Friday, June 21, 2013

App Review: Phono Learning Center

Hey everyone! Today I'm sharing another super-fun app from Smarty Ears! Phono Learning Center (PLC) is designed to help students who are working on sound production skills. This app is based upon Barbara Hodson's Cycles Approach and was designed for students who are highly unintelligible. The app is designed for use with individual students or groups of students. There are four fun activities to choose from as well!

When you open PLC, you see the menu screen above. If it's your first time, you might want to check out the "support" menu. Here you can read a brief paragraph describing the app, watch a video tutorial, contact Smarty Ears to report a problem, view more Smarty Ears apps, Backup/Restore, and view/share homework pages.

When you're ready to begin, you can start a "new session." Now you will enter your student(s) name(s) and target(s). 

If you can't read them, here is a list of the targets:

Primary Targets: (above)
  • Syllables 
  • Initial Consonants 
  • Final Consonants 
  • S Clusters 
  • Final S Clusters 
  • Posterior Contrasts 
  • Anterior Contrasts 
  • Liquids 

Secondary Targets: (below)
  • Voicing Contrasts 
  • Stridents 
  • Palatals 
  • Consonant Sequences 
  • Medial K 
  • Postvocalic R 

  • Complex Consonants 
  • Multisyllabic Words 
*Advanced targets for students 8 and older. For both secondary and advanced targets incorporate minimal pairs and increasing complexity.

Selecting some of the targets will require you to add more information...

You are able to modify some settings for each individual students. You can turn on/off Auditory Bombardment and select a level of complexity (Words, Phrases, Sentences). You can also add a picture for each player from the camera/photo roll, or select an avatar. There are a ton of avatars to choose from! (The green haired guy was, for whatever reason, a favorite of my male students!).

You can modify the game settings from the "add player" screen as well by tapping the gear button in the upper right hand corner. I think most of the settings (below) are self explanatory, but I would like to point out the "scoring style" options. With "Standard," you can mark a response using "Missed," "Almost," or "Got it." With "Level of Prompts," you can mark a student's response using "Prompted," "Imitated" or "Correct." 

Auditory Bombardment:
If you have this option selected, a student will begin the auditory bombardment activity, but only for individual sessions (this option automatically disables when using in a group). Several balloons float from the bottom to the top of the screen. Students can "pop" the balloons and, each time they do, hear one of their target words. 


In this game, a flash card appears on the left of the screen. The student says the word and drags the card to the balloon. With each card that is brought to the balloon, the balloon inflates a little bit more. Once "full," the balloon takes off! 


This activity is like a modified "memory" or "concentration" game. Basically, one card is turned over and the child can tap a card that is face-down to find a match. The nice thing about this game is that they can practice the word from each card as they turn them over, allowing for multiple practices. Also, for kids with reduced attention, it limits their focus to finding one card, not two.


For this game, puzzle pieces with target words appear. Students say their target words and drag to the puzzle area. They do NOT have to line up the pieces to a specific spot in the puzzle frame. With each puzzle piece added, a portion of a picture appears. 

Basket Paper:

This game has been the favorite with all the kids (Matching has been a close second). Students say their word and tap the paper to crumple it. Then they have to flick it toward the basketball hoop. It is possible to miss the hoop in this game, so a few of my groups insisted on keeping score!

Other Features:

Like most of the apps from Smarty Ears, this app has built in capacity to generate reports for your sessions. This is great for monitoring progress over time. PLC is also compatible with Therapy Report Center (TRC), a free app that allows you to store reports from all compatible Smarty Ears apps!

Remember that "Support" icon on the main menu? There's an option there that allows you to generate homework pages! You can email these directly to parents or email to yourself for printing. 

The Pros:
  • This is the only app I'm aware of that targets phonology from the cycles framework, an evidence based approach to treating phonological disorders. 
  • Auditory bombardment - I have yet to see this in an app and it's vital to so many kids with articulation/phonology objectives! 
  • The options available for scoring responses. This app allows you to do more than just identify a response as correct/incorrect. You can also classify by level of prompts needed. 
  • You can use it in a group!!! 
  • The variety/duration of games included. These games play fairly quickly. If you are using this app in a group, you can have each child pick a game for the group or pick their own game. Each child is bound to have a favorite! 
  • Compatibility with TRC! I've said it before, I'll say it again...when it's time to write progress reports, it's so handy having all of your data in one spot! 
  • If you don't want to use the cycles approach, you can turn it off! 

Things I could change in an update:
  • When you finish a puzzle, the "Terminate Session/Switch Game" box appears very quickly and covers the puzzle. I would love it if the box came a little later, was a bit smaller, was moved to a corner...I'm not sure what the best thing to do with the box would be, but I do know that I would like to have a minute or two for the students to look at/describe the picture from the puzzle. 

The Bottom Line:
There are a lot of great articulation apps out there, but not as many that are really geared toward phonology. To the best of my knowlege, this is the only one that targets phonology from the cycles perspective. Phono Learning Center is another fantastic app from Smarty Ears! I love the versatility of this app. You can work on phonological processes or specific speech sounds, modify the way you score responses, and import all of your data into TRC. I also love the games as well. They're motivating and fun for students, and occasionally incite a little competition! 

Phono Learning Center sells for $24.99 in iTunes. PLC is currently on sale for the introductory price of $19.99 but not for long, so hurry up and grab it while it's still on sale!

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