Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy 2012!

2011 was a great year, and thank you all for being with me through it! This year saw me moving into a new school, getting to work with some great people and organizations on presentations, and being invited to develop new apps with Barbara Fernandes and Smarty Ears! A big WOW of a year overall.

In 2012 I am looking forward to the above endeavors, in addition to regular content here on SpeechTechie.  I am thinking of a month or two on animation, in all its forms, and other Web 2.0 creation tools. Of course, I have a lot of apps I want to tell you about too!

I finally figured out how to find the most popular posts on my blog using Google Analytics, so here are the top 10 of 2011:

10. License Plate Generator
9. Welcome to Glogster EDU Week!
8. Seriously Silly Speech Therapy with Silly Bandz (Guest post by my pal Janelle Albrecht)
7. My Garden
6. Fake iPhone Text
5. When a Free App is not Worth it
4. Noddy Fun Time
3. Speech Buddies- Innovative Technology for Articulation
2. Use Flickr to Find Interesting Stimulus Pictures
1. Apps Worth Paying For

Interesting selection! It sort of cracks me up when what I think of as kind of a throwaway post like the one on Noddy Fun Time ends up with a large amount of hits.  I was proud to have guest posts by creative professionals like Janelle, Meghan Graham and Diana Richardson this year, as well as using themes such as Glogster. And of course we had the launches of Therapy App 411 and Essential Tech Skills 4 SLPs, which we will continue to tend to in the New Year. More of that to come!

I wish you all the happiest and healthiest of New Years! None of this world-ending business, either. ;-)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Language Builder and Assessment Options

I recently had several evaluations in which the students had variable ability to engage in traditional standardized assessments. Specifically, the often quite useful CELF-4 Formulated Sentences subtest, in which the student is asked to produce a sentence to correspond with a presented picture using a target word, put these particular kids at a dead-end of silence and "I don't know"s. The subtest features a series of colorful pictures designed to serve as contexts for target words that increase in abstraction and complexity (e.g. always, because, until), and though I had never really analyzed it before, I realized that it involved even more advanced aspects: perspective taking and self-talk.  For example, the "practice" picture in which the examiner asks the child to use the word when depicts a cafeteria scene in which all sorts of things are going on: kids sitting at a table, a child ordering food, another throwing out the contents of a tray. On-target responses could include anything from:

When is lunch?

to the more complex

When I finish my lunch, I throw away my tray.

In either case, and in most of the items, the child is asked in some sense to put themselves in the scene to be a voice within the picture.  Some kids, of course, struggle to do that, and as my students exhibited a level of frustration and anxiety that prompted me to discontinue this subtest after a few items, I was left with the need to quantify their syntactic abilities (and, oh well, no Core Language Score).  Language sampling was on the agenda, of course, but both kids were very engaged by the iPad, so I found myself turning to Mobile Education Store's Language Builder ($7.99, iPad only).

Language Builder is an open-ended tool within this app studio's line of apps in which audio can be recorded to match picture and language prompts.  Or, in this case, I used the most open-ended option in the app, simply asking my students to "Make a sentence about the picture." In both cases, it was an enjoyable and engaging experience for the child, and gave me key information about their sentence formulation abilities, along with transcribable (or demonstrable for parents) audio samples in response to the pictures.  Language Builder has different levels of "hints" that prompt various language structures, and could of course be used for all those kids that complete Formulated Sentences and don't do so well with it. I actually have also been using it in conjunction with the excellent Conversations with Conjunctions program (Catherine Harkins May, Pro-Ed), which involves the use of ASL signs for conjunctions in order to provide a visual and kinesthetic cue. Overall, it's a great go-to app to address the difficult-to-assess (and treat) area of complex sentence development!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Blog Awareness Month: Zite Personalized Magazine

All month I have been singing the praises of blogs as a route to professional development and therapy planning, and I am ending with a bit of a twist- Zite Personalized Magazine (Free, iPad only for now) an app that allows you to subscribe not to blogs but to topics. Select topics of interest and Zite will pull in posts from various news sources (including blogs) that correspond with your selections.  Here's my Zite home page:

Zite works somewhat like music app Pandora in that you can then further customize your feeds by giving a thumbs-up or -down to articles that appear or request more from the author, source, or subtopic.  It is easy to share articles by email or send to Twitter, Facebook or other services, making Zite a great tool for participating in your Personal Learning and Sharing Network.

Zite is somewhat more of a leisurely experience than using Google Reader as you don't have a number of unread posts to contend with; just read what you want! Because Zite allows you to set up multiple profiles within the app, it could also be a tool for helping older students do research or explore topics of interest and work on comprehension and language strategies.

This will be my last post until 2012- hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and Happy New Year!!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Blog Awareness Month: Fed Up With Lunch

I had sort of heard out of the corner of my ear that there was a courageous but anonymous teacher engaged in one of those "do something everyday and blog about it" initiatives, but one that could really make a difference. The author of Fed Up with Lunch (now also a book) committed to eat a usually quite gross school lunch every day and post about it, complete with photos, in order to make a statement about nutrition.  And guess what? It turns out "Mrs. Q" (I just love that pseudonym) is Chicago school-based SLP Sarah Wu. I was really excited when she contacted me and said she is a SpeechTechie reader! Her secret mission has concluded, but you can still read all about it in her archives, and her blog continues to be a resource for advocacy information about this important issue.  The story of "Mrs. Q" just goes to show how SLPs' "way with words" can be applied toward all kinds of good things. Her blog could also serve as a therapy material- think of what you could elicit for description regarding the photo below, to start! Please go and check out her blog; she is also on Twitter as @fedupwithlunch.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Blog Awareness Month: Edublog Awards, YAY SLPs, Thanks!!

The Edublog awards is sometimes the recipient of criticism for being about things educators supposedly shouldn't care about: validation, self-promotion, competition.  Fair enough, sure, there are elements of these things during "awards season." For me, though, it is really about ensuring that all these people who are sharing great ideas are actually READ. It sounds trite and eye-rolling but I definitely enjoyed nominating more than being nominated.

Yet again, timing dictated that I ended up "watching" the awards' live webcast at my patient (good) friends' house during their annual holiday dinner.  Thank God they have good wifi, and a little wine cut the tension ;-)

All in all, SLPs made an amazing showing in this years' event.  Besides being singled out by the organizers as being a great community and having 8 different specific SLP contributors shortlisted (sifted onto the final list of nominees based on some subjective measures of engagement with their blog), 6 different SLP resources were named as finalists (top 5 in their category).  It's a really big WOW.

Best New Blog- Speech Room News and All4MyChild.

Best EdTech/Resource Sharing Blog- Cindy L Meester's Blog and some other dude.


Best hashtag- #SLPeeps (the tag we use on twitter to reach other SLPs)

Best Use of Audio/Video/Podcast- A.T.TIPSCAST

A few years ago, there weren't too many of us SLPs in social media. Now people might start actually understanding what we do!

THANKS very much for all your support and votes.  Please be sure to check out all the nomination posts written by SLPs if you missed 'em.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Blog Awareness Month: 3eanuts

As a kid, I really loved Peanuts.  I definitely identified with Linus (and yes, I had a security blanket that I kept around way too long).  As an adult, I guess I wasn't totally surprised to find out that Charles Schulz struggled with depression.  The blog 3eanuts plays with the conventions of the strip by posting truncated versions of the comic without its generally uplifting 4th panel. From its authors:

Charles Schulz's Peanuts comics often conceal the existential despair of their world with a closing joke at the characters' expense. With the last panel omitted, despair pervades all.

The result could be interesting to SLPs not only as a narrative intervention, but also to teach kids about self-talk in a humorous way, perhaps by having them replace the fourth panels with positive outcomes!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Blog Awareness Month: Running to Be Still

As someone who has made social media somewhat of a way of life, it is interesting to see other people I know get involved online for quite different reasons.  I am speaking of my personal friend Kristin McCarthy Macchi and her funny and moving blog Running to be Still, in which she documents the trials and triumphs of her son James, who is on the autism spectrum. As SLPs, it is important for us to see the perspective of the families of the children we work with, and being connected to blogs such as this one is one way to develop that understanding. Also be sure to check out Kristin's Facebook Page for other links and observations.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Blog Awareness Month: The Kid Should See This

The Kid Should See This is a cute curation of videos and other materials from around the internet related to culture and education, kind of like a kids' version of Open Culture.  From the author:

There's just so much science, nature, music, arts, technology, storytelling and assorted good stuff out there that my kids (and maybe your kids) haven't seen. It's most likely not stuff that was made for them... But we don't underestimate kids around here. Off the grid-for-little-kids videos and other smart stuff collected by Rion Nakaya and her three year old co-curator.

The videos could provide a great context for a speech and language session, and included are fun sequences like this one (might be fun before an activity with the Cookie Doodle app):

Stop-Motion Biscuit Cake from Alan Travers on Vimeo.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Blog Awareness Month: Mindpop

I bumped into Mindpop when a friend of mine (a friend of the author) posted it on Facebook. The author, Nina Mitchell, introduces her blog: "I am a quirky young woman whose Mind went Pop. I was 26 when a stroke took away my limbs and speech. This stroke comic book is designed to make you think. Mindpop. Strokes are hell. They have dark comedy too. I live in Boston, just finished grad school, back to work." Mindpop is a good blog for SLPs to follow in order to fully understand the perspective of our patients who have had CVAs, but also possibly to recommend and/or use in counseling these patients.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Blog Awareness Month: Writing Prompts

Writing Prompts is a blog that presents attractive visual prompts that could be used for an oral presentation or piece of written work.  The prompts are imaginative and engaging, though they will obviously not work for all students.  Try using Writing Prompts with your favorite expository or narrative text structure graphic organizers.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Blog Awareness Month: Night Light Stories

We often hear the question from parents: What can I do to help my child at home?

I try to keep a list of resources I can tell parents about, and here's one for you: Chris and Melissa Bugaj's Night Light Stories.  Chris, an Assistive Technology Specialist and SLP, and his wife Melissa, a classroom teacher, have created this blog and podcast featuring original stories "that light up the imagination of kids of all ages." Each story is relatable to children's lives and begins with a question that promotes "making connections," a strategy our students often have to employ in the classroom.  In addition to the stories (which can be heard on the blog itself, downloaded for free from iTunes or streamed though Instacast), the blog offers entries related to each story, with a review of Tier 2 (as in Isabel Beck's work, not RTI) vocabulary and fun activities for children and parents to complete together related to the context of the story.  The audio (particularly the shorter "Flashlight Stories"), vocab and activities would also be great for SLPs to use directly during sessions!  Check it out and please recommend it to your families.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Blog Awareness Month: Support SLPs Shortlisted in 2011 Edublog Awards!

The shortlist of nominees for the 2011 Edublog Awards was announced this weekend.  Though I was a little bummed a few deserving nominees didn't make it in, it was excellent that the event actually acknowledged SLPs as a standout and active group in the effort that defines the whole purpose of the awards- to acknowledge educators who are sharing through social media and help educators find and follow this content.  In this vein, I'd encourage you to check out other SLPs' nomination posts and the shortlist as a whole to find lots of great resources and maybe add them to your Google Reader, right? right? :-)

I'm really honored to be nominated in the Best EdTech/Resource Sharing Blog Category. Thanks a lot to Tanya Coyle of Lexical Linguist and Twitter Dagobah, Heidi Kay of PediaStaff, Chris Bugaj of A.T. Tipscast and the folks at all4mychild for the shout-outs.  Your support means a lot.

Click here to Vote!

So, please vote for all the SLPs and others in the mix!

Best Individual Blog- iLearn Technology (not an SLP but a great source of visual resources for our kids)

Best Group Blog- TherapyApp411 (whoo-hoo!)

Best New Blog- All4mychild and Speech Room News

Best EdTech/Resource Sharing Blog- Cindy L Meester and I are in there!

Best Twitter Hashtag- #slpeeps

Best Free Webtool- GlogsterEDU, a great tool for SLPs

Best Educational Media/Podcast-The Compendium Blog of The A.T.TIPSCAST

Best Educational Use of a Wiki- UDLTechToolkit

Best Open PD- Edcamps, open PD that is happy to have SLPs in attendance!

Lifetime Achievement- Special Education Teacher and Mac Genius Meg Wilson

Thanks, and be sure to check out as many nominees as you can!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Blog Awareness Month: Another Bundle of Blogs 4 U

In my previous post, I reminded you about the SLP Blogs Bundle, which you will need to re-subscribe to periodically so that you can view any new blogs added to the bundle in Google Reader.  Recently, I put together an additional and different bundle, the SLP Apps Roundup.  This bundle consists of some SLP and education-related blogs that feature iOS Apps, but also some general app review blogs.  These blogs, such as App Advice (also available as an app on your iOS Device and highlighting the blog's great App Guides and Lists), present many apps, some of which can be "repurposed" for therapy.  You'll need to use your critical thinking to decide if you want all of these blogs, and even more so when downloading apps, but I thought you might find the "Roundup" helpful.  You can subscribe to the Apps Roundup here.

GiggleApps is a great example of a blog that is worth following in this bundle or on its own.  The blog features in-depth reviews of apps for kids and will help you tease out those that might be applicable in therapy.  The mission statement of the blog: "Written by an iPhone loving mom, our goal is to find great apps for kids from toddler to teen. Apps that make you giggle and hopefully teach you something too."

Friday, December 2, 2011

Blog Awareness Month: The New Google Reader and SLP Blogs Bundle, Revisited

I have long been a proponent of using Google Reader to view blogs.  In fact, I will go further than just suggesting it and say that if you are looking at a lot of blogs and not using Google Reader (or an alternative), you probably shouldn't bother since you will be wasting so much time.  If you have a list of blogs you like to visit, it really does not make much sense to bookmark them and visit them individually.  You have no way of knowing whether the blog has posted anything recently, or alternately you will end up missing new posts.  Using the free and easy Google Reader service solves this problem by letting you view all your blogs in one place, and indicating which blogs have new posts. You have access to Google Reader if you have any kind of Google account, such as Gmail or Docs.  To add a blog to Reader, just click Subscribe and paste the URL of the blog, or type the name of the blog to search for its "feed."

Some time ago, I began building a "Bundle" of blogs written by SLPs in order to encourage others in our field to read these folks' contributions to the blogosphere.  There are many great SLPs currently blogging in order to discuss professional issues, resource reviews such as apps, books or websites, session plans, or just their take on life as an SLP.  The SLP Blogs Bundle allows you to subscribe to all these blogs (currently over 40) at once, and you may have already.  However, the Bundle does not refresh in your Reader when I have added new blogs to it. You have to go back and resubscribe, and you are of course welcome to unsubscribe from anyone in the Bundle whose writings you don't find as valuable as others.  They won't know you did it, I swear!

In the last months, a number of new resources have been added to the bundle, so don't miss 'em! Just a few highlights:
Jill Kuzma's Social and Emotional Skills Sharing Site- great ideas and visuals, many pages of resources and links to Pinterest Boards.
The Speech Dudes- really intelligent and funny analyses of topics related to Speech Language Pathology.
The Learning Curve- creative ideas and organizational tips for SLPs.
so to Speak- a very well-written and fun chronicle of SLP grad school.
Activity Tailor- more creative activity ideas for SLPs.
ProjectSLP- reflections on SLP practice.
Megan Panatier Bratti's great resources via her Avocado Tech Facebook Feed.

Again, just a few! There are many more great ones in the bundle...

Below is a video I made that goes through the recent changes to Google Reader, how to use it, and how to access the SLP Blogs Bundle.  Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Blog Awareness Month!

December is Blog Awareness Month on SpeechTechie, a month of posts dedicated to blogs (and blog-related tools) of interest to SLPs!

Blogs, to be honest, have developed a little bit of a bad rap.  Though it was once quite trendy to have a blog, the term "blogger" now has some connotations that aren't so positive: wordiness, self-absorption...but enough about me. What do you think of me? Oh, I lost track of myself there.

from The Lawrence and Julie and Julia Project.

I blame the backlash against blogs at least partially on the film Julie and Julia.  Just about no one liked the whiny Julie blogging parts.

Another factor is the level of activity on "micro-blogging" sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, where people share information in more bite-sized chunks. That's very important, and I get (and share) tons of ideas from participating in these circles, but I definitely think there is something to be said for topic-focused blogs that explore ideas in more depth.

So this month I will be standing up for the blog as a source of information, perspective and, of course, of therapy tools.

I will start with one of my favorites: Zen Habits.  Zen Habits has simple and strong messages about how to deal with life's stresses, of which SLPs certainly have their share! Leo Babauta and his guest posters remind us how to breathe, simplify, focus, live in the moment, and be happy.  The blog has a great "start page" of posts you might want to begin with.