This past week, an SLP wrote a great review about our Tensebuilder verb app. Towards the end of her review she said something that resonated with me. She wrote:
The thing I love about TenseBuilder is that it addresses the underlying issue of understanding the meaning of tenses, how language denotes time. There are so many language materials available for addressing appropriate verb tense from drill cards to pictures scenes to worksheets. But the focus is on production of the appropriate verb tense. But students must also understand why these tense markers are important in order to appropriately generalize the skill.
This short paragraph sums up the essence of what I set out to do with all of my apps and why I started developing apps in the first place. Before I started developing apps, we had purchased thousands of dollars worth of software for my daughter Caitlyn. She had been to 4 different speech pathologists. And her language was making almost no forward progress. The progress she did make was the result of repetition of the same tasks over and over again. However, if she needed to apply what she learned to something new, she couldn’t do it. You can learn language in this manner, but it is a long road to hoe. She was falling farther and farther behind her peers because she couldn’t memorize every permutation of language fast enough. She was having trouble generalizing the skills.
So when I started creating apps for her, not only did they need to be fun to play (she’d had her fill of top rated boring software) but I needed to find new ways to teach her language. Visual ways. Ways that she wasn’t getting from all the therapy she was receiving. I set out to create something that would fill the void of understanding. Creating something that fosters understand is a lot more difficult task than making digital versions of tools that already exist. It requires thinking outside the box (sometimes WAY outside) and answering this simple but essential question, “Why is my student/child unable to generalize this skill?”
The answer to this question is what drives me to create apps that teach in ways that have never been done before. All of our apps are unique in their own way and none of them can be replicated with more traditional language tools. A virtual conversation simulator that allows students to practice full blown conversations, video animations to teach tense, color coded sentence phrases (instead of the Fitzgerald key) to teach sentence structure – these are all things that addressed understanding – understanding of conversation flow, understanding of tense markers, understand of sentence structure.
This isn’t the easiest or least expensive path to creating speech therapy apps. But if we can find new ways to help our kids truly understand language, then they won’t have to memorize language. And in the end, that’s what we all want.