Thursday, August 25, 2011

Songify for Instant Musical Social Stories?!

I just finished a digital social story for one of the students I work with who has autism, and I was thinking about ways I could add some music into his story...and the idea occurred to me that something like the Songify app might be just the thing I needed.   

What is Songify?  It is sort of like a reverse Karaoke.  Whatever you speak into your iPad or iPhone's microphone is immediately transformed by the app into a song.   Key phrases are repeated and integrated into the melody.   The free app comes with a few songs, stripped of the words/singing.  (There is an option to purchase additional songs through the App store.)

My first few attempts using Songify with students was to create personalized "All About Me" story-songs, in real time, during group activities in the classroom, with input from the students.  I also created a few story-songs that focused on positive behaviors - following the rules, listening to the teacher, kind hands,  waiting patiently,  calming down, etc.

Although Songify was designed to transform the spoken word into music, I found that it worked nicely with I spoke in "sing-song".   I experimented with variations of the following story/song:

"name" likes  to go to school, he/she likes to go to school, get on the bus and go to school...
"name" is so cool, "name" is so cool...
"name" likes to see my friends at school..
"name" likes to........   "name" likes to..  (play with friends at recess, learn about animals and their habitats,  go to music class... wear cool shoes... etc.)
"name" likes to go to school 

The students had a chance to share information about what they like, what they like about school, and so forth. Most had no problem participating for a 30 minute session!  


I can see quite a few uses for the app:
  • Use students' Songify creations as the narrative to digital social stories. This might be impressive on the SmartBoards - with the music coming from nice speakers rather than the small iPad.
  • Use the Songify creations as part of other group or class digital projects.  (Remember School House Rock?) 
  • Use Songify to create digital social stories for "on-the-job" routines and social skills.

The beauty of Songify is that it is simple to use- and it provides immediate, awesome feedback to the students.  I have a hunch that if Songify is used in a variety of ways, the novelty effect might be sustained

Cautions: If you work with students with significant special needs, you know how difficult it is to find activities and interventions that are effective - and also based on sound research.  The reality is that with budget cuts, it is difficult to implement interventions designed for classrooms with a higher adult-to-student ratio.  Technology can help, but iPad technology is  new.   It is highly unlikely that someone is researching the use of applications like Songify with students with special needs!

Reflection: I'm happy to have all of this technology at my fingertips.  Unfortunately, my digital life in my role as a school psychologist is far from seamless or "integrated".  Even the iPad2 requires a lot of work to create, move, share, and display content.  Mark Weiser would rolling in his grave.

Digital Stories in Schools and for Special Needs Children
LIS 5315 Course Wiki
SmartApps for Kids: a Dad's quest to find the best applications for the iPad and iPhone, 8/4/11 Intelligent Music Applications
"Khush Inc. develops intelligent music applications for mobile phones. The company was founded by music technology enthusiasts at the Georgia Tech Music Intelligence Lab."
Songify makes your speech into song, sort of

Rafe Needleman, Rafe's Radar, CNET News, 7/7/11


Mark Weiser, Scientific American, 9/1991
Note:  My school district has not ventured into the iPad world, so I'm using my personal iPad2 at work, along with a speech and language therapist.  The district purchased two Dell multi-touch tablet PCs for the school, but alas, there isn't an "App" system for Windows 7.  We'll be using multi-touch applications from the Open Autism Software Project with the Dells.

No comments: