Conversation Builder Teen Application Review
Every time that I think Kyle Tomson at the Mobile Education Store has made an amazing application, he outdoes himself and makes an even better one! In addition, he constantly implements new updates for free to his previous applications making them even better than before! His latest application, Conversation Builder Teen, is one that I have been waiting for for a long time. As soon as it was announced, I was on the lookout for every announcement Kyle had made and every tutorial. I have used Conversation Builder with some of my younger students, but had students whom would benefit from a more age-appropriate adolescent version. Immediately when I received the code for this application, I downloaded it and used it with a few different students. The dialogue that I heard with them using the application and following their use of the application was unbelievable. It was not only reinforcing skills that I had taught my students, but causing them to ask me questions about tone of voice and let me see their thought process when debating on how to respond. Continue reading to learn about how you can reinforce conversational skills using this amazing application!
Press the "Info" button at the bottom of the screen to learn more about how to use the application and the population it is intended for.
On the "Settings" page of the application, there are options to manage users, choose the conversation type, turn on/off instruction audio, reset played conversations, and choose conversation modules to play. You can access this menu at any time by pressing the "Settings" button at the bottom of the screen.
Manage Users - To add additional users to the app, press the "Manage Users" button, then the "Add New User" button. Type in the first and last name plus if the user is a boy or girl, then press "Create". Existing users will appear on a list underneath the headline. To edit an existing user, press the blue arrow. To delete a user, swipe from right to left and the "Delete" button will appear to press. In order to select whom to use the application with, press on the user's name.
Conversation Type - Choose between 2 to 3 conversation partners within the app or a group conversation with real-life partners by pressing on the corresponding button. Your selection will highlight in blue.
Instruction Audio - You can slide the on/off switch as to whether you would like audio instruction before and between conversational turns.
Reset Played Conversations - This will delete all data and played conversations for a given student.
Modules - These are conversation topic categories you can select from. You can choose one conversation types, all, or to randomize all of the modules. There are currently 300 conversations installed within the application. There are eight modules to choose from:
Parental Controls - Press the "Parental Controls" button to set or change the option to control which conversations can be accessed, such as sex, drugs, and bullying.
Video Tutorial - There is a 12-minute video tutorial installed within the application that you can watch to learn how to use the application.
Once you choose the appropriate settings for your student(s), press the "Play" button. Application play is different depending on whether the student is playing by himself or herself or in a group.
2 or 3 Player -
Choosing the 2 or 3 player conversation type is appropriate for an individual student to practice conversations with 1-3 virtual peers. Depending on the conversation, the user may be asked to initiate or maintain a conversation started by a peer. If the conversation is to be initiated, the narrator will state "Choose the best way to start this conversation". If the virtual peer initiates the conversation, his or her audio will automatically play, then the narrator will state "What would you say next?" After that, three sentence options will appear.
Sometimes more than one peer will have a turn. In this case, a thumbnail of the photo of the speaker in the group will appear on the side of the application. Next to each sentence is a speaker button in which a user who has difficulty reading can press to hear the statement or question read aloud with vocal inflection.
In addition, an "Info" button will appear at the top of the screen to be pressed. A text box will appear showing information about the context of the situation. The user can press "OK" to continue the conversation or "Skip Conversation" to try another conversation.
If the virtual peer was the initiator of the conversation, the "History" button will appear right away, otherwise, if the user is the conversation initiator, it will not appear until an appropriate answer is chosen. The user must choose one of the three sentences to respond with or initiate the conversation with based on the context.
If an appropriate answer is chosen, the application will state positive reinforcement such as, "that is a good choice, now let's record it". The user is required to press the "Record" button to state his or her chosen response. Press "Stop Record" to end the recording and "Replay Recording" if you wish to hear the audio. He or she can press the "Play Last" button to hear the conversation partners' last response or press "History" to view the text or press a speech bubble to hear it played. You can even hear your previous responses in the History menu by pressing on your green speech bubble on the right hand side of the page. Then, press "Next" to continue the conversation. If an inappropriate response is chosen, specific constructive criticism related to the answer is given and the user is asked to try again.
Once the conversation is complete, the "Finish" button will appear. Press it and the data will be "crunched". Once the conversation audio has completed "crunching", the photo will appear in a smaller window with the options to "Play" the entire conversation audio, "Save" the conversation to the "Progress" Menu, "E-Mail" the conversation audio via a Quicktime file with the picture attached, or move to the "Next Conversation". If you choose to "Save" the conversation, you will be asked to give a title to the conversation audio file and press "Save Conversation". If you choose to e-mail it, you must have your e-mail account linked with the "Mail" application and have internet access.
The "Group" setting is appropriate for multiple users in a group setting to practice having a controlled conversation. First, enter the names of students whom will be using the application, then press "Done".
Next, choose whom will initiate the conversation by pressing on his or her name and a checkmark will appear next to his or her name. Then, press "Done".
The narrator will state, "How would you start this conversation?" No information is given except for the image. The conversation initiator must press the "Record" button to record a conversation starter without cues. Press "Stop Record" to stop the recording. You can then replay the recording to hear it played back if you would like. After the conversation has been initiated, press "Next" and the narrator will state, "Now pass your iPad to a friend and let them record a response". Then, a window will pop up for you to choose whom will speak next. The application automatically chooses the next person on the list.
You can hear previous audio from questions/statements by pressing on the corresponding speech bubble to the persons' name. After four total conversational turns, there is an option to finish the conversation. You can continue to have conversational turns or press the "Finish" button to end the conversation and play it, save it, e-mail it, or head to the next conversation.
You can also choose to skip any photo or import your own photo. If the "Instruction Audio" setting is not chosen, then the narrator will not speak instructions before and in between conversational turns.
You can import photos in the "Group" conversation type. After choosing this option and the users to play the application, press the "Import Photo" button. A menu will pop up to choose a photo source in which you can take a picture with your camera or choose an image from your photo library. You must allow the application to access your photos. Then, take a picture with your camera or import an image from your Camera Roll. Once you have chosen a photo, you can move it around or scale it. Then, press "Use" to import the photo. The photo will appear in the middle of the screen and application play will continue as stated above in the "Group" conversation type.
Pressing the "Progress" button once a user has been chosen on the "Settings" page will show his or her progress in the application. Each conversation category is shown as well as a progress bar of the total number of conversations that were "mastered" (completed with no errors/inappropriate responses) in the 2 or 3 player conversation type. In addition, if there have been any conversations saved to the application, a button with text of the number of conversations saved will appear next to the conversation category; otherwise it will state "No Saved Conversations".
To view which conversations have been saved, press on the conversation category. A pop-up window will appear in which you will see the photo associated with the conversation and the title of the saved conversation. Press the conversation in which you wish to play to listen to the audio, e-mail the conversation, or delete the conversation.
What I Like About This Application:
- This application (and his updates on his previous applications) just goes to show you that developers really listen to reviewers in the fact that he added speaker audio buttons to hear the different choices of sentences to initiate and maintain conversations! This is ideal for my students who have difficulty reading.
- The application is motivating to adolescents. It deals with real life situations and doesn't use jargon that adults might infer students use when in conversation but actual slang and conversations teens would have! I have had a student already request to play it again.
- You can use the application not only with students who are on the autism spectrum but those with other pragmatic language disorders, selective mutism, and more! I definitely have about 4-5 students whom I plan on using it with this year! Therefore, I feel it is definitely worth the price.
- I appreciate that there are tough topics included on the application but also that there are controls to make sure that students do not have access to specific topics if the adult feels they are inappropriate at the time.
- There are 300 conversations available in 8 different categories which allows for the use of the application over and over.
- Having information about the context of the conversation is extremely helpful for those who have difficulty inferring.
- Being able to view the history of the conversation is ideal for those who need to review previous statements and questions stated by peers and/or themselves.
- This application allows multiple users to be saved to the application to save, continue making, and viewing progress.
- You are able to save, replay, and e-mail audio files from conversations to review progress made or areas of conversational practice.
- The ability to replay a conversation for a user to hear allows him or her to hear the flow of the conversation, tones of voice, and evaluate his or her participation in the conversation as well as tone of voice. I found that tone of voice in was one of the hardest things for my students who used the application because it's one thing for me to practice it with them and another to listen to it in conversation.
- The fact that you can import photos allows for practice of specific situations relevant to a particular client.
- It is convenient and helpful to have the video tutorial installed within the application.
What I Would Like to See in Future Updates:
- One aspect that I like about the Conversation Builder application that I would like to see in the Teen version is the ability to choose whom would initiate the conversation in 2 or 3 player conversation type mode, the virtual peer or the user.
- This application is so well done that it is hard to pick out anything I would like changed but rather, I would like to see more conversation topics and situations. In addition, I think it would be interesting to have conversations where students need to code switch between talking to their friends versus an adult versus their parents, etc.
- Sentence Expansion – If a student makes a conversational turn with a short response, ask them to add more information. Point out topic of conversation and context. Discuss details about the background of the image, actions of the peer(s) in the image, and emotions of the peer. Add action words, adjectives, feelings, opinion, or prepositions to sentences.
- Inference/Prediction – Ask your student what he or she thinks will happen after the conversation ends or what the peer may state next.
- Emotions – Ask your student how the person in the picture is feeling. Place emphasis on facial and body cues (smile, frown, eyebrows, arms crossed, etc) as well as tone of voice. Have the student look at the context of the conversation as well.
- Topic Maintenance - Students are required to maintain a conversation. There are some statements from time to time as choices on the 2 or 3 player conversation type mode that are off topic. In addition, students can look back at the conversation history to help them maintain the conversation.
- Nonverbal Communication - Teenagers who use this application can look at the real-life images to infer how a conversation partner is feeling or learn about body language. Have the user look at the conversation partner(s)' eyes, hands, way in which he or she is standing, etc. In addition, there are many times in which the virtual conversation partner uses a teasing/playful/joking, sad, worried, excited, or angry tone of voice. The user must know how to sometimes not take what is being stated literally but listen to the tone of voice to infer the appropriate way to respond.
- Initiating/Closing Conversations - Students will practice being able to gauge the appropriate way to begin and end a conversation. In addition, they will practice the appropriate time to end a conversation and different wordings to use.
- Problem Solving/Social Situation – If the image shows a peer who is upset or angry or if the peer’s audio states a problem, ask the student how they would handle the situation if it happened to them. Ask them how they would feel if they were in the same situation.
- Describing – Discuss the peer’s emotions, actions, clothing, setting, and other objects in the picture. Compare and contrast them to other peers, other settings, and other objects.
- Narrative – Have the student create a story about the image. They can even write it out!
- Articulation/Voice/Fluency – Have the student use their best speech sounds/vocal strategies/fluency strategies when recording responses on the application. Listen back to the conversation to have the student assess their own speech.
Conversation Builder Teen is available for the iPad for $29.99.
Consonantly Speaking was given a copy of this application to review. No other form of compensation was given.
Other Reviews of This Application by Speech-Language Pathologists: