Screenshot of the Games Launcher page 1 with 8 game icons.

VoiceOver Playground app: Games, Part 3

Apply your new VoiceOver skills to play these motivating games! What's your favorite game?

The first post, VoiceOver Playground: Games that teach VoiceOver post, introduced the exciting new app designed to teach VoiceOver gestures, concepts and basic braille display reading, writing and editing commands to students ages 3 – 8. In Part 2 of this series, we took a deeper look into the Teaching Tool with its Skills, Help documents and lesson video tutorials for educators and parents and interactive lessons for students. In this post, we will take a look at closer look at the games associated with the various skills.

What are the games?

The games are designed to be a fun way to apply what was learned in the interactive Teaching Tool lessons; the games do NOT teach the skill and do not provide the hints and feedback based on what the student did. 

The associated game should only be used after the student has learned the skill through the Teaching Tool interactive lesson. Remember, the Teaching Tool lists the various skills (gestures and concepts) that are taught in the app. Each skill has an interactive Teaching Tool lesson that has been carefully crafted to teach and guide the student through the progressive levels. 

Not every skill has an associated game. For example, the drag gesture is the first skill and is incorporated into many of the games but drag does not have a game specifically designated to be played after learning the drag gesture. Why? The games require additional gestures or concepts in addition to the drag gesture. For example: The Fresh Catch game requires the drag gesture and the split tap gesture, along with the concepts of spatial awareness and “same and different”.

The content in each game intentionally incorporates age-appropriate educational concepts. An example is the Fresh Catch game incorporates the ‘same and different’ concept.

Games video 1: Fresh Catch 

Progression through the skills and games

Students will progress through these games at their own speed. The games are designed for students 8 and under; however, not every student will be introduced to an iPad as a toddler, not every young braille-potential student will be ready to be introduced to reading and writing. Some students may spend months exploring and using one finger gestures while other students may race through the first lessons and are ready to spend more time with the other skills. 

With that being said, the teacher or parent can decide to adapt the order of the skills to best meet the child’s needs. The games are not age-specific, but rather based on the individual’s readiness. Do not skip lessons – the concepts are critical! Only skip a lesson if the student cannot physically make that gesture or is not ready for a specific concept. If the student is already familiar and independent with the initial gestures and concepts, it is better to move rapidly through the lessons – in order – before moving on to unfamiliar gestures and concepts. Confirm that the student knows all the skills – specifically the concepts – taught in each lesson!

Several of the games are designed to be played initially with the drag and split tap gestures. Later games will introduce the swipe and double tap gestures. The student will use the drag gesture to explore the screen, build foundational spatial awareness and mental mapping skills before moving to the swipe and double tap gestures. If the student jumps to the actual games, before going through the Teaching Tool lessons, the student may be able to successfully play the games with swipe gestures but has missed critical concepts such as spatial awareness and mental mapping. Since these concepts build, if the student does not first learn spatial awareness, then that student will struggle with more complex tech skills. Example: Students who skip spatial awareness and dragging in a straight line, may not struggle with the layout of a digital grid and how to navigate a digital grid.

The games are carefully designed to expose students to important concepts by including these concepts in every game, even if the concept is not taught until later. An example is earcons (sounds with meanings). This concept is included in all of the games but is not specifically taught until later.

Games Launcher (Games home screen)

The Games Launcher page is designed to use a right or left swipe to navigate through the game logos on the page. This is similar to the Teaching Tool Skills menu which requires right or left swipes to navigate through the Skills listed on the left side of the screen. This is initially designed for the teacher or parent to navigate through the list; the student is expected to complete several chapters in the Teaching Tool before learning to swipe and double tap. As the student progresses through the skills, the student may then be ready to handle the iPad appropriately and to follow the teacher’s instructions, making the student ready to independently navigate and select games from the Games Launcher. 

Currently the first page of the Games Launcher has two rows of four apps. A three-finger swipe left will move to the second page where the first row has four game icons and the second row has two game icons. 

Games video 2: Games Launcher (uses the Granny’s soup game)

Game layout

Remember, the critical tech skills are to systematically explorie the screen, being aware of where items are located and then building a mental map of the screen. These games are designed so that items are found in predictable places. Whenever available before the game begins, students should be encouraged to explore the screen by systematically dragging around the screen. Not every game can be explored before the game begins. When the student is done exploring the screen, double tap anywhere on the screen to start the game.

Every game has three buttons along the bottom of the screen: Pause, Curtain and Repeat. These buttons are designed for the teacher to have options; the student can also choose to use the buttons. Since drag and split tap are the first gestures used, the buttons are designed for the player to drag a finger to the button (not tap directly on the button) and perform a split tap to select the button.

Located in the bottom left corner, the Pause button opens the Pause menu which has the options to Resume, Quit (go back to the Games Launcher page) and to toggle the music on/off. When in a menu (a vertical list of items) swipe right or left to navigate through the menu items and double tap to activate the desired option. Located in bottom center of the screen is the Curtain button. This toggles the screen curtain on/off (makes the screen black). The screen curtain is often used to help a low vision student to focus on the auditory clues along with spatial concepts, instead of visual clues, to play the game. In the bottom right corner is the Repeat button. This button typically repeats the last announcement.

Games Video 3: Buttons (uses the Seek and Find game)

Things to remember:


Some games are designed to simply practice a new gesture while other games are designed to apply a combination of learned skills. Some games have multiple levels or modes; for these games, after the game is played once, a menu appears with the different mode options. Select the desired level. Here is a quick list of the game description and skills taught in each of the current games:

Remember that there are many more Teaching Tool Skills with interactive lessons than the actual games that apply these skills.

The Window Washer game is cute game to practice the three-finger swipe up/down (scrolling) gesture and the two-finger scrub gesture. This game also reinforces listening to announcements to know what floor you are currently on. Before playing the game, ask your student what a “window washer” is. A window washer is a person who sits or stands on a temporary platform that hangs on the outside of a tall building. Pulling down on the rope raises the platform, moving the window washer to the next floor of a high rise building. The window washer will clean the windows moving from floor to floor.

Games Video 4: Window Washer

Gesture Forest Game

After the initial field testing, it was determined that there was a need for a very simple cause and effect game that beginner players can simply interact with – without following a set of directions and where the student can simply try different finger movements. The student is not required to know any gestures but can simply tap and swipe on the screen to see what happens. As a student does learn more gestures, the student can go back to Gesture Forest and discover new interactions using newly learned gestures. 

Gesture Forest is currently listed as the last game in the Games Launcher, but it is designed to be played at any time.

Gesture Forest Game Play

The game begins with a sunny, daytime forest scene. There are five animals on the screen: one in each corner and one in the middle of the screen. The player can explore and interact with the screen using different finger gestures:

Check out the different animals on the night screen!

Note: When selecting Gesture Forest from the Games Launcher, wait for the game to load. There is a longer delay before this game opens.

Games Video #5: Gesture Forest

CNIB version of the app

The videos in this series of posts use the Canadian released version called CNIB ABCs, which was developed for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB). This is a free version for Canadian families of children ages 3-6 and part of the grant that includes a 5-year study on the efficacy of this training. The Canadian version requires a password to access the app. The U.S. version has a different name, VoiceOver Playground, and will have some modifications to best fit the need of U.S. educators and their students.

The Canadian version has the Opt Out button in the top right corner of the Game Launcher screens. This provides the user with instructions on how to opt out of data collection of the game play. Because of the study, the Canadian version is collecting anonymous data about the game play that does not include personal data; parents do have the ability to opt out.


By Diane Brauner

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