Featured App #4: Dexteria Jr
Used by: Ann O'Connor, Scoil an Athar Tadhg,
Ann O'Connor works in Scoil an Athar Tadhg, a primary school in Carraig na bhFear, Co. Cork. She teaches the Early Intervention Class within the school’s ASD Unit - 'An Neidín' - where the children are aged between 3 and 5 years old.
Although Ann uses Dexteria Jr. within this setting for preparing the children for beginning handwriting, she thinks it would also be beneficial for many older children as they develop their fine motor skills.
The activities that Ann finds useful within Dexteria Jr. include a focus on finger control, finger isolation, finger strength, finger manipulation, pincher grasp, wrist flexion and hand co-ordination, as well as tracing pre-writing shapes in a fun and motivating way.
Ann describes the App as consisting of the three following activities and gives some ideas of how she uses them:
1. 'Squish the (Butternut)Squash' – tap all of the squash as they appear as quickly as you can (15 levels). Children must react to the appearing squashes by quickly tapping them in order to squash them. I then check the records section within the App and the time it took each child to complete each round is documented. The aim is that, with practice, children’s times would decrease when completing levels.
2. 'Pinch the Pepper' – pinch all of the peppers as quickly as you can (10 levels). Here, children need to accurately pinch the peppers between their thumb and index finger in order to make them disappear. Similarly to ‘Squish the Squash’, children’s times are recorded as they pinch the peppers. The aim is that as the children become more accurate using their pincher grasp, the time it will take to complete each level will decrease.3. 'Trace & Erase' (tracing pre-writing shapes and combinations of pre-writing shapes) – trace along the path from the starting point (arrow) to the end point (star) while paying attention to accuracy. Children must then erase what has been done by guiding an eraser back over the path for further practice (20 levels). To begin, this activity is completed by the children using their finger before eventually progressing to complete the same activity using the iPad pen. Records are then checked within the App and how accurately the child has completed each level is displayed in percentage form. The aim of this activity is that each child’s percentage will increase as they become more accurate.
There are many things that Ann likes about Dexteria Jr:
The App focusses on the pre-writing shapes - those shapes that are crucial for the children to be able to complete before formal handwriting is attempted. Within each activity there are many levels to cater for varying abilities. You can freely choose which level to begin on, meaning that you are not dependent on finishing one level in order to access the next. This allows for the sharing of iPads between the children.
The App does the recording for you! Within the App there is a record section that can be accessed by the teacher/staff in order to view and track a child’s progress. Unfortunately Dexteria Jr. only has one general report and not individual reports for each child. However, Dexteria Jr. Multi-User App is available for €0.89 and it allows each child to have their own individual report.
As children use the App they are provided with short, basic instructions along the way. The instructions can be heard before each activity and level. During the ‘Trace & Erase’ activity, children are alerted when they trace inaccurately by both a sound as well as the path turning red. I find that this feature encourages children to take more care themselves.
Ann finds Dexteria Jr. to be a huge hit with the children in the class:
They enjoyed the fun graphics and sound effects as they ‘squished’ and ‘pinched’ their way through the levels. When children did well the App provided words of praise and cheering along the way. They all loved this.
Also, within the 'Trace & Erase' activity, once the child has traced, and they erase their way through each level, the camera is enabled and there is a snapshot taken of them using different funny effects. Children can be heard giggling loudly as an image appears of them with one part of their image exaggerated or stretched (this feature can also be disabled within the App if it becomes too much of a distraction or if a child does not like the unpredictability of it).
Finally, Ann thinks that the App is very versatile:
If you like the idea of Dexteria Jr. but think that it may be unsuitable for older children, there is another version of the App available called Dexteria – Fine Motor Skill Development for €3.59. Just like Dexteria Jr., a version of the App can be bought for €8.99 to facilitate multi-users by storing reports for individual children.
The App is compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.