Friday, January 30, 2015

Talking about the Weather

Having just dealt with a tremendous blizzard, I am going to be a stereotypical New Englander and talk about the weather. Again. Weather is a topic that naturally lends itself to eliciting language in our students as well. Not only does this topic pop up repeatedly in science curricula across the grade levels, making it relevant to the Educationally Relevant "E" in The FIVES Criteria, but discussing it requires a number of language skills:

Sequencing-seasons, processes
Categorization-seasons, months, precipitation
Schematizing/"Main idea and details"-describing a particular day's weather involves attention to features such as temperature, wind, cloud cover, and precipitation
Stating Cause-Effect- within weather processes and explaining why certain clothing would be worn in certain weather conditions.

A great context for eliciting and working with language around weather was released recently in MarcoPolo Weather (Free). MarcoPolo Weather is a "sandbox" app allowing open-ended play by bringing characters, setting elements, clothing and weather conditions together and observing the effects. MarcoPolo has here continued their commitment to developing apps that address Science, Technology, Math and Engineering (STEM) skills (also found in the MarcoPolo Ocean app), including, according to the app description:

-Observe and describe different weather conditions including temperature, cloud cover, and precipitation
-Identify ways in which weather affects daily routines, such as dress and activities
-Determine how weather affects the natural landscape
-Learn about the water cycle and how clouds are formed

Check out the video below to see how MarcoPolo Weather works. It's a ton of fun!

MarcoPolo Weather would facilitate a natural language connection to
-a concept map or graphic organizer about weather conditions
-sentence strips or other print contexts to construct causal sentences about observations in the app
-picture books dealing with the weather
-creating a weather journal with Evernote by stepping outside, snapping pictures, and consulting the Weather app for data

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Add Custom Keyboards to your iPad in iOS 8

iOS 8, among other enhancements, brought the ability to add 3rd party keyboards to the operating system. Previously, though some modifications of the keyboard were possible, we had little choice in customizing keyboards for use with learners of different ages and styles.

With iOS 8, keyboards are searchable and downloadable from the App Store. With a few taps in the settings app, they are made available any time the keyboard is visible. Some of the most interesting educational keyboards are being made by AssistiveWare, creators of Proloquo2Go. Among these are Keeble ($14.99), a keyboard for adults with visual and physical impairments, and Keedogo (1.99/4.99), a child-friendly keyboard!

Keedogo has a look and feel that will make your young students want to type! In addition, the keyboard can be customized to offer more extensive word prediction choices and ABC or Querty layout.

After installing Keedogo from the App Store, open the Settings app and navigate to the General>Keyboard section. Tap Keyboards>Add New Keyboard and Keedogo will be available under Third-Party Keyboards. You will need to enable Full Access in order for the keyboard to work. To see this process on video, see this tutorial.

From any app that uses the keyboard (remember that the keyboard only appears when the context is one in which you would be typing), you can then tap the Globe symbol to switch between your available keyboards. In this way you can have Keedogo available when you want it, and switch to the grown-up keyboard when using the iPad yourself.

A view of the Keedogo app being used with the Pages word processor. Tapping the Globe icon allows you to switch between the keyboards. 

Tap the 123 button and then the Cog key to customize the Keedogo keyboard's theme, layout, word prediction and other features.

If at any time you decide you want to delete the Keedogo keyboard, navigate to Keyboards in the Settings app and sweep left to delete Keedogo. You can always reinstall and enable it later.

Friday, January 16, 2015

EPIC! App offers free picture books to educators

One of my favorite topics is using picture books and apps in contextual conjunction in language intervention, and in this post I want to let you know about an app that IS picture books (chapter books too).

Check out Epic!- Books for Kids (FREE), an eBook library of picture and chapter books that can be used to present language-enhancing books in interactions with your students. Epic! offers thousands of narrative and expository books from major publishers such as HarperCollins, Scholastic and National Geographic. The app offers features facilitating an engaging presentation of a book to a group of students via an iPad, including zoom in/out to page and "read to me" audio available for some books.

After downloading the app, be sure to register for an educator account, which you can do through the app or on this page.

Epic! features a number of books I have used for language development over the years, and I have been finding other great options through the app. For example, the books Scaredy Squirrel and Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend by Melanie Watt offer the following "Speechie" book features:
-A narrative structure featuring problem, reaction (or attempts to solve) and conclusion
-Many expository elements presented in an engaging, fun way, e.g. animals Squirrel is afraid will bite him, sequences and connections between items and their functions.
-Text features such as diagrams and flowcharts that are helpful for scaffolding understanding (and seen in textbooks that students must grapple with in their classrooms)
-Contexts to explore social cognition strategies such as Zones of Regulation and the CBT paradigm of risk vs. opportunity (i.e. reframing anxiety-producing situations as opportunities to learn).
-Potential to screen-shot illustrations and pair with Strip Designer to make comic strip conversations about the character's thoughts and perspectives.

In my presentations on this topic I often include this reference that is very on point regarding the utility of this app:

The act of reading books aloud interactively and using scaffolding to support children’s use of more advanced syntax, vocabulary and critical thinking is itself an activity which addresses language development (Beed, Hawkins, & Roller, 1991).

So, for a source of books "at your fingertips," give Epic! a try. For tips on interactive reading aloud, see here or here, as well as Jim Trelease's Read Aloud Handbook and Jane Gebers' Books are for Talking, Too!

Beed, P.L., Hawkins, E.M., & Roller, C.M. (1991). Moving learners toward independence: The power of scaffolded instruction. The Reading Teacher, 44(9), 648-655.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

iPad Essentials: Speak Screen and Speech Options in iOS 8

Many people are not aware of the many assistive technology (and engagement-enhancing) features that are built into the brain of the iPad--iOS, its operating system. In talking to groups out and about, I am aware that many people have been afraid to update their iPad to iOS 8 for fear it will slow things down or perhaps explode. Yes, there are some hoops you need to jump through possibly to make space for the update, but I would really recommend it at this point, even for the iPad 2s (I assist with a fleet of them at a small school and have not noticed a difference in performance with the upgrade). The cost of continuing to wait is missing out on updated apps designed for the newest operating system, as well as the feature I will describe in this post.

iOS 8 has added a new iPad Essential- improved ease of use of text-to-speech tools. Text-to-speech, or the ability to have the device "read" text on screen, has been in the iOS for some time, but previously in a manner that required you to "select" the text, which requires some tricky tap-and-hold gesturing. iOS 8 has brought a new feature called Speak Screen, which is much more easily activated with a two-finger sweep.

First, you will need to turn on the feature:
1. Open the Settings app.
2. Tap General, then Accessibility, then Speech.
3. I like to keep my settings as follows, which allows me to access both Speak Selection and Speak Screen, at a slow speaking rate, along with Highlight Content (a feature that promotes literacy development).

iOS 8 also brought new choices under the Voices menu above, where you can now select the more natural sounding Alex voice (he takes breaths and uses more inflection). Be aware that the voice, if downloaded, takes up 869 MB on your device.

Speak Selection, and now Speak Screen, can be activated on any page that displays selectable text- so any webpage in Safari or other browsers, iBooks, Kindle, and some other apps. In Safari, it is helpful to use in conjunction with the Reader View. This view removes clutter (which could be "read" by the text-to-speech function and become auditory clutter) and displays only what is on the page. Note that this is not available for every webpage but only where the "lines" icon is displayed. 

So, tapping as shown above...

...transforms the page to a simpler view as shown above. Once Speak Screen is turned on in your settings, a two-finger sweep begins reading the page with your selected voice. Use the menu to decrease or increase the speed, rewind, go forward, or pause, and tap the X to dismiss it entirely. Note that if your iPad is Siri-enabled (iPad 3 or later, iPad Mini), you can also activate Siri and say "Speak Screen." 

These features are critical assistive technology for SLPs and teachers to know about, but also serve as therapy and engagement tools:
-Use text-to-speech within word processing apps or the Notes app to help students learn to edit their work more accurately. I know I am a better editor when I hear my text read aloud.
-When presenting text to students, use text-to-speech just to give them a break from your voice, or as an auditory comprehension activity. I know my students appreciate it when I shut my yap for a minute or 2!

Watch Luis Perez' quick video here for a step-by-step look, and see all of his great accessibility resources on his website. A quick view here also lets you see the gesture to activate Speak Screen.

Friday, December 19, 2014

A Few Thoughts about Language and the Serial Podcast

For a few years now, I have counted podcasts among my key resources of information related to technology integration. If you are not sure what they are, podcasts are basically radio shows distributed online; the term podcast dates back to the iPod being a revolutionary method of accessing audio as iTunes opened the door to many people sharing ideas through independent podcast creation. Time was, podcasts needed to be accessed by downloading on a computer and then syncing your device, but this can be done easily (and for free) now with the Podcasts app. 

This fall brought the release of the most popular podcast ever. Serial, from the producers of the also-great This American Life, followed one story over the course of a season of 12 episodes released weekly. Journalist Sarah Koenig attempted to unravel the 15-year-old murder of Hae Min Lee, a teenage girl- her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed was convicted of the crime, but as we learned, the details are far from straightforward. The podcast became somewhat of a sensation, with media outlets and people all over social media weighing in as each episode brought new twists in the case. So what does Serial have to do with language?

Serial reminded me first of all of the value of listening. Our world has become inundated with tech-mediated visual experiences, and it's rare that we slow down to experience the purity of listening to language. Though this practice is something I have tried to revisit as much as possible, I was so thrilled to have company in the audio realm as many friends became immersed in and were eager to discuss a story that is riveting, emotional and quite tragic, possibly on several levels. Koenig herself became somewhat of a celebrity for her intimate narration of her investigation, which at times felt like being a listener inside her head. Most of all for me the listening experience awakens meditative and metacognitive processes- you don't think about your thoughts when watching TV quite the way you do when listening. I often noted the way I was visualizing the narrated events as they unfolded and thanked Lindamood-Bell for giving me a structure within Visualizing and Verbalizing® to make this imagery even more "sharp," at times painfully so.

Serial also is ultimately about narrative language, hence the title. What you think at the end of the series depends on whose version of the story you believe. Throughout the series, Koenig continually reframes episodes of this story in ways that make you reconsider the characters, key settings, initiating events and responses. Key to the story in particular is perspective taking: could Adnan have been that angry after the break-up to commit this crime? What do the people who surrounded Adnan at that time think about his state of mind and possible responses? Timelines also play an essential role, as each episode forces us to consider disparate sequences of events leading up to and surrounding Hae's murder. For me, Serial underscored the importance of narrative language as part of the experience of being human--which is one of the reasons I am so clinically engaged in building discourse skills. It was interesting that as the series drew to a close, there was much concern that Koenig wouldn't present us with a satisfying conclusion, as if this were a carefully plotted piece of episodic television. I found the "ending" satisfying, though also unsurprisingly a reinforcement of the truth that life is messy and often evasive of clear narrative conclusions.

If you haven't listened to Serial, I strongly recommend it. Start at episode 1, avoid "spoilers," and think about language.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Edublog Awards and Year in Review

I have had the honor of being nominated for Best Individual Blog in this year's Edublogs awards. Each year this event serves as a reminder of the importance of social media in education, as well as a great place to find new blogs and other resources for ideas in your work. As has been the trend, SLPs have made a good showing this year, including:
If you get a moment to stop by the Best Individual Blog category and give me a vote, I'd appreciate it! This requires signing in Twitter, Facebook or Google. In the case of Facebook, you need to allow access but not to allow Listly to post.

It totally slipped my mind to do nominations this year, with ASHA Convention and all, so I want to give a shout-out to Chris Bugaj and family at A.T.TIPSCAST, who continue to provide entertaining and extremely helpful podcasts. Check them out on your free Podcasts app. Chris should be at least as popular as Serial. Though I am obsessed with Serial.

2014 was a good year. I got to quite a few places to make presentations- Atlanta, Las Vegas, Michigan, Ottawa, Nova Scotia, Nashville, Orlando, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Cincinnati. I wrote a bunch of columns for the ASHA Leader and nearly 50 posts here on the blog. Whew! Looking forward to a productive 2015, but I need to take a rest for a few weeks!

To close out the year (though I probably will sneak one or two in), here are the most popular posts of 2014:

Calming, Part 2

TED Talks of Interest to SLPs and Language Folks

Re-Usable Images

Stick Around: The Spectrum of Repurposing

iPad Essentials: Window Shopping in the App Store

Phrasal Verbs Machine (don't quite know why this one got so many hits, but OK)

DirecTV's "Don't" Commercials

Social Fortune and Fate/Comics Head


Write About This

Hope these are of use to review or if you missed them! Have a great Holiday Season...

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Calming, Part 4

Rounding out this series on apps to explore calming and self-regulation in the course of language intervention is the free app Epic Zen Garden. This title seems somewhat of a contradiction in terms as it hypes up your expectations for a "Zen" experience that just "is," but especially given the price it is a worthwhile app to explore. Zen Garden (let's just call it that, now) made a notable debut at a recent Apple event highlighting the power of the new interactive programming format called "Metal." The result is a beautiful graphical experience allowing you to explore the grounds of a house and engage in visual activities such as making a tree bloom, playing in a Koi pond, making patterns in the sand, releasing butterflies from a fountain, and viewing the house from afar. It's a simple experience but could be used as a sensory tool and for eliciting descriptive language. See also Beth Lloyd's great posts on apps for sensory seekers.

Friday, November 28, 2014

ASHA 2014 Takeaways!

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! For me, the holiday followed soon upon returning from the ASHA 2014 Convention in Orlando, where I presented and also attended many sessions.

It was fun being in Orlando, even with sort of crappy (cold, then rainy) weather. I rented a Yaris just like mine at home! Well, newer and nicer, but...

Overall I applaud ASHA for a great event. My hotel was easy to obtain and nice, the shuttles ran without a hitch, and the convention center was pretty easy to navigate! Along the way, I learned a lot:

At Carol Westby and Kristine Noel's session on Social Cognition and Emotional-Behavioral issues, they presented recent work on Theory of Mind (summarized in Topics in Language Disorders) and their framework for Narrative Intervention and Problem Solving, honed with incarcerated youth with language issues and also summarized in their article in that issue of TLD.

The mother and daughter team of SLP Henriette Langdon and Counselor Maxine Starr presented a helpful session on self-care and balance in our work as SLPs. They sited eight areas of balance to consider in living a healthier life.

The folks at Sunshine Cottage School for Deaf Children (Dorman, Lee, Gloria and Ritter), folks who have presented many informative sessions analyzing board games for speech and language aspects (repurposing!), applied their "language lens" to a number of apps and presented video on how they use them. I was happy to learn about Vocab Scenes ($1.99), which reminds me of the very useful but defunct Kerpoof website.

The Social Thinking® Team of Nancy Tarshis, Kari Palmer and Ryan Hendrix presented important new information on building resilience in our students with Social Cognition challenges. I can't wait to make some "potions" (colored oil/water jars with little objects inside emphasizing positive tools) and also to use the marshmallow test video to discuss self-talk.

Tara Roehl presented great ideas on integrating apps with contextual activities building language and executive functioning. Be sure to check out her resources on her blog and Pinterest.

I always love to see the "Divas Plus One" (this year including Whitmire, Singer, Appel--the plus one--, Wallach, and Malini) and their session celebrated the work of Barbara Ehren on curriculum-relevant therapy. This year Dr. Ehren was a recipient of ASHA Honors of the Association. You can view much of her work and influences on ASHAWire.

Many of the authors of a recent issue of Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools (Kahmi, Appel, Wallach, Gillam, Hadley) presented findings, reflections and best practices around clinical practices in language disorders. I will be studying this issue for some time.

It was great as always to see Michelle Garcia Winner, in this case discussing the important role of social attention and executive functioning in social cognition. You can read more of her and Pamela Crooke's ideas on this in a recent article.

I attended a terrific session on the overlappings and collaborative potential between cognitive behavioral therapy and speech and language pathology by Lynne Hewitt. You can see her work in a recent issue of Perspectives and view my tweets from this session, in a compilation of items shared by other attendees.

In addition to Barbara Ehren, several people I admire were honored at the ASHA Awards Ceremony, including language maven (and SpeechTechie supporter) Rhea Paul and my BU Professor Elizabeth Gavett, whom I am happy to see semesterly to give a talk in her class. All these folks have been critical in shaping my thinking over the years! Wonderful also to see John and Annie Glenn present the Glenn Award to Bill and Willie Geist. I have to admit that this was my first time attending the awards ceremony and it was an impressive production!

Saturday afternoon I attended a terrific presentation by Mindwing Concepts' Maryellen Rooney Moreau and Linda LaFontaine of the Curtis Blake Day School with awesome contextual tie-ins and many language activities conducted around the book Letting Swift River Go, which describes the creation of the Quabbin Reservoir outside of Boston.

I was proud to see my friend Beth Harmon present an extremely practical and fun session on pairing topic boards with the iPad to encourage use of core and fringe vocabulary along with word combinations. See some of her ideas at Sync Up Autism.

And my session- I was happy to have a really good crowd (despite the Saturday afternoon timeslot) show up to learn about contextual pairings of picture books and apps. Thanks for the tweets, Brittany and Angela:

PHEW! That was a lot to learn. Hopefully some of the links are helpful to you!

Monday, November 17, 2014

ASHA 2014 Orlando Session

I am excited to be presenting in Orlando next week, as well as having the opportunity to see great friends and get lots of ideas from attending sessions!

This year I am presenting another sequel to my Pairing Picture Books with Apps series. This is one of my favorite topics and I have at this point presented about 30 contextual pairings of books and apps. This year's session focuses on several categories of post-book language activities and examples within them.

Post-Book Art Activities- Reading picture books interactively with students can provide a context for drawing or creation within similar contexts, and models within books can influence the content and language use of students while creating a visual response (Bartelo, 1984). Apps provide an avenue to target language while creating visual artworks simply and quickly and omitting some of the time-consuming aspects of drawing or crafting.

Post-Book Discussion Webs- Visual diagrams can be used to map elements of a text or topic to develop categorization and association skills; webs can also be employed to have students respond to higher-level evaluative questions (Alverman, 1991). Apps use a touch-screen interface to create visual webs, and also can provide a context for topically related webbing and discussion.

Post-Book Dramatic Play- Acting out elements of or related to a story can be used to target sequencing skills, sentence formulation and overall story comprehension, and enhances children’s ability to explain ideas (Putnam, 1991). Apps can provide visuals that scaffold language and sequencing during the process of play.

Post-Book Story Grammar Cueing- Teaching students story elements such as character, setting, initiating event and conclusion has been shown to improve narrative comprehension and formulation (Davies, Shanks & Davies, 2004), and a number of apps can assist with visualizing and practicing this process.

Each of these categories provide a framework for choosing apps and books that go together contextually. I hope many of you can make it, but if you can't, check out a quick example of a post-book art activity in my post over at Daily Genius, spreading the word about a similar session I am presenting at EdTechTeacher's iPad Summit Boston.

The details of the session are as follows:

Session Code: 1718
Title: Pairing EVEN MORE Picture Books & Apps to Contextually Address Language Objectives Day: Saturday, November 22, 2014
Time: 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Location: Orange County Convention Center Room: W414CD
Session Format: Seminar 1-hour

Abstract: Support for using picture books in intervention is long-standing and relevant to the development of language skills. Books pair with apps with similar contexts to serve as visual, interactive post-reading activities. Revisiting a popular topic from ASHA 2012-2013, this presentation describes overlaps between books and apps and suggestions for interventions.
Speech-Language Pathology Topic Area: Language and Learning in School Age Children and Adolescents
Instructional Level: Introductory (Assumes little or no familiarity with the literature and professional practice within the areas covered)

Learner Outcome 1: Describe resources helpful in book and app selection for language intervention Learner Outcome 2: Identify key categories of post-book language activities that align with app use Learner Outcome 3: Discuss the contextual overlap of presented books and apps and their potential use in language intervention

Alverman, D. (1991). The discussion web: A graphic aid for learning across the curriculum. The Reading Teacher, 45, 92-99.

Bartelo, D. M. (1984).Getting the picture of reading and writing: A look at the drawings, composing, and oral language of limited English proficiency children. Plymouth, NH: Ply- mouth State College. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 245 533)

Davies, P., Shanks, B., & Davies, K. (2004). Improving narrative skills in young children with delayed language development. Educational Review, 56, 271-286.

Putnam, L. (1991). Dramatizing nonfiction with emerging readers. Language Arts, 68, 463-469.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Calming, Part 3

Incorporation of mindfulness techniques, regardless of instructional discipline, is a strategy that has more than emerging evidence. A systematic review of studies of mindfulness training for students and adults with developmental disabilities found significant effects on a range of areas, documenting reduced aggression and anxiety and increased social skills and academic performance (Hwang & Kearney, 2012). Many programs such as Mindful Schools are being implemented school-wide, teachers are being encouraged to practice mindfulness and leading treatment practices incorporate activities such as Yoga classes.

For our students who struggle with managing their own thoughts, and so are led in tangential/oppositional/anxious/dysregulated directions impacting their communication, mindfulness can be incorporated in small ways. Books, videos and audio files focused on awareness of and strategies around thinking can be very engaging, and also serve as language activities by virtue of eliciting descriptive and metacognitive language.

I highly recommend the Cosmic Kids YouTube channel for a start for short meditation activities for your young students. The Zen Den series are short, beautifully produced, visual meditations focused on a variety of calming thinking strategies. I have field-tested these with a range of groups, with great responses from both girls and boys. The fact that the clips are on YouTube makes a great connection to home, as meditation is meant to be done regularly, even for short periods of time.

Even if that carryover is not achieved, clips such as Master the Monkey establish a concrete connection and vocabulary for an abstract concept: our mind can be like a hyperactive monkey and we can practice strategies to keep it present:

Movies in My Mind presents a fun visualization exercise for which you can conduct a language-based debriefing after the fact: "What did you see on the other side of that door?"

Getting Wanty discusses a specific situation of wanting something in a store, but can be applied to many other situations involving "JustMe" vs. Thinking of Others and social behavior (see the work of Social Thinking®).

See also the great Yoga Adventures videos that put yoga in the context of settings and "stories," again offering connections to language activities and themes.

Hwang, Y, & Kearney, P. (2012). A systematic review of mindfulness intervention for individuals with developmental disabilities: Long-term practice and long lasting effects. Research in Developmental Disabilities. 34, 314-326