Monday, June 27, 2011

Resources and Links from Social Thinking™ Providers' Convention

I am sitting at San Jose International Airport in the Jet Blue Terminal as I write this (Sunday), exhausted yet also energized and inspired from my experience at the Social Thinking Providers' Convention in San Francisco.  I first learned about Social Thinking in probably 2003 (?) when I was struggling to figure out what to do with all my "pragmatics" groups of students with Asperger's, High-Functioning Autism, and related issues, and found my practice totally revolutionized by the concepts and vocabulary in the curriculum.  As the years have passed, Think Social Publishing has released more and more helpful materials that hook students attention while teaching key concepts for school and life. Meanwhile, more and more dedicated educators, therapists, and SLPs have embraced the curriculum and developed their own work based on it. SLP Michelle Garcia Winner, the creator of the approach, caught up and chatted at ASHA and she encouraged me to put in a presentation proposal for this conference, so here I am.  I presented as you might expect on Web Tools and Technology Strategies that compliment the curriuclum.  It was terrific to see the synergy and references made between so many of the methodologies, particularly Mindwing Concepts (who had a huge presence here!), The Incredible Five Point Scale, and Liz Delsandro's awesome We Can Make it Better Program.

Thanks to Sheila Moreau of Mindwing Concepts for snapping this pic!
It doesn't seem like that many people were tweeting from the conference, but I was, and I made a hashtag (#stpc2011) so I could sort out all the tweets later and republish them for people who read this blog.  Janet Dudley of Social Communication Specialists found each other through the tweets (and actually met!) and she added a lot of ideas, so thanks, Janet! Hope you enjoy this "Chirpstory" and find it helpful.  I am sure I could have tweeted more links to presentations but I wanted to make sure I asked each presenter first, and here are the ones I got to.  Regarding my own presentation, I plan to spend some time this Fall describing each of these resources, perhaps as I did with GlogsterEDU.

Hope you all are having a great summer!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Social Thinking Providers' Conference Links

Hey Folks,

Just finished presenting at the Social Thinking Provider's Conference in San Francisco.  Thanks so much to Michelle Garcia Winner and the Social Thinking team for having me.

I'd like to share with you my presentation (so click here for that) and a few people had some difficulty accessing my links page (a little glitch- I guess we have to get used to glitches when using technology) so I thought I would simply publish those below. Sorry about the crazy formatting but I wanted to do this quickly.  Here's the presentation:

Also, Liz Delsandro (whom it was amazing to meet) just mentioned my blog post where I wrote about the connection between her program on using narratives to build problem solving, We Can Make it Better, and Story Grammar Marker.  In case you wanted to know exactly where that post was, it is here!

Resource Links!

Tutorial (also tutorials within site)

YouTube Create to access xtranormal (and GoAnimate) or via

Friend Filing

Apps to Consider:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hyperbole And A Half

Hyperbole and a Half is a narrative/comic blog created by Allie Brosh that will likely make you giggle quite a bit.  Allie relates her experiences in her own unique way, and draws very funny pictures.

...that I can relate to.
I first thought of posting about Allie's blog because she has a few terrific posts on social interactions that could be great for a teenage group:
The Four Levels of Social Entrapment humorously details various situations in life where we have to "fake it" socially, and could be very useful if you are covering this skill as part of instruction in The Hidden Curriculum and/or Social Thinking.
Simlarly, The Awkward Situation Survival Guide offers what NOT to do in six different prickly moments, and is a fun way to start a discussion about dealing with tough social moments.

Allie's blog is also a masterpiece of personal memoir, as exemplified by stories such as The God of Cake, which describes her attempts (with great visual supports on narrative structure and sequence) to get at a cake made for her grandfather's birthday.

CAVEAT: Ms. Brosh sometimes includes choice words in her posts.  You would not want to set students free to poke around, rather, choose some selections to review with a group.

Another reason I mention this blog at this time is I spent a good amount of time enjoying it last summer.  It looks great on your iPad!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Book Review- The Practical (and fun) Guide to Assistive Technology in Public Schools: Building or Improving Your District’s AT Team

This review originally appeared on the PediaStaff Blog
Book by: Christopher R Bugaj and Sally Norton-Darr

Note: I read this book on my iPad's Kindle app!  It was great to be able to read it and use the annotation features while preparing for this review.

Chris Bugaj and his colleague Sally Norton-Darr have penned an informative (and indeed, fun to read) guide to the role of Assistive Technology (AT) and its practitioners in the school setting. AT, a still-emerging discipline, is likely an area that is blurry or unfortunately non-existent in many school districts, so the authors aim to not only clarify that but also empower readers to create an AT team if none exists. That said, you should not be scared off by the title of this book if the idea of creating something from nothing within your educational setting seems a tad ambitious for your taste. The book will still provide a treasure trove of valuable information about AT and how it shapes our practice as therapists.

If you have ever heard Chris present a workshop or listened to his A.T.TIPSCAST podcast- and if you have not, I recommend doing so- you’ll find that his and Sally’s voices lend a fun, very readable approach to what could have been a dry textbook. In conveying the nitty-gritty of what AT Trainers do from day to day, the authors use cartoons, anecdotes, analogies about judgmental Aunt Ida (one of many examples), modified nursery rhymes and all-around humor (One section heading is entitled “Don’t Procrastin…Ah, We’ll Finish That Later.”). All of this lends an approachable and relatable quality to the informative text without ever overdoing the “fun.”

Coming from the perspective of having been both a Speech-Language Pathologist and Instructional Tech Specialist, roles that have overlap with AT, I really learned a lot from The Practical (and Fun) Guide. I also appreciated greatly their respectful treatment of the boundaries of those overlapping areas and how the AT specialist might avoid any pitfalls that could ensue when working with SLPs, other therapists and ITS (and inferentially, how I might avoid the same). Specifically, this book includes:

  • Specific details of the AT Specialist’s job description, as well as pertinent terms and definitions.
  • Examples of technology tools, accommodations, and strategies that might be recommended for hypothetical students (very informative for SLPs and OTs who are also asked to make such recommendations).
  • Popular misconceptions about AT services, and the relationship between AT services and IEP goals.
  • Items in every AT’s toolkit (also might be helpful to have in yours).
  • Where to look to learn more about Assistive Technology.
  • How to promote and locate funds for AT
  • The AT consultation and evaluation process (there’s a difference between the two!) and how to work with teachers once these are complete.

The book wisely does not focus excessively on examples of specific high-tech tools that one should recommend for students. I say wisely because these have probably changed since my last breath (and because, of course, it all depends on the student’s needs). What was really helpful to me, though, was the authors’ broad view of technology, and inclusion of many low-tech tools such as posters and document holders. I have been thinking of including such non-CPU-dependent examples of technology on my own blog, and this was really validating and inspiring.

All in all, I think The Practical (and Fun) Guide brings an important perspective that should be considered by all therapists who participate on IEP Teams, and can especially inform our consultation with their teachers, a piece of our service delivery that in my opinion is often more important than how many times we “see” students.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Supermarket Mania

Supermarket Mania is a fun interactive "board" game (based on the show Fizzy's Lunch Lab) from PBS kids. Students pick a player and navigate through a supermarket while completing various nutrition challenges that are also language-based.

Language Lens:
  • Nutrition, food groups, and supermarket layouts are important category-based topics that also involve sequencing and cause-effect.
  • This game has some engaging, timed (but reasonably so) activities in which students sort items into abstract categories such as whether the food came from a farm or factory or interpret nutrition labels, a great functional reading task.

Monday, June 6, 2011

An exciting week in Mac vocabulary

Apple is having its annual developers' conference this week, and this always brings about some exciting announcements.  While we wait to hear what's really coming up in MacLand, I thought I would cover some vocabulary that will help you stay up to date (more later this week when we find out the actual announcements).

WWDC-Apple Worldwide Developers' Conference is held each year in California (this year at the Moscone Center in San Francisco), and features workshops for developers and a keynote address that generally heralds new products and innovations. There are a few rumored announcements this year, among them...

OS X Lion- OS X is the Mac Desktop and Laptop operating system (equivalent to Windows 7 on the PC side) that gives the Mac its whole personality.  Updates to the OS usually affect things like the look and feel of the Mac, its desktop and dock, and "native" applications like its web browser, Safari.  Rumored improvements to Lion (lately, OS X versions are all named after big cats: Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard) include enhancements that will make Macs feel more like their mobile counterparts (iPhone/iPad/iPod) and the ability to update the operating system software over the Internet through the Mac App Store rather than via CD-ROM.  New OS versions generally cost a few bucks if you want to upgrade (the last one was $30ish).

iCloud- "cloud computing" is the latest way to manage files, and involves syncing files to the Internet rather than saving to servers, on hard drives, on flash drives, or emailing files to yourself.  If you use Google Docs, this is a form of cloud computing. The advantages of this innovation include not having to worry where a file is and greater opportunities for sharing and collaboration on files.  Apple has sputtered a bit in this area but is rumored to be finally getting it right with a cloud computing service called iCloud that will replace its MobileMe service and allow you to sync music, video and (probably) files between devices.

iOS 5- iOS is the operating system for all the "i" devices- iPod, iPhone, iPad.  It's like a mini version of OSX, and the two keep getting closer.  It is expected that this new iOS will be announced this week and include over-the-air software updates (see, Apple is trying to position the iPad more as a stand alone device, so you won't have to connect it to a computer to activate, sync and update it) and extensive voice controls through a partnership with Nuance (who makes Dragon Dictation). iOS updates to your devices are important to make once they are available, and have historically been free.

Steve Jobs- Apple's ailing CEO, whose battle with liver cancer is making him even more legendary.  He has been taking some time off from Apple but is expected to deliver the Keynote and announcements today at 10 am Pacific Time.

"Just One More Thing"- the teasing phrase that is often used at Keynotes to jokingly introduce something HUGE.  This is how the original iPhone was introduced.  People wonder what the "one more thing" might be, if there is one.  It will likely involve a new iPhone model.  I really doubt it will be a new iPad (better not be)!!!  So we shall see...Here is a history of these courtesy of Cult of Mac:

For a great weekly discussion on how Apple Technologies can be used in education, I highly recommend the MacReach show hosted by Meg Wilson of iPodsibilities. You can also stream this podcast on Instacast in your car if you have an iPhone.

UPDATE: Check out some of my thoughts on the actual announcements related to mobile tech, over at TherapyApp411.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Posts Elsewhere and Happy Summer!

Memorial Day is for me the official start of summer, June 21 notwithstanding.  Well, we can at least wear white pants. I am sensing everyone slowing down a bit and checking out, so even though in Boston we go to school 'til the 23rd (!) I will be doing the same and posting less frequently over the summer.

That said, a few recent posts to let you know about!

Over on ASHAsphere I completed a two part series on accessing peer-reviewed journals electronically.  The steps involved would help you to with dealing with any electronic PDF file.  The first part described described (with a handout and a really short video) how you can leverage online options to keep in touch with research electronically. The second post showed how to access, read, annotate and share journal articles on iPad.  Here is the screencast that accompanied that post: 

On the Mindwing Blog, a post (also with screencast) elaborating on the Story Patch app and alignment with Mindwing's manipulative Story Grammar Marker and story maps.

I was really proud to have a guest post on one of my favorite blogs, Free Technology 4 Teachers, regarding a strategy for promoting comprehension of directions for ALL students during classroom projects involving technology.

Check out my most recent review over at TherapyApp411- it's of the Instacast app, which allows you to stream podcasts related to professional development or auditory comprehension.

Finally, on ADVANCE's Speech in the Schools blog, I am continuing my series of posts on using picture books in S/L Therapy.  This most recent post detailed resources online to promote use of picture books.

Disclosure: author is a paid contractor for Mindwing Concepts Inc, but in no other instances is monetarily compensated for product/website/app reviews.