Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Conversation Builder App Review

One of the most challenging domains of language therapy to address effectively and efficiently is pragmatic language. It’s difficult to treat the nuisances of social language in a natural format. Social groups spend a lot of time practicing and using modeling for conversational situations, but there’s a wonderful app called Conversation Builder, which lets the therapist and student work on conversations even when not in a group setting! The Mobile Education Store provided me with a code in order to complete the review, but the opinions in this review are mine.

ConversationBuilder is a Conversation Simulator designed to help elementary aged children learn how to have multi-exchange conversations with their peers in a variety of social settings.The auditory pattern of conversation is presented in a visual format to help students recognize and master the flow of conversation. For my students, initiating conversation is one particular area that is hard to practice without a verbal prompt from the clinician. That’s where I have found Conversation Builder to be a great help! It makes eliciting opportunities for initiation a breeze!

One of the best choices made by the developer of this app is the answers vary just slightly. Many times our students who have difficulty with social conversation, say something that is close to the topic but not quite right, leaving their listener confused. Therapists will be happy that the differences between answers are subtle, requiring students to weigh possible choices to select the most appropriate response. This gave us a chance to talk about why an answer might be a possible/on topic but not the best choice.

Students learn when it is appropriate to introduce themselves, ask questions, make observations and change the subject of the conversation. Let’s move to the nitty gritty of what you actually get for your $9.99. The settings allow the SLP to decide how many conversational exchanges will take place (4 or 8). The SLP decides if the student will initiate, respond or a variety of both. As a student (or group if you choose that setting) play they see a visual interface which shows a picture. The students then see 3 sentences. They chose the best answer to either respond or initiate in the conversation. The next step is recording their side of the conversation. At this point in my group we paused and talked about intonation for questions versus comments. It also gives you a chance to talk about prosody of speech and how that impacts a listener. If you say “Hey what are you doing.” in a flat monotone voice – that sends a message to your listener. Next the student hears a pre-recorded audio response to their answer to create a complete conversation.

A few more bonus items in the app are that the student’s name, age, primary interest and city of residence are used in conversations to personalize play. The conversations may be archived and emailed to the SLP or parents.

Check out this video to get an even better idea before you buy:

Negatives: Many of the children I completed this app with use a lot of scripted or echolalic speech in general.
If you just stick with the conversations available you will want to be careful about repeating scenarious multiple times. While we want our students to practice conversations we don’t want them to just memorize scripts. That’s a major component of conversational exhanges! You need to listen to the speaker and decide what comment is appropriate. I found that once my students had cycled through they were just memorizing, instead of evaluating and adjusting to the conversation. The app offers in-app purchases to expand the conversation scenarios.

ConversationBuilder sells for $9.99 in itunes at this time.