Monday, April 30, 2012

Edcamp Boston!

I attended my second Edcamp Boston Saturday, making it my 3rd official "unconference." Edcamps are really more of a movement than anything, an acknowledgment that we as educators have so much we can learn from each other! The unconference format forgoes pre-set agendas, structured proposals, presentations and PowerPoints in favor of informal sessions run by people who are passionate about education and collaboration.  Each session looks much more like a conversation than an "info dump," and the process of sharing experiences, ideas and resources is just, well, inspiring. You can see the schedule that was formed in real time here.

Both the interior and exterior of the Microsoft NERD (um, New England Research and Development Center) are also inspiring.
I was a bit crispy (as in, burnt) going into Edcamp, it being a very busy season at school and with presentations lately, but I found myself re-energized by the environment and, even more so, the people. I went to a few sessions on iPad facilitated by Liz Davis, learned about iBooks Author and current work in Project-Based Learning, and facilitated a session on QR Codes and Augmented Reality. You can see the notes from my session here on the Edcamp Posterous, which also gives you a great overview of the whole experience.

The day ended with the classic alternative PD session, a "Smackdown." Smackdowns are sharing sessions that do not involve wrestling but rather participants coming front and center to share resources (with a 2-min time limit for each participant).  You can see the list of shared resources here!

Edcamp Boston was a great experience.  Thanks so much to the organizers:


Monday, April 23, 2012

Autism Awareness Month

As April- Autism Awareness Month- draws to a close, I wanted to share a presentation I made this weekend in Florida at NOVA Southeastern University, sponsored by the Florida DOE and the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD). The focus of the presentation was technology resources (web-based and iOS) that are dedicated to or can be "re-purposed" for use with the population of students with autism at various levels of functioning.  One goal of the presentation was to place technology resources in context of intervention programs helpful for this population. Along with Dr. Robin Parker and Dr. Marlene Sotelo, we also ran an informal "App Smackdown" in which participants shared apps that they have found helpful for students with autism.  The presentation is embedded below, and a link to a supporting weblist is here, and the apps shared during the smackdown here.  I hope you find it helpful!

(Google Reader and Email subscribers, please click through on the link to the post in order to see the presentation on the blog):

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Announcing Go-Togethers!

Developing students' semantic abilities is one of my favorite parts of my job! I think words, and the connections between them, are just really fun! Building semantic networks provides students with a stronger vocabulary base, which in turn gives them points of reference as they learn new words. Enter Go-Togethers, an app I helped design along with Rosie Simms for Smarty Ears Apps. Go-Togethers targets identification of word associations as well as expressive naming. When designing the interface for this app, we wanted to utilize more innovative responses in terms of gestures that take advantage of the iPad, iPod Touch, and iPhone's touch screen. For this reason (although a simple tap will also work for students with fine motor difficulties), receptive connections are made by a tap-and-drag, essentially creating a semantic word map for each target.

Each screen allows you time to discuss the associations with students (targeting rationales such as "Yes, a cow goes with milk because milk comes from a cow!")

Likewise, the expressive level allows you (or the student) to tap-and-tally both associated items (e.g. "a cake!" and, optionally, rationales "because eggs are needed to make a cake!") for an open-ended language intervention experience.

Consider Go-Togethers as one "go-to" intervention for your students with word retrieval difficulties (especially for its data-keeping functionality) and for those students who don't do so well on the CELF-4 Word Classes or Word Associations subtests. With 200 target items in 20 categories across two levels of difficulty, the app offers SLPs and other educators (and parents!) a LOT of content to work with. For a full video demonstration, see below!

Go-Togethers Video Tutorial from Sean Sweeney on Vimeo.

I hope you enjoy Go-Togethers.  It was a lot of fun to work on this app!

Disclosure: Author has a contractual relationship with Smarty Ears Apps and receives a portion of the profit of the sales of this app.

Monday, April 9, 2012


CEO2 is an interesting and robust simulation from the UK challenging us to successfully run a company while reducing its carbon dioxide emissions.  I wanted to mention it here because of our proximity to Earth Day, and also because this web-based interactive (Flash-based, so iPad-unfriendly) relates to language skills, curriculum and schematic information that would benefit upper elementary, middle or high school students.

CEO2 first has the player choose an industry- insurance, automotive, chemical or utility. The activity provides a short video about each of the industries which could be reviewed for students, with text structures in mind (what are the lists, sequences, descriptions, cause-effect relationships contained in the video about the industry). The interface is fun and real-world, as the player makes decisions while sitting at the CEO's desk:

The desktop portfolio contains the possible options for the CEO in various categories. Dragging any option to the computer gives more information about it. Dragging it to the "Selected Options" means you have chosen it for the game (with the goal of selecting enough options so that you have spent 75% of your budget). Note that the decoration on each CEO desk, when hovered over with the mouse, presents a whole bunch of idioms related to the situation that you can discuss with students.

In perhaps my favorite aspect of this simulation as an SLP, dragging an option to the phone allows you to "call" two contacts and hear their opinion on the matter.  Information is presented auditorily (so, to provide a good context for listening strategies), but a transcript is provided.

Though complex in terms of the information one has to grapple with, the game is pretty simple.  Select a number of options, click Finalize and see results in terms of one's stock price and carbon dioxide emissions, in an easy-to-read chart.  The activity, as well as promoting environmental awareness, relates to science and social studies curriculum, provides a rich source of vocabulary, and asks students' to comprehend multiple perspectives on an issue.  It would be a great activity to make an accompanying tracking sheet, such that students can simply note the options they choose, the results, and infer reasons why it worked out that way. It certainly is an activity in which an SLP can provide a lot of scaffolding to help bridge students' understanding and use of the concepts involved.

School vacation week is next week in MA- see you soon!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

SLP Apps List Update

Hey folks,

The SLP Apps List on this blog has always been just one of MANY app lists around for SLPs. I always think of it as a good place to tell people to start if they have just bought an iPad.  I was really happy recently to have it mentioned by Judith Kuster in her article for the ASHA Leader on resources to find great apps. Thanks, Judith!

The philosophy behind the list was to keep it open and collaborative for all to edit, but unfortunately it has been messed with one too many times.  I just today took a look at it and someone had deleted humongous sections of it. I don't know why someone would do something like that, really. Hopefully it was an accident.

For this reason, I needed to restore the list to its status on April 1 and remove the open-editing settings. I would still like any SLPs that would like to add apps to the list to be able to do so, you will just need to request access and sign in. From the document, click Share to request access with your Google account (Gmail, Google Apps email) and after I approve it, you can type the description of the app or apps you would like to share right in. I guess unfortunately I have to have people be accountable for their edits.  Too bad!!

Thanks and be sure to request access if you would like it.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Where I'm At...

I think about this time last year, I wrote a career update.  At that time, I was switching from my position as an Instructional Tech Specialist at a middle school in my district of Newton, MA, back to an SLP position at the elementary school level.  So here I am again. It has been a very rewarding year at school and in other aspects of my work life. Interest in my professional development services has been very steady, and in fact, more than I can really handle in the one day a week allotted for those endeavors. In addition, I had the completely unanticipated development (pun intended) of being asked to be part of the team at Smarty Ears Apps, and that exciting work has kept me very busy. We currently have two apps that I have worked on in the app store, another VERY COOL one coming really soon, and more projects on the plate.  It is really much more than a full time job, altogether, and I have had some near head-explosion moments, so it has seemed like the time to make the jump from the public school setting. So here I go.

I am finishing out the school year, and next year I will be taking an expanded role at the private practice where I have worked for the last 10 years, The Ely Center in Newton, MA. There I will be working as the Assistant Program Coordinator focusing on staff support, growing our center (including helping with a new website and forays into social media), consulting with schools, providing professional development, and also, of course, being an SLP! I will still be seeing individual clients and groups, primarily those with language disabilities, executive function deficits, and social cognition difficulties. This will be a part-time gig, and I plan to continue my work for Smarty Ears and the presentations and consultations associated with SpeechTechie Services. Of course, I'll still be writing this blog!

Overall, it's scary but instinct is to follow the opportunities that are presenting themselves, and see where the path goes.

In addition, I wanted to let you know about some other things on my calendar:

I am excited to be writing a few columns for The ASHA Leader this year on using web and mobile apps.  The first one, Tech to Ease IEP Pain, was published last week.

I will be speaking for the CT Speech-Language Hearing Association's Spring Conference on April 13 and at Nova Southeastern University on April 21.

I am doing a two-day series for the Southeastern Mass Educational Collaborative; this is a broader workshop that will include SLPs and other educators interested in iPad applications for diverse learners.

On May 5, I will be doing an "update" workshop on iPad Apps "through a language lens" for the MA Speech-Language Hearing Association.  This one will be really fun and, like the session at Nova, includes an "App Smackdown"- an informal component where all participants can share apps they have found useful in their work.

I am super-psyched to have been accepted to present at the Social Thinking® Provider's Conference in CA in June.  I will be giving the same presentation, Social Apptivities: iPad Apps Aligning with Social Thinking, at "traveling" Social Thinking Providers' conferences in Boston (convenient for me!) and Minneapolis in Fall 2012

Phew! After mid-May it calms down...and it will be summer! Thanks, all, for your continued support and loyal readership.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Painting with Time- Climate Change

I previously wrote about the Painting with Time app as a great way to target temporal concepts, causal relationships and sentence structures, and descriptive language. The folks at Red Hill Studios have recently released another FREE app (iPad only), providing a context for language intervention as we approach Earth Day.  Painting with Time- Climate Change "lets your fingers reveal the dramatic ways our world is changing from rising temperatures." Through the innovative (yet surprisingly simple) interface, you can explore 17 different picture sequences that reveal effects of glacier movement (and disappearance) and extreme weather.  Thanks to Jeremy Legaspi for pointing out this important app sequel to me.

The Mississippi River in 2010 (top) and 2011, with effects of flooding
Painting with Time- Climate Change would be appropriate to use with upper elementary, middle- and high school students who can understand the concepts involved.  It has a number of applications for language therapy:

Language Lens:
-Picture scenes can be used to target gaps in students' geographic understanding and the categories of continents, oceans, and geographic features.
-Each sequence is accompanied by an informational paragraph that describes the scene and its sequential and cause-effect relationships involved; these would be good to map with a graphic organizer.
-The varying ranges of time involved in each sequence are contexts to develop time-lining skills and general temporal understanding, with perhaps relation to other world events.

You can find some other tech-based activities to target language skills in relation to the values of Earth Day here and here.

Monday, April 2, 2012

April Fool!

I am not a huge fan of April Fool's tricks, but I do enjoy Google's famous annual pranks. They used to have just one or two, but they have begun to announce a range of silly innovations each April 1, one for each of their products.

This video is a compilation of four of the video "announcements" from this year:

Exploring Google's April Fool's pranks can make for a good language lesson!

Language Lens:
-The video provides a good context to explore descriptive schema and describe each of the four products: Chrome, Maps, Gmail, and YouTube.  Kids will know a lot about them, and you can scaffold their description of the tools' function, associations, and sequence of how they are used.  Teaching expository text structures in this way can generalize so that students can use them in other contexts.
-This video lends itself to discussion of social use of humor and using a 5-Point Scale of "What's Funny?" There's a great one in The Social Times, but you can easily make one with your kids, the variables being WHO thinks a joke is funny (progressively fewer people, with a 5 being "no one"), and progressively increasing offensive content/stereotyping/swearing/potential to harm others, and potential consequences. We noticed that the Google Maps prank veered toward the stereotyping side, with only people of Asian descent being depicted as interested in the "new item."
-Scaffold the students' understanding of the commonality in the pranks- all present tech innovations that are actually a step backward, or more than a step.