Showing posts with label context. Show all posts
Showing posts with label context. Show all posts

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, June 26, 2014

Social Thinking Providers' Conference 2014

This past weekend, I was thrilled to be part of the Social Thinking® Providers' Conference in San Francisco, CA. I always leave this event (this was my third) with renewed energy and a ton of ideas informing my work, which nowadays centers around language therapy and a whole lot of social cognitive work with kids who have learning challenges in this area.

This year's agenda featured updates from Social Thinking founder Michelle Garcia Winner, of course, but also great presentations from prominent thinkers in social cognition such as Dr. Jed Baker, author of The Social Skills Picture Book among other works, and Kari Dunn Buron, creator of one of my favorite tools, The Incredible Five Point Scale.

Breakout sessions featured terrific information from Maryellen Rooney Moreau, creator of Story Grammar Marker, Jenny Sojat presenting a great therapy idea about teaching kids "levels of like" to address black/white thinking, Alana Fitchtelberg on great simple activities addressing the skills in the ILAUGH model, and Nancy Clements and Anna Cotton on Project Based Learning and Social Thinking.

Some specific ideas I walked away with:

Social Thinkng is about providing very accessible language to define super complex ideas at the level of therapy. (Michelle Garcia Winner)

It is very hard to teach kids "rules." Adults think it's awful to put a "Kick Me" sign on someone's back but if doing so with humorous or gentle intent, kids actually are showing each other they are "thinking of each other"- it's validating! Similar example, if a friend gets a good grade on a test an expected response can be: "You suck!" To kids that can handle it, we must teach nuance. (Michelle Garcia Winner)

A new concept in assessing and treating early learners in play contexts is the Social Thinking GPS (Group Play and Problem-Solving Scale): ME-based players are self-focused on their object-oriented play and include adults when adults join their attention "in a tunnel" or follow the child’s lead. WE-based players are emerging or emerged in their ability to socially attend to peers and able to engage in peer based play with varying levels of support. (Kari Palmer, Nancy Tarshis, Ryan Hendrix)

The idea around the 5 Point Scale is that more language is not working, so we systematize (see Simon Baron-Cohen's Empathizing-Systematizing Theory). Similarly, calming sequences are based on training of first responders and automaticity: "when this happens, we do this, this, and this." (Kari Dunn Buron)

Working with students around formulating "Levels" and sequencing items within them can target concrete thinking and build acceptance of shades of gray. Start with "Levels of Like" (e.g. foods, games) and creation of an "OK Line" can help students to compromise when making a group plan regarding an activity/compromise. (Jenny Sojat)

Try to avoid examples of "non-active listening" when working with resistant students (I recalled saying some of these myself, ruefully) :
• “There’s no reason to be so upset.” (Denial of Feelings)
• “Mrs. Peru was just doing her job.” (Defense of the other person)
• “I think you’re missing the point of the assignment, again.” (Blaming)
• “Just do it and get it over with.” (Advice)
• “That’s life. You don’t always get to do it your way (Philosophical response)
• “I feel so sorry for you!” (Pity)
"Sounds as if you (feel/thought)..." is a good way to start an active/empathetic listening statement. (Nancy Cotton)


And then our Ely Center staff took advantage of flying all the way from Boston to the West Coast to...go to a Red Sox Game!

---End Intermission---

Jed Baker, an amazing speaker, discussed the efficacy of peer training at middle and high school level in changing a school climate to be supportive of students with social learning challenges. He also mentioned that response cost systems (e.g. Class Dojo, taking away points) should be used with students who are disregulated with positive emotion, not negative emotion.

Students can build social cognition and skills through project-based contexts (see Project-Based Learning). These interpersonal effectiveness videos are great resources for expected and unexpected behaviors in contexts of working in a group.  (Nancy Clements)

Finally, I was very happy to be presenting at this conference myself. My session was a new approach for me, presenting 3 different apps (Pic Collage, Keynote, Toontastic) that could be used for Social Thinking along with an analysis of their features and presentation of examples of how I have used them. The participants then had time between each resource to brainstorm at their tables and add ideas to a collaborative digital "wall." This in-depth "zooming in" on resources was a lot of fun and those who attended added many great new thoughts on how the apps could be used for social development.

Here are the 3 walls on Padlet, below (just use your mouse to move around the wall and "hover" on any boxes hidden in order to read them):

I highly recommend getting to a Social Thinking conference soon!

Social Thinking is based on the work of Michelle Garcia Winner. See for great products and free resources.

Disclosure: Author is employed by The Ely Center, LLC and is a contractor with Mindwing Concepts, Inc. for provision of blog content and professional development.

Friday, June 13, 2014

World's Worst Pet-Vocabulary

I am often asked about apps that build vocabulary and am at a loss for an easy answer. Are you looking for apps for basic or more advanced vocabulary? Do you mean semantics instead? There are many terrific apps that can be used to build semantic networks, categorization and description (take Bag Game, Naming TherAppy and Describe it to Me as a few examples), and though these skills provide the foundation for expanding vocabulary, this is sometimes not what the person was asking for.

What I often try to do is guide people toward context and repeated exposure, two principles of vocabulary development espoused in the terrific Bringing Words To Life by Isabel Beck (more on this in a minute), and again my answers aren't so straightforward:
-Read books and use Kidspiration or Inspiration to map or categorize vocabulary in context
-Keep a vocabulary journal in Evernote

While the above approach aligns with my philosophy about apps, i.e. that they are tools to be used as part of a bigger context, process, sequence of pre-/post- activities etc, it was really nice to find an app that can be used to develop vocabulary by providing content and context within an engaging package. I'm speaking of World's Worst Pet-Vocabulary (FREE!) from the folks at Curriculum Associates, which was designed specifically to develop Tier 2 Vocabulary (another concept discussed in Beck's book)- those high-frequency words used by "mature" speakers.

World's Worst Pet contains tons of content that can be worked with across 5 grade levels (grades 4-8 are suggested but with scaffolding, this can be used with younger grades in the same way kindergarteners learn Tier 2 words using Beck's approach). The concept is that Snargg, the world's worst pet, keeps bolting and you need to interact with vocabulary to "chase" him through a particular setting (e.g. a bakery) and retrieve him. You move vocabulary words to complete tasks such as matching words to the main idea of "book" titles, finding synonyms or antonyms, responding to questions/categorizing around the vocab words, or identifying examples/nonexamples. Your choices guide Snargg via steps, catapult, rocket, etc in engaging ways, and the app follows a commonly-enjoyed structure of encouraging accurate completion of each level by earning "pupcakes."

My favorite part of the app is that the sets of 10 vocabulary words are contextual, related, relevant to real life, and supported by student-friendly definitions (more Beck). The sets include topics such as words about performing (audience, popular, melody, public), words about going places (journey, roam, guide, proceed), and words about the mall (merchandise, extravagant, desire, vendor).

The levels and sets give you a place to start for students with weak vocabulary and a structure that might serve you (and them) over several years of instruction. You can challenge the students to complete each set perfectly, and the pace of the game will give you a lot of "air time" to discuss each word and provide additional models. Each level can be a doorway to activities over several weeks, including a suggested writing activity, and can be a topic of consultation with teachers so that there are multiple exposures to the words (as building vocabulary only in the "speech room" can have limited efficacy). EVEN BETTER, you can flip this model and use this app as the context for in-class programming, thereby facilitating vocabulary development in the classroom. Beck's book will give you many more ideas for wordplay activities to provide students with multiple exposure to words!

Let me know what you think of this app-it's one of my favorite finds this year. Thank you to Richard Byrne of iPad Apps for School for pointing it out.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Link Updates and One "for the Girls"

Some updates on other writings- so far this year I have had several columns published in ASHA Leader, in case you missed them:

May 1, 2014. Tech-Supported Wellness

April 1, 2014. 'Skitch' Up your Visual Aids

January 1, 2014. Zooming in on One Multitalented App

Recently I also posted for Mindwing Concepts on infusing use of Braidy, The Storybraid with Social Thinking's® terrific Incredible Flexible You program

When Lego's® Friends line of toys came on the market, marketed as "Lego for Girls," it met with some controversy about gendered branding. After all, there already was a Lego for Girls. It was called Lego.

Despite this, it seems girls do respond to the look and feel of Friends, and I appreciate any toy that develops hands-on, narrative and cooperative play. I also applaud Lego for their creation of a number of free, language-useful apps, even if the goal of these apps is to get people to buy more Lego. Minor critique aside, Lego does make a great product.

I recently found Lego Friends Story Maker app very useful in working with a small group of girls- the app is a pretty simple and limited scene creator, but in some cases it can be helpful to present only small arrays of choices. The goal can always be, how do we make a story of what we see here?

The app allows you to select from a variety of backgrounds (beach, school, etc) add characters and setting elements, as well as smaller props. As an added bonus, you can record an audio narration for your created scene, always a good opportunity to practice applicable speech and language targets or strategies.

Scene creators provide a context to develop all sorts of language targets, from concepts to description to sentence formulation. The app is limited in its text features (i.e. I'd really want to make a comic with it), but here's a place you can "app-smash." Just screenshot your scene and then add the photo to Strip Designer and you're good to add word and thought balloons and captions, helpful for scripting and other aspects of social development.

As in other cases, if you have any Friends or other Lego toys on hand, the app can help you practice play scripts and plans to enact with real-world toys.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Stick Around: The Spectrum of Repurposing

Much of my efforts in writing and conducting trainings is geared toward helping SLPs and other educators see the potential use of apps and tools they might not have recognized initially as language-based. That has been the focus of this blog since its inception- "looking through a language lens"- even back when we were talking about interactive flash-based websites and webtools, way before apps.

I found great validation of my advocacy for "repurposing" in an article by Jessica Gosnell in the ASHA Leader in 2011, and consistently use this quote in sessions:

“A search focused only on a specific profile of dedicated apps (speech production, targeted language goals, augmentative communication) could miss many well-designed apps that offer motivating and fun learning opportunities. Using creativity, clinicians can reach beyond an app's intended target audience and purpose and adapt it to support interventions.”
-Jessica Gosnell (Children’s Hospital, Boston), “Apps, an Emerging Tool for SLPs,” ASHA Leader Online, October, 2011

I think as we progress in incorporating technology into our work thoughtfully, we are getting better at seeing these connections and potential uses of a wider variety of apps. Recently, I was presenting on apps for pediatric populations at the ASHA Healthcare and Business Institute and included a great recent release called Stick Around. This educational app allows the creation of puzzles featuring "stickers" that can be dragged on top of an image or array in order to develop labeling, sequencing, or describing in just about any context. As I was showing it with other apps that could be repurposed for language therapy, a participant asked, "Is this really even a repurposed app? It seems like language heaven!"

I replied, "Good point!" But the fact is, many in our field might not think to look past the icon and description (or even stumble upon it in the education category of the App Store), and it wasn't designed specifically for speech and language pathologists. So, while on the spectrum of repurposing, it's not such a stretch as using Bobbleshop- Bobble Head Avatar Maker for developing descriptive language, we all could use a push to see what a valuable app Stick Around could be.

Tony Vincent, an amazing resource on technology integration and the author of Stick Around (in partnership with Explain Everything creators Morris Cooke), definitely sees these connections between language and learning, and has presented for our peeps at conferences such as those held by the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities in Florida. He designed Stick Around ($2.99, very Fairly Priced and meeting all other points of the FIVES Criteria) to be a blank slate where educators--and students--could create these self-checking puzzles for learning in all contexts. So let's take a look at it.

Stick Around may first look a bit daunting, but this is just because its interface allows for such a large array of options and customization. I figured the process out in about 10 min, but there are also great video tutorials available should you get stuck. Though it might seem strangely dairy-specific, in the shots below I am showing how to set up a puzzle that could be used for life skills and executive functioning ("feature teaching" ala Sarah Ward). You could think up all sorts of other contexts for puzzles (In Las Vegas, I modeled a puzzle labeling the casinos on the Vegas Strip from a screenshot using Google Earth- you need Stick Around on your iPad to access this file)!

Start with deciding the image you would like to use as a puzzle (the app also has templates such as Venn Diagrams and sequencing frames). In this case, on a community trip to the supermarket, we snapped this image of the dairy section. You can also save an image, but just be aware of copyright should you plan to share your puzzle (see my next post).

Using the Stick Around app (see above the array of sample projects to spur your imagination- try not to be intimidated by how beautiful their graphics look), begin a new project.

I created a blank project so that I could use a photo background. Tap the + to add this from your Photo Library or other source.

Your next step is the stickers. These can take various formats (Text, Image, or Drawing Sticker). Double tap the sticker to write the label, and you can also add a description via text or audio (a great feature for SLPs). Arrows can be added as well.

Create your Answer Key by drawing each of the "regions" where the sticker, if placed or pointed, will result in a correct answer when the puzzle is played. Make sure your regions don't overlap. While creating the Answer Key, you will want to place the sticker or its arrow head in the correct region to link the sticker and its region, as seen above.

Finally, you can tap Play and try out your project in puzzle form. As a great example of continuous improvement in apps, Stick Around recently added the faces indicating correct or incorrect answers when you tap "Check."

When you are done with your project, save it (when navigating back to My Projects, you will be prompted to give it a name and save, or you can give it a name in the Info tab). The Export button (arrow into box) allows you to send the project to the Puzzles section of the app (from Projects) so that it can be played but not edited.

One of the best features of Stick Around is that puzzles you create can be shared with others who have the app. From My Projects I simply exported this one to Dropbox, and if on an iPad with Stick Around installed, you can click this link to add it to your Projects and play it!

So, what are your thoughts? What can you imagine creating with Stick Around?

As always, Happy Repurposing!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Video Demo of Apple TV in Clinical Setting

At last weekend's ASHA Healthcare and Business Institute in Las Vegas, I presented a session entitled "Tech Up," detailing a variety of simple technologies that can be infused for productivity and engagement in the private practice setting (though the ideas, including this one involving Apple TV, are applicable to other settings). Apple TV is a small device that allows you to display content on a TV, and is especially helpful when you need to engage a group. Because this technology is pretty impossible to demonstrate in a conference setting (one never knows what the wifi situation will be), I made a short video at the Ely Center where I work and where we have been using Apple TVs in order to show this to the attendees- and you!

A couple of key points I want to reiterate in case you missed them in my babbling:
-The Apple TV is only $99 and can be attached via HDMI cable to any HDTV (now cheap- the one shown here cost about $400).
-It can then be used to "mirror" an iPad or iPhone so that anything viewable on the small screen will show up on the big screen- apps, videos, webpages.
-This is useful for "dedicated" speech-language apps (such as Tactus' Conversation TherAppy, shown here) as well as creative application of any apps that provide a visual context for speech, language, or social communication, as well as overall client education.
-The Apple TV and your device need to be on the same wifi network in order for the AirPlay button to show up in Control Center, as shown in the video but also here.
-My point about turning on the actual TV after mirroring is just one I have learned from experience, and usually just prevents distraction. However, once, after this poster popped up, I had to explain to a parent that her son had inquired what a "virgin" is (I pretended I didn't hear the question)- luckily, she was totally cool with it. You can also quickly dismiss the iTunes preview by tapping "down" on the remote.

Hopefully the video is helpful to you.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My World for iPad

Many of you know I have a thing about maps! Maps are fascinating to examine, but from an SLP perspective can be used to target all kinds of skills: categories (i.e. continents, states, cities, capitals), spatial concepts, and clearly intersection with classroom curriculum.

Technology has made maps more interactive and therefore a more engaging context. My World for iPad ($.99) is a nice little tool to have if you would like to use geography as a way to build language skills. Specifically, you can zoom in to any location by pinching, or use the location functions of the device to identify where you are on the map (doable with many maps apps). The hook of My World is that it allows you to create a line and find out a) the distance of the path between places and b) the amount of time it would take to travel by plane or car. In both cases, students are engaged with a personal connection (their location, as measured in relation to locations relevant to classroom topics) and can be asked to apply language around distance or, more importantly for many of our students, time.

Using My World would benefit from some structure imposed on your part, for example the creation of a scavenger hunt/challenge to find distances and times and record them on a graphic organizer.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Have a "Smashing" Saint Patrick's Day

"App Smashing" is a term I am starting to tell people about at workshops. Apps do discrete things, and no one app does everything. But we can capitalize on one app's capabilities when combined with another's- chiefly through saving a product to the camera roll. This provides both an opportunity for us to expand our tech comfort and for kids to follow multiple step directions. "App Smashing" was coined by Massachusetts educator Greg Kulowiec and you can learn more about it here.

St. Patrick's day can indeed be about more than the stereotypes (no comment, but I am too old, basically, anyway), and this week I used the context to do an activity about positive self-talk. In a brief lesson we illustrated how our self-talk can influence our feelings and therefore our social behaviors- it's the difference between "Lucky Thinking" and "Unlucky Thinking."

Students then used the free app St. Patrick's Day Booth Free to snap a selfie- you may have to try a few to make sure the top of the head is hat-ready- and add festive stuff. This app allows you to save to the camera roll (tap the download/box symbol).

Next, use a photo comic app such as Story Me or Strip Designer. Add the photo to a single-paned comic from the camera roll, and add a word balloon or thought balloon after working with the student around some "Lucky Thinking" from their day or week. This also targets sentence and narrative formulation as well as social cognition. 

See our model used with our center's doggie, Stella!

Have fun with App-Smashing!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Phrasal Verbs Machine

It's great to find an app that is focused on a particular skill, but also very contextual. Phrasal Verbs Machine (free) is a gorgeous example dedicated to building understanding of phrasal verbs- a verb paired with a preposition. These are known to be challenging to ESL/ELL populations but also are quite figurative in nature, and so are helpful to target metalinguistics for our more literal thinkers. The context of the app is "the circus world of The Amazing Phraso and his friends." Using the app, you can manipulate an old-fashioned "machine" to pair any of 100 phrasal verbs with prepositions.

In Phrasal Verbs View, you slide wheels to align verbs with paired prepositions, then tap view to see a terrific short animation of the phrase:

The animations play quite quickly but can be replayed. This activity is great for developing prediction and visualization skills by asking students what they think they will see in the machine for each combination.

In the "Exercise," the reverse situation is involved. An animation is played and you are asked to choose from a few choices to describe the animation, thus also working on main idea.

I hope you enjoy this unique and generously free app from Cambridge University Press- another example of a nicely designed app for older students!

Thanks to Richard Byrne at iPad Apps for School for pointing this app out.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

DirecTV's "Don't" commercials

YouTube gives you on-demand access to just about anything, including commercials that have a language teaching purpose.* DirecTV's recent campaign consists of stories that start when someone is not using DirecTV, and end with an unfortunate consequence. I actually had a student suggest this series while we were using ads to learn about expository text structure. The cause-effect chain in each clip is very fun to explore, and can be used to target inference, complex sentence formulation or sequencing (you could also screen-shot each condition and make a visual sequencing activity, or place your shots in something like Popplet for sequencing). As the character's situation often changes, this provides good opportunities to explore the story grammar element of setting, do situational analysis with Sarah Ward's STOP (Space, Time, Objects, People) strategy, or even Social Behavior Mapping (see the work of Social Thinking® by Michelle Garcia Winner). Exploring a few of the clips would also allow you to work on main idea, i.e. what overall is DirecTV saying about their service as opposed to cable.

As these ads are off-color and have hints of violence, you would want to use them with an older population (especially the last two, which are a bit saucy). Also be very careful to preview each one before showing, as these ads have been parodied in inappropriate ways, and you wouldn't want to show one of those videos.

A number of the clips are embedded below- email subscribers click through to the post to see them.

These last two are definitely more for older students/teens:

*If YouTube is blocked at your school, apps such as TubeBox allow you to cache (download) any YouTube video for offline viewing, or download to your computer using sites such as KeepVid.

Thursday, January 23, 2014


30/30 is a free app that I have used in lessons specific to teaching kids about executive functioning, but it can be used with many contextual tasks (e.g. a game, project, or assignment) to help students build planning, time estimation and self-monitoring, including social behaviors that contribute to effective task completion. The app is basically a timer, but it allows you to break down tasks into their component parts and guesstimate time for each. 30/30 also allows you to color code task elements, which works well if you are using strategies such as Sarah Ward's "Get Ready-Do-Done" approach.

For any task, you can give it a label at the top of the screen (main idea), then double tap each task element to edit its description and time interval, as well as color. The app is VERY gesture-based, but provides a tutorial when you first open it- my recommendation is to screen shot this or write the information down so you can remember what the different gestures do. Also be aware of the settings (tap the cogs)- you can turn off notifications and sounds, especially for those who get nervous with timers, and this area also allows you to email the complete list of tasks onscreen, which is great for collaboration with other educators or parents working with the student. You can also upload task lists to iCloud for use with different students or groups. This is a nice app to use in conjunction with an interactive whiteboard to keep ALL students on task.

Have you tried 30/30? Let us know in the comments what you think of it!

Thursday, January 9, 2014


Wordle has long been hailed as a great visual way to work with language. Text or a web address (URL) can be pasted into this tool and then a word "cloud" is displayed, with emphasis on more frequently used words. In this way, the tool can be used with any digital text passage or content related website, and the visual that results can be used to develop vocabulary and skills of identifying main idea.

Worldle is not iPad-friendly due to its basis in Java, but Cloudart ($.99) is a great translation of this tool to the iPad platform.

Cloudart has a very simple interface, but with many features that make it useful! Simply copy a block of text via Safari or perhaps from an electronic book in iBooks (many samples of novels commonly used in educational settings are free), or a text-based URL (e.g. the Wikipedia article on any academic topic), and the app will generate your cloud. You can then customize it visually, and even tap to remove or change the emphasis of irrelevant/key words. The cloud can be saved as an image to the camera roll or emailed. 

Common Core Connection:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.2 Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.2 Determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details; summarize the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.4 Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 5 topic or subject area.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Write About This

Write About This is an app designed by educators that uses the technique of providing photo prompts as a way to foster writing skills. Visuals such as those in this app give students a place to start with their language, and the prompts that come with the app provide a context to develop writing with the use of strategies such as story grammar mapping or use of expository text structure (list, sequence, description, etc).

What I like particularly about the app is that the authors didn't stop at simply substituting printed photo prompts with an app version, but incorporated a few key features of the iPad to make this a more powerful resource. While students can type onscreen (and text or text/images can be sent via email to continue developing the work in class), they also can "Publish with Audio" and save their visual work with an audio narration as a movie on the Camera Roll. Additionally, pictures taken with the iPad or saved to the Camera Roll can be used in the app to create customized photo prompts. This would give clinicians or teachers the opportunity to work with a group of students to select a great photo and create a prompt for another group of students to use. Presenting the recorded audio between groups will also allow you to work on auditory comprehension.

Write About This is available in a full-featured free version with a limited number of prompts (about 50 as opposed to 375). I was excited to see that the authors are developing another app called Tell About This, which takes the writing component out and focuses on oral language prompts for younger students.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

What can we do with a blank slate?

Many of our students need visuals. For these visual supports we often go to paper, whiteboards (I love to have some small ones handy), and now, apps. All of these methods work well for a quick sketch that supports an idea, a concept, a vocabulary word, a relationship. Technology can provide us access to more detailed visuals in the form of saved images, and can take this blank slate and add features such as dynamic annotation and voiceover.

One such tech-based blank slate is Educreations Interactive Whiteboard. I have been working with a small private school on integrating iPads in their curriculum, and we chose this app as one to start with. Teachers are often tempted to use only apps that are filled with content; these engage students, for sure, but I am a big fan of working with students in a process to create, using the classroom content as a context. This process tends involves more planning, collaboration, and of course, language than does the use of content-based apps (which of course can be leveraged in their own way). Recently I made a short(ish) tutorial on Educreations that I thought I would share here:

Educreations is one in a genre that includes the free ShowMe and Screenchomp, and also paid apps such as Explain Everything and Doodlecast Pro. The tutorial above also includes a view of Flickr Creative Commons and how to save photos from that resource, which is important to consider in using Educreations. Though you CAN just save Google Images and use them in an Educreations project, because this app saves to the web, you SHOUD NOT due to copyright issues (that process is OK to use if the saved photo will stay on your iPad for instructional purposes and not be republished to the web). If you save photos from Flickr Creative Commons, a process that just involves a few extra taps and a statement of where the images came from (see this link for a step-by-step), you are following copyright guidelines. Of course you can skirt all that by using your own drawings and images, or using one of the paid apps in this genre, such as Explain Everything or Doodlecast Pro, that allow you to save to the Camera Roll rather than the web.

So, what can you do with this kind of app?

What other ways have you used Educreations? Let us know in the comments.

Disclosure: Author contracts to Mindwing Concepts to contribute to their blog, and Mindwing Concepts provides professional development through a partnership with Ely Center, LLC, where this author is employed.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

ASHA 2013 Update- from a Techie Point of View!

ASHA 2013 in Chicago is in the books. It was great traveling to one of my favorite cities for this event. McCormick Place is huge, seemingly bigger than I recalled from the last time ASHA was there. The halls all seemed longer, the escalators higher, and the men's bathrooms (that hadn't been converted into women's) further apart. Or maybe I am just older and it is harder for me to get around!

A few techie points:

It was terrific hanging out with many of the folks I have corresponded with on Twitter through the #slpeeps community, and meeting some I had never met IRL (in real life). On Wednesday we had some authentic Chicago-style pizza and observed that Windy City tradition of singing karaoke. Wait, that has nothing to do with Chicago. We did it anyway.

I spent an hour volunteering at the Yapp Guru booth in the extremely busy exhibit hall. Many visitors to the booth reported that the site is definitely something they have been looking for- a "Google for therapy apps." Visit the beta site here and use the Search feature to browse the initial offering of reviewed apps.

Giving credit where credit is due (especially since this is something I whined about two years ago), ASHA has made good steps in helpful infusion of technology into the Convention. First of all, their syncing within the Conference 411 app allowed us to import information saved from the Program Planner website, browse the program, add sessions to an agenda and view exhibitor locations. It wasn't perfect, entirely consistent, or consistently fast, but it was a great improvement and helped me navigate the Convention, which is certainly something. Additionally, WiFi was in my experience generally accessible in conference rooms, and free to boot!

In terms of sessions, I again enjoyed the "Divas" prevention featuring (this year) Bonnie Singer, Kerry Howland, Geraldine Wallach, Kathleen Whitmire, and Barbara Ehren: Supporting the Achievement of LLD Students Across Grades & Content Areas. This session always focuses on facilitating access to curriculum for LLD students through a strategic language-based focus. In one segment, they presented a unit that might be encountered in an 8th grade Health class (I've seen it, though not as intense as in this example) in which students needed to engage in tasks such as documenting a nutrition diary. Though I didn't want to jump into the session when suggestions were called for, as my own suggestion would have been entirely predictable, the topic made me think of Universal Design For Learning (UDL). Some of the abundance of paper in the unit, a difficulty for the presented student, could have been reduced using an app such as Tap & Track, which is how many real adults keep nutrition diaries. The app also offers a more visual and engaging approach to the learning goals of the unit. This is not a criticism of the session of course, just an associated idea- it was awesome as always.

My friend and colleague Tara Roehl did a terrific job presenting From iPad to iPlay: Utilizing Popular Apps to Engage Your Preschool-Middle School Clients. In this session, Tara explored how motivating game-based apps such as Bad Piggies can be used as a context to build executive function and social cognition by developing contextual activities around each app based in written/narrative language, gross motor and craft construction, among other strategies. You can see some examples on her Pinterest boards.

Sarah Ward packed 2 rooms with her Just Treatment Tools to Develop Executive Function Skills session. A few tech integration ideas I will be stealing borrowing from her include using the Reverse Charades app as a context to talk about situational awareness and the Space, Time, Objects, and People (STOP) associated with the words depicted. I had used this app before but had found myself a little stuck on how to help the kids to be more successful with the language (verbal, nonverbal, social) that was involved, and Sarah's was a great idea. Additionally, the Photosynth app can be repurposed to take 360ยบ panoramic photos and include students in the pano to help increase their awareness of the spaces within their classroom and their "path" to navigate them during times/tasks in the school day.

Thanks, Tara and Sarah for giving me permission to include these ideas.

My own session went well too. I think the idea of pairing picture books and apps is one of my favorites to explore. At heart, I'm a context guy. I was honored to be part of the offerings.

Until 2014 in Orlando, that's a wrap!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

ASHA 2013 Presentation: Pairing MORE Picture Books & Apps to Contextually Address Language Objectives

It's the week before the Chicago ASHA Convention and a lot of us are feeling the buzz! I hope some of you will be there and will come by my session. First, the details:

Session Code: 1156
Title: Pairing MORE Picture Books & Apps to Contextually Address Language Objectives
Date: Thursday, November 14, 2013
Time: 4:30 PM - 5:30 PM
Location: McCormick Place Room: W196B
Session Format: Seminar 1-hour PDH(s): 1 Hrs

Abstract: Picture books historically are well-utilized tools to engage students in language comprehension/expression, and pair well with interactive apps with similar contexts. Revisiting a popular topic from ASHA 2012, this presentation describes the overlap between books and apps for various ages and the applicability of these visual tools toward intervention.

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 Outcomes:
Learner Outcome 1: Identify language structures and contexts within picturebook text and illustrations
Learner Outcome 2: Evaluate apps for key features indicating applicability in language interventions Learner Outcome 3: Describe pairings between books and apps based on contextual overlap

Next, a teaser.  This topic is of great interest to me as I often used picture books and technology together as a school-based SLP, and still do in my work in private practice. People think of me as a techie, but my real passion is context. This session is essentially about evaluating contextual materials--books and apps--for rich content that can be used in an overlapping manner to target language objectives.  Basically, we are looking for this:

The contextual overlap of books that contain key language structures, elements or strategies, and apps that are Fairly Priced, Interactive, Visual, Educationally Relevant, and Speechie, or useful for targeting speech and language objectives.

Take Mo Willem's Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late. Big Willems fan here. This installment of the always-a-hit Pigeon series finds the Pigeon cajoling the reader to let him stay up past his bedtime. In the process of reading, the book can be used to target:
-Time concepts: What hour is late?
-Narrative structure: the story can be mapped as a complete episode, with successive attempts to solve a problem.
-Body language and emotions: the Pigeon is always expressive, from hopeful to furious to drowsy.
-Figurative language and reading intent: the Pigeon tries to fool us with moves such as, "I hear there's a good show about birds on TV tonight. Should be very educational." 

This wonderful, entertaining book can be paired with apps that have students interact with the context of bedtime.  There are a number of apps with this context (e.g. Pepi Bath Lite), but let's look at PBS Kids Daniel Tiger's Day and Night ($2.99). In this app (for about grades K-1), kids can navigate the PBS character through all the steps of getting ready for bed, in the process developing familiarity with a daily routine, sequencing skills, temporal and causal language, descriptive language, and rhyming (through the use of a song). The app has a whole separate set of routines for the morning, providing a context for a "same but different" discussion. 

For older students (who would "get" more of the nuances of Willems' book), you could consider using an open-ended app such as My Story ($3.99) to create a book about bedtime routines, or at a higher level, a book about other arguments for staying up late!

The session will be covering books and apps (not these ones, these were a preview) for kids from early-late elementary and into middle school, but is meant to be generalized to whatever books and apps you'd like to choose. Hope to see some of you on the 14th! 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Working around the App

It's important to emphasize that apps and the iPad itself are simply tools we can use in our work to address student objectives. Apps can provide or extend a context in which we are targeting particular skills, and I love talking about the activities that can be going on "around the app."  A few resources related to this recently came to my attention.

I have long been a fan of Toontastic, and whole-heartedly recommend the All-Access version to elementary SLPs. This stellar app is so engaging to students, and the full version allows access not only to a huge array of settings, characters and props, but also the ability to use photos of real-world or saved Google Image backgrounds (but be careful of copyright if sending to their website, ToonTube), or to integrate photos of students into character figures. With creation tools such as Toontastic, I often think of the product created as beside the point, as the students get so much language practice from the process. Using graphic organizers or story maps to plan the animation are valuable activities that can be going on around the app, but Launchpad also provides terrific "Paper Puppets" for you to use for practice and scaffolding. These full-color printouts can be cut, laminated and used as tools to immerse kids in the context of the app, before you even open the app! You can use them for storyboarding and role-play, or all sorts of creative extensions of the context.

In another example, Flummox and Friends is a resource I wrote about last year- it is the pilot episode of a children's TV series about social cognition. I was thrilled to hear that plans are moving forward to produce more episodes. Flummox and Friends, while not an app (yet) is a resource that fosters much activity around it- discussions, role play, etc. Just released also: an extension activity within the terrific Kid in Story app. This book-making app comes with the twist of allowing you to "cut out" a photo and insert it in a story. A template using the context of Flummox and Friends is now available in the community library. Just edit your stories and download the template from there, and you will be able to put students in photos with the Flummox gang and record language in response to prompts on the page. The story is a great context to build feelings vocabulary, an area lacking in many students.

What other ways do you work "around the app?" Let us know in the comments!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Build Language Skills Through Search

I am often asked for resources for clinicians working with older students. The relative scarcity of tech-based material for middle and high schoolers, particularly apps with relevant and age-appropriate content, has even been termed "the app gap." When working with older students, it pays to be creative and even more focused on the contexts they struggle with every day in the classroom.

I have previously mentioned here that "search is language." Conducting an Internet search involves selection of key vocabulary words, reading comprehension, zooming in on main ideas, summarizing and narrative, as well as inference, not to mention executive function skills such as time management. Search also prepares students for real life management of information. Luckily, Google has set up some great lessons for these skills, so we don't need to struggle to figure out what to ask kids to search for (beyond naturalistic opportunities to do so).

Navigate to Google Search Education and you can access both "Search Literacy Lesson Plans" and "A Google A Day Challenges." The lesson plans target skills such as search terms, understanding results, and evaluating credibility, at three different levels.  The challenges, which won't be too hard with your scaffolding, come with a slide deck including hints and the "answer" (so don't show students slides 5-6) until you are ready!

These resources work well both on laptops and in the Safari or Chrome apps on iPad.

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