SpecDrums color board

SpecDrums by Sphero: Turn Colors Into Sounds and Sounds Into Learning

Wearable technology (finger rings) that turn color into musical sounds!

Students with visual impairments rely on their other senses like touch and hearing to create meaning of their environment. As educators, we are responsible for assisting students in their development of tactile awareness and listening comprehension. Additionally, we must guide the evolution of these competencies as students get older. These are not just academics abilities, but are also helpful in developing orientation and mobility skills.

As technology advances, we are given opportunities to create new ways to teach these skills to our students. It is very important, as teachers for the visually impaired, that we make an effort to not fear technology, but to be open to using it in our lessons with students. Technology is naturally interesting and engaging to students and will also certainly be a part of their daily life in the future. 

You may be familiar with Sphero and their round robots from Diane Brauner’s post about SAS CodeSnaps. In January of this year, the company released a product called Specdrums which are available in 1 ring and 2 ring sets. The device itself is a hard silicone ring that is worn on a finger and has a color sensor on a flat base. The ring is connected to one of two available mobile apps, Specdrums Mix and Specdrums Music, which are available in both the GooglePlay Store and Apple App Store. Once synced to the app, the rings can be tapped against the included color play pad or on any object in the environment. Based on the tapped color, a different assigned sound will play from your device. In the app, you can control which sounds or notes are played for each of the 12 colors and can even record your own sounds. We found the device and apps easy to set up, use, and customize. The video below can explain a little more about Specdrums:

Educators are already using Specdrums in lessons about music and literacy. Some features of Specdrums that educators seem to enjoy:

Your creative juices are probably already flowing and we hope that the following ideas will only further motivate you to jump in and try this tool with your students. Obviously for teachers of students with visual impairments, the application of Specdrums may look a little different. Unfortunately, the Music app does not support VoiceOver. The Mix app does support some commands, but users may find it a little clunky when trying to switch between menus. Still, students can collaborate with their TVI or other students on the creation and coding side. On their own, teachers can use the apps to set up a wide variety of interactive and engaging experiences for their students. The Specdrums will be particularly useful in supporting the following areas:

There are a variety of ways to create your own student-specific activities by utilizing combinations of colors, recording your own sounds, and exploring the features of the Specdrums apps. The main idea to remember before you create is that you can assign colors to specific sounds, musical notes, or words/sounds you record. So the element of color must be used in your design, but the output the student hears will be different based on what sounds you have assigned to each color.

These are just a few quick and simply ways the Specdrum can be integrated into personalized lessons to help students make sense of their environment using their listening and tactile skills with the support of technology. When you first get started, the Specdrums may feel like a music toy. But when you really start discovering the customizability, you will quickly see how you can adapt the Specdrums’ functions to your own teaching and meeting the needs of your students in terms of academics and orientation and mobility. 

We plan to write expanded blog posts with specific directions, pictures and videos for several of the activities listed above. Let us know which lesson is the most interesting to you so we can start from there!  



By Jeanie Silver and Estee Williams

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