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Phono Learning Center (PLC) is not “just” another articulation app. PLC is based on the evidence-based Cycles technique used specifically for those children who are unintelligible due to a sound-system disorder. Developed and designed by a certified speech-language pathologist trained in Cycles, PLC is a multi-player app that is colorful, fun, and easily adapted to fit cycles or a traditional therapy approach.
About Phono Learning Center

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Phono Learning Center (PLC) is a single or multi-player app designed to improve the articulation skills in children. Designed by a certified speech-language pathologist and based on Hodson’s Cycles remediation targets, PLC was created specifically to use for those children with a phonological or sound-system disorder.
PLC uses a fun party theme to engage clients in their learning while teaching sound production. Easily customizable to fit the needs of those students that are moderately to highly unintelligible, PLC is an engaging activity for students and a great addition to the therapy toolbox.

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Not Just Another Articulation App
Phono Learning Center is NOT just another articulation app. PLC takes into careful consideration the theory behind Cycles. All of the target words were carefully selected for each sound level with co-articulation and facilitation considered. For the SLP using a Cycles technique, PLC is a great tool! For the SLP using a non-cycles approach, PLC can be customized to fit those needs as well.

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Auditory Bombardment
In Cycles, Auditory bombardment is strongly encouraged at the beginning and end of every session. Hodson suggests having the student color a picture while listening to sound production (15-20 words). With PLC, Auditory bombardment is even easier. Rather than coloring a picture, the student listens to words that are produced when he or she pops a balloon that is floating away. This engaging activity is sure to delight even the most reluctant child. A “score” is kept in the upper left-hand corner to help encourage those competitive minded individuals. The words selected for auditory bombardment automatically occur based on the targeted processes selected in the student profile. Auditory bombardment can be turned off in the student profile. Auditory bombardment is automatically off if more than one player is selected.


Which Targets to Select?
For highly unintelligible students, selecting the right words to use can be confusing and determining which order to target processes can be challenging. PLC takes the guesswork out of the selection process.

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The target selection screen is broken into those areas that affect intelligibility the most and follows cycles hierarchy. Primary targets are on the first screen and include syllableness, initial/final consonant deletion, s clusters, and more.


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A tap on the secondary target tab will bring up those processes that are targeted after the primary targets have been mastered.


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Simply select the processes to target. For those processes with multiple sound options, a smaller pop-up window displays.



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A tap to the “Support” button in the upper right-hand corner of the main screen will cause a pop-up window to display.
Tap the “Homework” tab at the bottom of this pop-up to open the homework folders.


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Recognizing that working on sound production needs to happen at home as well as in the therapy room, PLC provides homework for each process and/or phoneme error.

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In addition, PLC offers homework sheets by the word, carrier phrase, or carrier sentence to help increase the skill level.


Group vs Solo Play
Smarty Ears recognizes that busy SLPs cannot always see even hard-to-understand clients on a private basis. That is why PLC can be used as a single-player activity OR a group activity.

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Single Player
If Auditory Bombardment is turned on in the student profile, it will begin the session. Following auditory bombardment, a pop-up window will display asking which activity (out of four) the student will be playing.


If more than one player is selected, the app will automatically be in multi-player mode. Each individual student will work on his/her selected targets and target level (word, phrase, or sentence). The group will be working on the same game activity. At the bottom of the screen, the student avatars display. The avatar that is slightly raised is the active player.


Recognizing the SLPs role in directing therapy, PLC does not change the active student until the next student is tapped. In this way, the SLP can direct the number of utterances needed to complete a turn. Scoring for each utterance occurs at the top of the screen.

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Single Player Puzzle Game

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Multi-player Puzzle Game


How to Use the App

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The Main Screen
From the main screen, the user has the option of going to the Support Screen, the New Session Screen, or the Report Cards.
The Support area provides information about the app, a video tutorial, and the homework.
In addition, the Support area also provides the link to backup to iTunes or to restore student data from iTunes.




Standard scoring

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The Settings menu is accessed from the top-right corner on the New Session screen. In this area, the professional can choose to display the written word with the picture stimuli and turn the audio on/off
If the professional is using a true cycles technique, they may restrict the app to use Cycles Framework, which means that only one process will be targeted at a time.
Finally, the professional can also change the scoring style. Standard scoring is incorrect, almost correct, and correct (or missed, almost, and got it). The Level of Prompts scoring incorporates the errorless learning theory suggested in the Cycles technique. With this style, it is expected for the student to be nearly 100% accurate and the level of prompts is used to mark if the word was produced prompted, imitated, or spontaneously correct.


Level of Prompts


The changes to the settings in this area are comprehensive and will be same for every player.
Students Profiles
Student Profiles are found in the “New Session” area of the app.


Adding Students


To add a new student simply tap on the “Add Player” party plate. A new pop-up window will display.
Tap on the picture frame to add a photo or stock image avatar.
Determine if Auditory Bombardment will be on/off in single player mode.
Select level of difficulty: word, carrier phrase, or carrier sentence.
Finally, select the desired target phoneme/process. If using the Cycles hierarchy, only one process at a time may be targeted. Targets are easily changed by editing the profile.
If not restricted to the Cycles hierarchy, it is possible to target multiple sounds at once.


Editing Students
To edit an existing profile simply double tap on the student’s avatar. The student information is displayed and ready to be edited as needed. To change the target phonemes, simply select the new target.



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Selecting Targets
When determining which sounds should be targeted first, PLC provides some help to the clinician. The layout of the target select screen is in Cycles hierarchy as set forth by Dr. Hodson and supported by research. Omissions or deletions of sounds create the greatest impact on intelligibility. Those areas that have the greatest impact are in the “Primary Targets” tab.


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The Secondary Target tab is designed for those areas that are targeted after /s/ clusters begin to show in conversation and there are no more true omissions. This area is where singleton /s/, /f/, and voicing errors are targeted.
The Advanced tab includes complex consonant sequences and multisyllabic words (3 or more syllables).


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Within each area, a smaller pop-up window may display where the professional can choose which phonemes in a process should be targeted.
Each phoneme has 6-10 words carefully selected with consideration for co-articulation and facilitation. Following Cycles theory, PLC automatically repeats the target words in random order ensuring the student receives maximum practice at creating these new sounds. Carrier phrases and carrier sentences are available as well.




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Recognizing that students often need more than one activity for maximum engagement, PLC offers four game-type activities. Changing between activities is extremely easy – simply touch the “Done” button at the top of the screen.


The Balloon Game
In this fun game, a flat hot-air balloon is displayed on the screen. As the students practice their words, they drag the picture to the hot air balloon. The balloon begins to fill as the students fill it with their words. When the balloon is completely filled, it will float off the page. The timing of the balloon beginning to float away is variable so the student never knows how many pictures it will take to fill it up.



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The Matching game is similar to the familiar memory game. However, it is designed to maximum the number of productions.
Rather than turning over two cards at one time, the student turns over one card at a time until he finds the match to the stimulus card.
Having the student repeat the word or phrase with each turn will ensure many repetitions of the target words.



Basket Paper
Have you ever thrown a paper into the trashcan and given yourself “points.” This variation on that fun game ensures kids will enjoy “throwing” their stimulus pictures away.

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The student is given a stimulus picture.


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The paper is “scrunched” with a simple tap once the student has said the word the number of times requested by the professional.

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A swipe of a finger allows the student to “throw” it into the basket. If the student’s aim is off, the paper will fly past the basket.


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However, if the student’s aim is accurate, the paper will make a basket. A motivational reward will be displayed with each basket.



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The final activity is a puzzle. When the puzzle is first displayed, it is a blank puzzle. One puzzle piece shows the target word. Once the student has said the word or phrase to the professional’s satisfaction, the student will tap the puzzle piece and drag it to the puzzle.


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The puzzle piece will automatically move to the correct location, and a piece of the puzzle will display.
Each new word will display more of the puzzle board.



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Regardless of the level of play (single or multi-player), PLC provides individual data compilation over time.
Each session report includes the date, scoring style, level of difficulty, auditory bombardment setting, target, and the total number of words attempted.
In addition, a breakdown of percentages in color-coded bars provides detailed information for progress monitoring.
With a tap to the “Share” button on the top right-hand corner, reports can be printed, emailed, or exported to the Therapy Report Center.



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The Therapy Report Center
The Therapy Report Center (TRC) is a free Smarty Ears app designed specifically for data compilation and progress monitoring. Exporting reports to TRC helps the busy professional with progress monitoring and report writing. All Smarty Ears apps are compatible with TRC.


Video Tutorial

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Phono Learning Center has the following features:
High-quality images and engaging animation
Four fun games
Each activity includes words, carrier phrases, and carrier sentences
Data collection based on level of prompts or correct/incorrect productions
Auditory Bombardment
Literacy enhancement through visual print
Individual data collection
Compatibility with Therapy Report Center for easy report writing and progress monitoring
Homework for each target area is available for printing or emailing from within the app
Data can be reported by level of prompts needed or correct/incorrect
Auditory Bombardment can be on/off
SLP can choose to restrict target selection based on cycles framework
SLP can choose to display the written word for each target

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Jenna Rayburn

“Instead of adapting apps to meet evidence based strategies, PLC is an app developed fully around EBP! I love it!” http://thespeechroomnews.com/


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Lauren LaCour

“It’s more engaging than most artic apps with the use of fun little games.” http://busybeespeech.blogspot.com/


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Jackie Bryla

“Another great feature of this app is the ability to set the data collection to the typical Smarty Ears Standard style that scores based on missed, almost and correct. The additional option of Levels of Prompts is offered and allows the user to be scored by prompted, imitated or correct. I love this option of data collection. “ http://teacherswithapps.com/


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“I really love all of the options available and how I can customize it based on my student’s needs and my preferences.” http://crazyspeechworld.com/


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“The games are engaging!” http://homesweetspeechroom.blogspot.com/


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Carrie Manchester

“There are a lot of great articulation apps out there, but not as many that are really geared toward phonology…Phono Learning Center is another fantastic app from Smarty Ears! I love the versatility of this app. You can work on phonological processes or specific speech sounds, modify the way you score responses, and import all of your data into TRC. I also love the games as well. They’re motivating and fun for students, and occasionally incite a little competition!” http://carriesspeechcorner.blogspot.com/


Hodson, B. (2007), Evaluating & enhancing children’s phonological systems. Thinking Publications University, Greenville, SC.; 138.


Edeal, D., and Gildersleeve-Neumann, C. (2011) The importance of production frequency in therapy for childhood apraxia of speech. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology Vol.20 95-110 May 2011.