Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Review: Dollar Up -- Teaches life skills associated with money





Purpose of App: Dollar Up - Money Learning Aid for Special Needs Education teaches users the life skills needed to handle paying with cash. It teaches them to be able to identify how much money they have, to listen and determine how much money to pay, to compare prices, as well as other money skills needed in life.

Strengths: Works in incremental steps from identifying the correct currency, to making payments, to comparing prices. Can customize currencies.

Weaknesses: Needs more instructions specific to each lesson for the users. Menus only have pictures, no word labels.

Suggested Audience: Users with special needs looking for help using money. Useful for all ages, but wonderful for older children striving toward more independence in making cash purchases


Meets Intended Goal
Entertainment
Worth the Price
Ease of Use
Educational Value
Level of Customization

If you would like to download Dollar Up ($4.99, iPad Only), please show your support by using our link:


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There is the ability to send emails from within the app
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Money is a crucial step in fostering independence. If someone is unable to determine how much money they have to make a purchase or know how much cash to hand a cashier, then they could run into difficulties. Dollar Up - Money Learning Aid for Special Needs Education by pkclSoft strives to help prepare individuals, specifically those with special needs, to be able to handle money in real life situations.

The primary concept of Dollar Up is to teach users to round up to the next dollar (or other currency). The app has seven different lessons which progressively work on different skills necessary to correctly identify bills, choose correct cash currency, and pay for purchases. By removing the need to count exact change, people can focus on determining if they are able to pay the necessary amount much easier, which will help to build confidence.

The first section, "Identifying Notes and Coins," works on currency recognition. Random currency is scattered across the screen. The narrator asks for a certain amount of money, and the user must select the appropriate bill.  What is great is that there are multiple instances of the same currency, much like what someone would find in their wallet. So if asked for $10, there could be three $10 bills, one $5 and two $1's displayed. Selecting any of the $10 bills available is a correct response.

Much like having multiple of the same currency available, many real life situations occur throughout the lessons. Many of the lessons focus on listening to the spoken amount. Since it is not uncommon to be somewhere where a person speaks a total aloud without a visual display, it is important for people to learn to listen and be able to determine how much cash to pay.  There is always the option to hear the total repeated by pressing the ear icon.

In the "Paying at the Grocery" lesson, users are shown an item and told how much the total cost is. They must pay the correct amount of cash. If the total is $5.97, then the user owes $6 and can either place a $5 and a $1 on the counter, or they can correctly pay with six $1's. However, if paying with more than five $1's, the cashier will tell you it would be more efficient to pay using a $5 bill.

At the end of each skill, there is an option to view the skill results. This includes a full breakdown of what skill was practiced, the date and statistics. The results for all lessons for a user are also available by selecting the award icon in the right hand corner of their user profile page. All results can be sent via email to collect and use accordingly. Multiple user profiles are supported and data tracking is separate for each profile.

There are many customization options available, including choosing from five different currencies. A user profile has the option to turn off reward games, select which skills are available, and even remove specific denominations for users needing to focus on certain aspects of the app.

Dollar up offers the ability to choose from the Australian dollar, Canadian dollar, U.S. dollar, British Pound and Euro. Each of these currencies are shown as realistic pictures as compared to artistic, cartoon-like depictions.

At the end of each lesson, the user is able to play one of two mini games -- balloon pop or coin catch. This is a great way to break up the lesson with a little bit of fun. Perhaps users would be more enticed to play if their score was displayed or even a top scores list was displayed after each game.

I appreciate all the icons and the designs that went into them to help depict the menu items, but some were a little hard to figure out. I understand the screens were designed to be clean, with as few distractions as possible, but a simple three or four word descriptor under the icons would help with usability. On the Lesson Selection screen, only icons are shown. So if a caregiver wants a child to practice "Do you have enough money?" she has to correlate the icon with the skill title listed on the lesson results.

Also, the introduction available before each lesson is identical. It simply goes over the basic concept of the app. It would be better if the introduction was specific to that lesson. For example, if the child is playing "Paying for Items," then give instructions for that lesson. Also, offering an explanation in many of the games would be helpful to remind a user that he needs to round up and pay to the nearest dollar. Technically, someone can pay using a $10 bill for a $4.57 purchase, however that will be counted incorrect in this lesson, as there was a $5 available.

For a $4.99 app, I would like to see the skills taken a little further. For instance, in the "Do you have enough money?" lesson, it could offer an advanced option to be able to take off an item you cannot afford. Also, it would be nice in paying for items to sometimes only have higher denomination bills. That way, the user could learn that if the total was $2.29, it's okay to pay with a $5 bill if that is all they have. Although a more advanced concept, if someone only has $10 bills in their wallet, they will need to be able to round the dollar up to the nearest 10's place.

Dollar Up is  a life skills application and not just an app showing what a $5 bill looks like. The focus is not on just counting money, but determining what money is needed. Users will become more comfortable recognizing currency, determining how much cash is needed to pay for items, as well as determining if they have enough money to pay. These life skills are invaluable for a child or young adult working toward independence.

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Rachel H's sister used to collect coins as a kid. When everyone kept giving her their change, Rachel tried to claim she collected $20 bills to no avail. Smartappsforspecialneeds.com was paid for advertising by pkclSoft.

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