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


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.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Practice Following Directions with Scratch Jr.

I've mentioned before that following directions (written or oral) is an oft-needed but not so engaging goal to address. Scratch Jr. is a free app that, like its senior (mentioned here and here) was created to teach coding and programming to youngsters. These applications use object-oriented codes that are simple to put together and work a lot like LEGOs.

A great way to start with Scratch Jr., and one in which you'll instantly see the potential for working on following directions and sequencing, is to use the intro activities. For example, students need to follow a few steps to make a car drive across the screen--a surprisingly thrilling activity for the class in which I conducted this lesson. The developers give you a great quick guide if you want to learn your way around the app first.

This simple program makes the car drive across the screen.

After using Scratch Jr., you'll likely find all sorts of contexts for it. A first grade teacher I worked with had her students program how baby polar bears "trail" their mothers, thus integrating work in following directions, coding, and science concepts. The variety of backgrounds and characters suggests potential for storytelling work as well, and these can be drawn, leading to limitless contexts. Students can also be encouraged to use strategies such as re-verbalizing directions and visualizing as I discussed in this post.

You can also create direction sheets of your own with or without text by screenshotting steps and then assembling them in Pic Collage, as I did below. In making a math "game," I encouraged the students to verbally mediate the pictured steps as is important when approaching picture sequencing tasks.

Working on skills in this context, you'll also know you are helping to address technology standards and perhaps starting to prepare your students for a career in programming!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Annotating Photos in iOS 10

Annotating a photo, or marking it up with text, highlights or shapes has many uses in language, social and executive function therapy. I have previously written about this topic with regard to Skitch. So, Skitch is no more, and though its functions were incorporated in Evernote, getting to them is almost too complicated to talk about here. The good news is that you can now annotate photos without a specialized app, because these features have been added to the Photos app for iPad and iPhone.

But first, some bad news. These features are part of iOS 10, which came out this past fall and was where Apple finally drew the line on the iPad 2. The iPad 2, now a 5 year-old line, cannot be updated to the latest version of the operating system. So...if you want to continue to be able to ride the tech train and you have an iPad 2, you might want to consider an upgrade. Not only for features available on the newest operating system, but also because as your operating system falls behind, so will your apps, and you'll soon find yourself not being able to install certain apps as they come out. I recommend the Gazelle service, which provides you with cash for trade-ins of old devices. The iPad Air 2 is a good model for clinicians to consider.

How to find out what model iPad you have.

How to find out what operating system version you are running.

How to update your iPad operating system.

Once you are up to date with iOS 10, you'll be able to annotate photos right in the Photos app. This will apply to photos you take with the camera or photos you save from Safari. Searching and saving photos from Safari brings you endless contexts for therapy, including finding images that scaffold language about curriculum topics.

Once you take or find an image you would like to add words or annotation to, you might first want to duplicate it. This would allow you to save the original and annotate a duplicate--especially useful if you may want to complete the same activity with multiple groups.

To Duplicate a photo, view it in the Photos app and tap the "Share Square."

Then tap Duplicate.

Now you will have two versions of the image, one of which you can annotate. To get started marking up the image, tap the "sliders" Edit icon in the upper right corner (next to Details). At the bottom of the menu on the left, tap the "..." icon, then Markup.

From there it is pretty self explanatory--you can familiarize yourself with the bottom menu, and how to add pen marks, change color and line thickness, add text and change its color, size and font.

In this case I was using this feature to make a visual activity with students before we took a community trip to 7-11 to get a snack. The activity aligned with Sarah Ward and Kristen Jacobsen's situational awareness "STOP" acronym-- Space, Time, Objects and People.

For more ideas on annotating photos, you can check out my linked article in the first paragraph of this post. Those ideas pertained to Skitch, but you can now do them right in the Photos app with iOS 10.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Developing Categories with Toca Life Apps

In a recent post for Mindwing Concepts, I described and demonstrated how the various contexts within the Toca Life apps, specifically Toca Life: Farm ($2.99, also available for other platforms), can be used to build narrative language skills. I have recently been using these versatile sandbox apps in other ways, including targeting category development. If you are working in the school setting, especially, working in context just makes sense. Doing so allows you to tie in with classroom topics (in this case, the basics of plant life cycles and animal biology) and sync with the topics of picture books. This practice is also supported by emerging research; Gillam & Gillam (2012) conducted a study that "revealed signs of efficacy in an intervention approach in which clinicians treated multiple linguistic targets using meaningful activities with high levels of topic continuity."

Toca Life: Farm includes scenes such as a field, barn, farmhouse and farm store, each containing movable items in a variety of basic and more abstract categories relevant to the context. Just a few I have noted and used include:

Field: fruit, vegetables, tools, containers, vehicles, ways to water plants
Barn: animals, tools, machines, cleaning items, containers for plants
Farmhouse: rooms, furniture, meats, grains, vegetables, fruit, spices/condiments, school supplies, personal care items appliances, clothing, musical instruments
Store: food categories, dry goods/refrigerated items, containers, as well as a fabulous machine that allows you to "make" products, e.g. items made from milk

Field Scene

Farm Store Scene with Machine

In context you can approach this to target both receptive and expressive categories with students:
"Can you gather 3 tools we need for planting?"
"I just had the girl sit on the chair, bed, and then couch. What category are all these in?"

Check out this and other Toca Life apps (see the Toca Boca website to start) to develop contextual storytelling and semantic skills.

Gillam, S.L., Gillam, R.B., & Reece, K. (2012). Language Outcomes of Contextualized and Decontextualized Language Intervention: Results of an Early Efficacy Study. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 43(3), 276-291.

Disclosure: author is a paid consultant for Mindwing Concepts, Inc to provide blog and presentation content.