“If a child can't learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.”
-- Ignacio Estrada

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The "BubCap"

In my recent twitter exploration, I found a company called Paperclip Robot that I began "following" and they in turn, "followed" me. I must admit, I am a little picky on who I allow to follow me so I always check out the twitter profile before I allow someone to "follow" me. I was very interested when I read the profile:
"Creators of BubCap home button covers for iPhone, iPad, & iPod touch. Finally, a way to keep toddlers in their apps (& out of yours). Great for AAC & educators."
The BubCap, I thought, what a concept! I know that my students, when left alone for a second, would rather choose a more passive app (piano or paperjams drums) than the activity I chose. Also, for one student who I was trying to use an AAC app with, it would occasionally become a "game" to click out of it and then click back in. Even though these items were marketed for keeping "toddlers" out of apps, would they work with my students? Just the fact that the "circle with the square" button (AKA home button) was no longer visible, could it work? Would the BubCap help resolve some of these issues?

Paperclip Robot offered to send me a few to try out. They were generous enough to send me 2 for the iPhone (thin), 2 medium (thickness) for the iPad, and 2 BubCap Max (thickest for slightly older children). I was very impressed on how they worked. With most of my students, the mere fact that the BubCap took away the visual button was enough to keep them where they belonged. A couple students realized that something different was there, but when they touched and even pressed a little on the BubCap. When nothing happened, they went back to the activity at hand.

I did not trial the iPhone BubCaps. I actually sent them to a new "friend" I met via the A4CWSN app party. I asked her to send me info about how they work with her son (ASD, I believe). When I get her response, I will post her comments here as well. I used the medium iPad covers for my work iPad and I put one on my husband's iPad 2 because he kept hitting the home button with his thumb when he would hold his iPad in landscape mode. As for my work iPad, the Bubcap will definitely help keep my students where they need to be or at least slowed them down a little bit. I think the thickness of the medium was appropriate for most of the students in my classroom (ages 5-8). It took me a while to get used to how much pressure I needed to apply on the home button to get back. As for my husband's iPad 2, he loves it as he can now play his games and not worry about pressing the home button by accident. My own children are a little confused as they think we lost the "circle with the square" button. It has helped keep them engaged in a single app for longer than the few minutes they normally play before "app flipped" through the iPad. I have not used the BubCap max covers yet. After seeing the effectiveness of the medium covers, I think that I will be sharing these with another intervention specialist for her older students.

I did have a few concerns with the BubCaps:
  1. How will they effect the home button long term? I wonder how the adhesive might effect the functionality of the home button if it is pushed in/out so much. Also, how long does the adhesive last and how often would they need to be replaced?
  2. From website: "BubCaps may not work with all skins and cases, or may require skin or case removal to install and remove." This concerns me because so many of the individuals with special needs require the use of cases to make the idevice work for them AND they may need the Bubcap as well. This is where parents, therapist, teachers, etc. need to make informed decisions on technology and possible brainstorm some other modifications.
  3. From website: "While many people report good outcomes using a BubCap over a screen protector, the results can be unpredictable; do so at your own risk." Again, similar to #2, often a screen protector is needed to effectively protect the screen. Another area that individuals will need to brainstorm some modifications ideas.
  4. *update* One thing I forgot to mention in the original post was how it is difficult to "double tap/click" the home button to multitask or to change settings. Not that I do this often or that it is a big deal for me, just wanted to make you aware of this issue.
In conclusion, I think that the BubCaps are a quick and easy way to kid proof your  "idevice" (and in my case husband proof, too). It as a great way for me to allow my students a little "independent" time with the iPad and still know that they were working on what I needed them to be working on. I would definitely purchase these in the future, if needed. *update* The price for them is reasonable - set of 4 for $5 with free shipping if purchased through their site and using paypal OR set of 4 for $5+$1 shipping if purchased through Amazon. International orders are accepted as well.

If you have experience with BubCaps, I would be interested in hearing what you have to say. Please leave a comment!


1 comment:

  1. Hi Melanie, Rob from Paperclip Robot here. Thanks so much, and you ask a lot of really good questions. Hopefully this reply makes sense and isn't riddled with typos, I am writing this quickly! Please feel free to edit as you see fit.

    1) I believe functionality of the home button is actually protected by the BubCap, due to it sealing the home button mechanism from foreign matter. A toddler-app developer even uses BubCaps solely because he believes they help keep his home buttons from getting ruined by kids (he's had to replace several home buttons before getting BubCaps). That said, after weeks or months use, the adhesive backing can stick to the top of the home button, and take a little bit of wiping to clean off. The adhesive bond between the BubCap and the iDevice glass gets stronger over time, so the more weeks/months you leave it on, the more difficult BubCaps are to remove (we use a very aggressive adhesive, with the goal of being too difficult for toddlers to remove). BubCap regulars can wear out after a few months of heavy use. Our thicker models don't seem to ever wear out, and could theoretically last the life of the iDevice.

    2) Not much can be done if a particular case doesn't work with BubCaps. The more technically adventurous can jailbreak their iDevice, and use the IncarcerApp to restrict the home button (regardless of case). And, one could speculate that a toddler-mode will be in some future generation of iOS. Of course, many people need help restricting the home button now!

    3) One workaround to effectively use a BubCap with a screen protector is to simply cut a section out of a new screen protector, to allow room for the BubCap to adhere directly to the glass of the screen. Then you can have the benefits of both. The main risk of actually applying a BubCap over a screen protector is, if you decide to remove the BubCap, it can lift up the screen protector too.

    4) Yes, double-clicks are more difficult, and the hand-strenth of the adult is also a factor, as well as the model of BubCap, and iDevice being used. Using the thumb and pinching the home button (same motion as pinching open an old wood clothespin) gives the best leverage, and helps with both single and double clicks (just don't show the kids this trick!). The original BubCaps were designed for toddlers, leveraging the dramatic difference in hand strength between adults and very young children. When older children require thicker BubCaps, double-clicks are much more difficult for adults. As you seem to realize, isn't a big problem in educational environment, because double-clicks are less frequent than perhaps on a personal iDevice.