Today I attended a very interesting presentation by a member of the AssistiveWare team. AssistiveWare develops some of the most simple yet revolutionary hardware and software for OS X and iOS. The things they are doing for physically and intellectually disabled persons is nothing short of rockin’. One app in particular caught everyone’s eye, Proloquo2Go, a mouthful to say but full of enormous potential pedagogically.
Proloquo2Go provides for the user a huge database of words+icons which you can select to turn into written or spoken sentences. You can customize, edit, and continually add to this database using your iDevice’s camera. Forget Special Ed., this is an app for everyone.
Sure, others exist that do similar things, but the people at AssistiveWare seem to get that aesthetics, portability, and intuitiveness are essential criteria for a successful technology in this day and age.
Of course, one of their main markets is the educational sphere. Oh how useful and maybe even a little transformative this tool could be. But we’re not ready. I don’t mean that this app and all the other technologies AssistiveWare makes will not continue to transform many people’s lives, it’s that we’re not ready yet in our systems. Here’s why.
We’re not comfortable yet with the idea of students using genuinely personal devices. Personal, as in, your laptop or your Blackberry or your iPad 2. Do you want to share your iPhone, or login to it every time you use it? I don’t mind people using mine (jeez, I let my children get all manner of kid goobies all over it), but I don’t want to put it back in a shared locked cupboard and go home without it. That’s preposterous.
Our smart phones and tablets are astonishing in many delightful ways, but in terms of the apps that you really use as tools (Evernote, Dropbox, Grocery Gadget, Bento, Echofon, Things, Reeder – these are all in my apps hall of fame), these are not possible without customization and personalization.
Proloquo2Go is great, but it’s downright beautiful if customizable to change and adapt to the user’s needs. Without this, it would be used as a novelty in our schools.
The road to ubiquitous wifi and mobile/soft-walled learning is fraught with many common, as well as unexpected, challenges. I’m not even trying to attest that it’s necessarily the best path.
What I am saying is that the potential of iPods and iPads in particular can only soar if kids can customize them to match their own needs.