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
9:00-2:00
Cost: FREE

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

REGISTER HERE

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Target spatial concepts, description, narrative with Google MyMaps

Google Earth has always been a great, though not exactly user-friendly, tool for making maps that can target language. Consider the way that certain novels your students have to tackle require an understanding of setting and shifts in setting. Or their 4th grade year and the focus on places they have never been, like 50 States and National Parks. A "virtual field trip" can be great for giving them some experiential hooks on which to hang all this narrative and expository language. The problem with Google Earth was always the saving and movement of files as well as the addition of content such as images, which actually required some HTML coding. Ick.

Now, your Google Account has these tools right in Drive, through a tool called MyMaps. From Drive (you need to use a more full featured web browser for this like on a laptop or Chromebook), select New, then More, and you will see MyMaps there. You can also just go to MyMaps. If you are accessing your education account and you don't see it there, contact your IT support person and ask to have it turned on (I turned it on for a school I consult with, quite easily through the administrator panel). With just a few clicks, MyMaps allows you to:
-Create a personalized map or tour
-Add placemarks for each important location, either on a macro level (across a wide geographic area) or micro, such as a neighborhood or park
-Name your placemarks and write a description
-Add a photo to the placemark. This is my favorite feature because you can do so from a Google Search, instantly creating a visual support.
-Embed YouTube clips related to the location, making your map more experiential
-Because this is all done in Drive, saving is automatic and collaboration features (sharing and editing between users) are also available.

Here's a nice tutorial to give you some more info:


Check out Google MyMaps and consider making a map for or with your students- it's also a great telepractice tool!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Make a "BIG" Visual Support

Visual supports are key to our work. A takeaway I always emphasize in my workshops is that we can use technology in simple ways to engage. Fact is, a visual support displayed via a screen as opposed to a piece of paper has a cool, glowing factor we can't dismiss.

Make it Big is a simple, free app for iPad that allows you to type in a message so that it is displayed in color and, naturally, big. Bigly if you want to go there.


Make it Big is therefore a tool for:
-Displaying a strategy to be targeted in a session
-Emphasizing a vocabulary word
-Presenting articulation targets
-Conversational repair/AAC for those with intelligibility issues.

At times the simplest tools can have a "big" impact.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Visuals and Movement are Key to Science-based Language

This website is 7 years old this month! Wow, another blog-iversary! I am always grateful for the connections and opportunities that have come from writing here, as well as the sense that I am doing something to help students with social and language learning issues. Thanks for reading! I'm taking off for school vacation next week, so see you in March.

I meet with a middle school student weekly for language therapy, working on narrative and expository language comprehension, vocabulary, and reading comprehension (via Visualizing and Verbalizing® and other techniques). I try also as much as possible to incorporate his texts and assignments to make the time seem worthwhile to him, and to apply strategies to the academic contexts that are useful to him (and to keeping up his grades)!

We often choose science assignments as a context, as weekly he has to complete activities like reading a chapter and "taking notes." Applying expository text structures (list, sequence, description, compare-contrast, cause effect) and practicing his ability to talk through text features (e.g. headings, figures, photos, sidebars, captions) here have helped the student, as does the work of Fang (2012) who outlined how science texts have tons of:

-Nominalization (e.g. “failure, evaporation, safeguarding”) and technical vocabulary, so we work on making connections to known words and
-Complicated noun phrases to break down: “The conversion of stored potential energy into kinetic energy can also be harnessed to power homes, factories and entire cities.” What’s converted? Energy. What kind of energy? Potential energy. What else do we know about the potential energy? It’s stored potential energy. Etc.

Doodle Buddy is a great, engaging way to write out and break down words and phrases like the above.

Besides these structural strategies, my student has benefited from using tech resources that provide visuals to scaffold the meaning of these complicated science passages. A few I have utilized on-the-fly when I knew he wasn't "getting it" include:

BrainPop: If you have school access, this resource is the best. You can log in with school subscription to the website or app and check out a 3-minute animated video on just about any relevant topic.

TED-Ed: Like its grownup counterpart, TED-Ed embeds key science or social studies concepts in a larger, practical discussion, which can be good for making pragmatic connections. I'd recommend a quick Google search to see if there is a video that would visualize a concept, rather than searching the site. This is how I found this great explanation of models of light, which frankly we were both struggling with based on the examples in the student's textbook.

TED-Ed video showing light behaving as waves.
In a pinch, whiteboard-like videos like those available at The Science Classroom do a good job of making a topic more visual and showing movement (i.e. sequence) where it is relevant.

Fang's article is great to check out for applying strategies to contextual work with students, particularly adolescents:
Fang, Z. (2012). Language correlates of disciplinary literacy. Topics in Language Disorders, 32 (1), 19-34.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Paper>Digital Paper>Annotated Paper

It used to be that taking the paper out of the "worksheet" equation involved several apps, usually at cost- one to scan and one to "annotate" or write/draw on the paper.  This process is a helpful one to know about because a) students can be more engaged in completing work electronically b) presenting paper in an electronic form can be important as an accommodation (e.g. because of difficulty writing or the need for speech-to-text or text-to-speech).

I recently was pleasantly surprised to notice that Adobe Acrobat Reader for iPad (free) has been updated to do it all- scan a piece of paper and allow you to draw or write on it. You can then share the completed work to Google Drive or other locations.



Unfortunately, this is another instance where iPad 2s are not supported for the latest version (and the scanning feature of this app), so see some iOS 10 blah blah blah here.
 
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