Friday, April 29, 2011

Garageband for iPad

This post originally appeared on TherapyApp411

App Name/Publisher: Garageband for iPad/Apple

Description: Garageband’s app allows you to explore musical instruments, make recordings of digital instruments and voice, and combine your recordings and prerecorded loops into songs. Songs can be saved to the iPad, sent to iTunes or via email.

Therapy Use: The app allows students to have hands-on, multisensory experience with musical instruments, a key language category. Language concepts can be emphasized as instruments are explored, as well as comparison between different types of instruments within each category (e.g. rock vs. classic drums). Students will be motivated to follow directions in order to create songs (perhaps related to topics such as feelings, literary mood, personal stories etc., for older students)

If you'd like to know (a whole lot) more about Garageband, here is a link to a great guide from Make Use Of.

App Benefits/Likes: Applicability to specific categories, visual interface, variety

Cautions: Learning Curve, Loops are not so easy to access.

App Summary
Skill(s) Targeted
Expressive & Receptive Language
Social Skills/Pragmatics
S-LP Tools/Organization
Age/Grade Levels Targeted
Early Elementary (Grades 1 – 3)
Upper Elementary (Grades 3- 6)
Middle School/Junior High (Grades 7-9)
High School (Grades 10 – 12)
How to Activate
Isolated finger point
Touch and release
Hold and drag
Type of Device
iPad only
Would you recommend this app?
Reviewed by
Sean J. Sweeney
Review Date

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sensory Garden

Sensory Garden is one of those great resources you can return to for many thematic lessons, with countless opportunities to model and elicit a skill.  This interactive website presents you with a garden scene that changes across all 4 seasons, with each season providing different activities.  In the "Activities," um, activity, students are tasked to find all the actions one can do in the garden.  When they do so, they are shown an animation of the action:

The garden also has My Garden and Explore modes where students can build the garden with items from different categories and view the sensory (5 senses-related) experiences in the garden, respectively. 

Language Lens:
  • The Activities mode is a great context to model verbs, temporals and causal constructions: "The lawn needs mowing BECAUSE the grass is long!"
  • By building their own garden, students will practice using categories and descriptive skills, and perhaps explaining why they made certain choices.
  • The site is an engaging way to reinforce abstract curriculum around months, seasons, and the 5 Senses.
This site IS NOT iPad-friendly as it is flash-based.

Thank you to Teaching Students with Learning Difficulties for highlighting this resource.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My Garden

My Garden is a great springtime activity that is part of the incredibly rich Busytown Mysteries site, based on Richard Scarry's books. I think this site would be great to explore further and implement as part of programming for K-1 or developmentally equivalent students. When you arrive in Busytown, to get to this activity, pick Countryside, then the Barn! You'll then be able to follow a sequence of instructions to plant and grow flowers, and use such interactive features as the "camera" to photograph your results. This site begs to be explored more!

Language Lens:
The My Garden activity can be used as part of a spring/gardening theme and align with classroom curriculum around seasons and plant life.  The auditory directions provided give the opportunity to work on goals regarding language comprehension and temporal concepts: "You must dig a hole before you plant a seed." The arrangement of the garden is a context for prepositions and spatial concepts, and this is a natural sequencing task.

This site IS NOT iPad-friendly as it is flash-based.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Helicopter Taxi

This review also appears on TherapyApp411.

App Name/Publisher: Helicopter Taxi/Toca Boca

Description: Helicopter Taxi and Toca Boca's other apps are based on research about different kinds of play and how to engage kids in play via technology.  Helicopter Taxi itself is a very unique app that turns your device (iOS later-generation device such as iPhone 3GS or later, iPad 2- with cameras) into a toy.  You sort of have to see it to believe it:

Helicopter Taxi is therefore an active play app in which children can respond to requests from characters who need a "lift" from place to place.  It uses the device's motion sensors to some degree to respond to being put on a flat surface corresponding to take-off, flying, and landing, and its cameras to provide an "augmented reality" experience with the environment. It's great fun and a very innovative use of (newer only, sorry) these devices.

Therapy Use:  Helicopter Taxi provides many opportunities for language modeling, elicitation, and scaffolding-
Vocabulary and Verb Development- From simple verbs to more advanced such as hover, they are yours for the selection.
Concepts and Prepositions- In moving the helicopter, clinicians can focus on spatial words such as up, down, over, and other basic concepts such as sequencing words, fast, slow, through (the clouds) etc, all with visual and kinesthetic support.
Categories and Curriculum- Helicopter Taxi has 5 different locations (e.g. hospital, factory) that are drop-off points for passengers, and could be a good complement to a community helpers unit.
Pragmatics- The app would lend itself to being used to build turn-taking, eye contact and joint attention, as the child's attention need not always be on the screen at all!
Play and Literacy Extensions- Helicopter Taxi could be followed by low-tech play such as using a Little People Town (that has a helicopter) or books about transportation.

App Benefits/Likes: Takes incredible advantage of device possibilities, child need not be tied to screen, all of the above.

Cautions: 5 locations may get monotonous eventually (maybe expanded in future update?), newer device needed to use app, exaggerated motions sometimes required to get the app to respond to pickup, "landing," etc.  You will need a good case on your device if allowing children to "actively play" with it.

App Summary

Skill(s) Targeted
Articulation & Phonology
Expressive & Receptive Language
Social Skills/Pragmatics

Age/Grade Levels Targeted
Early Elementary (Grades 1 – 3)

How to Activate
Isolated finger point
Movement of device

Type of Device
iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad 2

$.99 US

Would you recommend this app?

Reviewed by
Sean Sweeney

Review Date
April 25, 2011

Our Spin-off Mobile Technology Blog!

This post originally ran on ASHAsphere: the Blog of the American Speech-Language Hearing Association.

Sometimes big things can start with 140 (or fewer) characters:

At least we hope it’s going to be big! This tweet from Deb, an SLP pal practicing in Pennsylvania, started a conversation between four bloggers that over the period of one weekend resulted in a new blog, TherapyApp411, which we are happy to announce launched last week!

We jokingly called the blog a spin-off (hopefully more in the vein of successful spin-offs such as Laverne & Shirley rather than the short-lived, unfunny The Ropers) because we will be cross-posting reviews from our own blogs: The Speech Guy, TiPS: Technology in Practice for SLPs, Speech Gadget, and SpeechTechie. The main goal is to provide a centralized location for information on the very hot topic of mobile devices and their uses in therapy. Our mission is to provide reviews and other content regarding apps and devices from a therapists’ perspective. In addition to our own $.02 on various apps and news items regarding mobile technologies, this blog is open to contributions from other writer-therapists: SLPs, OTs, PTs or other disciplines who would like to contribute! We are looking for contributions that reflect therapists’ personal experience with apps and place them in the context of therapy sessions. We have posted a template for reviews so that uniform information will be contained in each post, but also allow for individual writing style. The blog currently has reviews of the interactive book A Present for Milo, the sticker-scene-creator ClickySticky, and my take on how to re-purpose (through a language lens, as I am known to say) GarageBand for iPad as a therapy tool. We offer an email form for subscription (free, of course) and directions for subscribing through Google Reader as part of the SLP Blogs Bundle. You can also keep up with us by “liking” our page on Facebook! I hope you’ll check the blog out and, if you have an app you’d like to share, consider submitting a review. Thanks!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Go Paperless at Your Next Conference

I know I said I was going on vacation but, well, after this.

A Twitter conversation last night and today centered on conference handouts, and the upcoming CASLPA 2011 Conference. I HATE printers as a rule and also dislike having to organize printed stuff. It is also quite expensive and not very Green (Earth Day is next Friday) to print everything that comes across your computer screen. I know people say "But I LIKE to have printed handouts" but it is something I am just going to be unapologetically cranky about. Please get over it. It really can be wasteful, especially if you have digital tools with which you can replace printers. Namely, social bookmarking, your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch and the free iBooks app are all you need to view and archive handouts and notes at your next conference. 

Ok, I will apologize, and you must forgive me because a dreaded part of my job the past two years has involved dealing with printers and gross overprinting. You are not really being earth-abusive if you print your handouts when going to a conference. But please consider the following alternative.  It works roughly the same on iPods, iPhones and iPads.


You might also consider taking all your notes in Google Docs (after downloading the free Google app), which will make them easily sharable with colleagues who did not attend the conference. You can download, save, and paperlessly share PDF handouts in Google Docs too, by the way.

As Apple says, you can backup all your PDF iBooks when you periodically sync your device to iTunes. That link also describes how to print your PDF iBooks. But don't. :-)

Have a wonderful week.  Happy Spring!

Some Nice Mentions!

I am headed off for school vacation next week (couple days down the Cape, and thoroughly disconnected haha), so you won't hear from me for a bit, but I wanted to acknowledge a few mentions of SpeechTechie (and me) that I really appreciated recently.

Thanks to Gary Dunham (and Maggie McGary, who referred him to me) for your feature in the ASHA Leader- The Future at Hand: Mobile Devices and Apps in Clinical Practice, with some quotes from me based on a little interview we conducted electronically.  Hopefully you got this one in the mail- I was so excited to get it myself!

Kevin Sitek of the great blog Lillie's iPad also writes for iPhone Life magazine and featured SpeechTechie among other resources in his column.  Much appreciated, Kevin!

I really am grateful to the crowd at the new educational podcast EdCeptional, including Jeremy Brown (along with Meg Wilson, Patrick Black, Deb Truskey and Anne Truger), who describes the podcast this way: "EdCeptional highlights access to learning for exceptional students of all abilities.  In other words, the show discusses the use of various technologies to enable students in special education greater independence in life and access to the general education curriculum. The EdCeptional crew is made up of several special education teachers and speech language pathologists." EdCeptional mentioned SpeechTechie twice recently, both as a general resource and also highlighting my recent GlogsterEDU Week.  Definitely give them a listen- I have really enjoyed their discussions of educational issues and tools.

Finally, though you can't see it unless you are a CASLPA member, thanks so much to Angie D'Aoust and my friends up north for including me among a great crowd of #SLPeeps in your latest newsletter.

Have a great week!!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

License Plate Generator

Kids are into cars and often intrigued by license plates from various states, and I have used this interest in various iterations to do a "license plate" activity with pragmatic groups. Kids can make or use "vanity" plates with their own names, add decorations that relate to them personally, and discuss their creations with the group. These plates can later serve as name placards in future sessions to reinforce using and remembering names and keeping information in "friend files" (term used in Michelle Garcia Winner's books).

I recently found a great way to make license plates for a group, rather than just providing a frame in which kids often write their name in tiny script. The ACME License Maker lets you pick a state (and year), enter a name, and print out your plate. I could do without the "pretend you're in prison" line on the site, but can live with it. I made all my plates in advance anyway.

This site could also be a great way to link language to curriculum around US Geography, with students creating license plates from different states and decorating them with key descriptive features after researching the state.

Technical Note: You will want to click on the thumbnail image of your plate to see it larger, than save it (right-click/Save Image As, control-click/Save Image As on a Mac). I found printing worked best in landscape mode at about 200%, but you'll want to experiment.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Speckle Games

Speckle Games is a page of interactives from Scholastic based on characters from Clifford. Younger or developmentally younger students would really enjoy these games!

Technical Note:
The site is Shockwave-based, and you may need to run an Adobe Shockwave update for the games to load.

Language Lens:
The games hit on cause-effect relationships and a variety of other concepts, categories and skills. They would be a great followup to interactive reading of any of the Clifford books.
Scrub Brush Skis- left/right/center
Hide and Seek- behind/under
Dress for the Weather-clothes, weather conditions
Bunny Maker- body parts, description
Pogo Stick Apple Pick- sequencing by number
Paint Party-matching, colors

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Seriously Silly Speech Therapy with Silly Bandz: Guest Post By Janelle Albrecht, SLP

I am coming to think of SpeechTechie as a blog not solely about technology, but about innovation in materials, therapy and interventions. The power of context is profound, and providing activities that are meaningful and engaging to our students obviously extends beyond websites, laptops and iPads to anything we can do as clinicians to get our students in that "Zone" where they are stretching their speech and language development. I was really excited recently to "overhear" a tweet from Janelle Albrecht (@albrechtjn) a proud founding #SLPeep on Twitter, about using Silly Bandz in her therapy session. 

This is the type of creative idea that I feel deserves much more than a 140-character tweet, so I asked her if she'd consider writing a guest post. She graciously accepted, so here we are. I know that after reading her excellent analysis of this material (and let's remember that paper and toothpaste were once considered technology, too), I will be putting in my order for some Silly Bandz theme packs! Thanks, Janelle!

Do you have an unlimited budget for SLP therapy materials? You do?? Okay, then feel free to skip past this post! For the remaining 99.999% of us, Silly Bandz ( are an extremely inexpensive resource that will both capture children’s interest and can be used as the material that you are using to promote speech & language growth.

Silly Bandz are rubber bands made of silicone rubber that is formed into a shape. They are typically worn as a bracelet, and they revert back to their original shape when removed.

They come in thousands of different shapes and colours, and are sold in packages of 12, 24, or 36; the price point is $2-7 US, depending on the size of the pack and where you buy them.  What is ideal for the SLP is that they are organized by theme: pets, zoo animals, sea creatures, dinosaurs, Western, princess, Spring, holiday...almost anything you can think of!

Western and Animal Silly Bandz Theme Packs

Silly Bandz can be used as a motivator/reward for good participation in therapy, but they can also be goal-specific.  In articulation-focused therapy, the alphabet pack can be used by giving the child not only the visual but also a tactile experience with the goal phoneme, allowing them to stretch it & manipulate it while saying the target.  For those children who can read or write, you can spell out words starting with the target phoneme and have the child say it.  Silly Bandz are inexpensive enough to give out a particular letter to a child to wear as an external cue to aid in generalization of the speech skill to conversation—the parent or teacher may quietly cue the child by tapping the wrist as a reminder of the speech sound, and no one need know of the cuing except for the child.  For the enterprising SLP, custom orders of 5000 minimum are available, but count me in as one of the SLPs who would purchase a pack of /r/ word-initial bandz from you!

Alphabet Silly Bandz
In language-focused therapy, Silly Bandz can be used for vocabulary development.  You can work on simple vocabulary building by naming the items.  You can increase descriptive skills by describing visual attributes such as colour, shape (e.g., the seahorse has a curved tail and it’s belly is round) and relating them to their real-world counterparts by either looking at pictures or guessing what they might look like in reality (e.g., the Silly Bandz penguin is purple, but in real life it’s black & white) and what materials or texture it really is (e.g., a trumpet is made out of metal, is hard & shiny).  Word relationships are also easily worked on, by working on the name of each category, mixing a few packages and sorting by category, naming more items in a category, naming the function of an object (e.g., the microphone makes your voice louder), comparing and contrasting (e.g., you blow both a trumpet & a saxophone, but hold them differently; you blow in a trumpet but strum a guitar & both make music).

Musical Instruments, Marine Animals and Rock Bandz Theme Packs

Make scenes with your Silly Bandz—I recently used the Beach pack & the Sea Animals pack and had a client put them on a background picture that she had drawn sand & water on.
You also can trace them & have your client colour them in (they are rubber bands, though, so you probably won’t get the best tracing unless you use a light hand).

There are a few caveats for their use, though.  As with all things, use your best judgement in allowing young or cognitively delayed children to play with them—we don’t want them getting into mouths or being snapped at skin or eyes.  Silly Bandz are banned at some schools due to the distraction of trading, and wearing too many that they risk cutting off circulation.  You may want to give the Silly Bandz in a sealed envelope for the child to take home.  Also, as many knock-offs are available, be careful of the tendency of the knock-offs to break more easily.

That being said, if you see a display of Silly Bandz by the cash register at a store one day, pick up a pack and let your imagination (and that of your clients) have fun with them!

Janelle Albrecht is a Speech-Language Pathologist who works in a school board and private practice in Ontario, Canada.  Follow her on twitter: @albrechtjn 

Monday, April 4, 2011

CDC Analyze My Plate and Recipe Remix

CDC Analyze My Plate and Recipe Remix are interactive activities from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control aimed at curbing childhood obesity and promoting a healthier diet.  Analyze My Plate allows you to build a meal (breakfast, lunch or dinner) and view categories such as total calories and fat.  In Recipe Remix, you can take an unhealthy recipe and change quantity and type of ingredients so that it becomes more healthy.

Language Lens:
  • Analyze My Plate is a great way to review food categories, and bombard/elicit causals, conditionals and temporals- What happens when we add an apple?  You can also compare and contrast different plates!
  • Recipe Remix would be a great followup in situations when you can cook with kids.  Choose a recipe and follow the site's advice, then use the cooking activity as a context for oral and written language.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Wrapping up GlogsterEDU Week: Extensions, Ideas, Examples

Before I get started, please check out my post over on Mindwing Concepts' blog about Glogster and ThemeMaker, their excellent tool for teaching students to comprehend and produce expository text.  An example Glog is included over there for a fun crossover post!

So, this has been a fun and busy week talking about one of my favorite resources, GlogsterEDU.  As I mentioned before, it seemed key to present this resource in a week-long instructional series. There is so much to say about it, and I couldn't just talk about one piece and leave you hanging for a week or so before the next post.  So I hope it has been helpful and not overkillish for you!

Two things that I feel are worth mentioning as extensions to Glogster.  First of all, if you take advantage of the possibility of opening student accounts, once students have marked a glog as "Finished," they will be able to view each others glogs via their Dashboard (the section marked "Glogs from my Classmates").  When clicking through to their classmates' Glogs, they will have the opportunity to leave a comment, thus further practicing language, pragmatic skills and digital citizenship.  One of my colleagues did a project in her Spanish class in which the students created real estate posters describing an imaginary property.  For this project she gave the students a kind of taxonomy of comments, and required that they use all 3 kinds in the process of interacting with classmates: a) give positive feedback on the property and say why you like it b) give constructive feedback on the property and explain why it would not meet your needs or c) ask a question about the property.  That kind of language structure is helpful to ALL students in learning how to have a digital conversation, but particularly so for our students. The second extension I wanted to mention is that you can--obviously since I did it in my first post and am about to do so here-- embed a Glog in a blog, website or wiki.  Here's a post on how to do that and change the scale in the process.

So, again, why should SLP's care about Glogster?  You have seen/heard of a lot of potential applications for speech/language therapy over the course of the week, but here are a few more ideas for SLP-related Glogs:

  • Make a Glog with a series of stimulus pictures or videos related to a sound or phonological process, or phonemic awareness skills such as rhyming or recognizing word families- using Glogster's audio recording feature!
  • Create Glogs to visualize, define and apply vocab lists.
  • Use Glogs to teach complex sentence formulation by developing a Glog each for key conjunctions (e.g. because, so, when, while, etc), or a Glog exploring a theme or topic with multiple featured conjunctions (and use student audio)!
  • Illustrate and demonstrate a repertoire of strategies in a Glog, such as listening, word retreival, or executive function strategies, with videos (perhaps student-created) serving as models/practice of the strategies.
  • Use Glogster as your Speech-Language Program home page linked to your school website, with links to helpful resources.
  • Glogster can be used to lend awareness to issues related to communication disorders and prevention, such as ASHA's Better Speech and Hearing Month, CASLPA's May Month, or TBI or Hearing Loss prevention. (Thanks @ndnspeechmom for your tweet regarding this idea).
And without further ado, a few more actual Glogs to serve as examples (note, hover over the GlogsterEDU logo at the top of each Glog to have the option to view full size):

I recently created this Glog to serve as a visual when presenting to Boston University's Public School Seminar for SLP Grad Students; the topic being the SLP's "bag of tricks" for interventions and materials.  Glogs can be used instead of PowerPoints in these situations!  Check out the links!

Glogs are great as a visual pallette to explore social skills and Social Thinking©. I created this Glog with a group of kids to emphasize the importance of reading others' visual cues. It's based on the idea of the Unthinkable characters in Michelle Garcia Winner and Stephanie Madrigal's Superflex curriculum.

This next Glog was the result of a class project targeting description, parts of speech, and the year-long theme of "Heroes." The students chose/researched a real-life hero and described him/her through nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc specific for the person. They also created a game applying grammar categories using Studystack (you can see that on the "click here" doggy-it brings you to the flashcards, but if you click below you can "play" the stack as different games).

I hope that you have found some inspiration in Glogster and this series. Please let me know about your experiences with Glogster and email me links to any Glogs you and your students create that you'd like to share. I'd sure love to revisit Glogster in a few months and showcase your work. Thanks, as always, for reading!!

Note: author contracts with Mindwing Concepts, Inc. to produce content for their blog.