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Tumble Tapp Snap- Mr Tumble Touchscreen Game

November 20, 2012

From the BBC Ouch! Blog:

Tumble Tapp Snap is released today on the CBeebies website. Aimed at children with learning, developmental or motor function disabilities, it’s a matching game that you and a child can play on your tablet or mobile phone’s touch screen. It’s based on the popular Mr Tumble character, seen regularly on the pre-schoolers TV channel and created for a special needs audience.

The game presents a series of activities based on simple but important daily tasks such as getting dressed and going shopping. The aim is to hit the button when you spot a match.

This is the first web game from CBeebies designed especially for use on a smart phone or tablet. It’s widely appreciated that tablet devices are very accessible for this community.

Lucy Beckett, producer of the game at the BBC in Salford, says that for some disabled people, tablet devices like the iPad are taking over from the old specialist equipment you previously had to buy separately: “It’s really fascinating actually. Tablets only took off in 2010, and to me they always seemed like they were designed to bring entertainment to upwardly mobile people so they could watch The Killing on the train and things like that. But it appears by fluke that they happen to have created this amazing tool for special needs users who don’t usually get a look in and who aren’t normally at the top of the agenda.”

She describes them as being like “one big switch”. Switch is the name given to the big button mouse-like devices which some disabled people with poor motor function have traditionally attached to their computers to give them basic access at a level they can control.

Software producers know you can’t release a game without testing it on potential users. For special needs audiences, says Lucy, this is “incredibly” important: “One of the things not obvious to us was just how much we’d need to test with grown ups. We had to make sure they understood about changing the settings, swiping, what identical snap is, non-identical, and more.”

The testing helped them identify that not all children were able to perform the common swipe action on tablet devices and so weren’t able to move between pictures – an important part of the game. So now there is a setting where you can have those pictures move across the screen slowly like a shooting gallery and they can choose them as they appear: “The kids just need to bash the screen when they see the character they want to play with,” explains Lucy.

For added accessibility beyond the regular game of snap, Tumble Tapp Snap allows you to adjust the settings so that the gameplay can be geared towards the child depending on what his or her strenths are. For instance, some children with autism may see two pigs, one pink, one with patches, but may not be able to discern that they are both pigs because they look a little different. So, to build understanding in this area, you are given the ability to switch the game to an alternative mode that shows non-identical matches in order to stretch the child.

There are also advanced levels which use words that are outside of daily vocabulary, for instance you can help Fisherman Tumble identify a crab or sun cream. Everyday keywords, on the other hand, might include shoes, socks, trousers etc.

Mr Tumble, played by the irrepressible Justin Fletcher, appears in the series Something Special which airs every day on CBeebies at 9.45am. Since 2005 the programme has been teaching the simple Makaton sign language to children with learning difficulties and promoting important messages about inclusion whilst doing so.

On every episode, Mr Tumble pulls out a picture from his famous spotty bag and he and the children then go looking for the object in the picture. On the latest incarnation of the show Something Special: We’re All Friends, the modern day clown delves into the bag and pulls out a tablet device which he calls a Tumble Tapp. On it, he brings up a picture of what he’s looking for by ‘tapping’ buttons on the screen. In so doing, he’s reflecting the increased adoption of these devices by the community he’s broadcasting to.

Part of the testing of the game involved the team traveling to special schools in the north and south of England.

“I don’t know what it is about Mr Tumble, but the children love him,” says Lucy.

“We’d test on six kids each day and every kid was convinced Mr Tumble would be there due to a slight miscommunication. Quite a few were sign language users, we didn’t understand them but the teacher would say ‘he keeps asking where Mr Tumble is’.

“We must’ve been the biggest booby prize in the world.”

• You can find the Tumble Tapp Snap game at the the CBeebies website

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