Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Basic Concepts Skills Screener - Review


Bottom Line: A must-have for teachers and therapists who work with students in preschool and early elementary. Provides a quick and full screening along with an excellent report for tracking.

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It’s always fun to review apps from Smarty Ears; I know that the chances are high the app will be useful Bcss1 in my speech-language therapy. Basic Concepts Skills Screener definitely fulfills my expectations. It is a quick (10-15 minutes for the full screen, five minutes for the quick screen) evaluation tool, designed to give speech-language pathologists, teachers and parents an understanding of an individual child’s understanding of basic concepts.

These concepts are divided into three areas — spatial, comparative and temporal. The ability to understand these concepts is critical for students as they enter school. Sometimes without even thinking about it, teachers use these concepts multiple times a day. Whenever a child is told to “Stand behind Johnny in line,” “Put the book on the shelf,” or “We will go to lunch after story time,” basic concepts are at use.

Evaluation of basic concepts is not new — SLPs and teachers have been evaluating these areas for years, both formally with standardized tests, and informally by observation. The Basic Concepts Skills Screener (BCSS) falls right in the middle. It’s not a standardized instrument, but it still provides the ability to compare to the average age of acquisition. It’s casual enough for a teacher to use in the classroom and easily manage progress with kids who have shown difficulty. And the report is complete enough to provide great info to contribute to an SLP’s evaluation report.

I tested the app on my six-year-old daughter, since our school year has not yet begun. She was very willing to participate, as she was a captive audience while I was getting a haircut. I am familiar with Smarty Ears apps already, which made it very easy for me to set this app up and start the evaluation immediately.

But for those who aren’t sure what to do, the authors have included a very helpful manual with the app, accessible by tapping the Info tab in the upper left corner. There’s even a video tutorial, for those who would rather see it than read it.

Administration is so simple, there’s hardly a need to explain it (those who aren’t sure what to do should read the manual). In order to minimize distraction of the other patrons of the salon, I turned the sound down and quietly read the prompts to my daughter. The narration, though, is very easy to understand.

She went through the full screening with me, and I managed to resist correcting her answers as she Bcss3 responded (far harder to do with your own child than a student being evaluated). After finishing the full test, I was able to view a very complete screening report. I learned she got 70 out of 79 correct, and demonstrated mastery of all areas except for comparative concepts, which were labeled "emerging" at 79 percent.

The report doesn’t just stop at mastery level, though. It also includes the typical age of acquisition in two helpful graphs. In my case, they were especially interesting — my daughter shows mastery of all concepts at each age level (mastery is defined as 80 percent correct), even though overall she hasn’t yet mastered comparative concepts.  This information helps me see that I can be intentional about providing models of comparative concepts throughout interactions (“Look, your broccoli is bigger than mine!”)

Overall, I was very impressed with the ease of administration. I did not note any problems with testing at all (let’s face it, if I can smoothly administer while sitting in the salon with foil on my head, use in school should present no problem at all!). And the report is absolutely amazing. It can be emailed or opened in Smarty Ears’ Therapy Report Center app, which is used to track data across all their apps.

I anticipate using this a lot in the coming school year, in order to monitor progress in therapy, as well as in screenings when teachers express concern about a student’s progress. Teachers could use this easily with a whole class — providing the quick screen for all students (the longest part would probably be entering the name and choosing the birthday) while following with the long version for those who are struggling. This provides concrete data on areas of weakness, along with being able to easily show progress.

The app can be used in English or in Portuguese, which is a great feature. Of course, the price is higher Bcss4 than many apps we review, largely because this app is for professional use. However, as an evaluation measure with such a thorough report, $19.99 is still an exceptionally reasonable price (EDITOR'S NOTE: at the time of publication, this app was on sale for a limited time for $9.99). The authors are also working on an app that will work specifically on basic concepts tested in this screener — I can't wait to get that.

This app is definitely a must-have for teachers and therapists working with kids in preschool through first grade. The information provided is useful for planning therapy goals, classroom lessons, and intervention plans.
Image1Heather H. is happy that it is still summer vacation, but the beginning of the school year is almost here.  And apps like this make her excited for school, too! SmartAppsForKids.com was provided with a free copy of this app for review purposes. No other compensation was provided.

Originally posted on Smart Apps for Kids.

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