Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Tale of 2 Timers: App Reviews

Hi all--It's Chris from Autism Classroom News!  I was flipping through my iPhone yesterday and discovered a bunch of apps that I had forgotten about.  Last week I also realized that folks I was talking to didn't know about some of the apps for timers on your smart phone.  Let me start by saying I'm a BIG BIG BIG fan of timers. I love them so much, I made them #2 of the top 12 things needed in an autism classroom.  For just a sampling of how I use them, check out this post.    I love them but I'm very particular about them so I thought I would share 2 of them that I use that I really like and tell you the good and the bad.

One of the uses for timers for many students is to help them learn to wait.  Often I will give students a wait card (just a card that says wait and might have a symbol on it) and set a timer.  Visual timers are nice because the students can see the time counting down that they are expected to wait.  The Pyramid Educational Consultants that makes the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) have created an app for that.  It is called Wait 4 It.  It's available for iPod, iPhone, iPad mini and the iPad for $1.99.  You select a picture (there are 50 picture symbols or you can take or upload your own photo).  The sand timer counts down to the time you set and makes a noise when it reaches the end and the picture moves forward and larger.
Pros:  It's pretty easy to use. I love that you can choose a picture or upload your own.  It's visual for the students.  You can set minutes and seconds, so you can set it for short times if needed.  And finally, you can set it for minutes and seconds (I hate when you can only set minutes).

Cons: The timer only rings one time and I really wish it would continue so I can take it to all the children involved.  I have to remember to hit it twice to set it and hit it twice to start the timer, which once I figured it out wasn't that hard. And finally, of course that it only works on apple products, as far as I can tell.

The second timer I want to talk about is the Time Timer.  Many of you may be familiar with the visual timer Time Timer in stand alone timers we often use in our classrooms for kids with autism.  I love the app because I don't have to find it--because I always have my phone.

For anyone not familiar with the Time Timer, you can read and watch a video here of all their products.  The long and short of it is that it is a visual timer that has a colored dial that gets smaller as the time counts down.  The visual aspect of it has been great for students on the spectrum for years, and now they make a noise when time is up, which is awesome!  Otherwise, our kids just stayed on the computer (a common use for the visual timers is to show them how much time they have on the computer) and if when we weren't paying attention.  The iPhone and Android versions are $1.99 and the iPad version is $4.99.  Also, there is a desktop computer version that you can project on an interactive whiteboard or projector--it's $24.99.  You can get to all the relevant links here.  There are some great features of the app that I want to highlight.

There is a timer you can quick set by just sliding the dial around or you can pick from a slider.  You can only have whole minutes, however and if you are using short periods of time it's sometimes hard to see how much time is on the timer.  One of the great things about it is that it has the option to have multiple timers on a page.  They also seem to have fixed it so that the timer won't stop if your phone goes to sleep (an earlier version stopped if your screen turned off which ALWAYS happened to me).  There is a clock version that shows the actual time as well as versions that are more traditional with just the colors counting down (but you can pick the color).  You can also set up timers with names and set up timers to repeat themselves.  Finally another option is to set it so that it just vibrates, makes a sound, and that it keeps playing the sound until you stop it (a feature I love) or have it just ring one time.  In the picture to the right you can see some of the options you can set.

Pros:  You can have multiple timers with different colors and different sounds.  You can name the timers and choose the colors or type of timer.  You can set it to continue ringing.  You can choose the sound it makes (I recommend trying them out because the default sound is pretty soft), and you can set it to awake mode so it doesn't go to sleep.  It's available for Android and Apple devices.

Cons:  It's hard to see small amounts of time and you can't set seconds.  The sounds are a bit soft but you can solve that by choosing a loud obnoxious sound.

So, those are 2 tools I pull out and use for a variety of timer needs.  What timer apps or tools have you used?  Share them in the comments!

Until next time,

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