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Visualearn

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VisuaLearn promotes vocabulary development, sight word acquisition and sentence building. VisuaLearn offers a simple interface with activities designed for typically developing children, children with Down syndrome or children with visual learning strengths who might benefit from guidance through smaller learning steps.

Teacher Review

Originally designed for young learners with Down Syndrome, Visualearn is an app that aims to improve vocabulary recognition and sentence building skills. 

The app plays on the strengths of visual learners. Visual thinking is a learning style where the learner better understands and retains information when ideas, words and concepts are associated with images. The Visualearn app use this strategy effectively to help consolidate learning with the linking of words and strong visual images. 

Research in both educational theory and cognitive psychology tells us that visual learning is among the very best methods for teaching students of all ages how to think and how to learn. Visual learning strategies such as those employed by Visualearn are being used more and more in mainstream classrooms and are now not just seen as being mainly beneficial for the SEN domain. These strategies help students of all ages and ability to better manage learning objectives and achieve academic success. Paired with the brain’s capacity for images, visual learning strategies help students better understand and retain information.

Upon opening the application the interface offers you a series of books/programs based on the original library by the developer. 24 titles are available from the library including; food, pets, what to wear, feelings and going places. Each program has 6 activities to choose from; Read it, Match it, Select it, Name it, Draw a line and Build a sentence. In the 'read it' section the user can read the book independently or listen to the book by touching the sentence on each page. Words are underlined as read. Learner can also hear key vocabulary words by touching the picture. In 'match it' the learner has three options; picture to picture, word to word and word to picture. The third activity, 'select it' requires the user to select the correct picture from a choice of three words. In 'name it' you can choose either the word or picture option to complete the activity by labelling the image. The 'draw a line' activity offers the learner two options; word to word or word to picture. The last option is a sentence building activity which includes an image with a jumbled sentence beneath, the learner is required to build the correct sentence. At the end of each activity you can 'keep going' or 'Do it again'. The learning activities are well organised and although quite simple in its design, a lot of thought has gone into the layout of each screen with minimal distractions.   

Allowing the learner to practice vocabulary recognition across different activities is good for consolidation and understanding in different contexts. Visualearn, although originally designed for learners with Down Syndrome, is also a really useful resource for all learners starting out in word recognition. The app can be used in many different ways, through 1-1, small group and large group instruction. For larger group teaching I would suggest connecting the device to an interactive white board for the benefit of all learners in the class. 

Visualearn is a really good and easy to use application but with a few minor improvements it could be an excellent application. The voice over is robotic which is not ideal considering recent advancements in speech synthesis technologies. Being able to customise the app would be really beneficial, adding your own images would be a real plus point. Allowing the voice over to ask the question in the 'Select It' section would benefit non/emerging readers to work more independently. Overall, the developers have created a really nice app that plays to the strength of visual learners. Well done!

Screenshots

  • Visualearn-1Visualearn-2Visualearn-3Visualearn-4Visualearn-5

From the Developer

VisuaLearn
Promotes vocabulary development, sight word acquisition and sentence building.

VisuaLearn offers a simple interface with activities designed for typically developing children, children with Down syndrome or children with visual learning strengths who might benefit from guidance through smaller learning steps.

After choosing a title from the VisuaLearn library, your learner can engage in the following activities:
(1) Read It
Learner can read the book independently or listen to the book by touching the sentence on each page. Words are underlined as read. Learner can also hear key vocabulary words by touching the picture.
(2) Match It
Learner can match picture or word tiles to the same pictures or word tiles on the screen. Picture and word order are randomized to facilitate learning.
(3) Select It
Learner can select words to match a picture prompt and answer the question "what is this picture?"
(4) Name It
Learner can label the picture or read the word based on a visual prompt. Answers can be checked by tapping the picture or word, which then rotates to reveal and say the answer.
(5) Draw a Line
Learner can draw a line to connect words with words or words with pictures.
(6) Build a Sentence
Learner can drag and drop word tiles into the sentence frame to build sentences.

NAVIGATION NOTES:
-Learner is guided at the end of each activity to “Do it again” or “Keep going.” If Learner chooses “Keep going,” he or she will be guided to the next activity.
-Learner can return to library by touching the book icon in the upper left corner.
-Learner can return to the activity page by touching the activity icon in the upper left corner.

Additional information about each step in this app is available to download at http://dsfoc.org/learning-program/lp-archive/literacy-materials/instructional-materials.

Notes:
1. If you are already enrolled in The Learning Program, this app is based on Level 1 and introduces and reinforces learning of 144 Level 1 words. This app may also be used in conjunction with LP Online. For more information on The Learning Program, see http://dsfoc.org/learning-program.
2. Most books and supplementary materials found on this app can be downloaded for free from http://dsfoc.org/learning-program/lp-archive/literacy-materials/sight-word-readers. All resources can be purchased at http://dsfoc.org/learning-program-store.

Among other benefits, activities in this app help support mastery of the following Common Core State Standards:
-CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.K.1.A
Follow words from left to right, top to bottom, and page by page.
-CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.K.1.B
Recognize that spoken words are represented in written language by specific sequences of letters.
-CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.K.1.C
Understand that words are separated by spaces in print.
-CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.1.1.A
Recognize the distinguishing features of a sentence (e.g., first word, capitalization, ending punctuation).
-CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.K.3.C
Read common high-frequency words by sight (e.g., the, of, to, you, she, my, is, are, do, does).
-CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.K.4
Read emergent-reader texts with purpose and understanding.
-CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.K.5.A
Sort common objects into categories to gain a sense of the concepts the categories represent.
-CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.K.5.C
Identify real-life connections between words and their use.

We welcome your feedback and questions at visualearn@dsfoc.org.

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