Saturday, January 28, 2012

ATIA Orlando 2012 Presentation

For participants as well as all others, I wanted to share my presentation I am giving at ATIA Orlando this morning.  The presentation is called Links to Content and talks specifically about resources that make curriculum content more interactive and visual and, therefore, more accessible to students with language and other difficulties.  This has always been one of my passions, as I think SLPs (and others) can play a big role in helping students with "entry points" to abstract curriculum topics, and that both web interactives and now mobile apps can provide those accessible (and fun!) contexts.  Here is the link to the presentation, and here is the weblist. In general the apps are identified as apps in the presentation (and have square images!) and you can find those in the App Store, not on the weblist.  When using the weblist, be aware that if you are not a diigo member and signed in, it will bring you to a diigo overlay page when clicking on each link.  Click on the green link at the top of the page to visit the actual resource.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


There have been a number of "Facebook emulators" that allowed you to create profile pages and posts for a fictional or historical person, but's Fakebook, seems to be the easiest to use, and I am also glad to see that it has stuck around (some of these have been a bit ethereal). Kids are obviously "into" Facebook, and even elementary students would be excited to create a fake profile, having seen siblings and parents use the site.  What you create with Fakebook, to be clear, is a static page with text, images and links- it is not a page that others can post on and interact with, i.e. not a real social networking profile.  So don't be scared.  Take Fakebook for what it is:

-An opportunity to use an exciting, motivating, and 21st century communication context to target language skills.
-A place to sequence/describe the events of a character's life and associate image and video links.
-A context to explore character perspectives (and multiple perspectives, as you can have other characters' respond).

You could use Fakebook to make a profile for a book character or figure from classroom content (maybe even an inanimate object such as a tree?) It's really quite easy to use (especially if you know your way around Facebook), and there is a video tutorial here!  The site has a save/edit function, so that you can return to your fake profile later and continue to work on it (you enter in a password when you save, and the site gives you a special URL where the profile is located).

I made this mini-profile of the Pigeon in just a few minutes:

Friday, January 20, 2012


MadPad is an app that has received a lot of press in 2011 and was available free for some weeks as the Starbucks App of the Month (I do occasionally wander into Starbucks); the app is a creative outlet for "remixing your life." Essentially, what you can do with MadPad is download or create "soundboards" for your iPad or smaller iDevice (there are different versions, MadPad HD is the iPad one, priced at $2.99, the iPhone/iPod version is currently $.99 and adequate even on the iPad for the purposes I describe below). I find myself struggling to describe what this app actually does, so check out the video demo of creating and playing a "set" below.

That car set actually comes with the app and inspired me to tell you about it.  The creation of sets is as simple as it looks within the demo (note, not so simple on the cameraless iPad 1), and there are also "hundreds" of sets you can download easily through the app, including sound/vid combos within a grocery store, arcade, train, coffee shop, and zoo.  How could you use MadPad in speech and language therapy?

Language Lens:

  • At its core, MadPad is a dynamic and multisensory way to present items in categories or break wholes into their parts.  Think of the car demo above and the parts demonstrated: hood, door, window, tire, handle, keys, ignition, emergency brake, glove compartment, horn, brakes. Use the available sets or make your own, which would be a...
  • Great functional and pragmatic project for a group.
  • MadPad aligns well with curriculum areas including science units on the 5 Senses.
  • The items in sets could also be easily mined for articulation targets.
If you end up creating a set, please let me know!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Draw that Habitat!

I love resources that provide enough material to allow for repetition of activities- our kids benefit not only from trying things more than once but also from generalizing to other contexts.  When a topic is real-life and relatable to curriculum, even better! Take the topic of animal habitats- how "Speechie" is it? Well, habitats can be described in detail, visualized, have different categories of animals living in them, experience cycles/sequences based on weather and climate, and of course the relationship between animals and habitats is linked to cause and effect and conditional language (if something changed in the habitat, then...)

Take a look at PBS Kids' Go's Draw that Habitat! This resource is linked to the PBS Kids Fetch series, which incidentally has an amazing free app that uses augmented reality to target counting and addition skills. Draw that Habitat! challenges kids to create a habitat for an imaginary animal for whom a few targeted characteristics are provided:

Draw that Habitat! has its own art pad (which is Flash-based, so non-iPad friendly) for kids to draw the picture and submit after you create an account.  Submitting provides the extra rationale of "publishing" one's work, often powerfully motivating, but you will probably have to set realistic expectations about work being recognized by the site (I have no idea how many submissions they get).

The other aspect of Draw that Habitat that makes this a great Project-Based or Theme-Based Learning kind of site is that previous months' animals and habitats are featured on the Gallery page.  This provides a great resource to set the context and provide examples for students.  You can use the examples for picture description activities, read the rationales for why the examples were chosen for the animal, and even have the kids evaluate and "rate" the submitted drawings.  So many language opportunities! You could also use previous animal descriptions (the "About this Animal") for additional practice in constructing habitats.  

Although you cannot use the site's art pad and submit for previous months' animals, this is a good place to use traditional drawing materials or an app such as Doodle Buddy.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Painting With Time

Painting with Time is a terrific FREE iPad (only) app that allows you to interact with a pre-loaded series of images in order to show the effects of time.  For example, Spring Comes to Boston, one of the available "time sequences" can be "painted" with the finger to reveal the changes that take place over the Spring months, at 3, 5, and 7 weeks.  You can also "slice" pictures in various ways to reveal changes at different points in time.

The center of this picture of Boston Common and Public Garden is "painted" with the 7 weeks paint, while the perimeter shows the scene at the beginning of Spring.  As a picture description activity, Painting with Time also gives you the opportunity to develop vocabulary and conceptual language.
The sequences in the gallery vary over different levels of time, from seasons to months, weeks, minutes and even a "beginning/middle/end" sequence with a mural and ice sculpture. I especially like the Messy Room sequence, showing the stages of cleaning up a teen's room at Start/15 minutes/30 minutes.  Kids with language and executive functioning difficulties have trouble with time concepts, and Painting with Time is a nice, no risk tool for you to use to target these skills. Additionally, causals and past/future tenses can be elicited when you discuss the scenes with students and make predictions about what it will look like after they paint. Painting with Time is essentially a picture description activity with a really fun twist!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Crayola Create & Color

Coloring sure is fun for kids, but it can be too time-consuming within speech and language sessions (unless it's carefully structured).  However, what if you could use a session to help students create a coloring page that they can complete at home?

You can do exactly that with Crayola Create & Color.  This is a super-cool FREE site kids can use to combine Backgrounds, Pictures (i.e. associated or silly items inserted into the background), and word/thought balloons.  The process of creating the printable coloring pages is a great context to develop spatial concepts, proposition use (for an App-lication of this type of activity, see Smarty Ears' House of Learning), description and story grammar.  Sending the pages home would be a nice opportunity to generalize and further practice skills with parents. How psyched will kids be when they tell their parents they created their own coloring book?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

InsideStory Flashcards, and Images for Vocabulary Development

InsideStory Flashcards pegs their site as "the world's most interesting way to learn words." It is indeed a nice repository of free printable flash cards with interesting images that illustrate vocabulary words.  About 1000 of these are available to us free through the site, and for a reasonable cost, the site sells boxed sets of vocab flashcards with "Cats & Dogs" and "Animals" themes for human (well, and certainly animal) vocabulary such as malodorous.

In terms of vocabulary, I am actually a big believer in the Isabel Beck school of thought that kids need Tier 2 Vocab (see all the words on the above page as examples) taught in context and repeatedly.  As a result, I think given our service delivery models that it's really tough for vocab to be our sole responsibility, and it is best targeted in consultation with teachers and paraprofessionals.  So really, I think that InsideStory Flashcards is more a great model of what you can do using images on the web than a resource in itself.  For example, look at how the site approaches the creative and contextual selection of an image for the word frolic, above (the rolling-around polar bear).  One could take any vocab word being targeted in the classroom and either pre-select or, even better if you can, have students pick and save images (click here to see how) for their vocabulary words (as this would involve the higher level skill of evaluation).

Think of trying a search like this for a vocab word like gregarious. See that SafeSearch Dropdown up there in the upper right?  Make sure if you are using Google Images with students to set SafeSearch to "Strict" in order to avoid any embarrassing moments.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Workshop Opportunity- Boston Area

Hi Folks-

I will be repeating my Links to Language Workshop I held this summer with EDCO Collaborative (similar to the 1-day I have done regionally and in other places recently) on February 3, 2012 in Newton, MA, with an expanded online component that will allow participants an optional graduate credit through Framingham State College.  The details are in this flyer- you should plan to call EDCO to register if you are not in a member district. Hope to see some of you there!

On Email

Technology can be wonderful and enhance our work and our lives.  Technology also has a negative side.  The ubiquity of our "connection" to each other on a personal and professional level can lead us to be somewhat disconnected from what is happening right in front of us, in the present moment (to be all Zen about it).

I am speaking specifically about the issue of our school/work email. After making various efforts to curtail my checking of school email off-hours over the years, and failing, I am several months in to a successful resolution: to limit my email-checking when not physically at school. "Limit" sounds vague and resolutions should be specific, but more on that in a minute.

Why do I think this resolution is important? Let's face it, our jobs can be wicked stressful (there's my Boston comin' out).  We have all kinds of demands placed on us.  It can burn you the heck out.  My experience in the past with checking email after hours at home is, I am sure, a common one.  Once in awhile, an email will be there that stresses me out..  Fact is, when at home, there is really nothing I can do about that email.  The problem will inevitably need to be resolved at school, via traditional face-to-face communication.  What is the sense in knowing and obsessing about it, which takes me away from what is going on around me: opportunities to relax, enjoy leisure pursuits, spend time with family and friends, write this blog.

Another reason that I am seeking to avoid checking email when not at work is that it is not really expected, and shouldn't be. I am a public school SLP.  This has several implications, one being that it is very, very, very rare that there is an emergency that involves me.  If there is, my school generally reaches me by phone.

I have discussed these ideas before, and my doing so again serves the function of a) further committing to myself that I will keep this resolution and b) resurfacing a concept I feel strongly about but which is buried under heaps of other blog posts.

So, what am I doing about being "on Email?"
  • When I arrive home from school each day I remind myself not to click that little FirstClass icon in the doc. I use self-talk such as "there will be plenty of time to check that when you arrive at school tomorrow morning."
  • I am getting to school a little earlier so that I have an empty and quiet place to respond to emails.
  • I am trying to keep email communications really short and to the point.  When I know an email is bringing up an Issue, I try to go talk to/call the person and if I can't at that time, I send a quick acknowledgement and a "let's chat later" kind of message. 
  • Leading from that point, we of all people should know that email and other written communication can lack the nonverbals that soften a difficult message, and it therefore should not be used to convey that kind of message.  It often just complicates the matter!
  • Using an email schedule during the school day is also a good plan.  I have a graduate student intern I will be observing part of the time, and it's tempting to be on email during her sessions.  It's better to be present and engaged so that she can get the most out of her placement experience, and to better service my students.
  • Email is still a great medium for asynchronous communication and sharing resources and tips with staff.  It's important to keep in mind that teachers are hugely busy and we shouldn't expect them to take too many "action items" from email; you'll usually need to facilitate and help them get done what needs to get done.  I feel lucky that I can at least go to the bathroom between sessions.  Classroom teachers can't!
  • I check email once over each (long) weekend.  This may seem to be a contradiction of what I have resolved to do, but I am a .8 employee and therefore am not at school on Fridays.  I don't want to be "off" email 3 days a week.  I do limit the length of the email session and use the "mark as unread" function to remind myself to deal with a few emails when I get back to work.
  • I have deleted the FirstClass app on my iPhone and iPad.  At first it seemed to be cool to have them, but it has only really led to no good. It's not really that easy to type email on those devices anyway!  And again, there is not and should not be any expectation that a public school SLP be accessible on email via your mobile device.

Here's what it looked like when I deleted my FirstClass email from my iPhone.  Jiggly mode, put to good use.

So what are my results so far?  Well, first of all, no one has complained about my response to email communications, and I don't feel like I am really falling behind, at least on things that email helps with! This is a new job for me and the transition has come with its expected share of anxiety, but I really think that this resolution has helped to remove myself from each work day and be present at home.  This is not to say that I am not doing work at home, doing research to plan sessions, which is one of those creative aspects of my job that I really enjoy (and why I write here). That is the kind of work that really never involves drama.

How about you? What strategies do you have to manage work email? Any tips?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Correction on iPad Image Save

Sorry, folks, way for me to start off the new year, but I gave incorrect info in my earlier post on image save.  Wanted to re-post for people who receive email updates- here is the link to the corrected post, much apologies if I caused any confusion or wasted time with my ineffective tapping-and-holding-related error.

Essential Skill for SLPs: Saving Images from the Web on iPad (UPDATE)

I have previously emphasized here that being able to save images from the web is an incredibly useful skill.  Besides providing visual cues for our students, images serve as material to make all kinds of great projects using various webtools and apps.  It used to be that this looked a certain way on iPad, but then Google has been changing a lot of their apps' "look and feel," including installing a sort of "cover flow" interface with Google Images.  So it came to pass that I was recently in front of a whole crowd of people demonstrating how to save an image on iPad, and it all of a sudden didn't work at all like I thought it would! This is more than OK. It is great to model technology (and other) failures in front of other people (thanks Meg Wilson for that way of thinking).  It puts them at ease, lets them laugh at you a bit, and shows that tech problems can usually be solved with some deep breathing, tinkering, or a quick search.

[EDIT] In a way, this is a double-failure, because I thought the process of saving images worked in a whole new way post-"Cover Flow," but in reality it's pretty much the same and I just wasn't tapping-and-holding correctly, in front of an audience OR when I was writing this post.  I guess I am less a fan of double-failures, it seems a little too much, no?  I apologize to anyone who saw an earlier version of this post, was confused by my error, and wasted time as a result! Here are the steps- btw I made these in a jiffy using the great iPad app Skitch from Evernote.  I'll have to write about that later!

Note that this is the way to save images in Safari. I heard from reader Jeanne T, an AT Consultant and SLP, and also the very helpful reader who pointed out my earlier error, that this process does not work when using the Google Search app, and I just confirmed that. So when you need images, use Safari.  Thanks Jeanne!!

On this screen you can also sweep right or left to move to other images, as in "Cover Flow"