Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Great Tool for Reluctant Emerging Writers!

Two years ago I wrote about Scribble Press, a favorite app of mine, which I referred to as Mad Libs with Super Powers. Well, the folks at Scribble Press have teamed up with the folks at Fingerprint Play and developed an app called Scribble My Story. It is described as a "junior version" of Scribble Press.

The key differences between Scribble Press and Scribble My Story are outlined here:
1) Scribble My Story has audio!  Pre-written stories are read aloud, and there is also the option to record your own voice as you write your own story.
2) Scribble My Story takes advantage of the Fingerprint platform so parents can keep in touch with what their kids are learning and what books they are creating.
3) There is a wealth of new artwork available, much of it based on the popular characters from Fingerprint Play’s Big Kid Life. 

4) Photo and web image support is not a feature of Scribble My Story
5). Scribble My Story is free! 

 Scribble My Story is geared towards kids ages 3-7, with an age appropriate user interface and easy drawing tools.  There are 6 stories in the free download, and more to download for small fees ($0.99).

FingerPrint Play brings more interactivity for the family including a shared family account which allows parents to track their kid's progress, message one-another, and a "parent gate" to control in-app purchasing.

This app, like it's predecessor is a great way to engage reluctant writers, either using their index finger, if they aren't quite ready for a writing tool, or to introduce a stylus. It should prove to be a great tool for Occupational Therapists!

Happy Therapy!

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Note-Taking Conundrum

Researchers and educators have suggested note-taking-by-hand produces greater efficacy for learning than note-taking-by-keyboard. Supporting this notion, Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer*, posit that handwriting may create deeper processing of the content.

Mueller and Oppenheimer conducted three studies, and concluded that subjects who took notes via keyboard were able to generate more written product.

Students who took notes keyboarding were not as capable as their handwriting peers in remembering factual details, demonstrating conceptual comprehension, or synthesizing the material.  

According to Cindi May**, who writes for Scientific American:
"What drives this paradoxical finding?  Mueller and Oppenheimer postulate that taking notes by hand requires different types of cognitive processing than taking notes on a laptop, and these different processes have consequences for learning.  Writing by hand is slower and more cumbersome than typing, and students cannot possibly write down every word in a lecture.  Instead, they listen, digest, and summarize so that they can succinctly capture the essence of the information.  Thus, taking notes by hand forces the brain to engage in some heavy “mental lifting,” and these efforts foster comprehension and retention.  By contrast, when typing students can easily produce a written record of the lecture without processing its meaning, as faster typing speeds allow students to transcribe a lecture word for word without devoting much thought to the content."

For those of us working with students with special needs, who are doubly challenged by handwriting this becomes even more complicated. If the student cannot read his/her writing, what than? If the student's rate of handwriting is half the speed of his/her peers, what than? There are the obvious benefits of being able to quickly reorganize and edit word-processed work.

So, food for thought. No answers here, but when we make recommendations to switch a student to keyboarding, and possibly jettison handwriting, we need to consider the whole impact. Perhaps, we switch students, but ask the team to continue addressing handwriting. It may be that the student benefits from keyboarding notes, and then taking a short-hand set of notes at home.

I'd be curious to hear reader's thoughts on this.

Happy Therapy!

*Pam A., M., & Daniel M., O. (2014, January 16). The Pen is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking. Retrieved September 12, 2014, from

**May, C. (2014, June 3). A Learning Secret: Don't Take Notes with a Laptop. Retrieved September 12, 2014.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Do the Math...

Often, when we think of students who struggle with handwriting, we are focused on composition. And, indeed, this can be the bulk of the student's obstacle. However, if a student has significant dysgraphia, we will often find it impacts his or her ability to write out their math problems as well.

Over the years, if I was going to make a technological intervention in such a situation, it would include a laptop and accompanying software such as MathPad" from Intellitools. I have really found MathPad to be a great program for the right student. MathPad allows the user to solve arithmetic problems on-screen. The teacher can pre-load problems, which are presented individually. This program is both Mac and PC compatible, and retails for about $99.


More recently, a fellow OT shared with me the iPad app Mod Math by Division of Labor SF. This app is free, simple, and really intuitive to use.

ModMath is a great app for students who struggle with the writing process!

The app removes the need for a keyboard, allowing the user to interact with program using the touch screen.

So free versus a hundred dollars... in some ways the math is easy to do (sorry for the pun).  ModMath is a great app, and will likely be my go-to for many of my students. The cost output is significantly lower than the Intellitools software and a laptop.

However, don't throw out the Intellitools product, there are some really terrific features, which for the right situation will make the proper choice! For one thing there are 300 bonus problems that come with MathPad.  MathPad allows the teacher or student to enter problems directly into the program or to import problem lists created with a word processor. MathPad automatically sets up problems using the correct vertical format. Students can go to the Problem List box to check their answers. MathPad places a check if the problem is answered correctly, or a dash if it’s incorrect. The program lets you set up a file for each student and keeps a portfolio of his or her work.  MathPad also will read the problem to the student, including their answer.

In an email conversation with their representative, Dawn, I learned that they are planning "to launch a kickstarter campaign to raise money for an update to Modmath that will allow students to use it for algebra". In addition they are also hoping to make a version for droid.

So, two great choices to help students whose writing is getting in the way of their math success. Happy therapy!