One Mobile Device or Two? Things to Consider About iPads/Tablets as Communication Devices
Should iPads and tablets be used both for communication and other things? That’s a question we hear rather frequently these days. Our answer will probably frustrate you. Ready? Here goes: It depends.
It depends on the learner. Consider these two students.
Tia is 6 and very much a beginning communicator. She has had her mobile device with a core language based AAC app for a few months. Tia uses it independently to ask for a few of her favorite things, like music and bubbles. With prompting she can use it to ask for a wider variety things, and can also use it for commenting, labeling, greeting, and answering ‘what’ questions. She does not yet combine two symbols to make short sentences.
Yvette is 15 and has been using AAC since she was a toddler. She uses a text-to-speech app on her mobile device and knows how to program phrases and sentences to speed up communication. Yvette spends a lot of time on Facebook but doesn’t let that interfere with her schoolwork. She got mostly B’s in her high school classes last term and surprised her English teacher by turning in an essay that was longer than any other student’s work.
Clearly, Tia and Yvette are different with different needs. A one-size-fits-all approach won’t work.
With kids like Tia, it is a common practice to have the mobile device dedicated to AAC, locking out other apps. Having a mobile device that is dedicated to communication helps the child see it as a tool for expression, which is why they got in in the first place. This often makes sense for beginning AAC users. For them, we generally recommend that beginning AAC users use their mobile device only for communication and have access to second one for learning apps and games. Often what happens is that if there are other apps that they can get to, we run into two problems.
One is that they can’t communicate while they are playing with the educational or fun apps. That is a shame because those are GREAT times for communication learning. We need kids to be able to learn/play and communicate at the same time. Having one device for communication and the other for entertainment/learning helps make that happen.
The bigger problem is that, over time, the learner may prefer the educational apps or games to communicating. Then, when we direct them to the communication app, they resist because they would rather be entertained than talk to us. It creates a power struggle and a barrier to communication development in some cases.
Students like Yvette, on the other hand, are probably perfectly able to transition between multiple uses of the device without difficulty. In these cases, it makes plenty of sense to use one mobile device for communication, note-taking, social media, and entertainment. It’s more convenient and efficient for Yvette
Everyone is different so it stands to reason that one approach won’t fit all situations. Have you encountered this situation? We’d love to hear about your experiences.
Filed under: PrAACtical Thinking
This post was written by Carole Zangari