Saturday, October 25, 2014

Toca Boo!

I'm taking a brief break here from talking about calming/regulating apps to discuss the power of a little scare. Toca Boca, a studio I have long been a fan of, just released Toca Boo ($2.99), a great app to grab and have some language-based fun this pre-Halloween week.

This highly interactive app allows you to play the role of a "ghost" and wander a darkened house scaring members of a family. Seems a strange concept, but it's loads of fun.

Have you ever played hiding games with kids who proceed to hide themselves or items in plain sight? This illuminates, pun intended in the context of this app, problems around perspective taking and "thinking with the eyes" (see the work of the folks at Social Thinking®). In Toca Boo, to achieve a maximum scare, the ghost needs to avoid the family members' flashlights and hide in hotspots (e.g. under the covers of the bed or in a box) or behind furniture. Watch the trailer below:




The process of coaching students to effectively scare the characters will give you the opportunity to model and elicit if/then and causal language, as well as target spatial and positional concepts, in addition to the social cognitive ideas mentioned above. The app provides a good context for building the category of rooms of a house as well.

Do use your judgment of the trailer to consider which of your students would like this app, and whether it might be too scary for some. I do think they go a little far in having you scare (and knock over) the comical older man with the cane. I admit I laughed at this, though (America's Funniest Home Videos being a guilty pleasure of mine)! Toca Boca as always does a good job of discussing the ideas around the app in the "For Parents" section of the app, but I'm a believer in a little scare, suspense or humor being a great context to get kids talking.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Get CALM

October is tough for me. I live in the Northeast (in a location that is in a questionable time zone), and have a touch of seasonal affective disorder, so fall isn't the best time. Mums, hay bales, scarecrows, apples and pumpkins, while triggering joy for most in the area or those who travel here specifically to see those things, bring about the rather the opposite in me. I deal.

One of the strategies that has been of great use to me in recent years is incorporating mindfulness and cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques in my daily life. We all have the experience of encountering our email or a potentially stressful IEP meeting and being overcome by thoughts of RISK, rather than OPPORTUNITY. In my own life and work with clients, it has been helpful to channel my already brain-based inclinations and apply them to myself in simple ways. Though technology has been rightfully sited recently as a culprit in increasing anxiety and counteracting mindfulness, it can also give an assist by bringing us content that helps us work on being aware of our thoughts, relax and be more effective in our work. These tools can in turn provide a good context for "check-in" activities with clients and discussions of mindfulness that can be very language-based.

I have written about a variety of tools in this vein, but in this post I wanted to point out Calm. Navigate to calm.com and your browser turns into a serene scene with the option of simple timed or guided meditation. Even 2 minutes--which there is an option for--is helpful and is a good step for training your brain or just being calmer in the moment. Consider saving it to your bookmarks bar for a visual reminder to practice, putting your browser into full-screen mode and closing all tabs to eliminate any possible distractions for a few minutes.



Also check out the free Calm app for iOS, which offers a similar experience.


For another take on this practice, see SLP Kim Lewis' recent post at Activity Tailor. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Welcome to Social Studies: a "Sphere" of Language Development

As a companion to my column for the ASHA Leader App-Titude series, "Welcome to Science Class," this series explores how technology can serve as a context for teaching "language underpinnings" related to the social studies curriculum.

When using apps and contextual connections with students, we can follow a few principles:
-Think carefully about the "S"/"Speechie" in the FIVES Criteria- how can the app serve as a context to address specific language objectives relevant to the student or students? What structures will you add- visual supports such as graphic organizers, verbal supports such as questioning and scaffolding- to make sure this happens?
-Avoid becoming overwhelmed by the curriculum- take a few topic areas you have become familiar with and begin using them in even a broad sense with a grade or grades.
-When possible, find an app you can use in different ways over a span of years, keeping in mind how the objectives might change depending on the student, his or her grade, and level of development.

An app that can be integrated to exemplify some of these principles is Sphere (Free). Sphere brings you 360º views of landmarks and locations around the world, so you can bring students on "virtual field trips." The app uses the gyroscope and a form of augmented reality (layering digital info over our ordinary world) to respond to your movement of the iPad, so that your view of the location changes as you move around. Answers to common questions about this app: the view is not live, but a still 360º image, and if you walk forward it does not affect the view.

The best way to understand what I mean is to download this free app and give it a try. The app does require a sign-in; you can use a Google or Facebook account. This has the advantage of allowing you to tap the heart to "Favorite" 360º views and save them for use with students (hopefully year after year), itself a step to bring structure to your use of this app.

The 360º view of the Great Wall of China will change as you position the iPad in different directions or angles.
Sphere can be a resource for contextualized, specific therapy activities over several grade levels. Taking some curriculum progressions in Massachusetts, for instance:
At Grade 2, explore landmarks from various continents or use the China "Collection." Have students describe what they see in a location using conceptual words such as beside, above, under, right, left.
At Grade 3, explore locations from one's home state. Use a "5 Senses" based graphic organizer to have students generate sensory details they might experience if standing in that spot.
At Grade 4, view areas from regions of the United States. A more schematic graphic organizer can be used to incorporate more abstract language, e.g. comparisons to other settings. The Story Grammar Marker® Setting Map is a good example of this type of scaffold.

Along the way, you can be considering if the target activities are within the particular student's "zone," or if he/she/they need a simpler task within the context.

Thanks for coming along with me for this trip through some tools and contexts within social studies- I am going to say "goodbye" to the topic for now and will be saying "hello" to Nashville, Cincinnati and Halifax, Nova Scotia as I travel a lot in October. I'll check in when I can!

Disclosure: Author is a contractor with Mindwing Concepts, Inc.  for provision of blog content and professional development.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Welcome to Social Studies: Use Infographics as Language Contexts

As a companion to my column for the ASHA Leader App-Titude series, "Welcome to Science Class," this series explores how technology can serve as a context for teaching "language underpinnings" related to the social studies curriculum.

Have you ever heard of infographics? Infographics are visual representations of data and information, and have become popular as teaching tools, both as a presentation tool and creative context. Infographics boil down a particular topic to its essential information points, but can also contain higher-level analysis or evaluative content.

From a speech/language perspective, infographics can serve as tools that already display information broken down into key "language underpinnings," such as the expository text structures of list, sequence, description, compare/contrast, cause/effect, problem/solution, and persuasion. Additionally, they are by nature visual tools providing images and icons to support vocabulary, concepts and the relationships between them.

From a "Techie" perspective, infographics are free tools that are not only searchable via your iPad or Computer, displayable and zoomable (to limit information overload) through these same tools. They also are products that you can create (solo or with students) pretty easily with tech tools, thus providing them opportunity to practice the use of expository structures. Infographics can be saved in different ways, so do experiment with saving a PDF infographic to the iBooks app, an image infographic to your Photos app, or using on-screen navigation tools where ever they are housed.

To go with our theme of resources related to social studies, check out this excellent Pinterest board, Social Studies Infographics by Susan Pojer. My favorite: If you had to, could you survive doomsday?

You can also search Google for infographics on specific topics. A few great examples:
Latitude and Longitude (with key vocabulary and visuals)
An Infographic about the Greatest State (MA)! (with some fun lists and sequences)
Eight Great Ways to Be Thankful (with a social skills spin)
Where are Europeans going in the United States? (with context both around European flags and countries, and for making guesses about why these cities are so popular with tourists).

Also, check out my simple infographic I made with Piktochart!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Welcome to Social Studies: Barefoot World Atlas

As a companion to my column for the ASHA Leader App-Titude series, "Welcome to Science Class," this series explores how technology can serve as a context for teaching "language underpinnings" related to the social studies curriculum.

Continents, countries, and cities provide a great context for developing language skills. The sequential/hierarchical nature of these arbitrary (well, except continents) regions can confuse many of our students and therefore provides good ground for concept development. Additionally, the spacial and semantic aspects are rich, with so many places to be explored. At many points in our students' academic careers they are confronted by these topics--my 2nd graders were expected to learn not only the continents and oceans but the content on units regarding China, Mexico, and Ghana--marking a key entry point to educational relevance.

Back in my early days dabbling with technology integration, I sorely lamented the lack of interactive materials regarding continents and countries. While taking an educational web design class, I actually completed my project by creating web pages (the hard way) with some interactive elements such as FANCY images that changed when you rolled over them with your mouse! Wow! *sarcasm*

How I would have loved to have Barefoot World Atlas ($4.99), a "magical, interactive 3D globe" featuring small animations that can be used to build schema about world countries and much more. Barefoot World Atlas can be explored with the fingers or via multiple directories (e.g. Regions, Countries, alphabetical elements).


Each animation can be viewed closely along with a kid-friendly text explanation. Tap the speaker icon and it can be read aloud, and a real image is also provided for each!


Regions and Countries also have text/audio content, schematically presented in a language-based manner corresponding with the "Five Themes of Geography"


The app is a great example of F- Fair Pricing (compare to the price of a book!), is clearly I-Interactive, provides great V-Visuals, and is E-Educationally Relevant as described above... So is it S- Speechie/Specific to your objectives, resulting in true FIVES-friendliness? Depends on how you use it!

-Construct a small (or large) "Scavenger Hunt" with language clues about where the different elements can be found.
-Identify elements that are the "same but different" from those in your city/community and have kids describe the similarities and differences.
-Use the audio for listening activities and to give kids a break from listening to you for a few minutes!
-The content is filled with expository text structures such as lists, sequences, and cause-effect relationships. For these, and all of the above, consider using this app in conjunction with graphic organizers to build connections in language. Don't miss the potential alignment with these Common Core Standards in Literacy in History/Social Studies:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.3 Identify key steps in a text's description of a process related to history/social studies (e.g., how a bill becomes law, how interest rates are raised or lowered).
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.5 Describe how a text presents information (e.g., sequentially, comparatively, causally).

Barefoot World Atlas is complete on its own but does have some nice expansion packs such as "Major Cities" and puzzle tasks, generally available for $.99.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Welcome to Social Studies: 5 Language-Enhancing Activities Made Possible by Google Earth

As a companion to my column for the ASHA Leader App-Titude series, "Welcome to Science Class," this series explores how technology can serve as a context for teaching "language underpinnings" related to the social studies curriculum.

I have long considered Google Earth (GE) to be one of the best free resources for developing language in the context of social studies content--though it is great for developing language related to math, science, and even language arts (since it is filled with settings in the story grammar sense). Google Earth is basically the inspiration for the V (Visual) aspect of the FIVES Criteria; it provides endless visual contexts for language, while remaining virtually language-neutral, making it a great stimulus for our scaffolding. For the purposes of this post, I will be talking about what can be done with the free Google Earth iPad app, which keeps getting more powerful, though surely more can be done with the desktop/laptop and Android (this being a Google product) versions.

1. Pull out GE for incidental teaching: I am currently doing some individual language therapy for a student using his class assignments as jumping off points for strategy work (e.g. use of Story Grammar Marker®, Expanding Expression Tool, and Visualizing and Verbalizing®). In working through some reading, he asked me what a gulf was--having my iPad right there, we quickly reviewed a few examples of gulfs and compared it, in sequence, to smaller bodies of water that are formed as water goes into the land: bays and harbors. Geographic features are definitional!

2. Take virtual field trips to regions/countries/states/landmarks/settings of books being studied and use to elicit spatial, descriptive and narrative language: Most major cities in Google Earth now contain "3D Buildings"- providing a great "wow" factor and much visual material to be described.

3. Employ the "Panoramio Photos" and Wikipedia Layers for more specific visual and linguistic material: Google Earth displays information in layers which can be turned on and off via the menu in the upper left corner. These include the 3D Buildings layer but also the moderated and geo-tagged Panoramio Photos (turning this layer on displays blue photo icons that can be tapped and displayed) and Wikipedia, which provides general information about locations (though the W icons can be a bit hard to find)



4. Tour Guide provides a more structured, curated view of landmarks: Sweep up from the bottom of the screen in any location to view Tour Guide- this shows brief animated fly-overs of locations as well as great photos for description.



5. Use Street View even for your youngest learners: Think about the category of community buildings. Street View lets you walk around any town or city and view examples of places in the community- personally relevant ones! Just drag the "Peg Guy" onto the street and you can begin to navigate- sweep your finger around to change view and double-tap to move down the street and describe. Kids love to visit their houses too!




Have fun with Google Earth- it's easy to get started with the tutorial that plays when you first open the app- it's also replayable (and a great following-directions activity) from the Settings menu in the app.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Welcome to Social Studies: Hoopa City

In this month's column for the ASHA Leader App-Titude series, I discussed how relevant science concepts and content can be used as a context for language therapy (see the great work of Barbara Ehren on curriculum-relevant interventions). Like science, social studies has much opportunity to teach language underpinnings involving the skills that our students can struggle with, thereby providing rationale for our interventions. Social Studies is full of narrative, vocabulary and definitions, sequences of events, categories and cause-effect relationships, as well as the spacial concepts needed to understand geography. This month I will be posting a series running parallel to this column exploring technology resources that can provide an easy context to build language skills supporting our students' success in social studies.

Up first, Hoopa City by Dr. Panda Games, one of my favorite publishers (available for iOS and Android, $2.99). Imagine the interactivity and engagement involved in a tool that allows you to build a city. I have always enjoyed aspects of SimCity for this, but it becomes very complex. Hoopa City can be used for the simplest city-building activities, but has enough complexity for us to engage even upper-elementary learners. Basically, Hoopa City allows you to add buildings and city features to an open space by tapping on a material (heart, coin, lightning bolt, road, brick, water, leaf) and then on a block of land to place the element. However, you can go far beyond the hospitals, shops, roads, houses, etc that go with a simple use of one material by combining materials. Simply select a different material and tap again on the space where you have placed an element of your city.



So, for example, if you tap a brick, then a square of land to place it, you create a house.

Tap the heart and then the same square you placed the house, it becomes a school!

I love the figurative and semantic combinations that can be discovered and discussed in this game, such as combining a brick and heart to create a building that nurtures, i.e. a school.

Once you have created buildings, Dr. Panda characters move about and interact with them subtly (you can't control, but can observe this). Now, you could use this game in an exploratory manner with students to see (and make guesses about while using if/then language) what combinations might produce, but it is helpful to have a guide, so see Geeks With Juniors comprehensive list of what you can create with Hoopa City.

Language (and Social Studies) Lens:
-Use Hoopa City to build categories such as community buildings, vehicles, bodies of water, types of stores, etc, as well as language around the functions and associations (e.g. what might be inside) of buildings.
-Pair with Doodle Buddy to sketch what might be inside of your buildings, thereby developing visualization and further description skills.
-Your "map" can be used as a writing or speaking activity for giving directions around the town or describing positions spatially (with left or right, etc or N, S, E, W).

Note: the one improvement I would suggest, besides some elaboration within the app of how to produce a few select combinations (I almost abandoned the app, until a bit more research unlocked this element), would be the ability to save and work on different cities. For now, you can sweep the "globe" and build cities in different locations. [EDIT: the free update released on 9/17/14 addressed this issue; you can now save multiple cities, making this app more useful for multiple students or groups]

What language and social studies applications do you see in Hoopa Cities? Let us know in the comments...


Thursday, September 4, 2014

"Back to School" Links

I have been enjoying a few weeks off before things pick up again! Though out of the traditional school schedule, my work still revolves around the academic year, with therapy groups starting in September as well as school consults, programming, and evals (and most of my presentations and trainings as well).

Over the summer, I had a great time blogging about research for Mindwing Concepts' blog and their "Summer Study Series." I have been making a lot of efforts over the past few years to connect with research that informs technology use, or per my usual message, intervention approaches that can be aligned with particular applications.

In July, we discussed an interesting study that compared structured narrative intervention in one classroom with more traditional (e.g. wh-questions, among other approaches) programming in another. The study was also the first to look at the efficacy of in-classroom discourse intervention by speech-language pathologists (Gillam, Olszewski, Fargo & Gillam, 2014). The link to the actual study was accidentally left out of that post, so you can find it here in full-text for ASHA members.

Just recently, we also looked at interesting research into typical expository language performance for the upper-elementary to high-school population. The study used a protocol similar to one I have used in the past, with some interesting tweaks such as setting clear expectations and providing schematic scaffolding and planning time prior to the students producing a language sample. Data has thus far been lacking to compare students' performance in terms of key factors such as linguistic complexity, so these are welcome findings. The link to the full-text, again free to ASHA members, is in the post describing the research of Heilmann & Malone (2014).

Additionally, I published a column for ASHA Leader about prepping for travel to the 2014 Orlando Convention (but helpful for all travelers). I am excited to be presenting at the convention a sequel to previous sessions- Pairing EVEN MORE Picture Books & Apps to Contextually Address Language Objectives (Session 1718, Saturday, November 22, 1-2pm)- on Saturday afternoon. Hopefully I will see some of you to talk with you about one of my favorite topics-- before you leave or head to Disney World!

As a tech tie-in, I'd like to mention the tool that I am finding the best resource for reading and annotating journal articles. Sente 6 for Mac and iPad allows you to build "libraries" of research articles and annotate and sync them across your account accessed on Mac or iPad (Free for up to 100 references per library and with 250MB of syncing). The advantages for me are that I tend to do this reading on my laptop, and tools such as Preview or Adobe Reader do not have the same features. Also, when highlighting, you can create notes that can be cut/pasted into another application or exported. Check it out if you like to read journal articles; there is a bit of a learning curve but nice support videos available.



Disclosure: Author is a contractor with Mindwing Concepts, Inc. for provision of blog content and professional development.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

MarcoPolo Ocean

MarcoPolo Ocean (free for iPad and iPhone/iPod) is a well-designed app designed as a "sandbox" exploratory and interactive experience. The app targets science, technology, engineering and design (STEM) concepts around biodiversity, earth science and landscapes, construction and function of various ocean vehicles, and related vocabulary.

The app has six core activities that function as exploratory puzzles, with the additional features of zooming to other areas of the screen for additional exploration, as well as audio labeling and narration of actions or functions of the depicted elements.

Construction of an underwater reef is completed by dragging different elements to their highlighted spots

The boat construction activity includes many elements that can be described as well as compartment names such as hold, galley and bridge.


Language Lens:
-This app could be used to have children interact with scenes and vocabulary related to ocean or habitat units and practice labeling and vocabulary in those contexts.
-The construction activities (a boat and submarine) particularly focus on the parts and functions of these two vehicles, and so could be used to practice these semantic skills.
-The habitat building and exploration activities would lend themselves to pairing with Social Thinking®'s Incredible Flexible You curriculum for early learners, particularly the "Body in the Group" Volume, which centers around an ocean theme and narrative. In addition to the theme elements, the scenes show ocean creatures swimming in groups and out of groups, which can serve as a visual to apply the skill of identifying physical proximity as a social concept.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Find great photo contexts with Getty Images app

Photos have nearly endless applications in speech-language therapy: descriptive skills, focus on specific structures such as verbs or prepositions, social and executive functioning. Programs such as Visualizing and Verbalizing use photos to build schema and gestalt processing. Technology naturally makes obtaining such stimuli easier, and one such resource is the recently updated Getty Images app (free).

Getty Images is a source of over 60 million images, and though designed for creative and media professionals, its galleries are free to view. The free app allows you to search for photos tagged with a specific term (e.g. "kids" or something much more specific), add ones you like to a "lightbox" and display the photo full-screen within the app. Multiple lightboxes can be created and named to help you access photos you would like to view again.

As the images are designed for sale, the app naturally doesn't allow you to save them to the camera roll. Creating a free login for the service, however, will allow you to view the photo without a distracting watermark and use it within a session.



I did not want to potentially violate copyright by posting an image other than what is shared in the App Store, but you can see below the myriad of search terms and attributes attached to one photo, offering a sampling of what you can use to search for photos (and a hint that this app may be used to work on attributes as well)!


 
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