I am branching out a little with this review, since LessonPix is an online tool not an app; however, I’m completely convinced that it will still be worth my readers’ time! Obviously, I love what tablets and phones can do in therapy–after all, I do devote hours each week to evaluating apps and sharing them with others. But I readily admit that sometimes an app just won’t do it. Sometimes an app isn’t available for a particular skill, or sometimes using a tablet/phone isn’t appropriate with a particular client, or sometimes it’s important that a different medium be used (e.g. when focusing on skills that require manipulation of a physical object). And sometimes *gasp* there is an app that could address a skill appropriately, but it’s not the best way to address it. Shocking, right? Of course not, because you are all wonderful critical thinkers who long ago realized that the iPad is an awesome tool, not a panacea. That said, the unfortunate thing about many non-app activities is how time-consuming lesson planning/preparing can become. Hopefully this review will help you make the process more efficient. Oh…and did I forget to mention there is a GIVEAWAY accompanying this review?? 😉 See the giveaway post for details on how to enter to win.
What It Is: An online tool for creating customized materials from an extensive clipart library.
Price: $24.99 for a year subscription
How It Works: In a gist, LessonPix provides clipart images (currently over 11,000) that are original drawings from which the user can pick to make a variety of materials. The site provides some excellent video tutorials that I would recommend watching before starting. The basics are this: search for the desired images, place the ones you like on the tray as you browse, then press “create materials” to make whatever you’d like. Let’s break that down a little further…
Search. This can be done via “quick search,” which involves entering a word into the search bar to pull up related images. This is good if looking for specific words. (For example, I typed in “keys” and got 12 images.) Search can also be performed via category. This is good for developing theme units, curriculum-related materials, or any lesson that involves categories. (For example, there is a hygiene category.) The search function I’ve had most fun with, however, is the “Sound Finder.” To use this tool, enter in any word (let’s say kite), and it is automatically transcribed into IPA. Then choose one or more phonemes (let’s say /k, t/) to search for and specify where in the word you want them (anywhere, beginning, middle, end). The site then produces words like “doctor” (if you chose to search for these phonemes in the middle of words) and “insect” (if you chose to search for the phonemes at the end of words). The sound finder includes related tools like searching by letter, pattern of vowels/consonants (e.g. CV words), rhyming words, and minimal pairs. Regardless of how you search, you can specify results to include color, stencil, and/or outline pictures.
The tray. This is a panel that constantly stays on the right side of the page. Once materials are added to the tray, they stay there while you continue to search. You can save materials on a tray for future use or just use them once.
Create materials. Once all the desired images are on the tray, click “create materials” and choose what you want to make. I won’t list them all because there are so many (see their custom materials page), but some of my favorites include Bingo, coloring sheets, playing cards, and just regular picture cards. Each of these things is quite customizable, with options like having/not having the printed word under the pictures, changing the sizes, and much more depending on what material you choose to make.
Therapy Applications: The website can be used by a variety of professionals and families, but I am going to focus on how SLPs can use it. In essence, any way you could use a picture card in therapy could be used. Articulation/phonology was the first thing that came to my mind, whether you make picture cards for drill or do something more complex like board games. (See my final consonant deletion Bingo game.) Sound Finder makes this particularly easy, and the related tools like Minimal Pairs helps save you some time. It’s also easy to address literacy skills using LessonPix. For example, you could make vocabulary cards to go along with the book (and use Letter Finder to use pictures that supplement the class working on certain letters), or they have a cool tool for working on early literacy-based beginning/middle/end goals. Of course, this ties in nicely with sequencing goals, which can be used for literacy activities or things like daily living skills (e.g. getting dressed in the morning). (See my hygiene sequence pictures.) You could easily use the pictures for social stories. Since we’re talking about pragmatics and literacy, there is also a simple way to make stick puppets using these cards, so you can work on anything from story-telling to pronouns to turn-taking. You can incorporate reasoning/problem-solving into many of these activities (e.g. “Uh-oh, the boy was playing in the mud and is all dirty. What does he need to do? How steps does he need to take to get clean?”) There are some obvious AAC-related ways to use LessonPix (think: communication books) that could be used with children or adults. I like that there is a first-then tool to provide a visual schedule for behavior management. A downfall of using the iPad in therapy is that you can’t send it home with the child to increase carryover, but this tool can be used for creating materials to send home as homework. (For example, see my /s/ coloring sheets.)
Pros: 1. Price. Similar products can easily run for hundreds of dollars.
2. Web-based. It’s nice not to have to mess around with software.
3. Number of pictures. They currently have over 11,000 and are planning on adding more than 5,000 within the next year. (Also, all of these additions will be included in the one subscription fee.)
4. The pictures are all hand-drawn, and it’s easy to request more pictures. Once you’ve requested pictures, they estimate it will be in the library within a couple of days to a week, which is a pretty quick turn-around time.
5. Several of their features are free, so you can trial them before purchasing a subscription. One such feature is the Sound Finder, which is particularly useful for SLPs.
6. You can upload your own photos. This could be useful for customizing AAC or literacy activities.
7. Ease of use. We spent a couple hours of a graduate-level class getting taught how to use a somewhat similar product. I’ll be honest and say that there was a decent amount of un-graduate-level whining and frustration that ensued! LessonPix offers a lot of options, but its set-up is quite simple and user-friendly. It works the way I think it should work, so the adjustment period for using it was much shorter than I expected. The design is clean and intuitive.
8. I no longer am copy-and-pasting Google Image outlines to use as coloring sheets to send home with my clients!
9. Objectionable content. Yes, I really did mean to put this in the “pros” section. Right now, there isn’t any objectionable content, but they are adding some because they’ve had many requests for more mature images (e.g. puberty-related pictures). I was pleased to hear that these will require a password. So if you’re working with a younger child on LessonPix, they won’t be able to search for images inappropriate for their age. However, if you are creating materials for an adolescent and adult (let’s say searching for the image “tampon”), you will be able to see that there are results (e.g. it will say there are five images), but you won’t be able to see the images until you re-enter your password. I think this is a thoughtful way for them to include images that many avoid (but may be quite important for those we support) while still making the site child-friendly. (08/06/2012 Update: LessonPix is now offering “restricted images”! A password is required to view these images, and the SLP can alter the settings for this as needed. I’m very excited about this update because it is a necessary area that is all too frequently ignored due to its sensitive nature. Check out their explanation of this or go straight to the restricted images page.)
10. Everything is customizable. The picture sizes, how many copies of an image you want for a certain activity, changing the text that goes with the picture (you can even save this for future use), etc.
11. You can download LessonPix’s images in formats easily compatible with software like Microsoft Office. If you’ve used other software, you’ll know this is often not possible and is a huge pain.
12. The product can be used for any age group from early intervention to adulthood.
13. As I mentioned in my post about Tactus Therapy’s Comprehension app, a developer’s ability (and willingness) to network well and be easily accessible can really add another level of quality to their product. I can’t stress enough how impressive it is to me when I see them interacting and using their knowledge and skills to help others above and beyond promoting their own products. LessonPix does this well, from their willingness to customize their product upon your suggestion to their use of Twitter to help all of us #slpeeps use technology more efficiently. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen Bill Binko (one of the founders) jump in to help one of us out with something completely unrelated to LessonPix. And as I’ve pointed out before, involvement in real-time social media and resource sharing indicates a desire to constantly improve their product. Also, Lori Binko (the other founder) is the one who does the majority of the drawings and is currently a teacher of students with special needs.
Cons: 1. This product is designed for use with children, so much of the language is childish (e.g. “boo-boo” for a picture of a bandaid on an arm). If you’re going to use it with adults, make sure you change the label to make it age-appropriate.
2. The pictures are somewhat monoethnic. I did notice that they have included some non-Caucasian images, but it appears predominantly white.
3. There isn’t a way to share resources with other users within the site. It would be nice to be able to look up resources other SLPs made for, say, final consonant deletion.
4. Comparatively, some of the features that are offered by the pricier options available are not possible with LessonPix, such as activities within the website that allow clients to incorporate auditory recordings, for example.
5. More of a caution than a con: since many of my readers are SLPs actively involved online (many with blogs), I’d like to call attention to LessonPix’s sharing rules. In a gist, feel free to share your materials with students and parents and teachers for personal use, but don’t put them online or redistribute them without LessonPix’s permission.
The Take-Away: I’d highly recommend this product. It is a MUCH more cost-efficient alternative to what is currently available. I am highly impressed by the Sound Finder and related features, which I think are particularly useful for SLPs. It is sure to save the average SLP plenty of time while also providing ideas for activities and materials.
My Questions for You: In what ways could you use this product in therapy? What tools/materials do you think could be most helpful and what goals could you address while using them?
**Full Disclosure: I did not receive any compensation for this review. I did receive a 2-month subscription to trial the product as well as a year subscription to give away to a reader. The product developers were informed that the review would involve an objective assessment of both the strengths and weaknesses of the tool.**