I was recently contacted by an occupational therapist who was looking for software that might help a student who can only recognize a few letters of the alphabet. In this student's case, my Herbi Writer handwriting development software would be too advanced to use. So I built Herbi Letters, a simple program to try to provide encouraging feedback when the student matches a letter with the same letter shown in a collection of letters elsewhere on the screen.
We've yet to learn whether Herbi Letters is useful in practice, but all being well I can make the necessary changes to the software such that it is useful in practice. If you have requests for changes which would be useful to you, let me know at Barker@Herbi.org.
Installing Herbi Letters
Herbi Letters will run on any Windows XP or Windows Vista computer, and can be used with a mouse or stylus input device.
Herbi Letters video demonstration
The video below gives an introduction into the features currently available in Herbi Letters.
Watch the Herbi Letters Introduction at YouTube.com
What Herbi Letters does
When you run the Herbi Letters program, you'll see the following window appear.
To set up the program for use with the student, click the Settings button. When you do this, the following Settings window will appear.
In the settings window, type the letters that you would like to be shown to the student. For example, if the letters were changed to "Barker", the main Herbi Letters window would show the following.
Note that the above window had been resized, to show all the letters. The Settings window can also be used to change the colors used in the main Herbi Letters window.
To use Herbi Letters, click the "Start game" button. When you do this, one of the letters from the collection of letters will appear above the collection. Also, a picture of Herbi will appear near the letter, as shown in the following image.
The goal is for the student to click on the letter in the collection which matches the letter shown above the collection. If the student does that, then Herbi smiles for four seconds. The time for which Herbi smiles can be changed in the Settings window. The following image shows the smiling Herbi.
Once the pause showing Herbi smiling has elapsed, another letter from the collection will be shown. This will be a random letter from the collection. If you'd prefer, using the Settings window you can have Herbi Letters work through the collection of letters in order from left to right, rather than picking letters at random.
Once all the letters have been shown and the student has selected them all from the collection, the game is complete and the following image is shown.
You can then click the "Start game" button again to repeat the exercise. Or you may choose to click the Settings button to change the collection of letters shown.
If you would like the name of the letter shown to the student to also be spoken, click the "Speak sample letter" box in the settings window. You can also pick the frequency with which the letter will be spoken. If you would only like the name of the letter spoken without the letter appearing above the collection of letters, clear the "Show sample letter" checkbox, as shown in the following picture:
Depending on the size of your computer's screen, you may want the boxes containing the letters to be larger or smaller. You can change the size of the boxes by changing the number in the "Size of letter boxes" field in the Settings window. For example, for a large screen you may want to increase the number to "200", or for an Ultra-mobile PC screen you may want to decrease the number to "100".
The Herbi Letters software is in its very early days, and a lot of improvements can be made to it. For example, the cartoon images have a white background, which stand out against a non-white background, such as:
Other changes might be to:
Change where things appear on the screen. For example, having the collection of letters shown above the sample letter rather than below it.
Add audio feedback when the correct letter is clicked in the collection, to have either a sound file played or some phrase spoken by the computer.
Remember the choices made in the Settings window between sessions.