Tuesday, June 11, 2013

AAC Week: Scene & Heard App Review

Today I'll be sharing Scene & Heard by TBox Apps (Therapy Box apps) with you.  What interested me most about this app is the concept of using a visual  scene display for augmentative and alternative communication on the iPad.  A few years back, my district had a lot of training on AAC and the presenter of one of our workshops talked a lot about Visual Scene Displays (VSDs).  According to Blackstone et al., "VSDs are designed to provide a high level of contextual support and to enable communication partners to be active and supportive participants in the communication process."  VSDs have been found to be beneficial to children with autism (Shane, 2006), children with cognitive and linguistic deficits (Blackstone, et al., 2005), and adults with aphasia (Dietz, McKelvey, Beukelman, 2006).

Once I got the app, I started by watching this video on the TBox website:

This video will give you a basic understanding of the app and the idea of "hotspots."  They also have videos on Pairing the Therapy Box Switchbox with an iDevice and Adding Videos to Scene & Heard.

Navigating Scene & Heard and Creating Boards:
Scene & Heard comes preset with the scene below (labeled "blocks") as the default: 

You can see the hotspots outlined in blue.  The symbols below the photo are "active" as well.  Here's what happens when you touch the active areas in this scene:

  • Young girl in red shirt - "I'm building a house."
  • Boy in the middle - "I think Jake is building a house too."
  • Woman and boy on the right - "Michael needs help to build his house."
  • Nail - "I used a hammer and some nails."
  • Fingers - "Watch out for your fingers!"
  • Ouch - "OUCH!"

Notice the "Scenes" box in the screenshot above?  You can tap that box to see a list of the scenes that are preloaded (as well as the scenes you create and save).

I tried out the "Kitchen" preloaded scene.  You can use the scene the way it is, or edit it to your liking.  

Here's the editing space (I got here by tapping the pencil icon in the photo above).  You can change the scene name, add/modify actions to the screen and add/modify hotspots.

Creating your own scenes is pretty easy as well.  I wanted to create a scene to be used at center time in the classrooms.  If you're not familiar, this is essentially free play time.  The children pick an area of the classroom in which they want to play and must inform the teacher when they wish to make a change since only a certain number of students are allowed at each center.  I work with one classroom where the teacher has several students who are unable or unwilling to verbally choose a center.  I thought this app would be great for those students!  Here's what I did:

From the Scene Editor, you simply tap the "Add Scene" button.  You will get this screen:

I took a bunch of photos of the classroom using my iPad.  I have automatic transfer of my camera roll to Dropbox.  I then hit my laptop and created this collage with Pixlr (I used the Express option).

I added my photo to the new scene and labeled it "classroom."  When I went to save, I was given an error message that there was already a scene with this name, so I renamed it PK classroom.  

Next, I added the individual pictures and center names to the Scene Actions.  I also recorded the audio that would be played.  I used "I want to play in the kitchen area," "I'd like to play at the sand table," etc.

After doing this for each of the four centers, I went on to add my hotspots.  When you tap "Add" in the "Hotspots" box, you will get the screen below (on the left) with a small blue box in the center of the photo.  When you tap the photo, you will be able to move, resize, and reposition the box (photo on the right).

You can then add actions to your hotspot.  Available actions include:

  • Scene link - link to another scene in the app
  • Audio - use audio from your iPad or record a message.
  • Video - import a video (see the tutorial above on how to do this)
  • Symbol - Scene & Heard comes with a symbol library as well!

If you choose to add a symbol, you will be taken to the "Symbol Search" screen.  I chose to add symbols to the sand table picture, so I did a search for "sand."

Once you select the picture, you can add the text to be displayed and record audio for the symbol as well:

When you finish and save your scene, you will be given the option to back it up by sending an email to be saved on your computer. 

The scene I just created now appears in the scene library!

When I open this scene for use, you can see the hotspots that I added, and the individual center images along the bottom.  I purposely made the hotspots different sizes so you could see that you can move them around and adjust sizes according to your needs.

By the way, I linked up the scene above so that when one is tapped, a larger image of the center is brought up and the student can use this scene to interact with peers:

Here's what the hotspots say:

  • Kitchen:  "I think I'd like to make some breakfast!"
  • Dress-up Clothes:  "Hmm.  What should I dress like today?"
  • Table:  "Have a seat and I'll bring you some food!"
  • Little box in the corner:  "I'm all done in the kitchen.  I want to switch centers."

Another notable feature of this app is that you can schedule a scene for a specific time.  This is a timesaver when you have a certain daily routine...you don't have to switch the scene every time!  You could schedule a "school" scene for 8:30, a "lunch" scene for noon, and a "bus" scene for 3:30!  You could also make schedules for doctor/dentist appointments and schedule them to appear for the appointment time.  

And there you have Scene & Heard in a nutshell!  Here are some of my thoughts...

The Pros:

  • Visual Scene Displays allow for context based AAC.  They are proven to be beneficial to clients with a variety of communication disorders (see research cited above).
  • You can easily use real photos as well as picture symbols in your scenes.  
  • The ability to schedule scenes to "default."  This is great for school routines!
  • The ability to record a voice that is "real" (not computerized) and can be matched to the client (e.g., same age/same sex)
  • You can use this app with a switch!  I don't have one available at my current school since tapping the screen has been sufficient for most of my students.  However, at my previous placement, I had a few students who were better with switch access (head activated) than a finger point.  This is a great option for those students!
Changes I'd like to see:
  • I'd love a more comprehensive video tutorial.  I was able to navigate the app and figure things out pretty easily.  However, I know many people who work with students who could benefit from this type of app who would not spend the time trying to "figure it out."  These people wouldn't end up making use of the app.
  • You can't view the symbol library in its entirety.  You can only search for key terms.  I was looking for an "all done" or "finished" symbol, but I couldn't find one with those search terms.  Since this app was developed in the U.K., some of the terminology may be different than what we use in the U.S.  I would love the ability to browse the symbols to see if there is a symbol that I might use for "all done."
  • This is me being "picky," but I'd love the option of changing the outline size/color of the hotspot boxes.

The bottom line:
Scene & Heard is a great app that utilizes Visual Scene Displays to contextualize AAC.  I love that you can customize the preloaded scenes and create your own to suit the needs of your clients/students.  There are many positives to Scene & Heard and I believe that they outweight the "negatives."  I think this app is most suited to SLPs and "Techies" than to novice iPad users.  Basically, this would not be the best "first AAC app" for someone who is finding themselves, for the first time, working with population that uses AAC.  However, if you're familiar with Boardmaker, SD Pro, Intellitools, or other user friendly computer/iPad software this will be an easy app for you to learn.  Scene & Heard sells for £34.99 iiTunes.

What do you think?  Do you use Visual Scene Displays in your therapy sessions?  What are some of your most useful displays?

Disclaimer:  I was provided a copy of this app for the purposes of this review.  The opinions expressed are mine alone.  
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