Distraction-free studying!

We all know what it’s like being in school when the sun is shining outside and all you can think about is being out there!  Or when you’re trying to get your homework done and all you can think about is who’s posting what on Snapchat or Instagram?  Or have you ever found yourself managing to get a study block done and then taking a well-deserved 5-minute break to take a peek at social media, only to emerge from your phone a half an hour later and way behind on your study schedule?  Well, the following free apps are for you! In fact, they’re for anyone who wants to use their time on their computer or smartphone more productively, whether you’re a student or not.

 

Stay Focused

Screenshot of Stay Focused web appStay Focused is a free google chrome extension that helps you to stay focused on your work by stopping you from looking at time-wasting websites (e.g. Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter).  You set a certain amount of time in the day that you’re allowed to look at those distracting websites and then once your allotted time for the day has been used up, it blocks you out of them.  End of distractions!  You can also choose to have a complete block on the websites that are your major culprits for time-wasting.

 

Leech Block

Screenshot of Leech Block web app

This one works in a similar way to Stay Focused but it’s for the Mozilla Firefox browser instead of Chrome.  You can specify up to six sets of sites to block, with different times and days for each set (e.g. you could have Twitter blocked from 9am to 5pm and Facebook blocked for all but 10 minutes in every hour).

 

Strict Workflow

Screenshot of Strict Workflow web appThis is one of many apps that use the timing principle behind the Pomodoro Technique (i.e. you work for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break, then after four of these sessions you can take a longer break of 15-30mins).  This Google Chrome extension helps you to concentrate on your work by blocking a list of websites for the amount of time you’ve set and once your working period is over, it’ll unblock those sites to give you a break from work before you hit those books again!

 

Offtime

Screenshot of Offtime phone app

Offtime is an app for iOS and Android smartphones that not only lets you block calls, texts and notifications when you’re trying to work, but it can also track your phone and app usage so you can identify what distracts you most.  You can set different profiles, like School, Family and Me Time and when you’re finished your work, it gives you an activity log with a list of everything that happened while you were working so you don’t have to worry about missing out on anything.

So, with these apps you’ll be able to maximise your study time and even better, you’ll be able to look at all your favourite websites and apps guilt-free on your breaks!

Mefacilyta Desktop app

Mefacilyta Desktop

In this podcast, Sarah Boland, together with David Deane and Áine Walsh, talk about the training they hosted on 21st June 2017 on the Mefacilyta Desktop app in St John of God in Stillorgan.

Mefacilyta Desktop is a new Android app developed by Vodafone Foundation Spain in conjunction with St John of God, which can be individually tailored to support people with intellectual disabilities to learn how to carry out their everyday activities independently.Vodafone symbol with person pointing to letter M Mefacilyta app

Tap Tap See for iOS

the very cleverly named Tap Tap See is an app (you may have noticed, I like apps a lot!) which allows you to identify objects by simply taking a picture. Once you’ve taken the picture, the app searches through a huge database of objects and brand names to find a match foryour picture.  The app then tells you what it sees.

 

I tend to use it when I need quick information, such as the flavour of a tin of soup or the colour of a piece of clothing, so it’s not an app which can give a lot of detail – but the detail it can give can be remarkably accurate.

 

It does also take a little time to get used to where exactly to point the camera, especially if you’re blind from birth (as I am), but the app is free to use, so yu don’t need to worry about the number of pictures you take.

 

The app also has a handy features which allows you to use it to identify photos in your library, which I really luke if I want to put a photo on Facebook but can’t remember which one I want to use.

 

So, all in all, I’d really recommend having a play with this app.   have fun!

App Review: Be My Eyes for iPhone

 

So, first of all, I need to nail my colours to the mast here, so to speak: I’m a huge Apple fan. This is mainly because, since 2009, all of Apple’s products have come with built-in screenreading technology, which enables someone who is blind – such as myself – to interact with an iPhone completely independently.

 

In the last seven years, many, many apps have been developed for the specific use of blind users. I use a lot of these, which I might talk about in future posts, but today I’d like to mention one in particular – Be My Eyes:

www.bemyeyes.org

is an app which allows blind people to “borrow” the eyes of a sighted volunteer, through a live video chat system.

 

This app is very simple to use, is free on IOS (an Android version is still in the works), and means that, for me, I’m not always relying on the same people to help me.

 

Its uses are endless – because blind people might have scaled mountains and crossed the South Poll, but we still can’t read the expiry date on a packet of ham without help.

 

Since I discovered Be My Eyes three days ago, I’ve used it for everything from the trivial – making sure my outfit matched when I was going on a night out – to the more important – not mixing up cough syrup with another medicine.

 

For me, as for most people, independence is all about choices: I can struggle for the sake of pride, or I can seek a little help. Be My Eyes allows me to ask for that help without feeling self-conscious or like I’m asking the same people repeatedly.

 

So, whether you’re sighted and fancy a little volunteering , or you have a visual impairment and need to know when your milk is about to go off, then this is a really handy little app.

 

If

you’ve used this app, or have any other app recommendations, it’d be great to hear your thoughts!

 

Note: DO NOT GIVE OUT PERSONAL INFORMATION OVER THE APP

Whole Screen Cause and Effect Apps for iPad

Cause and effect app Sensory MagmaWe often get asked for cause and effect apps requiring gross motor skills i.e. hit anywhere on screen, rather than on just a specific location. Below is a list of apps that either uses the whole screen as an activation area, or a large section of the screen, giving a high success rate.

These are free unless marked with asterix (*).

  • Peekaboo barn/ocean
  • Finger Piano ( or any Piano apps – there’s a funny Burp and fart piano!)
  • Make Shrek roar
  • Sensory iMeba/Magma/Electra
  • Finger paint with sounds
  • Five sharks swimming *
  • Five little Rock stars *
  • Five Aliens *
  • Five speckled frogs *
  • Big Bang Pictures/Patterns *
  • Splodge
  • Pocket Pond/Koi pond/fluid
  • Fluidity
  • Draw with stars
  • Hidden Grid *
  • Little gems Visual Scene
  • Cause and effect Sensory Light Box/sound box *
  • Fireworks123/I love fireworks
  • Colorful Rotating Bear
  • Random Touch *
  • iBlower range of apps i.e. snowflakes, butterflies, leaves, clouds etc. *
  • Heat pad
  • Sights and Sounds range i.e. cars, popcorn, ants *
  • KaleidoBalls free
  • Sensory just touch
  • Ratatap drums/bongos/congas/timpani etc.

Have you come across any others not on this list? Please let us know in the comment section below.

Switch Accessible Apps

An iPad, with a switch connector attached, and two switches in the foreground

Switch access to the iPad has been available for some time, and while the addition of switching to iOS7 has opened the iPad to many, particularly experienced switch users, the use of third party Bluetooth switch boxes allow for a simpler access method to specified apps. This can be useful for those who require an easier row column scan or a simple scan pattern.

Samples of switch accessible apps are outlined below, which may help switch users access the iPad for leisure, education or communication apps.

Cause and Effect apps:

Apps such as Inclusive Technology’s Five Sharks Swimming, Five Little Aliens and Smarty Pants, as well as apps like Rad Sounds require a single switch hit to start an activity. Big Bang Pictures, Sensory iMeba and Sensory Magma are apps designed with individuals with visual impairments in mind, as the images are high contrast. Splodge is an app that splatters paint on screen with every switch press.

Switch Kids, TouchMe PuzzleKlick and the Sights and Sounds range of apps look at developing multiple switch presses to complete an activity.

Apps requiring timed switch activation:

Little Lost Penguin, Hurdle Champion, Jungle Adventure, Sensory Room and a personal favourite, Splat the Clown, all have elements of timing switch hits associated with them. Rather than “flyswatting” the switch, the user has to wait until an object is in position before hitting the switch. For example, in Splat the Clowns, you have to wait until the clown is in the target area before you throw a pie at him! Matching Cards-Snap and Memory Pairs require a switch hit when two matching cards are displayed onscreen. New Age Kurling, Switch Box Invaders and Space Shooter are addictive games suitable for older students, requiring some timed switch activations.

2Player switch apps

Bumper Cars and Shhhh! from Inclusive and Turn Taking – Switch and Touch Accessible bundles allow two switches to be used by two separate individuals to work together on an activity. Sensory Just Touch and Sensory FotoFrez can be used with up to four switches which each carry out a differing effect on a photo.

Introducing scanning

Catch the Cow is a simple scanning game that introduces more complex scanning patterns. Racing Cars allows you to select which car to enter in a race. Scan and Match also targets multiple choice scan to match to a stimulus at the top of the screen, as does Switch Accessible Matching app. Aunt Maggie’s Recipe allows users to select various potions to combine and then choose who drinks the concoction! Switch Accessible Puzzles provide a high tech version of form boards, where pieces have to be inserted into the correct slot. Treasure Island is a game where you have to visit differing sections of a map in order to find the treasure. Switch Trainer has a variety of activities that work from a cause and effect to simple scan level.

More complex scanning games

Train Tracker is a nicely designed game that allows you to set up a track for your train to travel along. Koppy Kattz requires memory skills in order to repeat a sequence of up to five locations. Switch Accessible Mazes has three different levels of complexity to challenge the user. ChooseIt! Maker3 can create activities on a variety of levels, but these must be made on a pc. Switch Trainer has a variety of activities that work for single switch simple scan up to a two switch scan pattern.

Education apps

First Alphabet One Switch pro introduces the alphabet to switch users. Scan-a-word lets switch users work on letter matching skills, giving auditory feedback. Rather than moving across a set list of options, a target constantly changes in the one location.

ChooseIt! Literacy has approximately 250 activities that can be used to reinforce the curriculum, working on phonemic awareness, the alphabet and visual recognition of wards.

The Sentence Key and Sentence Match range of apps work on creating grammatically correct sentence structures

ChooseIt! Numeracy focuses on shapes, space and early number skills, while Tom’s times tables Pro allows users to practice their multiplication tables through multiple choice activities.

ChooseIt! Science contains over 160 activities based on the UK science curriculum, many of which would have relevance to schools here.

Switch accessible books

Books that are easily switch activated include the Adapted Play books – EIEIO!, Peanut Butter, Dirty Duds and Hurry!Hurry!. MyOwnBooks2Go is an app containing many easy to read books. Interactive books include I Can Help, A Leader Is and Recycle It.

Communication apps

There are many switch accessible communication apps available, so only a selection are mentioned here.

The TapSpeak range of apps, which includes the Button, Sequence and Choice options, allow communication from a cause and effect level to a choice making level, includes some options to customise how the switch works. Auditory scanning is also possible.

Alexicom is a subscription based app, where by you can create your own pages or purchase pre-made page sets.There is no message window to construct sentences, or text screen to spell out words.

GoTalk Now, an app version of the popular low tech AAC device, allows for linked pages with between 1 and 25 locations. There is no message window but auditory scanning is possible.

Scene & Heard, a visual scene display app, will allow users to select various hotspots with a picture to speak aloud a recorded message. Traditional Grid displays are also possible.

Sounding Board is a free app that allows for the construction of linked pages with between 1 and 20 locations per screen. Recorded speech is used and auditory scanning is possible too. TalkRocket Go is another similar app, where locations are presented in a list view.

PicBoard, which is a non-speaking communication app, and its counterpart with speech output, TalkBoard, are both switch accessible. Talkboard gives the option of auditory feedback and a message window to construct sentences.

One of the first AAC apps on the market, Proloquo2Go, is now switch accessible (version 3 and later). This has multiple scan types included to find one that best suits the end user.

TalkTablet Neo is on a similar level to Proloquo2Go, for those who want both symbol and text-to-speech options to construct their messages.

Predictable is a fully featured text to speech app, which is particularly useful for those who have degenerative conditions. It includes access to common social media to allow the user to post statuses and comments, along with some non speech vocalisations (i.e “Ahem”, cough and laugh)