Saturday, September 10, 2022

Talking with Tech Podcast Appearance(s)

Back in May, I had the wonderful fortune of recording with Chris Bugaj and Rachel Madel for their terrific podcast, Talking with Tech. They split the conversation over two episodes which came out in the past few weeks!

I have been lucky to know Chris and Rachel personally over the past years, seeing them IRL most recently at ASHA Convention in Washington, DC. It was great talking with them and the conversation flowed very freely. Rachel and Chris centered the convo around my Jeopardy! appearance but had many brilliant tie-ins to issues of accessibility and generally about language, so it will be fun to listen to even if you are tired of hearing about [that game show]. They also include their own segments with some great discussion of AAC topics, and we go into my FIVES criteria for evaluating technology resources as potential SLP tools as well. I hope you'll listen and keep listening to Rachel and Chris--also be sure to see them present if you ever get the chance! 

The episodes are available below via Spotify but you can also listen wherever you like to hear podcasts (Apple Podcasts, etc)

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Another example: Pic Collage for Mobility, Ease and Versatility

In my session on creating "stories" for SLP Summit last week (recording available free until August 15, Register here), I focused on thinking about features of resources that might make a clinician pick one over another. You may pick Pic Collage if you like using your iPad, doing a pass-and-add playlike activity (I learned from the authors of We Thinkers that add-a-thought=play=conversation), or want the versatility of being able to quickly cut around any image. You may have seen in my recent post on Google Slides/Jamboard that this is not always QUITE as easy there. So always be thinking FEATURES.

Pic Collage, free, available for iPad, Android, and runnable on new Macs (M1 chip) allows for the creation of a visual as-you-go, so that student contributions to the context can be instantly reinforceable, and it is easy enough for them to use themselves. The menu allows you to add photos from your library, search the web for photos (a school-clean version of BING), and also add text or doodles (powerful because you can sketch things that may be hard to find photos of, or sketch over a photo)

As I showed in the session, you can start with a setting (story element teaching) and add elements of the setting (descriptive sequence level of narration) or introduce an initiating event, such as the bear! Double tap on any picture you add to be able to "trim" around it.

We also talked briefly about expository vs. story language (a good resource is here) and adding to LISTs-one key informational macrostructure- can also be a playful or academically important task. This was made with Pic Collage with/for a student who was learning about the topic/list of "different ways to pay" during a consumer science class. 

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Another Example: 10+ Stories to "Tell" with Toca World

Continuing here to post some companion pieces to my session this week at the SLP Summit (available in its recorded form with others until August 15, register here). One of the app resources I discussed were those available through Toca Boca's Toca Life apps. These are available individually, for example, Toca Life: Vacation which I will discuss here, or the Toca Life: World (also playable on newer Macs w M1 chips) has a way of pulling together your previously purchased apps. 

The Toca Life apps are just filled with real-world contexts and therefore can be used to model, co-create, and play out stories in very structured ways or loosely. Make a scene, involve lots of movement onscreen, or record whatever you do as a story through the screen recording feature. This can be done individually or with a group taking turns, or as explicitly or implicitly as you see fit (e.g. with story grammar cues or not). See my recent post on Mindwing's blog about models of learning and instruction.

Taking Toca Life: Vacation, let's consider how the context can lead us to scaffold a bunch of different stories with students.

Airport: Besides the process of arriving, checking in, going through security, waiting at the gate, and taking off in the plane, what if...

1. You need to buy a ticket (use the ATM etc)?

2. Your flight is not listed on the board of funny-sounding destinations and you need to ask for help?

3. You left something at home (if you have Vacation and City added in Toca World, you can move characters in and out of the panel at the bottom and change locations)?

4. A parent surprises you at school with a vacation (same, start at School and move the characters to the airport in Vacation)?

5. Your flight is delayed (good vocab word)?

6. A dog flies the plane and you don't end up where you planned?

This or other parts of the app could be used in conjunction with Google Earth to "fly" to a location and see some landmarks in 3D!

Hotel: Besides checking in, taking the elevator to your room and doing hotel stuff (bathing, sleeping, changing from your luggage, etc), what if...

7. You win a shopping spree at the gift shop?

8. You eat EVERYTHING at the buffet?

9. You make a mess of your room and need help or equipment from housekeeping?

Beach: Besides all sorts of watersports and maybe a wedding (?), what if...

10. Someone gets trapped on the island?

11. The fish get silly and decide to live on land? 

And don't miss the treasure chest out on the island...

As I mentioned in the session, check out short videos like this that can show you lots of potential stories you wouldn't even know were there!

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Another example: Storytelling with Google Slides or Jamboard

I had great experience presenting live for SLP Summit yesterday! The people and responses were wonderful. My session will be available in its recorded form as will the other excellent presenters' until August 15. Register here, the conference is presenting more live sessions practically as we speak; CEUs for live/recorded sessions are available for a small fee. To thank the many who attended and (I noticed!) subscribed to this blog as a result of the conference, I thought I'd elaborate on the content with some additional examples over the coming weeks. 

In the session I started by describing how Google Slides and Jamboard can be used to create, interact with and retell stories through activities like making a scene or story mapping. I had previously posted a video on this you can check out. Another example is making a visually supported story retelling activity, in which you can think of Slides or Jamboard as sort of like the old Colorforms- images you insert can be like your stickers!

You can do this with most any context or story, but this past spring I really enjoyed reading We Found A Hat (Jon Klassen) with some groups. There are others in this series but they are a bit darker in ending. The author uses exaggerated eye illustrations (and not much else) to signal thoughts and intentions. Use the book or a video like this one!

For a playful way to work on retelling, make this book a scene. You can do this in either Slides or Jamboard. Slides would offer you more ways to play with formatting; Jamboard would allow easier collaboration (and if you wanted to sketch to change/highlight eye gaze you could do it more easily here). The basics as I show below would be the same.

Start with a blank slide- (either remove any text boxes and such or insert a new blank slide). If you have nothing selected on the slide you should see Background on the bottommost menu. Click that, Choose Image and the Google Image Search choice usually does a good job for any kind of background. 

For your mobile (to click and drag about) turtles and hat you can try Insert>Image>Search the Web. This worked well for a hat. Remember to use the term PNG to try to get images without backgrounds. 

Sometimes you may have trouble getting images that actually are PNGs. I just go over to Google Image Search (open a new tab and search on Google, again using PNG). From here you can right click and copy images to your creation.

A word about this- be aware of copyright, don't republish or attempt to sell something you have created using Google Images unless you have searched for images that are ok for reuse. This goes for all digital storytelling creations. 

Here I copied and pasted the turtle and clicked on Format Options to flip one of them.

From here, use your imagination! 
-move the elements to model a story retell and then have students do the same (a SmartBoard might be fun here)
-You can make Google Slides look less cluttered by collapsing menus or hiding elements under View.
-Add text boxes or shapes for dialogue.
-Make a "same but different story" where the turtles find something else besides a hat. Would they make a different decision? Why?
-Talk about cool things you've "found" (bridge to personal narrative)

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

5 Reasons the iPad is Still Relevant to SLPs

When the iPad came out in 2010, I was skeptical. It seemed like a big iPhone and I wasn't sure it would take off. Showing how much I know, it soon became an educational sensation and took off, particularly in the field of speech-language pathology. Before you knew it, there was a surge of interest in my blog, SLP app lists, and professional development sessions on using it as an assessment and therapy tool. The App Store filled with apps designed for SLPs (still relevant also) and schools invested in carts and equipping all their staff with an iPad.

Apple still pumps out new iPads but there is much less talk about them. First of all Chromebooks made accessing the web and Google productivity apps cheap and easy for schools. Secondly, a pandemic pushed everyone into an environment where iPads were less useful (between skittishness about touching shared objects and confusion/limitations about using it in remote teaching), and I believe everyone also got a bit tired of technology, after it became non-optional for so long. In 2022, I think the iPad is still useful as a tool, however, and here are a few reasons why.

1. Lower screens to the table. Raised screens laptop-style promotes faces-in-screens. It's much easier to have a conversation over an iPad or with the use of an Apple TV and reinforce those face to face interactions.

2. Pass-and-play. A form of play and conversation is adding thoughts to a context. This is supremely easy to do with an iPad (and hand sanitizer) and not so much with a laptop. Consider an activity like adding contextual items to a collage (or trimming around them to create a gestalt) with Pic Collage.

3. Price. The newest iPads are relatively inexpensive at $329. There are also still many free and low-cost apps available.

4. Little Hands. Let's face it- it's still not easy for K-3 students at least to log into a Chromebook and handle a mouse. Feeling successful with a tap is more engaging than frustrating clicks and drags.

5. Interactivity and No-BS access. There are few rivals on the web to assets such as Toca Boca and their younger kiddo company, Sago Mini, the apps of which bring visuals and interactivity to countless world contexts, therefore opening the door to speech and language targets. Similarly, many web resources charge subscription fees for full access. By and large when you download an app (avoiding the ones with many in-app purchases), it's yours without more haggling. The integration of camera/photos and drawing/text tools in apps like Book Creator, among other easier-to-use creation tools, is also less seamless on a laptop.

In conclusion, I currently favor having the option of both a full web browser (e.g. laptop) and the iPad at my disposal! If you are interested in hearing about some more examples, be sure to register for SLP Summit (free) where I am presenting alongside some amazing people next week!

If you have more reasons the iPad is still relevant to you (or not), please let us know in the comments!

Monday, July 18, 2022

Presenting for SLP Summit Next Week (FREE!)

It is an honor to participate as a presenter for the SLP Summit this summer! Save the dates and join me for my live course on July 25! 

SLP Summit is a 4-day virtual event with 8 presentations from speakers who are in the trenches. We know you’re busy and need practical tips and strategies that you can implement the next day in therapy. Over the 4 days, we’ll be bringing you amazing SLPs who will be sharing their best tips and tricks covering highly requested topics! 

My session description: Narrative language comprehension and expressive skills have implications for academic and social success, and are particularly relevant to school-based practice. This workshop will model the targeting of comprehension and expression of stories through easy-to-use and engaging interactive technology resources. Interactive activities and the use of creation tools incorporating images, book creation, and animation can be aligned with research-based methodologies such as story grammar teaching and use of text structures. This session will review a selection of tech resources which can complement instruction in aspects of social communication such as conversational storytelling.

The best part? SLP Summit is a free event! Register now so you don’t miss out on these .8 CEUs. Register at

*Courses are free but there is an administrative fee of $24.99 if you would like Bright Ideas Media to submit the courses to ASHA on your behalf.

Trust us, you don’t want to miss out! But, you don’t have to take our word for it:


“The amount of work you and your teams do behind the scenes is unbelievable. For free???? It’s a testimony to your spirit and love for the profession.” - Nina


“Another great summit! Thank you, ladies!” - Shelley


“The best one [Summit] yet” - Sharon


“So much thanks to all involved in this SLP Summit, it made me so proud of our profession!” - Jill

Friday, June 24, 2022

Getting started with Minecraft

I described in a recent post coming to find some good uses for Minecraft with interested clients and groups. This previous post was about using Education Edition which not all have access to, so I wanted to make sure I described some applications for regular Minecraft. I first of all recommend getting started with the iPad edition, previously called Pocket Edition (there is also an Android tablet edition, both around $7 but then giving you everything you need). There is a lot to Minecraft that I don't even yet fathom but when you think of it as a digital LEGO set, that is a great place to start. Additionally one might add that there is evidence that involving LEGO in therapy improves communication and play skills, and these ideas can translate to Minecraft (I like good old LEGOs too). 

In this post I will briefly describe creating a world and getting started. This has been a great context in groups in the past weeks of simply deciding something to build, using visual supports to preview a "future picture" (see Sarah Ward/Kristen Jacobsen's work and just look up "make a simple ___ in Minecraft" on YouTube, e.g. a swimming pool). In the process group members work on fulfilling a group plan, adding thoughts and play moves in the app, and of course, flexibility and conversation. You can also use Minecraft in straightforward language stimulation activities as it could be used to foster description, concepts and following directions skills (you can even add signs in the world with text on them).

I keep it simple and do a play and pass situation with one iPad, but your kids could tell you there are ways to have people join a world from multiple devices. In our situation, mirroring the iPad to an Apple TV keeps everyone engaged when it isn't their turn. 

To get started, open the app and tap Play, and in the Worlds tab tap Create New. Name the world and change the game mode to Creative. Your students may balk and ask for Survival but I don't want them killing each other or being killed in the game. I wouldn't worry about all the settings but definitely scroll down and turn on Always Day so the screen doesn't maddeningly dim on you when it becomes "night" in your world. I learned that one the hard way. 

The arrows in the lower left allow you to move. Tap and drag your finger to "look around" and change your viewpoint. First step can be finding an open space to build something.

The diamond control on the right allows you to "fly" up or down as another navigation option. Note the bottom squares are your inventory of materials, and start out as empty. Tap the three dots to edit your inventory. 

Items with a + are actually a category of materials. Tap to expand e.g. the blocks. Find something you would like to add to the inventory, tap it, then a square at the bottom to add it.

From here, build! Change your view so you can see a target spot, tap to place a block. Make a mistake, long tap and that breaks (removes the block). It just takes a little practice. Maybe make yourself a summer retreat to start! 

Thursday, June 16, 2022

My appearance on Telepractice Today podcast

Some weeks ago, I had the terrific opportunity to talk with Kim Dutro Allen and K.Todd Houston at their excellent Telepractice Today podcast. Each week they bring in someone from the field to discuss telepractice and therapy in general with different themes and always some terrific tips. For example from the most recent episode, I learned from Kim an easy way to show YouTube videos full screen with no ads or suggested videos:

-Go to YouTube and locate/cue up the video you want to watch

-in the URL/address bar at the top of the browser, click between the t and the u of and insert a dash or hyphen as in and hit Return to go to that URL. 

A simple, amazing hack!

In my episode, we talk my history with technology and telepractice, chiefly about becoming an "emergency telepractioner" with the pandemic. It was a fun, entertaining conversation and I hope there are some good tips in there for you too. 

The episode can be found at the above link or wherever you find podcasts (Apple Podcasts, Spotify, etc)

Friday, June 10, 2022

SLAM Card resources for narrative language assessment

While supervising this semester at Boston University, I was informed about the resources available through the Leaders Project at Columbia University for narrative language sampling. The School Age Language Assessment Measures (SLAM) materials are a series of story cards and questions with rubrics that are all FREE. We used them for baseline assessments and I recently used them in an evaluation, and found they gathered helpful data in all cases. The page linked above provides links to all sets (in some cases just a 1-card resource) and guidelines for use. 

A few tech-related spins:

-Also linked above are BOOM! cards for each set which can be used in teletherapy or perhaps in person. 

-I have at times modified visual assessments such as these for a tech format, either for teletherapy or to reduce the amount of materials I am toting around. For example, I screenshot the Lost Cellphone cards and placed them onto a Keynote (can do the same with PowerPoint or Google Slides) slide to have a student click-drag to sequence and interact with the cards.

Friday, May 27, 2022


Nine years ago I had the opportunity to visit Sandy Hook and work with some educators along with Pamela Ely, the director of the Ely Center, LLC where I work, and Sheila and Maryellen Moreau of Mindwing Concepts. We talked for the day about supports in the area of social interaction and narrative language that might be helpful for the students trying to move on with their lives in the face of unspeakable events. I hoped that day that we might never have to grapple with such a horrible situation again, but here we are, and somewhat more depleted given the past few years.

Like you, I am sure, for me it is hard to find much to offer this week, but we can find strength in helping others.

A few ideas:

-Email someone offering a resource. This post, a PDF you have that has helped you, a journal article, whatever. Reaching out and helping is a tool.

-The Happiness Lab has a great episode on Languishing. I picked up a few ideas from it and this week taught a lesson based on one of the concepts discussed. You can listen to The Happiness Lab on Spotify or Apple/Google Podcasts.

-Newsela has a small kit related to the events in Uvalde. I used the piece on "Ways to stay calm when you're feeling stressed" with a group this week. 

-NYT has a robust resource list for talking and teaching about these events.

-Here's my self-care toolkit from this past winter.

Take care, folks.