is because:
People vouch for what they have, but it really isn’t fair to call it the “best” when they haven’t experienced most or all of the other Articulation apps. (Imagine If you called one grocery store the “best” because you liked it, but had never set foot in the other major chains nearby?)
People often base their experience off of free apps or apps that have a free version. Its understandable people go this route as it can make it easier to sample more things. But again using the grocery store anology is it fair to rule out a Costco and Sams club because of the “membership costs”. Yes, they have a cost but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have a value that may outweigh this factor.
As we were at Texas Speech and Hearing Convention this year we had several customers who had experienced all or most of the Top Tier apps out there and they resoundingly and unsolicitedly wanted to tell us “Articulate it! is the best.”
We wanted to share why…
Why is Articulate it the Best Articulation app?
It has the most content of any Articulation app out there (and you can even add more to it by adding “custom words”!). No articulation app has more words, sentences, phrases, and stories. With a built in “Matching game“, a “Guess What” game, a “Stories” section, in addition to the traditional route of working on phonemes and clusters, that If this app was in paper form you would probably need a large file cabinet just to store all the decks of cards. People who have this app tend to use it everyday; this wouldn’t be realistic if it didn’t have enough content to do this.
It is the most versatile and powerful articulation app.
It has phonological processes, mirroring capabilities, up to 6 players during the same game (each with their own objectives, the ability to add custom words, over a 100 fun avatars that could represent the player, , . When presenting this app to someone who has never seen it before it can be hard to remember to show them ALL of the features. A common chorus from the SLP is usually is a breathless sincere ,“You’ve really thought out everything on this app …haven’t you?” And they’re right, rarely does an app give a user such a COMPLETE EXPERIENCE.
It has homework— sooooo much homework. Every single phoneme at the word, phrase and sentence level (almost 200 worksheets). All of it can be emailed or printed to be sent home for your students to work on. “this app is worth it just for the homework,” says pretty much every SLP ever who has opened up the app and even glanced at the homework.
It has Themes- This allows you to change how the app looks and sounds to match a particular holiday or season. What a way to increase student engagement!!! Our users tell us all the time “this is the one app I use EVERY DAY.” With 13 themes to choose from, students love how it feels like something new every time the theme is changed.
It has Stories (& 7 questions about the story each of which target the phoneme)— Other apps that have “stories” tend to seem about as fun as the old “Dick and Jane” book series from the 1930-70’s. Articulate it has fun (and often funny) stories that not only target the objective, but make for an engaging experience for the learners. How cool is it that you can work on reading skills and Articulation at the same time? Seven different Wh questions (whose answers always target the selected phoneme) and you have a brand new way to target a wide host of speech goals from auditory bombardment, production, listening comprehension, and reading comprehension.
It has a built in “Guess What” game— Tired of practicing in the same “flashcard style?” Well, guess what?– we got something even better:How about a guessing game where your students work on articulation and language skills at the same time? This fun activity is just one more reason why Articulate it! is the best and more versatile app available on the app store.
It really is designed by an SLP. Our CEO Barbara Fernandes is an SLP, she is always involved in every aspect of the app creation, and she is often consulting from her large network of SLP friends and colleagues to make all of the apps the best they can possibly be for the SLP community. She’s super passionate about helping improve and innovate technology in every aspect of the speech therapist world and when she is working on area that requires very specific expertise, she makes sure there are even more SLPs involved directly in the project. We’ve been to every ASHA over the last 7 years and we know that even though a lot of companies claim to have an SLP involved it is sadly very often at just a very superficial level (particularly from big publishing companies), or we’ve even seen where it is pretty much an outright sham (often from computer programmers or tech experts hoping to make a quick buck). Smarty Ears has innovated the speech therapy world with its apps, but a big chunk of that comes down to really being involved in the speech therapy community.
Comprehensive Data tracking—- The app seemlessly lets you switch between word, sentence and phrase level while working on phonemes; likewise it is dividing the specifics of that data as you click the correct, almost or incorrect buttons so that you don’t have to be thinking out the specifics. It even stores the recordings and lets you review which words were targeted. With clear charts and percentages: data tracking has never been so easy. With the ability to email the results to parents and the ability to export into Therapy report center, Smarty Ears understands the data driven world of Schools and have given you the simplest tools to get it done.
Intuitive, User Friendly, and Tools of Support. We know one of the reasons you probably like using Apple products like the iPad is its user friendliness. We want you to feel that experience is the same with our apps. With a “instructional audio” , that can guide first time users as they learn the app, a built in video tutorial (that makes learning the features of the app quick and easy), and a simple way to reach out to us by emailing us from the app, we are dedicated to making Articulate it! the best possible user experience out there.
Because it is a Smarty Ears app:
Now this might seem humorously self-congratulatory at first glance … but there is a very serious reason why brand name matters in the business of apps. We were the first to make any app for Speech Therapy that was not an AAC app, and for those who have been using iPad apps since the beginning know Smarty Ears is the gold standard. Every app they make we have continually updated it to make sure that it will work with the newest iOS, and we are always looking back at how we can improve our existing library of apps . What was great in 2009 often doesn’t cut it by 2016 standards and we know it.
Other speech therapy app companies die off.. and they often let their app die with it. (No more updates to keep it compatible with the iOS). For us making an app doesn’t ever end. We constantly update our apps to make them the best out there. We’ve seen the sad looks on someone’s face when they thought they had our articulation app (but didn’t and had something that seemed good— so they assumed it was Smarty Ears— yes this really happen ALL the time). It’s because those who know Smarty Ears know the value they are getting and that they are always getting a cutting edge app, and we won’t let those fans down EVER.