Friday, September 30, 2011

Posts Elsewhere: Toontastic and Books!

Hi Folks,

Please check out a few posts I have elsewhere on the interwebs!

On the Mindwing Blog, I discuss how the iPad Toontastic can be used as a great way to link play, oral language and narrative development using Mindwing Tools. This post includes a podcast of an conversation I had with Andy Russell, one of the creators of Toontastic.  The folks at Launchpad Toys have a really sound understanding of cognitive and narrative development!

On another note, if you already have Toontastic, be sure to open your App Store app and update Toontastic.  They recently pushed out an update that allows you to add a free "toy set" and purchase others for $.99 each.  I was really pleased to see the offerings, which include a number of real-world locations in themes such as Town, Pets, and All-Stars!

On the Advance Speech in Schools blog, please check out my posts in the Book It! series on using picture books in therapy, including a discussion on books that help you scaffold "action sequences" and strategies on finding books related to curriculum topics.  Both posts have been added to the series list.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Instead of spending $140 on Minimal Pair Cards...

...check out Phonology and Articulation Resources for Speech-Language Pathologists! I don't know where I got that monetary figure...hmmm.

I find myself in a new school having left behind and/or donated a good amount of the materials I had accrued over the years (through department funds, grants, products obtained through credit for trying out tests for Linguisystems) at my previous school.  Let's just say there are gaps (and I don't always have the apps).  I realized I have a pretty much instant need for phonology resources, specifically minimal pair visuals, and a quick search led me to this generous and extremely well-organized site.  The site (an offshoot of the SLP Start Page) was developed by Australian SLP Caroline Bowen and consists of sets of artic and phonology words and pictures created with copyright-free Microsoft clip art in PDF format.  All that is needed is to print and laminate (*shiver*, but better than spending $140 and waiting for shipping) the cards.  Hope this site can save you at some point, as it has me.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The iPad as a Window...

Picking up a caseload of, say, 35 kiddos can be a bit daunting.  You do your best to schedule and group, read IEPs, and then you have your first sessions.  Actually working with the kids is at once a reminder of why we do this work, and also sort of scary...that many kids at that many different grade levels and developmental zones- I have found my iPad to be a huge help.

An app can provide a language-enhancing activity, but it also can provide a window through which you can assess the child and decide where to go next. In my first couple of days of therapy, I found Smarty Ears' House of Learning to be an invaluable interactive context in which I got to know many of my students better.  House of Learning lets you choose from 12 scenes-various rooms of a home, and also a classroom-and then position a huge array of objects and people within the scene. The app allows you to customize families in a multicultural manner, and when tapped, each object in the scene or scene menu is named aloud, though this feature -my one constructive criticism- is a bit robotic and could be improved (though certainly, you'll be doing much of the talking). The ability to change the position and poses of people in the app provides the opportunity to develop verbs, play skills, concepts, sentence formulation and preposition use, while the variety of rooms and objects available is a great context for vocabulary and category growth.  The app was pretty much a universal hit with the kids I tried it out with, and while they were engaged, I got a lot of information about:

Endurance/attention span: How long the students stayed engaged helped me get a sense of therapy planning.  Some students added one or two objects to the room and attempted to switch to a different room, while others happily decorated for much of the session.  This let me know how many activities I might need to plan within a session: a lengthier activity that hits on many goals, or more discrete tasks?

Level of structure: Some students will be able to independently do "hands off" the app in order for you to use House of Learning as a direction-following activity, while others will need more physical structuring (e.g. visually presenting the screen while delivering the direction, then providing physical access).

Social interaction: A valuable window into a child's social skills can be provided by using an app such as this. Do they focus only on the screen or establish joint attention with you, commenting and questioning? Are they able to respond to your comments and questions while using the app?

Syntactic, semantic and organizational skills: Students' ability to respond to your suggestions or comments about specific items or items in a categories can be gauged with an app such as House of Learning. What they say (or don't say) when using a visual exploration app can be hugely revealing! Additionally, the end result can say a lot about the student's organizational skills and, well, their ability to accept cueing:

This room...

vs. this room...

House of Learning by Smarty Ears is available in the App Store for $6.99.  This iPad-only app is activated by tapping and dragging items into the scene, and will operate without WiFi connection once installed. Overall, in addition to being a great informal assessment activity, I am sure it will serve as hours of therapy and fun!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Smyface! Explore feelings and responses...

Smyface is a simple interactive website you can use to emphasize feelings vocabulary and the connections between real-world events and internal responses.

Use the slider to view a huge variety of facial expressions, match them to emotional vocabulary, and work with students to link feelings to events. Smyface is a great stop to use in conjunction with a storybook or chapter book in order to target story grammar: the relationship between characters, initiating events/problems, responses and even plans! Bonus points to this site for having such an emphasis on causal constructions!  Your completed smyface can be shared in a variety of ways, as seen above.

Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo for highlighting this site.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Book Review: The Ultimate Guide to Assistive Technology in Special Education

If I were to make an FAQ page--I can't think of questions that I get asked frequently enough to form a critical mass--one that would be there would go something like: "We just got an iPad. What do you recommend?" This is an understandable but unfortunately sort of prohibitively broad question. I usually point people in the direction of the collaborative SLP Apps List (top of my blog), but from now on I am also going to be recommending Joan Green's The Ultimate Guide to Assistive Technology in Special Education as a great resource book for those starting out with iPads (or other technology) for clinical use.

The Ultimate Guide begins with a consideration of UDL (don't miss the discussion of this topic in the recent ASHA Leader, and in my post) but quickly gets down to its main purpose, which is to provide a wide-ranging list of technologies (free and for cost, mobile and desktop) within specific categories.  Green's resources span the domains of communication-verbal expression, auditory comprehension, reading and comprehension, written expression- as well as cognition and memory, and provide something for every platform (web-based, PC/Mac, and an impressive array of specific iPod and iPad apps).  I have generally felt that books about technology are bound to be as up to date and relevant as a newscast about that breeze you just felt, but I was really pleasantly surprised at the currency of information in this volume, published in March 2011.  SLPs who work with adults with aphasia, TBI or other diagnoses will also find many great suggestions of software, apps, websites and uses of technology that you already have at your fingertips (e.g. accessibility features available within MS Office or iWork).  There is really something here that can help all clients on your caseload, as the resources span age ranges and levels of ability, from those who require switches to those who would benefit from high-level interactive websites.

Joan Green is an SLP herself, so she brings a key perspective to her descriptions of these myriad tools.  I am sure to be mining the resources in this book for some time to come.  Check out her site and newsletter for a preview of what you will find in this great book!

Note: author was provided with a review copy of this book.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Workshop for MSHA- "Outside the Box" Apps for SLPs

Hi folks-

I am really excited to be presenting a 4-hr workshop for the Massachusetts Speech-Language Hearing Association (MSHA) that will be looking at mobile (iOS) apps "through a language lens."  It will be taking place on Saturday, October 15 at Northeastern University.

Here's the basic description and objectives:

Many great apps were developed specifically for SLP interventions, but countless treasures in the App Store were designed for other purposes! This workshop models “repurposing” of apps designed for gaming, visual exploration, organization, and creation for use in speech and language interventions.

By attending/participating in this workshop participants will be able to:
1. Analyze Apps and utilize task analyses to isolate speech and language objectives in context.
2. Apply criteria to evaluate Apps for clinical use.
3. Design therapy sessions using Apps, with Pre- or Post- activities targeting speech and language
objectives in context.
4. Access a reading list of free online resources for further learning and exploration.

You can find more information and the printable registration forms here.  Hope some of you can make it!

Edit: I received a question about the population that this workshop is geared to: I would say that the workshop will have a child "flavor" but there will certainly be a good portion of content that can be used for adults, particularly with the creation and organization apps. Also the whole framework for how to look at apps (since this workshop is focusing primarily on apps not designed for SLP but that can be adapted very easily to address S/L goals), and the resources to find apps on your own would be helpful to clinicians working with adults.

UDL in the ASHA Leader!!!

The concept of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is one that many SLPs and teachers don't yet know about (or think they don't, when they really do), and it is critically useful for helping us take on a consultative role that maximizes our students' learning.  I was absolutely thrilled to see UDL highlighted in an article in the most recent (nicely schools-themed) ASHA Leader, the publication that probably reaches the most SLPs as it is still mailed to our homes.  Patricia Kelly Ralabate does an excellent job at defining UDL in both a historical and real-life context, and pointing readers in the direction of some terrific tools to apply UDL in the form of goal setting and evaluating curriculum barriers.

To that end, I want to emphasize the connection between UDL and many of my posts here.  Ralabate describes two case studies (must see the full printed article for those- they are not in the web version) and how several specific websites could be used in consultation with the SLP (or directly, for that matter) to support students' need for a more interactive learning context.  Similarly, My Garden could serve as an alternate representation of science curriculum around seeds and plants, while Landform Detectives would be a great site to put on a the computer of a classroom studying geology after consulting with the teacher or assistant.

To learn more about UDL, I highly recommend Karen Janowski's UDL Tech Toolkit (and all the resources contained within), Chris Bugaj's A.T.Tipscast, and the EdCeptional podcast.

Kudos again to ASHA for seeking to inform our membership about this important topic.

Monday, September 12, 2011

First World Problems

The beginning of the school year is a great time to talk about essential concepts around being part of a group(see the Social Thinking® approach)- whether that group be a pull-out or private social skills group, or an entire classroom.  One of my favorite resources in this regard are the opening lessons of Think Social!, the character of GlassMan (for younger students) and The Incredible 5-Point Scale.  Through discussion and rating of a variety of problems, students can learn to respond in an expected way to things that come up in group settings!

I recently stumbled upon the First World Problems Rap on YouTube, a funny, visual, and kid-relatable context for opening and continuing a lesson on evaluating problems.

Be sure to check out my strategies regarding using YouTube at school (even if it is blocked)

Also, click through to see a printable Incredible 5-point Scale of Problems and info on how it can be used to build narrative language in conjunction with the SGM.

In the meantime, please forgive my less-frequent posting as I am dealing with my own #firstworldproblem: a WiFi issue at home, hopefully to be resolved today. The Horror!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

MA folks- My one-day workshop on Social Media and Personal Learning Networks

Hi Folks, I am going to be offering a series of Friday sessions through Massachusetts Computer Using Educators (MASSCUE).  The first is on a topic close to my heart, Personal Learning Networks.  This session will help you find information and lesson ideas, inspiring your work! The day will also include a component on using social media tools with students at varying levels. Hope some of you can make it! 

Developing a Personal Learning Network with Blogs, Wikis, Twitter, Diigo and other Tools
Audience:  General Educators, Special Educators
Level: Beginner/Intermediate
Instructor: Sean Sweeney
Date:  October 21, 2011  (Registration Deadline October 7, 2011)
Times: 8:30 am to 3:30 pm
Location: Newton Public Schools Ed Center Silverman Lab, 100 Walnut Street, Newtonville, MA  02460
MassCUE Member Cost: $125
Non-Member Cost:  $160 (includes free membership for year)
Earn: 6 hours of participation (PDPs)
Limit: 20 participants
Prerequisites: Participants will need a Gmail or Google Account for this workshop.  Bring your own laptop is preferred.
Course Description: Do you feel isolated in your classroom? Are you looking for new ways to connect with passionate and creative educators for your own professional development?  This workshop will help you develop your Personal Learning Network (PLN) through social web tools that will open up a world of educational ideas to you and your colleagues. The focus of the session will be on establishing use of basic PLN tools with use of organizational strategies to streamline, aggregate and share the vast amount of education-related information available on the web.  The workshop will provide modeling of tools such as Google Reader for review of Edublogs, Twitter and Google+, social bookmarking with Diigo, and other tools, along with guided practice in each tool.

Monday, September 5, 2011

New York Philharmonic Kidzone

Cultural and educational institutions often produce websites that are wonderful language-eliciting experiences for kids.  Explore the New York Philharmonic Kidzone website and see if you can design some lessons about music and language. The Instrument Storage Room and Music Match Instruments (in games section) are good explorations of subcategories and specific instruments (aligning with the music curriculum). Musical Mingles is a good place to explore complex cause-effect and spatial relationships.  The Composers Gallery has biographies and musical samples of famous composers from different periods. MusicQuest is a more extensive activity in which the student chooses an instrument and mentor, and works through solving some backstage problems, exposing them to the schema of a life in the Philharmonic.  All of this is packaged in an interface that would be very appealing visually to kids.

For a greater context, you could try exploring this site after reading The Remarkable Farkle McBride by John Lithgow, which is itself a good context to explore story grammar and the Unthinkable Glass Man character from Michelle Garcia Winner and Stephanie Madrigal's Superflex for Social Thinking book.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Some Links to Share!

Hey folks,

I hope everyone has had an awesome summer!  I can't believe it is over...

I have been slowish on the posts here as I am gearing up at a NEW SCHOOL as the .8 SLP (I have Fridays off for consultations, presentations, and writing), but I am sure I will be getting up to speed in coming weeks.  I am looking forward to a few "theme weeks" exploring some ideas and tools in depth.  I have also been working on organizing my Labels (see below each post, and in the Labels section of the right sidebar) so as to make this blog function more like a database, with each Label being meaningful and bringing you to a lot of useful posts on a topic.  This includes Labeling each resource by age range.  It's a bit of work, so more to come on this when it is done!

A few links to posts elsewhere that you might have missed:

Please check out my series running this summer on the ADVANCE Speech in the Schools Blog on using picture books in speech-language therapy.  I have been highlighting a number of my favorite books and resources, and have collected the series in a weblist on diigo.

My work for the folks at Mindwing has continued this summer with a quick appearance at their presentation in Natick, MA this July in order to talk about tech complements to their tools.  Please see my post on a new approach highlighted in their recent addition to their Autism collection, Facilitating Relationships, and the use of Social Problem Solving Prompts.

If you'd like to learn more about Mindwing's great approaches to narrative language and social development, I'd encourage you to register for their FREE webinar on September 13.

Skrappy ($4.99, a great app for creating photobooks on iPad)
Hope you all have a great Labor Day weekend and transition back to school smoothly!

Note: Author is a contractor for Mindwing Concepts.