Monday, August 29, 2011

Games for Children with Autism

Whiz Kid Games is a British resource of repetitive, well-paced and language-based games designed for kids with autism, but adaptable to other populations of students.  Games such as "A Day at the Market" teach about scripting, sequencing, and schema, as well as being a context for vocabulary and sentence development.

I have often found resources such as Whiz Kid Games to be great pairings with activities designed to build play scripts and interaction.  For example, A Day at the Market could be a great precursor to playing "store," and "Eric Goes to the Airport" would be a great activity before playing with the Fisher-Price Little People Airport or similar toy set.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Great Group of SLPs' and Educators' thoughts on FIVES

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to present a day-long workshop for the EDCO (Greater Boston) Collaborative about using interactive technologies in speech and language interventions.  One of the main ideas as always was that language skill-building opportunities and contexts are everywhere if you know how to look for them.  After reviewing the FIVES criteria as a framework, the participants spent some time "mining" a site that features many many many interactive resources, looking for nuggets of gold.  The site we used was the Utah Education Network- click on the "Student Interactives" links on the left.  The UEN is a great page to bookmark and mine for curriculum-based "Speechie" interactives across all grade levels and abilities.

As the peeps in attendance "mined" the site, we used Wallwisher to share ideas.  Wallwisher is a simple resource for collecting information from a lot of people!  I thought it would be fun to share the results here (feel free to interact with the wall by moving posts around so you can see them, also you can click through to the Wallwisher site):
  Thanks to all the participants for sharing your great ideas!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Planet Orange

Planet Orange is a robust interactive site from ING investing company that teaches kids about money.  After a quick free registration, you can guide kids to complete missions on 4 different "continents" in order to earn  "OBucks." Because you have registered, you can save your progress within a group session and return to continue the activities. The site is fun, simple, and practical, and besides all of that, I really like orange.

Planet Orange offers highly visual stopping points and audio narration.

What could be more practical and real-world than teaching kids to budget?
Language Lens:
-The site would align well with math and social studies units around money and economics (perhaps those economics standards that teachers never have the time to really get to?) and help kids develop world knowledge.
-The categorical and sequential nature of the missions provides much opportunity to develop semantic and organizational skills, and causality and conditional forms could be emphasized throughout each activity.
-As an extension, you could devise missions of your own around the school to earn further Obucks and practice communication skills in a fun context.

Thank you to Free Tech for Teachers for featuring this site.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Make Your Own Backyard Paradise

Make Your Own Backyard Paradise is an interesting, if totally strange, interactive from PBS. Students can select a background and choose from various objects in nonspecific categories (Thing-a-ma-bobs, Doo-Dads, Whatchamacalits), arrange, resize and rotate them to create a potentially absurd scene.

Language Lens
  • Naming the objects in various categories could serve as a good word-finding and description activity.
  • Arrangement and resizing of objects provides a good opportunity to work on spatial and temporal concepts.
  • Discussion of why certain objects go well or look silly in the scene will contextually prompt causal sentence structures.
  • The category names of the objects could help students with word retrieval difficulties become aware of nonspecific language.
  • The "Letter" category could be used in a phonemic awareness activity.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Write-N-Ator!

The Write-n-ator is a site from New Hampshire Public Television based on the PBS Series Word Girl!  The site presents 20 different short clips from the TV show, followed by a writing challenge. What I love about the site is that it presents writing prompts in a fun context, and the prompts are all prime targets for S/L or literacy interventions.  They ask kids to work within basic text structures- list, sequence, or descriptive paragraphs- and could be completed in a relatively short period of time.  This would be a great resource to use when teaching kids to use graphic organizers, write basic paragraphs, elaborate and expand sentences in their speaking or writing, use main idea and details, or a variety of other IEP goals.

This would be a good resource to take some time with this summer and consider which videos you might like to use with a particular grade level(s).

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

B-Movie TV

B-Movie TV is a fun site that features clips from old, silly American commercials and films that are overdubbed in another language.  You can type in subtitles narrating or dialoging the scene, and can also choose to use text-to-speech or record over the clip. For more fun, you can switch to Bombay TV (see "switch channels") and do the same with Bollywood movies, which, not to be culturally insensitive, are notoriously over-the-top in terms of costumes, plotlines, and even frequent choreography.

Language Lens:
-B-Movie TV is an engaging way to explore inferential thinking, story grammar and exposition (for the ads), humor and interpretation of body language when you are choosing a clip with your students and mapping out the "plot."
-The opportunity to write or record the language for the track can target vocabulary, sentence formulation or speech production strategies.

This site is Flash-based and therefore is NOT iPad-friendly.

Thank you to Larry Ferlazzo for featuring this website.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Lion Roars! An SLP-friendly summary of Mac's New Operating System

The big buzz in the Appleverse lately has centered around the recent release of Mac's new operating system OSX 10.7, better known as Lion.  I thought it might be a good topic to post about, to let you know why you should care about this if you are a Mac or iDevice user.  Chiefly, if you have a newer Mac, you might want to consider upgrading- Lion's features are way cool!  Secondly, you may be encountering computers that have Lion installed- yours or your school's- and it will be helpful to know the differences if you are working solo or with students using these Macs.

First of all, it's important to clarify what an operating system is- it's basically the nervous system of your device, controlling the look and feel of what it is like to use the device and how applications (or apps) interact with each other. Mac laptops and desktops for the last 10 years have run versions of OSX named after cats: Cheetah, Puma, Jaguar, Panther, Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard and now Lion. I am guessing the next release will be called "Mangy Stray!" Apple tends to update its operating system more incrementally and frequently than PC/Windows updates occur.  The hallmarks of OSX are its ease of use, the "Aqua" theme that uses a lot of softness and translucency in the look of windows and such, and, important for us to know about and worthy of a post of their own, built-in accessibility options that make it easier for those with disabilities to use the computer. If you have an iDevice (iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone, and even Apple TV), these have a different operating system known as iOS. Your iDevices are not affected by this recent release of OSX, but will be affected when iOS5 comes out this fall, with its own set of cool enhancements.

One of the key things to know about Lion is that it is being seen as a significant step in Apple bringing its two operating systems closer together.  This similarity is present in at least 4 enhancements in Lion. "Multitouch Gestures" similar to how one interacts with an iPad are more extensively available in Lion, therefore basically killing the mouse and the "click" (though you can customize which gestures you want turned on). This video from Apple gives a great overview of the gestures available. You'll really only be able to access these if you have a newer Mac with the multitouch trackpad (i.e. it does not have a button) or you buy a separate accessory such as a Magic Mouse.  Note also in this video the demo of two other new features similar to iOS, the availability of "Full Screen Apps" and "Launchpad," which brings up a screen of your installed apps that looks just like your iDevice app arrays on your home screen.

Additionally, OS Lion represents a stronger integration of the Mac App Store introduced in a later version of Snow Leopard.  For the first time, if you have the Mac App Store available (meaning, you have Snow Leopard), you can install the new operating system as a download right from the store (running you $29, not all that expensive at all)!  Traditionally, operating systems were distributed by CD-ROM. If you'd like to buy OS Lion and your Mac is more than 2 years old, you may want to check with or call the Apple Store first, to ensure your machine can support it.

I'd like to recommend that you take a look at the features of Lion, and this link shows you how to use some of these, but I want to also quickly list some of interest (or concern) to SLPs.

  • Resume and Versions- Mac apps will now re-open exactly as you left them.  Meaning, if you quit Pages or Keynote, when you re-open, the file you were using will be there.  Similarly, Safari will re-open with the last tabs you had open.  This is handy should kids accidentally quit, or forget to save their work!  Versions allows us to autosave and go back to all previous versions of the document, similar to the way that Google Docs keeps revision histories.
  • Safari enhancements- Mac's main web browser is now viewable full screen like all other apps made by Apple (which helps to remove desktop distractions).  It also has an autocorrect feature that helps avoid misspellings, or perhaps just result in annoyance and hilarity.  Additionally, you can now save any webpage in a "Reading List" (just click the eyeglasses in your bookmarks bar) to read later- handy for your professional development.
  • Multitouch gestures- I'll mention these again as a possible concern; I find them very useful as a user, but many of our kids with fine motor issues may have trouble keeping track of and/or executing the gestures.  It's important to note that you can set up a separate login on your computer for students to use and go into System Preferences>Trackpad to customize which gestures are active. It is also helpful that all the traditional mouse gestures- click, double-click, and drag- still work when you have the multitouch gestures active.
  • Accessibility- these improvements allow you to customize the voice on VoiceOver and text to speech, and perhaps my favorite, you can look up a word in the dictionary by double-tapping with 3 fingers on a word! Handy for vocab-challenged kids!

If you do not have admin rights on your computer (and I know many school-based SLPs do not), please know that I don't mean to frustrate you by dangling a carrot you cannot yet obtain. If you do install Lion and you are annoyed by any of the new features, here's a nice guide to how to selectively shut features off! It's impossible to provide a comprehensive overview of Lion, and this has become a lengthy Roar, but I hope it gave you enough of a taste so that you might want to look into how this OS can be useful to you as an SLP.