In this tutorial we introduce a methodology to systematically create educational activities, games, interactive stories and other therapeutic resources using images, sounds, text and voice, and make them accessible by mouse, touch screen, switches, joysticks, head mice or eye tracking systems.
Remember that you will not normally need to design your communication board from scratch to work with Verbo. Most of the time, you can use an pre-made board as a template and edit it to adapt it to your needs and your own taste. For example, you can freely use any of the boards freely available in the Verbo Community, a collaborative space in which other Verbo users share the resources they create when they feel the may be useful to other people.
Throughout the tutorial we will use concepts such as "pages", "cells", "styles" or "commands" that you should be familiar with. If you need a reminder, visit the user manual.
Verbo is a powerful tool for the creation of educational and therapy resources. One of its main virtues is the ability to customise its content by adding photos, sounds, voices, pictures, symbols, characters or hobbies that represent the user. This is essential to ensure a high motivation on the task. This way we shall arouse their emotion, interest and curiosity.
All the activities are designed for a particular person with specific objectives, so this involves a number of previous considerations in order to contextualise the format and justify its effectiveness. We propose that you consider the following ten questions before you start creating a new Verbo activity. This is a necessary first step that makes the creation process easier because it allows you to analyse the activity and the decision-making about the configuration of Verbo:
What do you want to achieve?
Outline the main purpose of the activity as objectives in order to focus the design, theme and evaluation criteria.
What are the user's needs and characteristics?
The user is the protagonist, so it is essential to ponder their needs and previous experience with TICs and AACs.
What type of interaction are we aiming for?
According to the previous questions, you can decide whether the activity will be played using the automatic scanning mode or with a manual mode, that requires the user to be able to select and activate cells but increases the autonomy and interaction with the activity.
How we are going to represent the language?
You can create the activity using symbols, text or a combination of both. Additonally, you can insert your own images or photos.
What type of physical accessibility do we need?
You can organize your board according to the type of access to make it more functional and comfortable to move around using switches, head mice like enPathia, touchscreens, joysticks, keyboards or eye-tracking systems.
Will we use scanning?
If you use scanning, you should organize the cells with the right order and direction to make them more accessible.
Regarding the appearance, you must consider the visual needs of the user when choosing the style and appearance preferences.
The activity can be created with real sounds, music, beeps, auditive reinforcement or even auditive scanning, so it is important to consider these preferences.
What type of reinforcement will we use?
Motivation is key to success, so you should consider how to offer reinforcements with visual, auditive or verbal feedback.
It is very important to consider the length of the activity according to the attentional level of the user.
You should already know what cells are, how they work and how you can modify them (see the user manual and AAC tutorial to create your first board if you need to). In an activity, we will be using two types of cells:
Just like the pages in a communication board were used to include words categories, in the activity board they will represent the different levels we have to achieve.
Typically, we will create three types of pages in the activity board:
Cause-effects or question-answer activities are created with several level pages in which "jump" cells will be the correct answer.
However, each level can also group different pages. It can be seen, for example, in multiple-choice activities or in association activities, in which it is neccesary to do a serie of actions to move to the next level. Remember to use the option "clone page" to create all the levels just in a few minutes.
Because of the flexibility to add different types of content in Verbo, the questions will be closely related to the life and environment of the user: daily ocupations, photos, family voices, hobbies, favourite music, etc. Verbo allows you to customise any activity so that it represents the emotions, motivations, experiences and personality of the user.
The questions in an activity must offer enough information to answer it, according to the needs and characteristic of the user. For example, you can insert an image with the message "Find the opposite", that can either be automatically verbalised at the start to ensure fluidity and simplicity, or written, for people with reading ability.
In response to a question, you can offer different types of answers according to the level of difficulty you want to include.
It will be a cause-effect or questions-answer activity, because it will have an unique direction. It can be represented by any theme and they are perfect to become familiar with Verbo. You can create different degrees of complexity:
The user will have to do differents actions to move to the next level. It requires more cognitive processing, and you can focus on any objective or theme. Users have to move around the different actions cells, and solve the corresponding problems.
For example, in "Musical instruments", available in the Verbo Community, you first have to listen to the sound and then find it among the suggested images. Also, the "Learning symbols" activity has two steps for moving to next level: first click on the photo, and then click on its symbol.
Other examples include association activities, like "Christmas association game".
They are open and multidirectional boards, which offer the opportunity to choose between different options as a correct answer. The can be divided in three:
You can create an activity according to the complexity of the access system and to the cognitive processing level it requires.
As an example, let us create two different activities:
Launch Verbo and create a new board. Click "New board" and select the Verbo style. AAC style makes little sense when creating activities, unless you want to practice the AAC system in particular.
We are going to create a game with a dark background to see the images in a high contrast mode. Click the "Edit style" icon in the toolbar. In "Page style" change the background colour to black and select the option to hide the message bar.
The home page will just display the start button. Insert a message cell (double click on any cell) and write "Touch the start". We only need text, so do not select any symbol.
We are using the Verbo style, so the result will be similar to the following image:
Now, double click again on this cell to edit it. In Style select "Custom" and click on the pencil icon to edit the shape, outline and colours. When you close this dialog and return to you board, resize the cell if you need to.
It is also important to display the image that the user will try to locate in the following levels. Insert a column at the right and create a new cell next to the title. Select "Other" and then "Image". Now type "star" and choose a suitable image. Your board should now look similar to this one:
As we have decided that we only want to present the activity interaction on its own, levels will be automatically passed when the user selects the image. Start by creating a new page named "Level 1". Verbo will add a "Jump back" cell that you have to delete, because it is not consistent with this activity.
Insert more columns and rows to create an activity board in which cells can be inserted in any location. Then, add a new image cell with a star (like one in the Home page, so you can copy-paste it). This is the first level, so you can resize the star to make it more visual by stretching it with the dragging circles.
Then, insert as many pages as levels you want to create, and called them "Level 2", "Level 3", etc. Every time you add a page, remember to activate the option "Clone existing page" and choose "Level 1". This way, you will not need to do the same process over and over again.
When you add a few pages, you will have a board like this:
In each new level, just move the star image to another position in the board. In more advanced levels you can insert additional images to increase difficulty. Remember that if that the new image is yellow, it will be more difficult.
Now, the most important feature: Pass levels with sound reinforcement!
To do that, in every cell with a star we need to add the command "Jump to a page", and select the next level page.
We want to play a positive beep in stars and a negative beep in the rest of images. So insert a new "Say a message or play a sound" command in every cell. In the dialogue you will have to unselect "Use cell text" and "Use synthesized voice" and then choose the sound from your PC.
Almost done! Just let the user know that they ended the activity and include a reinforcement for all their effort.
To do that, insert a new page named "Final" by cloning the Home page. Now edit the title and write "End". Replace the star image with an "OK" symbol, and add all the visual reinforcements that you want.
In the last level, remember to insert a "Jump to a page" command pointing to the Final page. In this cell you can also add a new "Say a message or play a sound" command to include a verbal reinforcement like "You passed all the levels succesfully! Well done!".
We are going to create the "Compare animals" activity with symbols and handwritten font. Start by creating a new board with Verbo style, and then click the "Edit style" icon in the toolbar.
In "Page style", change the background colour and select the option to hide the message bar.
The Home page is going to be created with a different style. Go to the pages dialogue (three dots on the upper right corner) and edit Home. In this dialogue you can change the background colour, or even choose a picture or photo from PC.
We will use Home as front page and for instructions. First of all, add more columns and rows to have more work space.
Then insert an Image cell (double click on any empty cell, select Other and "Image") and type "animals". Choose an animal symbol (or any image from your PC).
In Style, click the pencil icon to modify the shape, outline, font and image adjustment. For this activity, we are going to choose a rectangle shape with transparent background, no outline and bottom-aligned black text with "Massallera 72" font. As you can see when closing the dialogue, the cell is too small to contain that text, so stretch it along several cells.
Now create a new cell and name it "Level 1". Verbo adds by default a "Jump back" cell that you will have to delete, because it is not consistent with this activity.
Add columns until you have seven. Group all the cells from the first row horizontally to insert the question of each level. Double click on it to create a custom cell and type the first question, for example: "Which one is bigger?"
We are going to create this cell only with text, so in the symbol suggestion box select the cross. Choose a transparent background again, no outline and combination of text colour, size and font that you like.
At the bottom of the board, group two blocks of 2x2 cells, left and right. They will be the two answer options. Insert an image cell with an animal symbol or picture in each one, leaving an empty space between them and on the edges.
Then, add as many "Level" pages as you want: "Level 2", "Level 3", etc. Remember to clone the page "Level 1"!
When you finish, your board will look like this:
Insert the command "Say a message or play a sound" in every image cell, and write the corresponding reinforcement. For example, "No, a mouse is a very small animal, try again!", or "Well done, the elephant is bigger!". In the correct answer, add a "Jump to a page" command too, to jump to next level.
In the Home page, the cell will use the commands "Say cell text" (to say the title) and "Jump to a page" (Level 1). Remember that the message can be recorded with your own voice!
A good way to get started with creating activities is to download activity boards from the Verbo Community and analyse how they have been made: the commands, the order, the styles, etc. You can use them as a template to create your own activities, add new levels, change the reinforcements or modify the style.