Wednesday, April 10, 2013

App Review: Conversation Builder

Today my co-worker, Stephanie, is going to share her thoughts on Conversation Builder by Mobile Education Store.  Take it away Stephanie!

I am so pleased to have the opportunity to review the Mobile Education Store app, Conversation Builder ($19.99 for iPad in the App Store, $7.99 for the iPhone in the App Store).  If you’re anything like me, teaching social language skills is a tricky area.  Despite my best efforts to portray a range of facial expressions, vocal intonations, sarcasm and humor – most of the time my kids probably just think I’m crazy!  They’re so right!   But, I digress… 

The Conversation Builder app is formatted very similarly to other Mobile Education Store apps, opening right up to the settings page.  All of the important set up information can be accessed very easily.  The first step to getting started would be to input your user information. 

You can manage your user information by selecting from existing users or creating a new user.   

 Now you are ready to modify your settings.  This is where things get interesting!  Since there are soo many different setting options, you are really able to customize the conversations to meet your student’s needs.  The “Conversation Type” allows you to choose:  a 1:1 conversation that lasts for 4 turns, a 1:1 conversation that lasts for 8 turns, or a group format which allows you to pass the iPad around the table and create a conversation between your group members.  

 The next setting option is called “Conversation Initiator.”  This feature allows you to set who will begin each conversation.  There are 3 choices:  your student, peer, or random mode. 

The last group of selections are called “Conversation Modules.”  These are theme based conversations about a variety of topics.  They include:  animals, friends around town, holidays, playground, water play and winter.  There are 20 different conversations, paired with a picture prompt, for each of these modules.  There is also a “Base Conversation Module,” which includes 6 or 7 conversations from each theme, for a total of 40.  Finally, there is a “Randomize” button, which randomly selects conversations from each of the theme modules. 

Now, its time to get talking!  When you press play, you move into the conversation mode.  A picture is presented, along with 3 multiple choice answers at the top.  Depending on the conversation initiator you selected, either a peer will begin speaking or the student will be prompted to think about “What’s the best way to start this conversation.”  Then, by looking at the picture prompt, you can make your selection from the above choices.  When an appropriate answer is chosen, the student is able to record their selection using their own voice.  The app guides you through each conversational turn until it is finished, with the conversation “partner” responding to your student’s comments and questions.  Finally, a box pops up that allows you to play back the entire conversation (using the student’s voice), save or email the conversation.  My student’s thought it was very funny to listen to a “conversation” between themselves and the iPad.  

For those students who could benefit from visual supports, you are able to tap the “History” button at the top of the conversation page.  By enabling this option, the conversation is displayed in text… just like texting would be on a smart phone, with different colors and page orientation for each communication partner.  

The bottom line…

  • Like I said before, anything to make teaching pragmatic language easier is a plus in my book!
  • Customization!!!!  There are lots of options to choose from so that you are able to select the correct starting point for your student, and move up from there. 
  • My kids always LOVE listening to their own voice!  This was no exception.  It puts their own voice right in the conversation with the computer.  Extra giggles on that one…
  • I liked the themed modules.  The themes are such that you could totally use this to practice socializing the whole year ‘round, and have it be relevant to our students. 
  • I would like to see the multiple choice options have a “read” option, so that my non-readers wouldn’t need me to voice the selections. 
  • I think a module for changing the topic of conversation would be great.  That came up a few times and I always answered incorrectly, because there was an appropriate “on topic” answer there as well.  If they were able to make it a “module” I would know when to expect it and explicitly teach my kids to look for it. 

It was awesome to review this app from the Mobile Education Store.  They tackle some difficult topics in their apps, and I have yet to be disappointed.  Keep up the good work!  Although Kyle from Mobile Education Store provided me with a copy of this app (and another to give away) in exchange for my review, the thoughts and opinions above are solely my own. 

Once again, thank you to my good friend Carrie from Carrie’s Speech Corner.  I am grateful for your generosity!  


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