Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Animonths: Domo Animate!

To continue the theme of highlighting resources that use animation as a tool for targeting speech and language goals, for the next few posts I am going to focus on the Go! Animate websites, starting with Domo Animate.  These webtools (Flash-based, so not available on iPad) allow you to use a simple interface to create short, animated movies.  Domo Animate (so named because it utilizes some anime characters such as Domo, but also has other character choices) is a great place to start for its simplicity and particular appropriateness for younger students. Go! Animate refers users to this site, which provides a moderated experience geared toward younger kids. You can use Domo Animate to make an animation with characters, setting, movement, facial expressions and word/thought bubbles (no speech).  It therefore is a great tool to target narrative and social skills/ Social Thinking™, as well as make a movie about any curriculum topic.

I made this short video demonstrating how to use Domo Animate (email subscribers, please click through to the post). Enjoy!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

SpeechTechie Hits the Terrible Twos!

Two years ago today, I published my first post here! I can't have imagined what starting this blog would bring to my life- so many great connections with wonderful professionals.  Thank you all for continuing to read my tech ramblings!

I thought I would re-post my first effort, revolving around Google Earth, because I realize I still really believe in this tool. Nothing created for the iPad yet reaches its potential for using geography as a teaching and language visualization context. I may do a Google Earth and Sketchup month sometime and elaborate on this, but for now here's the post, and if you are interested, check out my guide to Google Earth, a document I compiled for a few workshops I have taught on the tool.

For my inaugural post, I want to highlight Google Earth as a great technology resource for students with language impairments. Google Earth provides a very visual and interactive interface for students to explore regions they are learning about in the classroom. Not only for social studies and geography, Google Earth can be used to illuminate integral literary settings such as Copenhagen in Number the Stars. A Google Earth tour consists of a series of "placemarks," pre-marked geographic viewpoints seen from a particular point of view. Placemarks can also contain descriptions of the location and their significance. In my experience, Google Earth is hugely motivating for students and can provide a great visual review of abstract concepts and language-based curriculum they are at risk to miss in the classroom setting.  They especially love the zooming and 3D-Buildings aspects of Google Earth, which can be emphasized in a tour. I created United States regional tours based on my students' social studies series. Social Studies Alive: Regions of our Country. Each tour gives a visual representation of the landmarks highlighted in the text. I was really excited to have it be adopted district-wide; you can download them and view them in Google Earth (after you install the program). Don't miss the many "blue square" photos of the locations that provide further visual review, located in the "Panoramio" moderated layer under Geographic Web. Link to download GE regional tours

Language Lens:
  • Using the GE tours would provide students with a visual context to review and describe curriculum content.
  • Landmarks are categorized by region and would lend themselves to being reviewed in conjunction with listing or describing graphic organizers (such as those contained in MindWing's Thememaker).
  • Review of placemark text can provide a context for listening and comprehension strategies (visualization, connection, questioning, etc) and response to wh-questions.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Animonths: DoInk, Food for Thought

If you were intrigued by my post on Scratch yesterday, but have committed to being an iPad-only kind of person, I mentioned there was an analogue app.  Now, don't get me wrong, neither Scratch nor DoInk, the subject of this post, are really simple tools.  They are in the realm of object-oriented programming and vector animation, respectively, so I wouldn't recommend them unless you are comfortable stretching your techie boundaries. That said, Scratch's instruction cards make it pretty accessible. DoInk is a bit of a different matter, but I thought I would point it out and maybe over the coming months, those interested can share their experiences.

DoInk ($4.99) is an animation creation app that allows you to create basic flip book-like or more complex compositions.  You can draw your own objects, use a shape menu and import items from an online library.  Let's first look at what is possible with DoInk:

Interested? I think that video does a good job of establishing DoInk as a viable tool when viewed through a Language Lens to use animation to develop vocabulary, concepts, storytelling and exposition skills, and all the social interaction that would be involved when creating a project with a group.

DoInk provides two pretty clear tutorials on how to get started:

I do wish DoInk would come out with the kind of simple step-by step resources provided by Scratch's "Cards," but I DoThink it is worth exploring.  Let me know your thoughts, I'll be trying it out with some kids to target their classroom vocabulary lists.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Animonths: Revisiting Scratch!

I apologize to email and Google Reader subscribers that earlier today I sent out a blank post.  Something happened when I tried to edit this post on iPad, and then published it.  You can't, as far as I know, get a post back when you send it out! Good thing I don't often type swear words in my posts for fun and accidentally publish them. Anyway, swear words could possibly be heard when I published the blank post.  So, a re-written (and briefer) post on Scratch:

Scratch is a free application designed at MIT to get kids interested in computer programming.  It was previously featured on this blog in the context of engaging tough-to-motivate kids, and I wanted to revisit it for Animonths! I thought of Scratch again recently because of a student I have, a private school kiddo who does not receive services at school, and is not always too happy to have to come see me. Services provided out of the school environment can be tough because of all the extra travel time and transition, etc.  There were reports from school of difficulty in processing directions and getting started with assignments, and I didn't want to do the old "Following Written Directions" kind of worksheets- they wouldn't have flown at all. Instead, Scratch allowed us to create small animated projects while working with written directions and using strategies (re-reading, etc) to produce the animations.  This is possible because Scratch has their own web-published sets of directions for basic animations, which they call "Scratch Cards" (fun double-meaning there too, at least if you are in the gambling-obsessed Northeast).

The "Scratch Cards" outline a number of steps to produce basic animations.
You will want to print these out in color, as the different "codes" you drag in are color-coded.

These lessons turned out to be a lot of fun, as my client felt excited to have produced a product at the end of the following directions activity. Once you complete the task on the card, you can also problem-solve with the student how to modify the code and make different things happen. If your student has a particular interest in technology, you can also have the satisfaction of interesting him or her to a tool which is ultimately vocational; Scratch is based on the concepts of real object-oriented programming.

Again, Scratch is a free download for your Mac or PC (not iPad, though see tomorrow for an analogue).  Check it out and hope you enjoy.  For further information, you can explore the ScratchEd site.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Animonths: Toontastic's Birthday Bonus Sale

If you didn't already know, Toontastic for iPad is one of my favorite apps and, I think, one of the easiest and best ways to use animation in speech-language therapy. Toontastic is essentially a digital storytelling app created in response to its development team's (Launchpad Toys, a studio with a great educational lens) observation that Kindergarten is way fun and kids get to play quite a bit.  Then, they get to first grade and that pretty much fades away and they are expected to "write stories," with no bridge between the two.

Toontastic is designed to scaffold that transition, by providing kids with digital "toys" and "playsets" (characters and settings) and the ability to record the screen as you simultaneously move them around and speak narration and dialogue.  The app helps kids structure their stories according to the grammar of setup/conflict/challenge/ climax/resolution, which aligns well with other versions of story grammar (actually the one I use).

Toontastic lets you make your own characters and settings as well through a drawing tool, but right now they are offering a FANTASTIC deal through the end of February. Purchase the "Birthday Bonus" and receive all available playsets AND "all future toys" for the cost of $9.99*. Now, Toontastic itself is free, and comes with a number of playsets, but having all these available to you greatly extends the context and usefulness of the app.  Current offerings include:

History: create stories about the signing of the Declaration of Independence with the addition of Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin, Suffrage with Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul and Hope Goodrich, and Civil Rights with Rosa Parks (yes, there is a bus in another playset) MLK Jr and Thurgood Marshall. Great curriculum connections!
Wildlife: use habitats and animal interactions on a savanna, arctic scene and rainforest.
Monsters: Did you ever see my book review of Kat Kong? Pair that book with these playsets!

Among many others, including sports scenes, real-world schema and play skills in the "Town" and "Pets" themes, I could go on and on...

I hope that many SLPs will take advantage of this offering and target vocabulary, sentence formulation, concepts, narrative, curriculum contexts, articulation and fluency, and social and play skills using this app and its playsets, which more or less form a creative suite.  I just saw a tweet about this great book, Social Rules for Kids- here's an idea: make animations that apply each rule!

*This totally sounds like a sales pitch, but I think it's important to state that I wasn't compensated for this post, even with a code! I'm just that enthusiastic about this app...

Monday, February 6, 2012

Google Glitch

Hi Folks-

There is a little glitch on the Google Side if you are looking to subscribe to the SLP Blogs Bundle.  The page doesn't allow you to activate the subscription.  I made this little video for you as there is a workaround if you hadn't already subscribed and were interested in doing so, or if you wanted to resubscribe to catch any new blogs that were added.  Sorry for the trouble- it's an issue that has been reported to Google, so not much I can do about it.  Hopefully it will be fixed soon and I can delete this!

Animonths: Speaking of Sheep...

Here's a great wordless narrative video for you! Have your students provide the words...Probably it would be best for older kids given the quick underwear scene, but use your best judgement. Happy story mapping!

Sheeped Away from Junaid Chundrigar on Vimeo.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Animonths! Shaun the Sheep: Netflix and Home Sheep Home Apps

This post continues Animonths, a two-month focus on animation resources on SpeechTechie. Shaun the Sheep is a terrific series from Aardman Animation, the UK studio that brought us Wallace and Gromit, among other gems.  Their productions are great resources for targeting language because they are mostly wordless, providing an opportunity for kids to talk out the story.  In addition, the large eyes and faces of the characters, plus the fact that the stories are really told through nonverbal actions, let us target inferential, nonverbal and social reasoning in a context that is funny and motivating for kids (Michelle Garcia Winner of Social Thinking often recommends Wallace and Gromit for lessons on "thinking with your eyes" to search for nonverbal clues).

Shaun the Sheep, a series of animated shorts depicting the humorous events on a British farm, is pretty much entirely wordless. Each episode therefore is a wealth of inferential talking points about what the characters see, know, think, guess, plan, and on and on...  Shaun is available on DVD (and you can find some copyright-violating clips on YouTube but I didn't say so, and don't count on them being there when you go back to find them), but can also be accessed by your laptop or iPad if you have a worthwhile ($7.99 monthly in US) Netflix streaming account.  Each Shawn episode--they have 2 seasons in one collection on Netflix-- is broken up into three 6-minute stories, many of which would make a great language lesson.  If you watch a 6-minute clip with your group, kids can usually tolerate/benefit from 1 or 2 stopping points for discussion and summarization, and then you can complete a story map or other post-activity.

You'll have to explore for yourself, but two starting clips I can recommend:

Season 1, Episode 1: The Bull- Shaun inadvertently angers the local bull, and his issues with the herd are complicated when the pigs play a plank and add some bull-maddening red paint to the situation.

Season 2, Episode 2: In the Doghouse- A passing truck ejects a grossly messy sheep who, when bathed, turns out to be a love match for Shaun.  Shaun and his love interest attempt to evade the rest of the herd to get just a little time together, and finally all conspire to keep her from being returned home.

The context of Shaun can be extended toward a nice cooperative group problem solving and verbal reasoning activity with the use of the Home Sheep Home free animated webgame or iPhone/iPad app ($.99, there is also a Part 2). This game has 20 levels, though you may just want to try a few, across which your students can work together to figure out which objects, actions, and sequence therein are required to get the three sheep past a given obstacle.  The game is slow-paced, and though a timer is displayed on screen there is no time limit.  It is conducive to turn-taking as on each level, kids could play the role of a particular sheep or however you help them structure it.  Lots of great causal and conditional language can be elicited as you verbally plan and review strategies!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Animonths on SpeechTechie: PBS Kids Channel

For awhile now, I have wanted to do a series of posts on resources that utilize animation for speech and language therapy, so I decided that February and March will be Animonths on this blog! I have so many things I wanted to write about in this category and February is a) short and b) a month in which we have a week-long vacation in which I probably will not post, so I figured it could stretch across March as well. I thought about referring to that as the month of "Farch," but that just sounds unpleasant.  So, Animonths!

Why is animation a topic worth highlighting? Well, first of all we know that animation is attention-grabbing eye nutrition for our kids.  I did not say "eye candy" because in my opinion, animation can be used to present contexts that help our children to grow in their use of language.  In a way, animation is language, as it conveys movement (verbs) within and across spaces (concepts) for different reasons (causality) to tell stories (narrative) that reflect relationships between characters (social interaction).  So across these months, we will have posts that show how different animated or animation-producing resources, accessed through technology, of course, can be put to use to engage students and address speech and language goals.

To start, did you know that PBS Kids has a YouTube channel? This curated channel contains all kinds of short story- and information-based segments from PBS shows! Use Clifford to work on telling stories, or Sid the Science Kid to connect with curriculum content.

YouTube blocked at school? You can still take advantage of it.  Click on any video on PBS Kids while at home.  Highlight and Copy the URL (web address) as seen in blue below:

Go to  Paste the URL in the search bar.  Don't click that big red button that says Download- that's just an ad.  

Wait a short time and see the video files that are available for download (colored links). Pick the MP4 one- usually all computers have a program that will play an MP4. Download that file and you will be able to play it on a school computer (email it to yourself- can even view on iPad that way -or transfer using a flash drive).

I look forward to sharing more resources during Animonths!