Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Free Webinar: Options for eText: Facilitating Access and Comprehension Through Electronic Text

edWeb recently hosted a Webinar in which I discussed resources related to electronic text, sponsored by Mobile Education Store, creator of great apps such as Conversation Builder and Crack the Books. This webinar and many others are available to you for free on the edWeb site. If you join their community, you'll also be able to download handouts and receive other resources. 

Options for eText: Facilitating Access and Comprehension Through Electronic Text
Presented by Sean Sweeney, Speech-Language Pathologist/Instructional Tech Specialist
Sponsored by MES Publishing


If you view the recording and would like a CE certificate, join the Everyone CAN! community and go to the Webinar Archives folder to take the CE quiz.

With the advent and proliferation of mobile devices available to students and teachers has come a wide range of options for accessing text. Electronic Texts and accompanying accessibility features such as text to speech can facilitate organization of materials, richer arrays of contexts available, and comprehension of classroom content for those with reading, language learning and other disabilities. This recorded webinar will familiarize educators with a variety of options at various price points and platforms, with demonstration of apps and features that put eTexts at your and students’ fingertips in no time. These include: iOS and Mac built-in accessibility features, Read and Write for Google and iPad, eText Platforms such as EPIC! Books for Kids, the Crack the Books series of accessible textbooks, and options for creating eTexts such as the renowned Book Creator App.

This webinar will be especially relevant for general and special education teachers, related service providers (SLP, OT), technology specialists, and administrators.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Google Apps: Collaboration, Consultation, and Supervision

The productivity tools contained in Google Apps (Drive, Docs, Slides, etc) are available to many SLPs and students through your school district's likely Google Apps for Education setup, or if not, via a free Google account. I have of late found Google Apps very useful in several ways:

-Collaborating with other professionals in written products such as proposals, presentations and other documents

-Performing consultation activity by asking students to Share select pieces of their work or projects with me

-Supervising graduate students and giving them the opportunity to practice some of the important written aspects of our job (e.g. writing parts of reports or parent communication)

Part of what makes Google Apps so popular is the built-in communication tools that are available around a document or other file. First, of course, you need to click the Share button and make the document available to the other person (or ask him/her to do the same). This allows you to work on the same document in real time without dealing with the mess of emailing different attached versions back and forth.

Commenting is one key way to collaborate on Google Docs. To comment in a document, highlight some text and click the comment icon or Insert>Comment. Your collaborator can dismiss any comments once they have been seen, but the history of comments for that document can always be viewed under the Comments button in the upper right.


I discovered this year that you can change from co-editing a document into Suggesting mode. When working with grad students or clients on a document, this enables you to put more explicit feedback into the document. 



The other person will see this annotation in the document and via a corresponding comment, can accept or dismiss it. 


I hope this year you will find these features of Google Apps useful when working with other professionals, students, or graduate interns. Keep in mind that Google Apps does not offer guarantees of confidentiality, so it is best to avoid using full names when writing evaluation reports or other sensitive documents. They can always be downloaded (File>Download as>Word) and edited to add personal information such as full names, birthdates, etc.



Tuesday, August 9, 2016

What does an image lead to...?

I've always been a firm believer that all students benefit from visual supports--but providing images or other visuals provides a path to language. That's the V--Visual--in the FIVES Criteria.

An image leads to:

...understanding of a vocabulary word or concept.

...associations.

...expansion of categories.

...description.

...connections and narrative.

...causal, conditional, or other structural language forms.

...engagement!!!

(among others).

The above reasons are why I am constantly endorsing the use of the free, versatile and multiple-platform Pic Collage. This app hit a bump this past fall. The Web Search, which allows you to add photos to a thematic, contextual collage very quickly and in a co-creative process with students, lost its connection to Google (Web Search allows you to search for photos and add them from the app). The developers were communicative about it and made efforts to develop their own search tool, which gradually improved over the following months, but it was a tougher sell.

A few months ago, however, Pic Collage struck a partnership with Microsoft's search engine BING! So the results are back to being as good as they ever were.

Additionally, Web Search has JUST added "suggestions" which might help you in your in-the-moment creations with students. The suggestions are specific items within the category you would be searching for, or associations related to your search. How wonderfully language-enhancing!



Results and suggestions for "trees" and "national parks" depicted above. Tap on the suggestion to point your search in a specific direction and bring up new possible images to add to the collage (tap images, then the check mark in the upper right to add images to a collage).

This past year I was involved with a productive assistive technology and language consultation regarding a student who LOVED to be in all of his classes. He just needed support to participate verbally. My advice was focused on taking some of the language "out of the air" and giving the student more visual support as conversations and topics unfolded, Pic Collage being a key tool we discussed. For example, as his consumer education class discussed forms of payment, Pic Collage could be easily used to visualize cash, a credit and debit card, check, and cell phone.

For some of my previous posts on Pic Collage, look here, here and here.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Use the Summer Olympics as a Language Context with Fiete Sports


The apps featuring Fiete, a fun little German sailor, are simple but elegant, and just this week I discovered Fiete Sports, which was featured in Apple's Best New Apps (also take a look at Fiete Farm, which has an interesting interface promoting temporal concepts around farming activities). Fiete Sports (Free!) is a nice engaging activity to pair with current events news around the Rio Olympics (hopefully the press will turn a bit more positive) or picture books about sports or sportsmanship (Mia Hamm's Winner's Never Quit is a favorite of mine, see the book or YouTube reading). This app again features a visual, conversation-spurring interface as sporting events can be selected from an opening map filled with locations and international flags. The sporting events themselves are short, sweet, and simple, such as a swimming competition that is completed by tapping one's finger on the screen. The short nature of each activity will allow you to elicit language following each turn and allow others in the group to take a turn (a good example of how pacing within an app can be important).

Edit: I had previously discussed here whether four events were enough as I mistakenly reported the app was $2.99 (for me, it was enough), but the developer asked me to correct that (Thank you, Ahoiii!). They also informed me that they had added the shot put to the existing four events: cycling, running, hurdling, swimming. Do check out the app for its simple interactions with a rich context (ripe with concepts, verbs, comparatives, causals). Enjoy the opening ceremonies this week!


Use the Summer Olympics as a Language Context with Fiete Sports


The apps featuring Fiete, a fun little German sailor, are simple but elegant, and just this week I discovered Fiete Sports, which was featured in Apple's Best New Apps (also take a look at Fiete Farm, which has an interesting interface promoting temporal concepts around farming activities). Fiete Sports (Free!) is a nice engaging activity to pair with current events news around the Rio Olympics (hopefully the press will turn a bit more positive) or picture books about sports or sportsmanship (Mia Hamm's Winner's Never Quit is a favorite of mine, see the book or YouTube reading). This app again features a visual, conversation-spurring interface as sporting events can be selected from an opening map filled with locations and international flags. The sporting events themselves are short, sweet, and simple, such as a swimming competition that is completed by tapping one's finger on the screen. The short nature of each activity will allow you to elicit language following each turn and allow others in the group to take a turn (a good example of how pacing within an app can be important).

Edit: I had previously discussed here whether four events were enough as I mistakenly reported the app was $2.99 (for me, it was enough), but the developer asked me to correct that (Thank you, Ahoiii!). They also informed me that they had added the shot put to the existing four events: cycling, running, hurdling, swimming. Do check out the app for its simple interactions with a rich context (ripe with concepts, verbs, comparatives, causals). Enjoy the opening ceremonies this week!


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Enter Vacation Mode with Toca Life: Vacation!

Toca Boca's "Life" series aims to reproduce real-world settings as a context for play with characters and the objects they encounter in indoor and outdoor places. As a result, the series provides a visual play space for us to work with students as they tell stories, make connections, and enact everyday sequences. The latest, Toca Life: Vacation, is another wonderful, visually rich, and highly interactive app you can use to take students on imaginary trips to this beach-y location.

The app contains a number of settings including an airport, hotel, beach, and boardwalk, the many spaces within each setting and interactive objects providing great opportunities to role-play, propose problems and solutions, and consider if-then scenarios (important for executive functioning!). The trailer is below:



Language Lens:
-Consider recommending Toca Life: Vacation to parents as an interactive way to preview an upcoming vacation, complete with the travails of navigating airport security, riding on a plane, checking into a hotel, and sharing a bed with a sibling.
-For your part, the record feature of this app lends potential planning and role-playing a bit more of a purpose: let's make a vacation movie together!
-I am just beginning to absorb the huge amount of ideas and resources for developing language and social interaction through play provided in Social Thinking®'s new We Thinkers: Volume 2 Social Problem Solvers Kit. The manual details a model for scaffolding play with fading adult involvement, and the "GPS- Group Collaboration, Play, and Problem Solving" framework can apply to the use of these open-ended sandbox apps as well as offline play. For example, the program's "Group Play Plan" form could be used for the adult to choose a scene and assign roles to form a story (Level 3) or for kids to collaborate in this process (Level 4). One good strategy is to screenshot a scene or two within Toca Life: Vacation to use as a visual support as you make a "Group Plan" for play.

I hope you have fun going on real or pretend vacations this summer. I'm going to take off for a few weeks myself, heading to Cape Cod and, later, Acadia National Park in Maine! See you in August!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Providing Summer Services? Try the FREE Fireworks Lab app for the 4th!

Interactive apps have long been one of my favorite topics because they replicate world schema, and every schema has language that goes with it. As the 4th approaches (or other holidays in the future), you may have fireworks on your mind.

An Aside: before you get me in any way wrong, I think fireworks are dangerous and should only be operated (? Is that the word? Whatever.) by professionals. One of my toughest cases early in my career as an SLP was working with a patient who had facial burns because of a fireworks accident. So, yes, firmly I believe we should enjoy the town- and city-sponsored fireworks displays, and leave it at that. I live across from a busy city park and though I enjoy the evening of the Fourth, I stop enjoying it after midnight when fireworks are still going off there and I fear that our house will burn down. Like your parents said, nothing good happens after midnight.

BUT, apps give us a window to simulate removed events, so along with your messages about safety that are delivered diplomatically so that you don't get called by parents, you might be interested in Fireworks Lab. This free app allows students to organize and operate a fireworks display. The app is gloriously language-neutral, so students can be encouraged to label their choices in elaborated noun phrases (e.g. "green sparkly rocket") and then set them off.




A few supplemental ideas:
-The app is perfect for pairing with a written language or reading activity. Write or sequence cards with the different attributes of the fireworks and use these as a "plan" for the display.
-The app does not multitask, so if you leave it to play a music app, it starts you from scratch. But students could make a music selection via a phone or other device to sync with their display, giving you more vocabulary to work on as well as causal constructions about their music choices.
-Have students research fireworks displays in your town, or for older students, pair with the story of this famous fireworks fail for a narrative activity. The article is safe to use with kids and has some good figurative language too!

Have a happy (and SAFE) 4th of July--and to my Canadian friends, Happy Canada Day!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Video Tutorial: Using Sketching Apps and Comic Creators for Comic Strip Conversations

In my recent column for ASHA Leader, Apps that Help Teach Social Perspective, I discussed the engagement and sharing factors of creating Comic Strip Conversations via iPad. First, on what Comic Strip Conversations are:

Another approach that expands clients’ narratives, if/then thinking and perspective-taking is Comic Strip Conversations, developed by Carol Gray. Comic Strip Conversations visualize social situations with simple sketches involving stick figures, situational elements, word and thought balloons, and color coding for different emotions and verbal behaviors. A comic strip can be developed to exemplify a five-point scale or for reviewing or previewing a relevant social situation.

And the tech tie-ins:

The sketching involved with Comic Strip Conversations is made at once easier, more engaging and colorful (no array of markers needed!), and sharable with apps such as Doodle Buddy (free for iOS) or Drawing Desk (free for Android). To make a conversation stretching across several pages, check out Paper (free for iOS), a sketching journal that also incorporates subtle effects to make your sketches look neater. All these apps allow you to add text for captioning, scripting and illuminating perspectives, as well as photos for additional context. For example, you can sketch over photo of an important location in your client’s daily life.

In this new video tutorial I demonstrate a quick how-to with Paper by 53 and the text-friendly Comics Head. You might choose one or the other based on what your context is!



Friday, May 27, 2016

Video Tutorial: Using Keynote for 5-Point Scales

In my recent ASHA Leader column, Apps that Help Teach Social Perspective, I discussed The Incredible 5-Point Scale by Kari Dunn Buron and how easy it is to create these tools with apps such as Keynote. Here's a video tutorial on how to do that!


Friday, May 20, 2016

ICYMI

...In Case You Missed It!

In the past months I have continued writing columns for ASHA Leader. A few that have been published for the web version of the magazine:

Tech Your Message Out: Private practitioners can tap easy-to-use tools to better communicate with staff, clients and families.

It’s All About Your Client: Harness the Book Creator app to make treatment relevant to your clients’ lives.

Apps That Help Teach Social Perspective: Illustrative apps can augment established approaches to helping children on the spectrum understand the social world.

I have been happy to receive a lot of good feedback on this last one. I plan to break it down with some video tutorials in the next few posts.

These column links have been added to my column archive on my FIVES Criteria and Other Free Resources Page.

I have also continued to write for the Mindwing Concepts, Inc Blog, and a few of my recent posts may be of interest:

Tech Tuesday: Chapter books and stick writing, A complementary visual strategy

Tech Tie-Ins to Autism Awareness Month

Tech Tuesday: Using emoji in narrative analysis

Opening a new chapter: Tech strategies for getting/using the context of chapter books

When the characters are a whole classroom of students: Some high and low tech tips

Aligning SGM® with Zones of Regulation®, and Tech Tie-Ins

Have a great weekend!

Note: Author is a paid consultant for Mindwing Concepts, Inc for provision of blog and training presentation content.
 
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