Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Summer Reading, Part 3

One of the resources that has been helping me read more is Goodreads, a database of books and reviews. Goodreads integrates well with your Facebook account, and this is helpful both for pulling in friends and seeing what they are reading, and allowing you to post to Facebook about your own books. It creates kind of a positive peer pressure for reading, and this makes Goodreads a helpful tool for us, and potentially for clients as well. Encouraging clients to use Goodreads to find books similar to what they have enjoyed could potentially get them to read more, and also be an outlet to help them write about what they have read. A few other features of Goodreads that I enjoy:

-The mobile app is excellent, and in fact a little better than the website itself.
-Goodreads allows you to mark books as "Want to Read" and this is a good place to keep a list of this kind when you encounter book recommendations, preventing you from getting "stuck."
-The site provides recommendations based on what you have read and how you have star-reviewed books.
-It integrates with the Overdrive-Kindle connection (mentioned in my last post) so what you are reading through there is automatically added to your "Currently Reading." There are other features such as a Chrome extension that allows you to see which of your To-Read books are currently available on Overdrive.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Summer Reading, Part 2

I think of reading as being similar to mindfulness (also in some circles a tool within speech-language pathology)-- in order to teach it, you have to be at least a little bit in the practice of it.

I realized some months ago that I wasn't reading as much as I used to read. This made me a bit ashamed and sad. I was an English and journalism major, for God's sake!

There were a few reasons why I had fallen into somewhat of a reading rut:
-I've become more of a minimalist and I feel I have enough books around the house. At this point, I'm not interested in adding more stuff.
-I know many love the feel and smell of books, but I am not necessarily enamored of physical books. Partly, there's the complications of reading in bed with the other half and not wanting the movement and light to be an issue.
-Given the above two factors, I had begun to convince myself that I can effectively continue as a reader using my iPad and iPhone. The night mode features of reading apps were particularly attractive here. Problem is...I didn't. The availability of other apps besides iBooks and Kindle just made too much of a distraction. Also, just try reading on one of these devices in sunlight?
-I had also immersed myself in informational reading and thought that fiction just wasn't really for me anymore. The issue here is that nonfiction books tend not to propel you forward as much as a good story.

Coming to a solution around these issues required me to think about several things:
1. Reading has many benefits personally as well as professionally, with studies demonstrating its connection to mindfulness itself (as someone who struggles with a touch of anxiety) and also emotional intelligence and empathy.
2. Pick the right tech tool for the right task.

So, since my technology was failing me, or I was failing within it, I bought a Kindle.

This might seem an overly simplistic conclusion, but this simple device pretty much solved my reading problem. My Kindle Paperwhite (bought refurbished from Amazon, incidentally) feels great in my hand, has an attractive look and interface, and it does what it does. I started Wild on April 9, and including that, have finished 8 books since then! And 2 audiobooks (via my iPhone)!

I have enjoyed all this immensely--well not always, I picked a few clunkers--and have felt some important cognitive-linguistic processes being awakened, as well as the mindfulness factor.

If I can leave you with another tech tip, minimalism also attracted me to the use of Overdrive and my local library card. Overdrive works wonderfully with Kindle as you can "download" as a Kindle book (via the Overdrive app or website) and your Kindle device will auto-sync when on wifi and pick up that book- you only have two weeks though, so read (or listen- this is how I did my audiobooks too) fast!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Summer Reading, Part 1

I have a language therapy client I have been working with for a number of years, as he is a private school student. Our work around his summer reading books has given me a lot of therapy ideas. Recently I wanted to design a note-taking sheet for him for chapters that he reads independently, as well as ones we review together. Currently he is reading Steinbeck's The Pearl...such misery, but thankfully short (and available on YouTube for me to do my "reading" when I am driving around town anyway). The goal is for him to read more mindfully (he speeds!) and improve comprehension, and the note-taking sheet incorporates a number of strategies we have been working on- Visualizing and Verbalizing®, using story grammar to summarize each chapter (we transitioned from using Story Grammar Marker® to Westby/Noel's SPACE Acronym as he has moved into high school), using Brain Frames to organize big ideas, and generating questions, connections, and vocabulary. I hope it might be useful if you are doing this kind of work.

And a tech tip related to this is that I like using slide-creators (Google Slides, PowerPoint, Keynote) to make visual supports and graphic organizers. The availability of tools for shapes and shading, as well as the ease of moving elements around makes it a snap. An added bonus of using Google Slides is that you can share with a student easily and they can just double click in any shape to add text.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Mobile Tech Resources for People with Aphasia

June is Aphasia Awareness Month! Though I don't often get the opportunity to work with people with aphasia currently (did my Clinical Fellowship Year at Braintree Rehab in '99-'00, wow that hurts to write), as an alumni and once-adjunct at Boston University I go by to do a short volunteer presentation to their wonderful Aphasia Community Group. I wanted to share my handout here for anyone who would benefit from it- it may also give you ideas for functional uses of the operating system and simple apps for clients with other struggles.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Social Play With Amazon Echo Dot

I have to admit I bought an Echo Dot because I hate birds. You see, we live across from a park, which is lovely except that around February all sorts of loud birds descend and ruin my life. So it's great to have a device that you can ask, "Alexa, play ocean waves," at 4:45 am and drown all that courtship out.

The Echo Dot ($49.99) accesses Alexa, Amazon's "virtual personal assistant." She's like Siri but, to be honest, better. She recognizes pretty much everything you say, and I've discovered that goes for children as well. Siri remains decidedly like that aunt who doesn't like when children speak. Using Echo Dot involves a simple setup through an app on your phone or iPad, mostly to get it connected to Wifi, and then you are good to go. In addition to accessing music and information by request to Alexa, you can "enable skills" that are more or less like apps, and for the time being, free.

I have been popping my Dot into my bag occasionally to introduce it to my social groups, and it has been a big hit. The kids have some experience with Alexa and find her way cool. But from a FIVES point of view, Alexa is very Interactive and "Speechie," particularly when it comes to working on sharing talk time and using speaking and listening skills (as the Dot is just a speaker, search engine and connection to other programs and microphone to respond, essentially) .

I say this having tried only one activity, which I found via a search of Echo activities for kids and activated the skill simply by saying "Alexa, let's play 20 questions." Alexa's version of this is a game in which you decide the target object (before starting the game) and she asks the yes/no/partly questions. When playing this with a group it was helpful (and contextual!) for me to review a visual about Whole Body Listening Larry and also emphasize the Social Thinking® concept of The Group Plan (activities go best when we follow the group plan so that others think comfortable thoughts about us, rather than our own plan which might bring the activity off track):
A visual I made in Keynote and displayed on the Apple TV as we played

In this way, to the kids it seemed we were prepping for the activity with Alexa, but really we were targeting concepts that are important across the day. As usual, the technology can just provide a context to work on communication skills.

I look forward to trying out and sharing other activities with Alexa.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

New! Google Earth for Chrome

Some weeks back I discussed Google My Maps as a tool integrated with Google Apps (used by many districts) that can be used to target spatial concepts, description, and narrative while working with curriculum contexts. Recently, Google ported its excellent, but logistically complicated Google Earth program into its web browser, Google Chrome. So now you can use a vastly simplified (for the better) version of Google Earth right in your web browser. I refer to this for laptops and chromebook users, though the iPad version of Google Earth offers you a lot too. I've written about Google Earth a lot, and you may get some lesson ideas here and here and here, knowing that all of those suggestions will be easier in the Chrome version.

On Chrome on a laptop or chromebook, all you need to do is navigate to Google Earth at earth.google.com. There you will have an interactive globe at your fingertips, to search or navigate via your mouse. Hit the ? key (you can do this across all Google tools) to see the keystrokes for navigating. I needed to do a little searching to discover that to tilt the view, you hold the shift key while clicking and dragging on your trackpad.

A view of one of my favorite places, Acadia National Park
Compared to using flat maps or Google Maps, Earth gives you a more "experiential" view of any place, with 3D buildings and geographic structures, as well as flying effects. For your students with Google accounts (and yourself), you can sign in and save "placemarks"- which can be a good way for you to plan an activity.

Some ideas:
-Use the Voyager feature in the left sidebar to go to pre-made tours with short videos with information.
-Use the "I'm Feeling Lucky" feature (the dice icon) in the left sidebar to "fly" to a random location on Earth and have students identify where it is using their knowledge of social studies vocabulary (hemisphere, continent, etc).
-Plan a "virtual field trip" to a location related to what students are studying and complete a graphic organizer describing that setting, or other post-activity. I recently discovered that by searching "USA" in the wonderful Epic Books for Kids app (free with educator account), you can access terrific visual books on all 50 States (Exploring the States is the name of the series); you can use these as a guide or structure for searches in Google Earth.

Check out the always-excellent Richard Byrne's video guide to the new Google Earth here.


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Find on-point videos with Classhook

Classhook is a free service for educators that seeks to "hook" students with clips from popular culture (movies, TV, etc) that connect to academic concepts. I use video clips in many sessions to target narrative language as well as social cognitive concepts. Video is easy to access and naturally engaging to students, prompting observation, discussion and retelling opportunities, as well as post activities such as sketching or discussion webbing.

Classhook has a wide range of topics in which videos are catalogued. SLPs and literacy specialists would naturally be interested in the English and Communication categories, but also should look at Psychology and other disciplines as well. Additionally, using videos to link to concepts in any curriculum area and constructing language activities around them is a good way to incorporate educationally relevant interventions.

You can use Classhook on a laptop, Chromebook or a mobile device such as an iPad. I find it is a good practice to curate your own video links in a service such as Pinterest or Pocket.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

More on "board" games!

In my last post I discussed resources on YouTube that can be used as video models for taking on roles and social behaviors when playing games. Games certainly have a place in social learning situations, and can easily be aligned with particular concepts that kids are working to apply in their interactions. Having "attended" ASHA's online conference on interventions for adolescents and adults with ASD, I was particularly struck by Jed Baker's description on how he gets kids to work on "winning the invisible game" (e.g. following the hidden rules of games that make everyone feel positive about the activity).

For years I have loved the Family Pastimes games for their ability to provide varied cooperative game experiences. The games all have a narrative spin and specific character roles so I often introduce them using Story Grammar Marker® so my students "get the story" of the game, for example, being waiters at a diner needing to serve all the customers before the bus leaves (that one is Bus Depot Diner). I recently discovered quite accidentally that FP had put one of their simpler dice games in app format. Max the Cat ($1.99) ports the board game of the same name perfectly into an iPad version. As they describe it:

"We must help get the little Creatures safely home before Max, the Tomcat, catches them. In an exciting way, children learn logic, consultation and decision making. An important issue to discuss is also raised: we don’t like Max catching those Little Ones, yet we recognize that he is a natural hunter. How do we resolve this in our minds and hearts? Let’s talk it over." 

Indeed, sometimes the Family Pastimes games have a bit of a grim outcome, but all the kids I've worked with can deal. My students loved this app and I was happy to see that if a creature is caught (it's quite easy to avoid this by using the creatures' shortcuts and calling Max back to the porch for a treat) it's represented with a gentle whooshy effect. So help your students follow "invisible" rules like avoiding touching the iPad while someone else is taking his turn, consulting others before using any treats, and gently making suggestions. Notice how many opportunities there will be for them to use if/then conditional thinking and language. Gameplay does take about 20 minutes or so, and my only regrets are that there is no game-saving feature, and that the creatures' shortcuts are sometimes hard to use (make sure you play a practice game to figure out how this works). So check it out- it's great when an app is actually cheaper than the analog version of something!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

YouTube clips about board/card games can serve as video models.

Hands-on games, i.e. board or card games, can be used in helpful social contexts and align with specific skills one is trying to teach. Realizing this week that my group could benefit from a solid model of how to play a particular game, I thought of shooting one with video, but realized that YouTube might be a resource. Though YouTube is not a great source of video modeling in general, it has specific material such as all kinds of brief "how to play"and review videos about commonly used games. We know what it looks like when we have to explain a game; it can be a lot of words. I sometimes go in that route when it's clear my students need to grapple with processing more language. In this case, I wanted them to work on some of the pieces that could be demonstrated more clearly in a video: contingency, prompt responses, moderating humor, and the situational awareness of the game. As it is a silly group, I wanted them to deal with a silly game.

We used this video about Bubble Talk, a simple family demonstration:

As a pre-lesson in a portable strategy, we talked about the Space, Time, Objects, and People aspects of the game. Having seen "a round," as opposed to my giving directions, we also made a goal for how many rounds we should play in our time period for the activity to feel complete and fun. Ward/Jacobson's 360 Thinking Time Tracker came in handy here to self-monitor our progress toward our goal. Finally, we talked about the expected behaviors (see Social Thinking® and particularly the Unthinkable Wasfunnyonce) that would help us meet our goal. All went great and the video, also an engaging way to bounce into other concepts, helped facilitate that.

Check out YouTube for models of many other games.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Near to MA? EdCamp Access is 4/8/17!

I am happy to be helping to organize the EdCamp Access again unconference this year. Hope to see some of you there. Information is below!

EdCampAccess, in the tradition of EdCamps that have taken place around the world, is an unconference devoted to K -12 educators who work with struggling learners. It is not limited to special educators, but anyone who wants to reach students who struggle with reading, writing, organization, behaviors, executive function skills, etc. It will start with a student panel and then evolve into a "collaborative conference" where the conference attendees help to build and create the experience. As is the format for unconferences, we do not schedule any sessions; instead, we do so together as a group at the start of the day. Attendees may choose to facilitate a session, lead discussions or attend sessions of interest to further their professional learning.
Where: Marshall Simonds Middle School, 114 Winn Street Burlington, MA
When: April 8, 2017
Registration begins at 8:30
Cost: FREE

Patric Barbieri - @PatricBarbieri
Karen Janowski - @karenjan
Beth Lloyd - @lloydcrew
Sean Sweeney - @speechtechie