Friday, August 28, 2015

Do we have a subscription to...? (Part 1)

I hope you have all had a great and restful summer! I had one for sure, with great trips to Cape Cod, England, Ireland, Scotland, and the Los Angeles area...hence the quietness of the blog.

An important question you can ask as you start your year pertains to the accessibility of certain education-based services that you may not have thought of as relevant to language instruction, but definitely are useful! Many school districts or schools invest in such subscriptions to bolster the resources of the schools, and you may have overlooked that email reminding you of their availability. I am speaking specifically of resources such as BrainPOP, Reading A-Z and ExploreLearning. So ask your librarian or IT Specialist!

I have long discussed BrainPOP as a useful tool for SLPs and language teachers. BrainPOP (gr 3+) and BrainPOP Jr. (K-3) are catalogs of short curriculum-based animated videos, featuring Tim or younger Annie along with their robot companion, Moby. Both resources are accessible on the web (at BrainPOP and BrainPOP Jr.) and through free iPad apps: BrainPOP Featured Movie and BrainPOP Jr. Movie of the Week. Limited free content is available on the apps and website (which also features terrific links between movies and educational standards, as well as educational interactive games, many of them fodder for language activities). If you have a laptop available, the website has also added this terrific make-a-map activity allowing you to easily construct a semantic map to show the connections between the language and concepts in the specific film. Your experience will be vastly improved if you have a subscription as you will be able to use more films to "sync" with the classroom curriculum or review topics you know your students have been covering in class.

Image via

What exactly does BrainPOP have to do with language instruction? Thought leaders in our field such as Barbara Ehren encourage us to use curriculum touchpoints (no, not all the time, not necessarily at the same time as the classroom, and not as tutors or curriculum specialists) as a context for working on students' language goals. BrainPOP makes it easier to set that context, while engaging the student. You could follow up a BrainPOP movie with:
-creating sentences from a wordsplash you create as the movie is playing
-using graphic organizers that emphasize expository text structures
-vocabulary work with tools such as the Expanding Expression Tool
-making a collage with PicCollage emphasizing sentence formulation, abstract categories, and description of the topic.
-among many others...

BrainPop has an eye toward expository language, often presenting elements of the topic as visual lists, sequences, or cause-effect relationships.

Check out BrainPop, and you can always subscribe for a fairly low cost within either app. Make sure you know how to turn off recurring in-app-purchases.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

O*Net Online- Help Students to Look Forward

O*Net Online is a resource introduced to me by a vocational coach and I have found a number of uses of it since then. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, the site features career interest questionnaires and lists of skills, work activities, and equipment for different professions.

Skills needed for Video Game Designers:

The site is therefore a great tool for working with older students (MS, HS, young adult), for designing specific language activities that will facilitate buy-in, insight and development of their professional goals.

I recently shared with a colleague whose student was resisting "coming to speech" and she was able to discuss with him the communication skills needed to succeed in his desired occupation, which helped him build rationale around their work. She then included video clips from YouTube about the job, which provided further visual support and context to work on language. 

The site is accessible at the link above and works nicely on computers and mobile devices.

I will be presenting in the Washington, DC area in September for the Center for Communication and Learning, LLC- hope to see some of you there! Click here for details.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Video Modeling and iMovie (Part 2)

In my last post, I reviewed (briefly) a meta-analysis (Bellini & Akullian, 2007) supporting video modeling (VM) and video self-modeling (VSM, the difference being that the student or students are included in the video produced to promote the use of the target behavior). In the study, the authors recommended the therapeutic technique of storyboarding targeted interactions before videoing students, which is also supported in literature describing interventions for social and executive functioning (Ward & Jacobsen, 2014).

The authors also highlighted the technical skill that was needed to produce and edit personalized videos. In 2007.

In 2015 (and for a few years back), it is not at all as hard to produce and edit video clips, because we have iMovie for iOS. Now, I originally taught myself iMovie about 14 years ago on the Mac, and it was quite a chore. After shooting video or compiling photos somewhere else, often a comparatively small but still clunky DV camera, you had to import the video (in real time) and use a complicated interface to edit it. iMovie for iOS (Free if you have purchased an iDevice after Oct 2013, otherwise $4.99) still has a bit of a learning curve--but the fact that you can shoot and edit by touch all on the same device goes a long way toward making these techniques accessible to our profession. Note that you can do much of the below on an iPod or iPhone as well, though the small screen will make it a bit trickier.

I had a great time with a group at Nova Southeastern doing an interactive demo session on iMovie recently--I'd like to make this a habit! As a group, we discussed the study mentioned above and decided on a task that I could be "prompted through," as an organizer recorded me and another gave me some cues when I "forgot" a step. We decided on something simple--pushing in a chair after leaving a table!

When you open iMovie, you begin by adding a new project, as in many other apps with the + symbol.  iMovie has this great interface where you can create a Movie Trailer, but in this case we select "Movie."

Once you have created a project, you can add video previously shot from your camera roll, or tap the camera to record directly into the timeline (the area used to build and edit the project). In this case we just added the recorded single clip of my being prompted to stand up and push in the chair!

Once the clip is added to the project, you'll want to navigate to any segment you want to edit, such that the play head (white line) is over the beginning or end of the segment. In this segment, the person to the side was giving me a verbal prompt we wanted to edit out. Be sure to tap the clip so it is highlighted in yellow, then tap Split. This creates two separate clips so you can simply edit the end of one or the beginning of the next, like so:

The beauty of editing in iMovie is that you can "trim" footage by moving the trim handle (yellow bar) to the left or right, which cuts or re-adds footage as you like. If you make a mistake, simply adjust--no need to start over. In this case, we moved the handle to the right until the video clip no longer contained the verbal prompt.

Proceed in this way to edit out any footage, including prompts or errors, so that students can see the situation going "as planned." iMovie allows you to do a lot more than this, and nice guides are here and here.

Like many iPad apps, your project saves automatically and you can return to edit it. Tapping on your project in the Projects area gives you many options for sharing: saving the edited video to the camera roll or publishing to YouTube, sending to Dropbox, etc.

I could spend a lot more time on iMovie, but hope this gives you a start!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Research Tuesday- Video Modeling and iMovie (Part 1)

At my recent presentation at Nova Southeastern University, we reviewed research around video modeling and how this speaks to use of the app iMovie (free for devices after Oct, 2013/$4.99). For this reason, I am happy to discuss this material today as part of Research Tuesday.

In researching this topic, I was happy to find a recent meta-analysis (Bellini & Akullian, 2007) that looked at a range of published studies on video modeling (VM). Here are some details of that study:
  • The authors emphasize the importance of evidence-based practices in treating autism and the sense of urgency around helping these clients and students to make progress. Single-subject research is defined as EBP when it involved defined practices (methodology and context) that are "implemented with fidelity," resulting in "the practice...functionally related to change in dependent measures," and that the results around the practice be replicated in at least 5 peer-reviewed journals. The study also emphasizes the importance of social validity, meaning that the practice have "social importance and acceptability" from the point of view of the client.
  • The study describes video modeling as grounded in Bandura's social learning theory and defines it as "demonstration of desired behaviors through video representation of the behavior." The intervention around VM typically involves watching the video demonstration and then assisting the student in imitating the behavior in context. In video self-modeling (VSM), the student observes himself in video successfully performing a behavior, related to Bandura's concept of the motivation factors around "self-efficacy."
  • The meta-analysis examined 29 studies involving VM and VSM applying selection factors (publication in peer-reviewed journal, participants with ASD, focus on VM and VSM for functional behavioral outcomes alone or in combination with other interventions, other factors) and identified 23 studies meeting their criteria. Examining these 23 studies found moderate intervention, maintenance and generalization effects for the methodologies (less generalization found with VSM). Statistical analysis involved application of PND (percent of non-overlapping data), a statistic often used for analysis of single subject designs, for the purpose of establishing these effect sizes. Use of video modeling was also noted as promoting learning factors such as attention and motivation.
  • The researchers go on to give specifics about each study, as well as categorized studies according to focus on social or functional (life) skills. For example, in one study, students were supported with prompts to use the skill of requesting items during play, and these prompts were edited out for the video used for repeated viewing by the children. Editing out "hidden supports" is a subcategory of VSM known as video feedforward, according to the article. In this study the 4 participants were found to have a substantial increase in spontaneous requests for toys and items after the intervention. Many other examples are given in the meta-analysis.
A few points in the authors' discussion particularly interested me. As it was written in 2007, the article emphasized the technical expertise required to edit the video footage, particularly in techniques such as feedforward. With the availability of mobile apps for video editing, this is not so much a factor anymore. Additionally, the authors suggested therapists use a storyboard or script, then record the child or children engaging in the desired behavior. I find this a great suggestion as it places video modeling in the context of a larger therapeutic and language process, particularly for higher functioning students who can participate in the storyboarding and planning phase of the activities.

For some practical ways to apply video modeling with pre-made videos in your work, see my recent post for Mindwing Concepts, where I particularly focused on strategies of using situational analysis and story grammar during and after viewing activities.

In next week's post, I'll be looking to back up what I said above about the relative ease of recording videos and editing out prompts (feedforward), in a discussion of iMovie.

Bellini, S, & Akullian, J. (2007). A meta-analysis of video modeling and video self-modeling interventions. Exceptional Children, 73 (3),  pp. 264-287

I will be presenting in the Washington, DC area in September for the Center for Communication and Learning, LLC- hope to see some of you there! Click here for details.

Note: author is a paid consultant for Mindwing Concepts, Inc, for the provision of blog content as relates to the link above. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Toons.Tv- a resource for visual contextual teaching

Toons.TV (on the web, accessible through Safari on iPad, free) is an engaging source of short animated videos useful for building narrative and social cognition skills. The website houses several seasons of the "Angry Birds Toons" series as well as spinoffs such as "Piggy Tales"--it also has selections from one of my favorites, "Shaun the Sheep." All of these series are wordless, and their language-neutral nature gives much opportunities to elicit storytelling from our students, as well as focusing on critical skills such as inference and identifying nonverbal cues, while in the context of topics of interest such as Angry Birds.

I have never floundered to find a quick "lesson" in an Angry Birds or Shawn the Sheep video; in addition to being a context for developing narrative skills such as setting description or retelling, a few I liked from Angry Birds specifically included (along with social cognition or specific Social Thinking® concepts):

Piggies from the Deep- use of humor, the 5-Point Silly Scale
Gate Crasher- flexible thinking, "thinking with the eyes" and "making a smart guess"
Gardening with Terence- talking about physical presence and what it means, making impressions
Do as I Say- "own plan vs. the group plan," humor, emotional vocabulary such as impressed, respectful
Just So- "important vs. unimportant," "Inner Coaching"
Hide and Seek- 5-Point Scales of Problems and the Social Thinking around hide and seek (perspective taking, cause and effect)
Treasure Hunt- "smart guess vs. wacky guess"

Videos such as the above can easily be followed with contextual play activities practicing the concepts or within the theme- for example, after the Treasure Hunt video we conducted an actual treasure hunt using verbal clues placed in different locations, which additionally allowed us to work on keeping our body in the group and other collaboration skills.

A resource I have found very useful in expanding my thinking about using video is SLP (and Ph.D) Anna Vagin's Movie Time Social Learning- she also has a book about using online videos called YouCue Feelings. Also see Tara Roehl's Pinterest boards around motivating contexts such as Angry Birds. I hope you find these resources helpful, too! If you discover other alignments between the videos on Toons.Tv and language or social concepts, please let us know in the comments.

I will be presenting in the Washington, DC area in September for the Center for Communication and Learning, LLC- hope to see some of you there! Click here for details.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Lists for Writers is also useful for SLPs

Lists for Writers ($2.99 for iOS/Android) is a resource of exactly that--lists of narrative elements that writers can use to jumpstart ideas. However, the same lists are useful as jumping off points for all kinds of language and social cognition lessons, or for exploring within a session themselves. I recently had fun with two budding writer clients (they are all over exploring a list of phobias and how they could serve as a "kickoff" for a story, leading to much narrative and conversational practice within the session.

Some ideas for quick language lessons:
-Use the list of Modern Occupations and generate a list of equipment and actions relevant to a variety of occupations (think of Sarah Ward and Kristen Jacobsen's model of Situational Awareness as Space-Time-Objects-People).
-The list of Modern Locations provides fodder for constructing setting maps.
-Sort the list of Dialog verbs into positive and negative behavior categories, or align with the list of Emotions.
-Apply Personality lists to material students are tackling in ELA or Social Studies to build descriptive skills and comprehension.

I am sure you can think of many more- let us know what you think of in the comments!

I will be presenting in the Washington, DC area in September for the Center for Communication and Learning, LLC- hope to see some of you there! Click here for details.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Make customized interactive “apps” with Tiny Tap

I’m just returning from speaking at a two-day conference in Florida for the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities hosted at Nova Southeastern University. The topic was “Apps in Context: Aligning Technology with Methodologies and Clinical Objectives for Students with Autism,” one which Dr. Carole Zangari and I put together for the varied (and terrific!) group of SLPs, OTs and teachers.

It was great seeing and working with Carole! Carole and I also wanted to honor Dr. Robin Parker, also a professor at Nova—sadly, Robin passed away last year. To me, Robin was a wonderful friend and supporter and force of nature, really, who had a passion for putting resources in people’s hands, including technology. We thank the many app developers who donated codes for participants in Robin’s name, including all4mychild, Mindwing Concepts, Mobile Education Store, Tactus Therapy, Bump Software, Bee Visual, Smarty Ears, Irmgard Raubenheimer, and LessonPix.

One “module” in the conference that I really enjoyed developing was the use of “authoring” apps: apps for you to create interactive activities in any context. Participants really gravitated toward the versatile Tiny Tap (free for iOS and Android), which allows you to make “apps,” so to speak, following a very simple series of steps!

Use the visual tools in Tiny Tap to create a "slide" or array. We discussed that though the tools are fine, and include text, drawing, image addition, etc, that you can create a visual in Pic Collage or Keynote (and screenshot it) perhaps easier if you are doing something more complicated for your slide.

For the context of the demonstration I used a Five-Point Scale activity (aligning with The Zones of Regulation), adding a screenshot of a scale I made in Keynote.

You can then "add an activity" to your slide/image- these include:
-recording audio questions which are answered by tapping on an area of the slide
-recording audio/sounds that play when an area of the slide is tapped ("Sound Board")
-cutting a Shape Puzzle so that the image can be used for categorization or sequencing
-and more "presentation" elements such as playing a video or recording a message to be played over the slide.

These options, like everything else in the app, are nicely explained as you go:

An example of cutting a Shape Puzzle to be put back in order by the student:

After recording an audio question, e.g. "This type of problem may ruin your day, and you probably need to ask for help in solving it," you trace an answer area that the student must tap to get the item "correct."

Upon saving your work, your lesson can be played and also shared if you create an account. Tiny Tap also gives you access to a library of many activities, some of them created by SLPs (some at cost). Though you see it demonstrated in a particular context here, hopefully you can think of many ways to use Tiny Tap! Be sure to check out Tiny Tap enthusiast SLP Ellen Weber's column on the app for ASHA Leader. Let us know some other ideas in the comments!

I will be presenting in the Washington, DC area in September for the Center for Communication and Learning, LLC- hope to see some of you there! Click here for details.

Saturday, June 20, 2015


Storest ($2.99 for iPad), a superlative app, is one I have been exploring in therapy with my students. The app, from the makers of the fun Foldify series, simulates a store in ways that make unique uses of the iPad as a tool. Check it out in the video below:

Storest from Pixle on Vimeo.

The app works in two modes: a traditional drag-and-drop interface allowing you to shop in the different departments and pay with virtual money, and an innovative activity that requires you to print out paper items and money to play via a virtual cash register. Each item used in the cash register activity has a QR Code attached so it can be scanned by the "register," a great engagement factor for kids.

Storest is a nice app to look at using the FIVES Criteria:

Fairly Priced: At $2.99 Storest brings you many of the features of a (generally much more expensive) play cash register, and more. It can be used flexibly in two different activities and with a wide variety of age ranges.

Interactive: The interesting interface of both activities allows students to make choices as they engage in scaffolded play, and I love apps that bring students beyond the screen to interactions in the real world. In this case, the register becomes "part of the table" and you can arrange the other aspects of the activity (departments and products) to promote interaction among students.

Visual: In the traditional mode, departments are arranged visually in categories so that students can name items and work on identifying their association. The register mode well-represents a register and visually represents the items as they are scanned.

Educationally Relevant: Consider the following classroom tie-ins and educational standards that can be addressed with the app:
-Math, obviously, with the cost of items and use of play money for counting. This great set of cards can be used for following directions and math tasks.
-The MA Curriculum Standards in Social Studies include the following:
3. Use correctly the word because in the context of stories or personal experiences. (History)- I find that an interesting one as an SLP!
7. Use words relating to work, such as jobs, money, buying, and selling. (Economics)
8. Give examples of how family members, friends, or acquaintances use money directly or indirectly (e.g., credit card or check) to buy things they want. (Economics)

My students loved scanning the items- note the clock and "shopping baskets" used
Speechie or Specific to clinical objectives:
-The app lends itself to working on categories and describing functions of items in a store, as well as reasons one would buy them and associations between them.
-Once printed, the "store" can be arranged in a space so that students work on Social Thinking® concepts such as managing one's body in a group, following a group plan and playing roles of shopper and cashier. I often note my students struggle with the sequence of events when visiting a store (e.g. when to pay) as well as the arrangement of the store itself.
-The arrangement of items can be paired with post-activities such as using pictures of real supermarket aisles and describing their arrangement. I take a cue from executive function specialist Sarah Ward and use such pictures to describe the features of each section; take the bread aisle, which can proceed from stuffing to store breads, flavored breads, rolls, english muffins, etc. EF can also be promoted by presenting real-life tasks such as buying items for a party, and monitoring time for shopping using a clock.
-Pair the app with a picture book for further context and narrative language development. A Chair For My Mother by Vera Williams is a good one, though I am sure you can find many others.

Enjoy shopping!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Pic Collage, Revisited

Pic Collage (Free from Cardinal Blue for iOS and Android) continues to be one of my go-to apps for all sorts of visual tasks. With it's ease of use, unlimited opportunities to help our students "see" language and social concepts, and again, freeness, it's just gold. You can read my column on the many uses of Pic Collage for ASHA Leader here.

I have also been very impressed by the developers' responsiveness to questions and concerns as an educator. They were very quick to clarify for me that the iOS Settings for the app (Settings>Pic Collage) allows the turning off of social features (which were also linked to ads) and videos if need be.

The app's Web Images search is a unique feature that allows us (and students, who take to the app very quickly) to build a visual very quickly. These searches are based on Google's most restrictive search settings; recently, I was working with a group of teachers around the app and we searched for all sorts of dirty words and found no results (something might slip by, so monitor what your students are searching for).

Creating Pic Collages can be part of a sequence of activities, as in the above example. Students interviewed each other to work on asking wondering questions, then added images to a "People File" (Both concepts targeted within Social Thinking® and specifically the comic book Superflex® takes on One-Sided Sid, Un-Wonderer and the Team of Unthinkables)

I recently learned that Pic Collage has released a Kids Edition, also free, which automatically turns off social features, so enjoy that without having to navigate to and switch off any settings.

Pic Collage has also added GIFs to its image search. GIFs (pronounced JIFs, so you don't seem uncool) are briefly animated, looping visuals--kind of like a Vine but shorter. This image format has gained popularity in social media because of its ability to show movement or more of a story.

I initially was a bit annoyed by the ability to add GIFs, as I thought they were too distracting, and I sometimes restrict doing so by directing students to go to the Images tab within Web Images. However, for language therapy goals such as describing actions or formulating an action sequence narrative, well, GIFs are actions! See for example this quickly-created collage of all the actions a cat might perform (note that you don't have to save your collage as a link but tapping on the share button and Share Link allows you to do so). When reviewing a collage in the app with a student, you can pinch out to zoom in on an image to make it larger and screen out other distracting GIFs. Note also that when creating collages that are designed to be printed, you should avoid GIFs as they won't print in action mode.

Thanks to Richard Byrne for pointing out this new edition of Pic Collage- his blog is a great one to follow!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Online Clock for Executive Function Skills

I had the privilege recently of co-writing a column with Super-Executive-Function-Specialist Sarah Ward for the ASHA Leader. As many of you know, I have been a fan of her approaches for many years, and find her language-based and practical concepts for teaching kids how to be aware of situations, plan, monitor time, and develop self-awareness within these process to be useful for many populations we serve: the academically challenged "LLD" kids, students with social learning issues, and the straight-up "disorganized" kids. In the article, Sarah and I describe resources for getting regulated, planning, and time tracking, and link these to models Sarah and her colleague Kristen Jacobsen describe in several recent SIG Perspectives articles. You can view the article here.

One strategy Sarah and Kristen developed is the use of an analog clock as a tool to assist in self-monitoring and task execution. Generally a glass-faced, tickless (to reduce distraction) analog clock works best. As Sarah and Kristen describe it:

Using a dry erase marker on a clock with a glass face, students sketch the total “pie” or amount of time they estimate they would need to achieve the future picture. This enables students to see the volume of time available. On the clock, students also use the dry erase marker to create time markers: a starting time, an ending time, and midpoint check in (Ward and Jacobsen, 2014).

Using this approach with small groups, classrooms, and individuals alike can help the student to:

  • Learn to make better guesses about time needed for tasks
  • Monitor himself within that time period for distracted behaviors and pacing
  • Reflect after a task on how he actually did, compared to his plan

One problem is that glass-faced, tickless analog clocks aren't as easy to find as one might think (and if you write on a plastic-faced clock with dry-erase marker, it doesn't completely come off. Sarah and Kristen's practice, Cognitive Connections, sells great clocks on their website, but I am always looking to have more around. Recently I was in a classroom where was being displayed on the interactive whiteboard to help kids monitor themselves within a time allotted for a task, and I realized that the website features an analog clock! This is a great tool if you are using an interactive whiteboard that has software associated (e.g. Smart Notebook) to allow you to "draw" on the clock. However, it can also be used in the same way described above with a laptop and the Google Chrome browser (sorry, I don't have an iPad solution for this yet, besides the resources described in the ASHA Leader, and is based in Flash, so it does not work on an iPad). For me, at times the analog clocks we have in our practice are being used, but I always have my laptop with me!

So here's how you do it:

1. Using the Google Chrome browser, navigate to the Chrome Web Store and search for the free extension Page Marker. This allows you to draw on any webpage.
2. Navigate to the Online Clock and click on the link to view it full screen (this eliminates some of the ads).
3. I found it helpful to add the link to the full-screen analog clock to my Bookmarks Bar so it will always be available.
4. Once you have added the Page Marker extension it will appear as a small red "marker" button in the upper right of your Chrome window. Click on it and you will be able to draw on your clock, like so:

Page Marker does allow you to change colors, but not use different colors within the same annotation. But it's a start. Enjoy your long holiday weekend!

Ward, S, & Jacobsen, K. (2014). A clinical model for developing executive function skills. SIG 1 Perspectives on Language Learning and Education, 21, 72-84.