Busythings Ltd has developed a number of apps that caught my attention during a recent Internet quest. Their variety of visual perceptual apps especially caught my eye, with mobile apps that resembled many of the manual visual perceptual activities used with students that worked on visual perceptual challenges. Contact with BusyThings provided me with codes to trial their apps.
Tanagranimals app(1.99) is just one of Busythings visual perceptual apps developed for iPhone/iPad that provides visual spatial practice of aligning, spatial orientation of shapes and parts to whole. Tanagranimals differs from some tanagram apps as it requires spatially rotating select pieces for the correct orientation as opposed to just a drag and drop assembly of shapes. Developed for those that are at the stage of working on spatial orientation and have the fine motor skills to rotate the shapes, Tanagranimals provides 38 puzzle challenges for primary aged students. Using tanagrams also supports Math Common Core Standards in primary grades.
Here are some activity screen shots:
This is one of the 38 tanagram activities requiring spatial orientation/rotation of one shape. The rotation is pretty intuitive with visual directions provided after selecting the shape. Rotation of the shape required orientation to be fairly accurate (approximately with in 15-20 º) for it to move into place. Not all shapes require rotating, sometimes just one or two in an activity at most.
After placement of all of the shapes, the completed tanagram turns into an animated animal and entertains the user for a few moments before disassembling and moving to the next tanagram puzzle.
On the iPad the pieces are easy to manipulate using one finger to drag and drop into place or rotate the piece as needed. The background is simple, not distracting from the task presented. Music is provided within the app but can be turned off in the settings. Tanagranimals provides clear directions upon opening the apps to demonstrate how to use the app.
A few settings are offered in the app: reset, turning audio off or providing a guide (dotted lines showing where the shapes belong) or removing the guide (lines) increasing the difficulty of the task.
For special needs students with fairly good fine motor skills the shapes are an adequate size to manipulate. The orientation of shapes may be difficult for those with significant fine motor challenges. The guide provides cognitive scaffolding for students needing more concrete information but can be removed to grade the activities for older or more advanced students. No sizing or accuracy settings are available in the app to grade the presentation or assist with completion.
Tanagranimals app presents itself as a clean, fun tanagram activity that provides some ability to grade the task by applying or removing guides within the app. It challenges students spatial orientation skills at a higher level than the basic drag and drop tanagrams suited to preschool students (Tanagram app post ). As always balancing such electronic activities with the real three-dimensional block activity is important to gain in hand manipulation skills, manage screen time and develop three-dimensional perception of objects. I do believe however as an alternative modality, electronic tanagrams are well suited to mobile device use and development of visual spatial skills. Research indicates tanagrams also help support acquisition of math skills.
Hands on, three dimensional tanagrams are many. Here are just a few hands on activities that might be considered using the real objects for tanagram work:
Melissa & Doug Pattern Blocks and Boards (16.74)
Three Pigs, One Wolf, Seven Magic Shapes (3.99) I have used this book for years. I was surprised to still find the book which originally came with block shapes.
Tangoes Junior (25.00)
Of course there are many more tanagram activities available such as Classic Tangoes
and Magnetic Travel Tangoes. Digging in your closet or shelves may result in finding those blocks and design sheets you used before mobile devices were ever conceived!
What kind of spatial apps do you use on your iPad? Would you include this in your OT iTool Kit?
Using Tanagrams to facilitate children’s mathematical skills: http://sdetp41.wikispaces.com/file/view/Sections+on+Introduction+and+Literature+Review.pdf
Help Handwriting by Challenging Visual Perceptual Skills: http://www.squidoo.com/challenging-visual-perceptual-skills