Thursday, December 26, 2013

Dr. Panda's Bus Driver

The Dr. Panda series continues to produce fun apps with educational possibilities. Specifically, the series of apps (and I need to write about the others) provides a context for exploring different settings and situations in the real world. Though made of "mini games," the apps are slow-paced and provide plenty of moments for breaking away from the screen and discussing what is going on. The slow pace also lends itself to taking turns and use with groups. Like other play-based apps, they also can serve as a context to rehearse a play scheme and then act it out with real toys, practicing play and language skills in the process. Think of the language and executive functioning skills involved with planning a real "bus route" with a play bus, people, and whatever you want to use to mark the route.

Dr. Panda's Bus Driver ($2.99) allows you to drive a bus through a randomly-generated (and beautifully rendered) world of winding roads through a mountainside community. You can't crash, so don't worry. The main action of the game involves picking up and dropping up passengers, controlling your speed over speed bumps, and engaging in mini games such as washing or painting your bus. As the game proceeds, you also have choices about which turns to take.

Language Lens:

-Passengers are "picked up" from different community spots, providing an option to slow down or stop and discuss the actions associated with the locations.

-Road signs prominent throughout the play are a good context to develop spatial concepts, also targeted in the maneuvering of the bus and other apparatus and selection of seats for the passengers.

-Consider pairing this app with Google Earth, as the Street View function can make for a fun "ride" through your students' own community with all the language involved.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

When apps go away, be creative!

I wrote about an app some time ago, and it is one of my favorite apps to revisit during this season of giving (even though Hanukah and Christmas were quite far apart this year), so I wanted to mention it again. The Gift Wrap App was used to "wrap" any image from your camera roll, and allow someone to "unwrap." It therefore can be used for a play and "sharing imagination" activity (see the work of Social Thinking®) to target a variety of language objectives, as well as social behaviors around receiving gifts. It also was a nice app to use to expand your comfort level in quickly saving and using images within apps.

Here's the thing: it's no longer available in the U.S. Store, as I discovered when I sat down to write this post. Crap! Though I have it on my iPad, you can't get it, at least for now.

I couldn't find anything else like it!

EDIT: Rachel Smith on Twitter (@lancslassrach) alerted me to the free Wrapped app (works better on iPad). It's a little less slick but serves the same purpose/features (see below)

but when I sat and thought about its process and features:

1. Save a photo of a gift using Safari
2. Add it to the app (or have student do steps 1-2) so it is "hidden"
3. Practice all the verbal and nonverbal behaviors that go with a gift exchange

...I realized that All4MyChild's Bag Game ($1.99, also available in the excellent Social Adventures app) could be used in just the same way! Just save the pic to the camera roll in Safari and choose "Hide Photo." Notice my racetrack pic on the camera roll.

The wrapping may be simple, and you can opt to skip the guessing game, but the idea is the same. The receiver can pinch to open the gift, and there you go!

Language Lens:
-Use this app to target the concept of "People Files" (per Social Thinking, also well explored in Thinking About You, Thinking About Me and the new Superflex Takes on One-Sided Sid, Un-Wonderer and the Team of Unthinkables), the expected knowledge we accumulate about others and use as a basis for interaction.
-Have kids use descriptive language and causals while selecting the photo from Google Images.
-Target verbal and nonverbal interactions while one child "gives" the gift to another by handing over the iPad, and on the receiving side as well.
-This activity also pairs well with Braidy/SGM® Character Maps about what we know about another person- likes and dislikes, as well as the Incredible 5-Point Scale. I created a 5-Point Scale of Gift Receiving with my students:

Common Core Connection:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.2.5 Create audio recordings of stories or poems; add drawings or other visual displays to stories or recounts of experiences when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.2.6 Produce complete sentences when appropriate to task and situation in order to provide requested detail or clarification.

Happy Holidays to you all!

Want to give me a gift? Vote for me for Best EdTech/Resource Sharing Blog in the 2013 Edublog Awards!

Click on the link above. Find "Speechtechie" and click on the arrow up button in lower left.
Sign in to with Facebook, Twitter or Google. You can "skip" letting listly post for you.
You haven't voted yet. Click the arrow up button again in my "rectangle." Now you've voted.
Voting is open until 12/18. Please also support other SLPs in the running. You can vote for all of us, even multiple resources in a category, but only once each. Thanks!

Friday, December 6, 2013

SLPs Make Great Showing (AGAIN) among 2013 Edublog Finalists- VOTE!

The finalists for the 2013 Edublog Awards were just announced, and voting is now open. The Edublog Awards is an annual initiative to promote the value of social media in education and share some great resources.  Speech-language-related blogs and resources again are well-represented among this year's finalists, so I would encourage you to go explore and vote. This year the voting is being done through, which you can sign into with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+ accounts. You can vote for more than one favorite in each category (apparently you can only vote once, however) until Wednesday 12/18. The voting is truly live until the ceremony, as you can see where the candidates rank, so don't let your favorites flounder. Vote 'em up!

The Speech-Language (and Related) Folks in each category, go to This Link to vote. I am not going to link each resource as they are linked on the voting site, but these are all great resources to add to Feedly.

Best Individual Blog- Speech Peeps, Chapel Hill Snippets, Speech Adventures, If Only I Had Superpowers, PrAACtical AAC, Playing with Words 365

Best Group Blog- Speechie Freebies, ASHAsphere

Best New Blog- Rock Chalk Speech Talk, SLPs for Change, Speechy Musings

Best EdTech/Resource Sharing Blog- ahem, SpeechTechie, PrAACtical AAC, Speechy Musings

Most Influential Blog Post- The Speech Dudes' "There's no such thing as a free app, so get over it and pony up!", Busy Bee Speech's "Dear Teacher...Love, your SLP"

Best Twitter Hashtag- #slpeeps, #atchat

Best Podcast- A.T.TIPSCAST, Edceptional, Teach Me To Talk with Laura and Friends

Best Educational Wiki- UDL Tech Toolkit

Best Mobile App- ATEval2Go

Lifetime Achievement- Caroline Bowen, Jenn Alcorn

Vote away- thanks for all your support and I feel so honored to be nominated myself! Please, if I forgot any speech-language people, let me know in a comment, it's all a bit confusing to navigate.

Disclosure: author assisted in development of ATEval2Go app and continues to receive a small royalty related to the app (but support Chris Bugaj and Barbara Fernandes and vote!)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

What can we do with a blank slate?

Many of our students need visuals. For these visual supports we often go to paper, whiteboards (I love to have some small ones handy), and now, apps. All of these methods work well for a quick sketch that supports an idea, a concept, a vocabulary word, a relationship. Technology can provide us access to more detailed visuals in the form of saved images, and can take this blank slate and add features such as dynamic annotation and voiceover.

One such tech-based blank slate is Educreations Interactive Whiteboard. I have been working with a small private school on integrating iPads in their curriculum, and we chose this app as one to start with. Teachers are often tempted to use only apps that are filled with content; these engage students, for sure, but I am a big fan of working with students in a process to create, using the classroom content as a context. This process tends involves more planning, collaboration, and of course, language than does the use of content-based apps (which of course can be leveraged in their own way). Recently I made a short(ish) tutorial on Educreations that I thought I would share here:

Educreations is one in a genre that includes the free ShowMe and Screenchomp, and also paid apps such as Explain Everything and Doodlecast Pro. The tutorial above also includes a view of Flickr Creative Commons and how to save photos from that resource, which is important to consider in using Educreations. Though you CAN just save Google Images and use them in an Educreations project, because this app saves to the web, you SHOUD NOT due to copyright issues (that process is OK to use if the saved photo will stay on your iPad for instructional purposes and not be republished to the web). If you save photos from Flickr Creative Commons, a process that just involves a few extra taps and a statement of where the images came from (see this link for a step-by-step), you are following copyright guidelines. Of course you can skirt all that by using your own drawings and images, or using one of the paid apps in this genre, such as Explain Everything or Doodlecast Pro, that allow you to save to the Camera Roll rather than the web.

So, what can you do with this kind of app?

What other ways have you used Educreations? Let us know in the comments.

Disclosure: Author contracts to Mindwing Concepts to contribute to their blog, and Mindwing Concepts provides professional development through a partnership with Ely Center, LLC, where this author is employed.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Itching to upgrade? I did!

Sometime after the release of iOS7 I noticed my 3rd generation iPad was beginning to behave strangely. Especially when updating apps, the device would sometimes do a sort of ominous curtain-down thing (I imagined a sad noise accompanying this) and shut off of its own accord. It would also reboot itself randomly at other times and lose its desktop background, instead showing a deathly black. It was sending me a message.

My 64G 3rd Gen was almost full anyways (remember that apps are a big part of what I do, I am not recommending that regular users invest in more than the 32-64G devices), and I had been waiting for the more significant announcements in October: a Retina Display iPad Mini and the 5th Gen iPad, which turned out to be named the iPad Air. This post is not meant to cause regret/iPad envy in any way; my iPad 2 has continued to work great with iOS 7. I think it is telling that the 2 is still sold, but the 3 has been off the market since last year. It has become somewhat of a white elephant in the line.

So, a tip that this post is really about: you are not stuck with your old iPad (if it is your personal device) forever. You have a number of options- a) continue to use it as an extra device b) hand it down to a family member c) sell it within your school district and d) use a buying service such as Gazelle. I had a positive experience with Boston-based Gazelle when trading in a couple of iPhone 4s. The process is so simple and pleasant! The Gazelle website lets you select your device model and condition, and you are provided with a quote. You can accept it or not- remember that you probably could get more money for the device if you choose more time-consuming ways to sell it. Once you agree to the price, Gazelle sends you a really cute box with everything you need to simply drop it at the post office:

OK, Maybe I like it just because it is orange.

Another tip- I prefer to back up and set up my devices from iTunes, so I don't run into iCloud storage issues. My process included deleting old backups, since there were so many I couldn't tell which backup was still relevant and these take up space on your computer. I then backed up my iPad 3 to iTunes as it had the most relevant data and folder sets. When I bought my new iPads*, which I bought from the Apple Store app and then did the whole cool "check-in" thing as I approached the store, I set up the new iPad Air by restoring from that old backup through iTunes. That way it kept all my data, apps, and folders. I am keeping the Mini simple for now and just gradually putting apps on it. Now I am ready to send the old ones in to get my cash ($230 for the 3rd gen 64G with Wifi + 3G and $200 for the iPad 2 with WiFi only), though I have a few weeks before I have to do so.

My new guys, fast, glitch-less and beautiful:

*This all may seem extravagant but it's important to emphasize that I make part of my living doing technology consultations, so I consider it my responsibility to have not only updated equipment, but also a backup device. It's also all accounted for at tax time. Maybe one of these could be on your holiday wish list!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

My Noms for the 2013 Edublog Awards

It's Edublog awards time! The 10th Annual Edublog awards are once again a reminder to the districts of the power of the Capitol, and how they must never rebel against their country again. Oh wait, that's The Hunger Games. They are on my mind this weekend for some reason. The Edublog awards are an effort to "promote and demonstrate the educational value of social media," particularly as some school districts block blogs and Twitter. Some dislike the competitive aspect, but personally I value the information shared during this time of year as bloggers share posts about the resources that inspire them, and the nominees list always reveals new educators worth following. It's also great to recognize the efforts of those who participate in social media as a labor of love, looking to share resources and experiences for no other reason than to help other educators and students. So, with only a little commentary, here are my noms.

Best individual blog- Mary Huston's Speech Adventures is an always thoughtful mix of reflections on research, technology and other issues in our field.

Best group blog- ASHAsphere continues to offer a wide variety of POVs related to speech and language and special education.

Best EdTech/Resource Sharing Blog- Learning in Hand not only offers a guide to implementing mobile technologies in education, but also is a great resource on doing so in a manner that fosters critical thinking.

Best teacher blog- Erin Klein's Kleinspiration provides firsthand experiences of creative applications of technology to classroom curriculum, as well as tutorials.

Most influential blog post of the year- Though always insightful, The Speech Dudes' There’s no such thing as a “free” app, so get over it and pony up! was a great explanation of why apps do and should cost money.

Best individual tweeter- Tara Roehl, last year's winner in this category, is a fantastic resource on social cognition and executive functioning.

Best twitter hashtag- #slpeeps, natch, continues to be a terrific community.

Best educational use of audio/visual/video/podcast- The A.T.TIPSCAST, produced by AT Trainer and author Christopher Bugaj, provides superbly clever takes on professional development and technology helpful for students with special needs. The recent episode on the "PD 2.0 Virus"- comparing the contagious nature of alternative and creative professional development to the zombie apocalypse- was simply brilliant.

Best open PD / unconference / webinar series- Edcamp!

Best mobile app- I love the versatility of Pic Collage- it has so many uses for language, social and executive functioning!

Well, that's it. If you have a blog and would like to add your own noms, here's how!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

ASHA 2013 Update- from a Techie Point of View!

ASHA 2013 in Chicago is in the books. It was great traveling to one of my favorite cities for this event. McCormick Place is huge, seemingly bigger than I recalled from the last time ASHA was there. The halls all seemed longer, the escalators higher, and the men's bathrooms (that hadn't been converted into women's) further apart. Or maybe I am just older and it is harder for me to get around!

A few techie points:

It was terrific hanging out with many of the folks I have corresponded with on Twitter through the #slpeeps community, and meeting some I had never met IRL (in real life). On Wednesday we had some authentic Chicago-style pizza and observed that Windy City tradition of singing karaoke. Wait, that has nothing to do with Chicago. We did it anyway.

I spent an hour volunteering at the Yapp Guru booth in the extremely busy exhibit hall. Many visitors to the booth reported that the site is definitely something they have been looking for- a "Google for therapy apps." Visit the beta site here and use the Search feature to browse the initial offering of reviewed apps.

Giving credit where credit is due (especially since this is something I whined about two years ago), ASHA has made good steps in helpful infusion of technology into the Convention. First of all, their syncing within the Conference 411 app allowed us to import information saved from the Program Planner website, browse the program, add sessions to an agenda and view exhibitor locations. It wasn't perfect, entirely consistent, or consistently fast, but it was a great improvement and helped me navigate the Convention, which is certainly something. Additionally, WiFi was in my experience generally accessible in conference rooms, and free to boot!

In terms of sessions, I again enjoyed the "Divas" prevention featuring (this year) Bonnie Singer, Kerry Howland, Geraldine Wallach, Kathleen Whitmire, and Barbara Ehren: Supporting the Achievement of LLD Students Across Grades & Content Areas. This session always focuses on facilitating access to curriculum for LLD students through a strategic language-based focus. In one segment, they presented a unit that might be encountered in an 8th grade Health class (I've seen it, though not as intense as in this example) in which students needed to engage in tasks such as documenting a nutrition diary. Though I didn't want to jump into the session when suggestions were called for, as my own suggestion would have been entirely predictable, the topic made me think of Universal Design For Learning (UDL). Some of the abundance of paper in the unit, a difficulty for the presented student, could have been reduced using an app such as Tap & Track, which is how many real adults keep nutrition diaries. The app also offers a more visual and engaging approach to the learning goals of the unit. This is not a criticism of the session of course, just an associated idea- it was awesome as always.

My friend and colleague Tara Roehl did a terrific job presenting From iPad to iPlay: Utilizing Popular Apps to Engage Your Preschool-Middle School Clients. In this session, Tara explored how motivating game-based apps such as Bad Piggies can be used as a context to build executive function and social cognition by developing contextual activities around each app based in written/narrative language, gross motor and craft construction, among other strategies. You can see some examples on her Pinterest boards.

Sarah Ward packed 2 rooms with her Just Treatment Tools to Develop Executive Function Skills session. A few tech integration ideas I will be stealing borrowing from her include using the Reverse Charades app as a context to talk about situational awareness and the Space, Time, Objects, and People (STOP) associated with the words depicted. I had used this app before but had found myself a little stuck on how to help the kids to be more successful with the language (verbal, nonverbal, social) that was involved, and Sarah's was a great idea. Additionally, the Photosynth app can be repurposed to take 360º panoramic photos and include students in the pano to help increase their awareness of the spaces within their classroom and their "path" to navigate them during times/tasks in the school day.

Thanks, Tara and Sarah for giving me permission to include these ideas.

My own session went well too. I think the idea of pairing picture books and apps is one of my favorites to explore. At heart, I'm a context guy. I was honored to be part of the offerings.

Until 2014 in Orlando, that's a wrap!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

PD Opportunities in Boston Area

Hi Folks,

Just wanted to let you know about a few workshops I am running in December and January in the Boston area through MassCUE.

(Click on links for more info/registration)

The iPad as a Social and Organizational Tool: Apps to Promote Social Cognition and Executive Functioning.

Tell Me a Story: iPad Apps for Digital Storytelling and Explanimation.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

ASHA 2013 Presentation: Pairing MORE Picture Books & Apps to Contextually Address Language Objectives

It's the week before the Chicago ASHA Convention and a lot of us are feeling the buzz! I hope some of you will be there and will come by my session. First, the details:

Session Code: 1156
Title: Pairing MORE Picture Books & Apps to Contextually Address Language Objectives
Date: Thursday, November 14, 2013
Time: 4:30 PM - 5:30 PM
Location: McCormick Place Room: W196B
Session Format: Seminar 1-hour PDH(s): 1 Hrs

Abstract: Picture books historically are well-utilized tools to engage students in language comprehension/expression, and pair well with interactive apps with similar contexts. Revisiting a popular topic from ASHA 2012, this presentation describes the overlap between books and apps for various ages and the applicability of these visual tools toward intervention.

Speech-Language Pathology Topic Area: Language and Learning in School-Age Children and Adolescents
Instructional Level: Introductory (Assumes little or no familiarity with the literature and professional practice within the areas covered)
Learner Outcomes:
Learner Outcome 1: Identify language structures and contexts within picturebook text and illustrations
Learner Outcome 2: Evaluate apps for key features indicating applicability in language interventions Learner Outcome 3: Describe pairings between books and apps based on contextual overlap

Next, a teaser.  This topic is of great interest to me as I often used picture books and technology together as a school-based SLP, and still do in my work in private practice. People think of me as a techie, but my real passion is context. This session is essentially about evaluating contextual materials--books and apps--for rich content that can be used in an overlapping manner to target language objectives.  Basically, we are looking for this:

The contextual overlap of books that contain key language structures, elements or strategies, and apps that are Fairly Priced, Interactive, Visual, Educationally Relevant, and Speechie, or useful for targeting speech and language objectives.

Take Mo Willem's Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late. Big Willems fan here. This installment of the always-a-hit Pigeon series finds the Pigeon cajoling the reader to let him stay up past his bedtime. In the process of reading, the book can be used to target:
-Time concepts: What hour is late?
-Narrative structure: the story can be mapped as a complete episode, with successive attempts to solve a problem.
-Body language and emotions: the Pigeon is always expressive, from hopeful to furious to drowsy.
-Figurative language and reading intent: the Pigeon tries to fool us with moves such as, "I hear there's a good show about birds on TV tonight. Should be very educational." 

This wonderful, entertaining book can be paired with apps that have students interact with the context of bedtime.  There are a number of apps with this context (e.g. Pepi Bath Lite), but let's look at PBS Kids Daniel Tiger's Day and Night ($2.99). In this app (for about grades K-1), kids can navigate the PBS character through all the steps of getting ready for bed, in the process developing familiarity with a daily routine, sequencing skills, temporal and causal language, descriptive language, and rhyming (through the use of a song). The app has a whole separate set of routines for the morning, providing a context for a "same but different" discussion. 

For older students (who would "get" more of the nuances of Willems' book), you could consider using an open-ended app such as My Story ($3.99) to create a book about bedtime routines, or at a higher level, a book about other arguments for staying up late!

The session will be covering books and apps (not these ones, these were a preview) for kids from early-late elementary and into middle school, but is meant to be generalized to whatever books and apps you'd like to choose. Hope to see some of you on the 14th! 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

PLN '13: What's New in Connecting and Sharing

Last week I had the opportunity to present at the MassCUE Conference at Gillette Stadium. Not on the field; I think it would have been hard to hook my iPad up to the big monitors. Rather, this annual conference brings technology minded "computer-using educators" together for great sessions on a variety of topics.

I submitted a proposal that was basically a "life after Google Reader" type of presentation- many of you know how upset I was when Google retired Reader, which was a cornerstone of my personal learning network (PLN). Eh, life moves on, and Feedly has largely filled its shoes.

I thought I would share the presentation here. Although the audience was largely general educators, SLPs and special education folks can extrapolate:

Blogs/Feedly- Use the resources on my Learn More about Technology and SLP Ideas page.
Twitter- Start by searching for #slpeeps, #atchat hashtags to find people to follow
Podcasts- Make sure to search for and subscribe to/download A.T.TIPSCAST and EdCeptional podcasts onto your Podcasts app.
Pinterest- Start with Lauren Enders, Pediastaff, Cognitive Connections

Direct Link to Presentation

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Take Students on a Scientific Walk in the Woods

Thankfully the Smithsonian is now reopened after the government shutdown, but their Walk in the Forest interactive website never closed! This site (Flash-based, so iPad-unfriendly) allows you to take older elementary, middle or high school students on "walks" that serve as scientific investigations. In the process, you can connect the topics of trees and habitats (relevant at many grade levels) to language aspects such as causality and language schema. For example, the first walk has students testing soil texture and pH (schema for describing soil besides color) and linking this to the type of tree that could grow there. This is a perfect website for you to construct graphic organizers for students to use as tracking sheets during use, to help them visually connect the ideas involved. This website would be great to use in conjunction with the app Leafsnap, a visual field guide to trees that can serve as stimuli for descriptive language.

Happy walking!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Working around the App

It's important to emphasize that apps and the iPad itself are simply tools we can use in our work to address student objectives. Apps can provide or extend a context in which we are targeting particular skills, and I love talking about the activities that can be going on "around the app."  A few resources related to this recently came to my attention.

I have long been a fan of Toontastic, and whole-heartedly recommend the All-Access version to elementary SLPs. This stellar app is so engaging to students, and the full version allows access not only to a huge array of settings, characters and props, but also the ability to use photos of real-world or saved Google Image backgrounds (but be careful of copyright if sending to their website, ToonTube), or to integrate photos of students into character figures. With creation tools such as Toontastic, I often think of the product created as beside the point, as the students get so much language practice from the process. Using graphic organizers or story maps to plan the animation are valuable activities that can be going on around the app, but Launchpad also provides terrific "Paper Puppets" for you to use for practice and scaffolding. These full-color printouts can be cut, laminated and used as tools to immerse kids in the context of the app, before you even open the app! You can use them for storyboarding and role-play, or all sorts of creative extensions of the context.

In another example, Flummox and Friends is a resource I wrote about last year- it is the pilot episode of a children's TV series about social cognition. I was thrilled to hear that plans are moving forward to produce more episodes. Flummox and Friends, while not an app (yet) is a resource that fosters much activity around it- discussions, role play, etc. Just released also: an extension activity within the terrific Kid in Story app. This book-making app comes with the twist of allowing you to "cut out" a photo and insert it in a story. A template using the context of Flummox and Friends is now available in the community library. Just edit your stories and download the template from there, and you will be able to put students in photos with the Flummox gang and record language in response to prompts on the page. The story is a great context to build feelings vocabulary, an area lacking in many students.

What other ways do you work "around the app?" Let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

iPad Essentials: 4 Tricks to Find Apps

The App Store is huge and overwhelming. It's important to have some strategies to find apps; here are some I commonly share in workshops and thought you all might like to know about!

1. Make sure to look at iPhone apps in the App Store App, if you can't find the app you are looking for.

At times people hear about an app and become frustrated because they cannot find it in the App Store. This could be because it is an app made for iPhone, not iPad. iPad (or "universal") apps are more ideal as they are designed for the screen, but apps made for iPhone still are usable on iPad in what is called "compatibility mode" (tap the 2x in the lower corner of the screen and it will enlarge to almost fullscreen).

When searching for an app, if you see a "no results" message, tap "iPad only" and then choose "iPhone only" to check if there is an iPhone version available (in iOS7). If you are still on iOS6 you can toggle from iPad apps to iPhone apps at the top-center of the search results page in the App Store app.

 In iOS7

2. Search for the app using your Safari app

Google is more forgiving about mistakes as you are searching for app names than the App Store. If you search in the Safari app for the app name using Google, often the direct link to download the app will come up.

Look for the result that has an address and tap on it. This will open up the App Store app and link you directly to the app.

3. Be aware of app sales!

There are a number of resources that inform us of app sales:

Apps Gone Free- is a free app from the folks at App Advice, an excellent blog. You can check it each day and it lists apps that have become free for a limited time. The apps usually are priced higher than free, and are required to have a 3-star or greater rating in the App Store, so they generally are of good quality.

Moms With Apps' App Friday- each Friday, family-friendly apps are set to free or reduced price. Check the Download Center to find out which apps are participating.

Smart Apps for Kids- this website also provides information about daily "Good Free Apps" and is a great source of app news in general, having SLPs and educators directly involved. You can view their page directly or follow their Facebook or Twitter feeds.

4. Use other App-Finding Apps.

Kindertown and Autism Apps are both free, educator-moderated resources of apps within certain subject or goal areas. 

Do also watch out for updates on the ultimate app-finder for therapists: Yapp Guru! This website is currently in beta, but the SLPs behind it keep an active and helpful presence on Twitter and Facebook, so follow them for news on what's to come!

The resources in #s 3-4 present a good opportunity to do a quick FIVES criteria analysis in your head before downloading. Happy Hunting!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Game Show Sound Board

Often pretty simple stimuli can add quite a bit of engagement. Free Game Show Soundboard (found at this link or in App Store under iPhone apps) is just a screen of buttons that, when tapped, play sounds such as a bell ding, applause, audience laughter and cheers, etc. The app also has countdown timers and scorekeepers for two players.

I try to avoid too much competition in my sessions, however, this app can be used to add engagement and reinforcement when students are involved in tasks of earning points or naming items in teams, or just as a fun way to let students know what they are doing well...or with a twinge of humor, maybe not quite as well. In conversational activities, the "applause" serves to alert students when they have made a good comment that supports others, and I especially like to use the "crickets" to humorously point out a silence that students need to try and fill with a "thought!"

If you like the idea of using sounds in your sessions, there are a wealth of other soundboard apps that can be used in similar ways, to build listening skills, in units about the five senses, or to relate to narratives- this developer also has soundboards related to Halloween or farm sounds- relevant to this time of year!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Build Language Skills Through Search

I am often asked for resources for clinicians working with older students. The relative scarcity of tech-based material for middle and high schoolers, particularly apps with relevant and age-appropriate content, has even been termed "the app gap." When working with older students, it pays to be creative and even more focused on the contexts they struggle with every day in the classroom.

I have previously mentioned here that "search is language." Conducting an Internet search involves selection of key vocabulary words, reading comprehension, zooming in on main ideas, summarizing and narrative, as well as inference, not to mention executive function skills such as time management. Search also prepares students for real life management of information. Luckily, Google has set up some great lessons for these skills, so we don't need to struggle to figure out what to ask kids to search for (beyond naturalistic opportunities to do so).

Navigate to Google Search Education and you can access both "Search Literacy Lesson Plans" and "A Google A Day Challenges." The lesson plans target skills such as search terms, understanding results, and evaluating credibility, at three different levels.  The challenges, which won't be too hard with your scaffolding, come with a slide deck including hints and the "answer" (so don't show students slides 5-6) until you are ready!

These resources work well both on laptops and in the Safari or Chrome apps on iPad.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Overview of iOS7 for SLPs and Educators

You may have heard that a new version of iOS- iOS7- is available! This gives your iPad operating system a new look and feel and additional features. This new operating system is accessed (for free) in your Settings app under General>Software Update for iPad 2s and later, including the mini. I did my updates after a backup and "over the air" (i.e. through Settings), rather than connecting to iTunes via a computer, and it went smoothly, though it took about an hour, so be sure to allow that time.

You can of course delay updating for some time, and conservatively, this may be a good idea in order to allow developers time to make any necessary updates.

Here are some recommendations on steps to update.

I made a quick-and-dirty video to get this information out there, so forgive the length (there was a lot to show) and a little bit of choppy editing:

The video covers the following:

Look and Feel- the OS has a cleaner, minimalist look, with fewer references to real-world objects such as notepads, torn pages, and leather stitching (skeuomorphism). The icons reflect this, though with a wacky color palette. There are also differences in the animations and gestures used. I left out that iOS7-aligned apps now use a sweep to left to delete. MOST of your apps will behave the same way they did before the update, but look for apps to update to be aligned with iOS7. Not everyone loves the new look and feel, but it does represent steps forward in design and function. Particularly the reduction of skeuomorphism is an effort to advance users from the days of "push here" and "Hey, the app looks like a notebook." Megan Sutton and I were discussing iOS7 and noted that clients and students may need additional training to remember what to do with their fingers, particularly those with language and memory impairments!

Folders- the amount of apps you can now place in a folder is unlimited, rather than 20 only, so you can combine your categories that have multiple folders of apps.

Spotlight- the app searching feature is now available by sweeping down from about the center of any home page, so you can find apps when you need to, faster.

Control Center- many features can be turned on or off by sweeping up from the bottom of the screen, rather than going into Settings. The video shows how to turn off Control Center within apps so that students do not become confused by activating it within an app.

Multitasking Bar- now provides preview cards of what each app screen currently looks like, and apps are force-quit by a sweep up in the Multitasking Bar. Fun!

Safari- the web browser has been redesigned so that you can search and enter web addresses from the same unified bar, and Shared Links can be viewed if you sign into Twitter in your Settings app.

Siri- for 3rd gen iPads and above, Siri has improved voices including a guy!

Updates- app updates can now be run automatically, but I recommend keeping these manual (in Settings> iTunes and App Store) so you know what the new features are and can pick and choose.

Parallax- kind of a throwaway feature, the apps on your home screens now have a 3D feel when you move your iPad around. This can be turned off if causing students to stim or for those with visual impairments (under Accessibility>Reduce Motion).

Accessibility- see Interactive Accessibility and Luis Perez' YouTube channel for information on new switch access.

For the sake of time, I did not cover the new Camera interface or editing features for photos (filters!) but do check these out.

For more technical notes on iOS7 and education, including the AirDrop file-sharing feature handy for collecting student work in a classroom, click here.

Happy updating!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Professional Development Opportunities from Mindwing at the Ely Center in Newton, MA

The Ely Center, LLC, where I work as an SLP and Program Coordinator, is thrilled to affiliate this fall with Mindwing Concepts, Inc, creators of some of my favorite tools for language intervention: Story Grammar Marker®, Braidy the StoryBraid® and ThemeMaker®! Mindwing will be providing seminar-style professional development workshops out of our NEW location here in Newton, MA. 

Naturally, MaryEllen Rooney Moreau will be leading the workshops, and I wanted to let you know about their schedule; I will be helping out with a workshop on integrating technology with Mindwing's Tools.  Here are the details- hope some of you can make it!

October 21, 2013, 9:00am-5:30pm at The Ely Center in Newton, MA
Integrating Technology Tools with Braidy, The Storybraid®, SGM® and ThemeMaker® 

This intensive workshop will show you how to select and integrate apps for iPad with MindWing’s methodology. The presenters will provide in-depth work with the Narrative Developmental Sequence (Stages 1-5) from the descriptive level (stage 1) of character and setting all the way through to the complete episode (stage 5) of a story. Narrative discourse is complex, involving thinking, language and social communication simultaneously. Narrative intervention using picture books, Story Grammar Marker® maps and MindWing’s low-tech manipulatives have been very effective in improving student outcomes. Apps can also serve as part of a narrative intervention program, as they present visual, interactive and creative contexts through which students can understand and form stories. Participants will learn to examine app features to select apps that scaffold narrative language development through intervention using Apps, in conjunction with children’s literature, Story Grammar Marker® maps and manipulatives. Each Stage of Narrative Development will be discussed and Apps at each stage will be demonstrated using Apps such as: The SGM® App, Pic Collage, Buildo Rescue, Tellagami, Emotionary and Toontastic, and many more. The Narrative Developmental Sequence provides a framework for intervention in the areas of critical thinking, expression of stories and experiences, writing and social situations, and various apps can be utilized for each stage in context.

Along with the Stages of Narrative Development, corresponding expository text structures will also be examined. For example, Action Sequences involving character, setting and series of actions correspond with “Sequencing,” an expository text structure that can be explored in the context of curriculum content: a timeline in social studies, a series of steps in a science experiment or simply following directions. The 7 expository text structures of description, list, sequence, cause/effect, problem/solution, compare/contrast and persuasion/argument will be explored with Apps allowing students to interact with and visualize information, such as: Popplet, Educreations Interactive Whiteboard and Corkulous (and others!) in conjunction with ThemeMaker™ maps and manipulatives. Combining Apps, Story Grammar Marker® & ThemeMaker® tools, children’s literature, expository selections and manipulatives is an engaging way to improve students’ oral expression, social communication, writing and comprehension.

The full list of intensive workshops is available here.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Create Photo Comics with Story Me

Utilizing comics in interventions has many applications, from social instruction (Comic Strip Conversation or Social Thinking®-style), to sentence and narrative formulation, to modifying curriculum topics into an engaging form. I have often covered these techniques in workshops and lamented that there wasn't a good free app allowing people to get their feet wet with comic-making. Until now.

Story Me (free for iPad) was named one of the best new apps by App Advice recently, and for good reason. Like many other comic-creators, Story Me allows you to snap photos or import those saved to the camera roll, add comic effects and most importantly: language in the form of word balloons and captions. While the text features in Story Me are not as customizable as paid apps, they offer a good start and are wrapped in a very easy-to-use interface. For more features including font choice, additional photo effects and stickers, and sharing options, take a look at the powerful apps Strip Designer and Comic Life.

Story Me uses "face detection" to help you add word balloons, but you can add a "face" anyplace you want a word balloon to appear. Unfortunately, the app does not allow addition of thought balloons important for perspective; for these you would need one of the apps mentioned above or to use captions creatively. Once created, comics can be shared via email as a JPEG or saved to the camera roll.

Try Story Me and make comics of:
-Characters from stories
-Science and Social Studies curriculum
-Activity or Play sequences
-Social scripts

How would you use photo comics with your students? Let us know in the comments.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Develop Descriptive Schema with Trading Cards

ReadWriteThink, a longtime online presence developed with the participation of the International Reading Association, has amassed an impressive amount of interactives (flash-based, so not accessible on iPad) that can be used to build language skills. My issue with the more complex ones that could be used with older students was that your work could not be saved, and you had to finish your work in one sitting.  This problem has been addressed both on their site, which I am glad to see that they have continued to develop, and with their Trading Cards (Free!) app.

Trading Cards has for years existed as a great activity on the ReadWriteThink site, and came out as an app last year. With this app, you can create a descriptive "trading card" about any of the following:

Each type of card has a different schema to it, and it actually would be a good pre-activity to have students predict what attributes would be on a card about a Real Place vs. say, an Object.

The website has a few extra choices of the type of card you can create, and also lets you create your own schema.

The app allows you to set up user profiles so that collections of cards are stored in the app. When creating a card, you can add a picture saved to the camera roll, access guiding questions and type text (limited to certain defined lengths), flip the card and finish your work, and save/print/email your card. As this is a task that may take several sessions, it's great that you can return to the app and continue work. On the Trading Cards activity on ReadWriteThink's website, you can download a partially completed card and re-open it later for continued work. 

Trading Cards would be a great way to develop more advanced descriptive language while working with geography, books that students are reading or that you have chosen for the session, the Social Thinking® concept of people files, or other contexts.

Monday, August 26, 2013


Is it just me, or have the clouds been more noticeably pretty and dramatic this summer? Warmth probably brings more remarkable clouds, or at least one tends to pause and look at the sky more when it's not 2º out. In any case, it has been a wonderful summer in the Northeast and I have found myself doing quite a bit of cloud gazing.

To the point, clouds are a pretty great language context- they can be described, compared, associated with other shapes, and they are very educationally relevant to science units on weather and the water cycle. At EdCampBLC in mid-July, a participant shared the CloudSpotter app during the closing app-sharing session (these are called "Smackdowns"), and I was instantly intrigued. CloudSpotter ($1.99, found under iPhone apps but usable on iPad) is like a field guide to clouds; you can explore a cloud library of main cloud types as well as more exotic clouds and phenomena, in which each is clearly and even humorously explained, the text serving as a good context for mapping expository text. This section also has a short, engaging animated film on the water cycle. CloudSpotter is also interactive in a very fun way: snap a photo of a cloud, attempt to identify it, and submit it, and you will be able to contribute to your own cloud collection. The creators of the app review your submission and indicate if you have identified the cloud correctly (I identified several clouds and received a response within 24 hours)!

Language Lens:
-I have found taking pictures of clouds to be a fun task with kids, stretching back to the days when I would then connect the digital camera, insert the picture in a PowerPoint slide, and have them write about the weather for the day (good schema-building). With iPad, not surprisingly, it is so much easier! Screenshot your cloud pics from CloudSpotting and add them to any app that allows you to combine pictures and text, Popplet Lite, for example.
-This app could be used in conjunction with other resources that allow you to build descriptive language through the context of weather: viewing weather forecasts on TV station websites, EdHeads' Weather Activities, Swackett.
-Combine this app with the use of Tellagami and create weather forecasts!
-This app would pair well with a few picture books to build language: It Looked Like Spilt Milk and Cloudette (which has a great narrative structure for story mapping).

Hope you have all had a great summer and your transition back to school treats you well!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Follow-Up on ASHA Schools: Tellagami

I had a terrific time attending and presenting at this past weekend's ASHA Schools Conference in Long Beach, CA. I have been to many ASHA Conventions (and will be presenting in Chicago, more info to come), but this was my first Schools Conference. It has a very different feel- more low-key and definitely user-friendly.  As presenters we were encouraged to engage our audiences and make our sessions as practical as possible, which I appreciated. I really enjoyed seeing the motivational, positive-psychology based opening session by Murray Banks, and sessions on executive functioning and instructional strategies for academic writing by Sylvia Diehl and Bonnie Singer, respectively. It was an honor to be invited and counted among the faculty of this great conference, and I would encourage you all to make it to this event at some point if you work in the schools.

I had the opportunity at the conference to present on one of my favorite topics: digital storytelling or content creation apps. For me, though not designed for speech and language, these apps serve as "blank slates" for us to simply create (for or with students) products that can target all manner of skills: academic language, concepts and vocabulary, narrative, expository text, sentence structure or social cognition. It all depends on what you ask the students to do.

A great example of these types of apps and always a favorite when I present it: Tellagami. This free app allows you to create a talking avatar (called a "Gami") and place it in context with any background image.

See Tellagami's YouTube channel for a few other ideas on how to use Tellagami.

Here's how to use Tellagami:

Photo Creative Commons Licensed for Remixing by HarshLight on Flickr
1. Save a background image using Safari. The app also has some pre-loaded contexts. Tap Background to load an image from the app or Camera Roll.
2. Customize your character's appearance (the app allows you to choose aspects such as skin color, hair, gender, clothes).
3. Choose an emotional state for the character.
4. Tap the Character button twice and you will be able to either type text for the character to speak, or record audio which the character will lip-sync.
5. When you are pleased with your creation, you can tap Share and save it to the Camera Roll as a video.

The app is super-simple to use and the results are often hysterical! Here are a few ways to think of Tellagami through the Language Lens:
-As the app allows you to place a single "speaker" in a context, it is a nice one to use to create "newscasts" or advertisements.
-In doing so, you can incorporate virtually any academic context by saving a picture and having a "reporter" avatar speak from that location.
-In turn, you can plan the creation using strategies to structure language such as story grammar or expository text structure, or use this opportunity to target areas of difficulty such as pronoun or tense use.
-Because audio can be recorded, the app can also be used as a motivating way to work with articulation, voice or fluency.
-From a social standpoint, you are limited to one character speaking at a time (though Tellagami kindly responded to me on Twitter that they are considering adding additional characters through an update). Nevertheless, the app could be used as another way to deliver a Social Story™ or perhaps an "advice column" on the expected and unexpected behaviors- based on the work of Social Thinking®- in a particular setting (which you of course would depict with a background photo).

I hope you enjoy Tellagami! The folks at ASHA Schools sure did!

What ideas do you have for using Tellagami? Let us know in the comments!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Create Narrated Slide or Video Shows with Videolicious

I am giving a session on Digital Storytelling in speech and language intervention at today's ASHA Schools conference in Long Beach, CA, and thought I would feature one of my favorite tools in this genre.

Videolicious is a simple video creator- it allows you select photos or videos from your photo library/camera roll and talk over them, effectively creating a narrated video. What a great language tool- and did I say it's free? It's freeness comes with two limitations- videos are limited to 10 minutes, and the saving process sends your video to the service's website (unless you follow the directions below).

Videolicious is really simple to use. You will first need to have photos or videos in your photos app- either shoot them or save images from the Internet (again, see the directions below to avoid violating copyright). Once they are there, select them by tapping them in sequence within the app:

You are then given the opportunity to record a "Selfie" introduction to the video (you talking to the camera). You can select the option of using "mic only" so that you or the student do not appear in the video. As you record your narration, you tap the selected images or videos in order to time when they will appear in your video. Thus, a narrated slideshow.

Language Lens:
-You can use Videolicious to have students (including adults) practice describing, sequential language, storytelling, persuading- whatever form of discourse you would like.
-Videolicious, as it records audio of one speaking, is also a nice tool to work on articulation, voice, and fluency.
-As your project in Videolicious can include video, it can also be used for video modeling, having kids narrative the steps to social or functional sequences.
-Many creation apps are more about the process than the product. Use the process to help students to plan their language using a graphic organizer or script.

Videolicious, if used exactly as designed, saves the finished project both to your photos app AND the Videolicious website. This presents several issues:
a) You don't want to be sending video of your students to the Internet unless you have explicit permission.
b) If you saved images from Google Images, they were likely copyrighted. These are OK to use in any project that stays on your iPad in the app itself or if it is saved locally to the Camera Roll (this is Fair Use), but not to be republished to the Internet. You can use tools such as Flickr Creative Commons or other Creative Commons search websites to save the photos. You should still site them in some way, either orally within the video or by creating a text image (maybe with Doodle Buddy) attributing the image.

OR can avoid publishing the project to the site by following these steps (given to me by a Videolicious support person):
1. Create your video. Don't tap Save.
2. Leave the Videolicious app and turn on Airplane Mode in the Settings app of your iPad. This disconnects your iPad from the Internet.
3. Return to Videolicious and complete the steps of saving the video. This will save it to the Camera Roll (Photos app) and NOT the site.
4. When saving is complete, tap the Share button (arrow coming out of the square) and Delete Video. It will remain in your photos app but then the app will not attempt to upload it when you turn off Airplane Mode.

5. Go back to the Settings app and turn Airplane Mode off.

This does seem like a lot of steps, I know. Nevertheless, this is one of the easiest and best apps I know of to make a narrated video, so I still highly recommend it.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Thinking about Social Thinking®, and the iPad Essential of Album Creation

I am really happy to have been asked to be part of the Social Thinking® Blogging Team, a group of folks who will be writing about some of the products and conferences offered that are related to the Social Thinking approach, based on the work of Michelle Garcia Winner. We agreed that since this is a tech-infused place, I would be featuring some of the Social Thinking products over the coming months along with a technology tie-in. This aligns well with my experience in presenting at the Social Thinking Provider's Conferences about webtools and apps that, though not designed for supporting social cognition, can easily be leveraged to that end.

The folks at Social Thinking asked us to start with Thinking about YOU, Thinking about ME: Teaching perspective taking and Social Thinking to persons with Social Cognitive Learning Challenges, 2nd Edition. This is perfect, as this book is where I would recommend anyone starting when exploring implementation of Social Thinking in your practice. Summer is a great time to pursue new avenues in your practice, or take time to deepen your knowledge of strategies you have already started applying.

I first saw Michelle Garcia Winner speak over 10 years ago, when this book was published in its first edition. One can think of it as THE core book for Social Thinking, an essential approach in working with high-functioning students with social learning issues. Social Thinking is all about language and concepts that teach students the why of social interactions. The essential ideas and strategies can be taught and then practiced in individual or group sessions, and the vocabulary related to social behavior can then be conveyed to parents and teachers for carryover and reinforcement in situations across the day. Thinking about YOU, Thinking about ME gives you an overview of social cognition and levels of functioning, but also an entry point to some key intervention strategies, such as:

- The Four Steps of Communication: concrete, universally followed steps to approaching others and "hanging out" in a group.
-Developing cognitive vocabulary (what it means to think, know, or guess) through use of videos such as the Wallace and Gromit series (I have also recommended Shaun the Sheep for this).
-Using video both as a feedback technique and as a group project to develop social behaviors in a naturalistic context.
-Social Memory and creating "People Files" about others both as an expected behavior and strategy to aid in initiating interactions.
-Specific language, visuals and goal ideas on teaching physical presence and awareness of how our bodies (and eyes!) should look when "staying with the group."
-A focus on conversational interactions through various strategies- using the "Add-A-Thought" and conversation tree, or Conversation Street Vocabulary describing how conversational behavior can mirror moves on the road.
-Social Behavior Mapping- an essential therapy tool when students have "graduated" from Social Stories™, can be used to teach any situation's associated expected behaviors and consequences.
-Strategies for building the foundations of self advocacy in students, i.e. knowing about their own IEP.

Besides providing information to get you started on all of these intervention strategies, Thinking about YOU, Thinking about ME contains another essential tool: the Social Thinking Dynamic Assessment Protocol. This is a qualitative assessment procedure I have found invaluable in the last several years.  I first started applying it in the school setting along with other colleagues, and the information provided as you work through it with students are essential to an informed assessment of social cognition (this book also provides analyses of norm-referenced assessments) and treatment planning. If you don't yet have the book, you can find some of this information (and many other free resources) on the Social Thinking website here.

That article linked above describes the Double Interview Task within the Protocol; in this task, the clinician interviews the student and makes observations of his or her conversational skills, then turns the table and asks the student to do an interview. This task is very telling! One aspect of the task involves asking the student to view and interpret personal pictures of the clinician. Can the student describe the context and the relationships between the people depicted? Does the student make "smart guesses" about you based on the pictures? Does the student recognize people shown in multiple pictures?

Here's where my tech spin on Thinking about YOU, Thinking about ME comes in. To do the Double Interview Task, you need pictures of yourself. Since many of these are exchanged electronically these days, and also to save the bother of collecting and having more materials around, you can keep your pictures in an album within the Photos app of your iPad.  Here's how you do it:

1. "Collect" your Photos

You may have a built-in collection of usable photos for this task on Facebook. Just save some where you don't have a "beverage."

Navigate to a usable picture in the Facebook app on iPad, and you can tap on the 3 Dots to save the picture to the Photos app.

If you have photos saved elsewhere, or can scan them on a computer, you can then email them to an account accessible in the Mail app on your iPad (to add Mail accounts, open Settings>Mail, Contacts, Calendars). Open the mail and tap and hold on the photo file, then choose Save to Camera Roll.

2. Organize an Album

When doing the assessment, you don't want to have to sweep through all your photos to locate the pictures you plan to show the student. You can facilitate this by creating an Album in the Photos app.

There are several ways to do this but I will show you my favorite way.
a. Open the Photos app and ensure that in the top menu, Photos is selected.
b. Tap Edit. Notice that the menu has disappeared and the words Select Items are displayed.
c. Tap the photos you want to put in your album.
d. Tap Add To...

e. Add to a New Album and Name the Album.
f. You will then see your Album under the Albums section of your Photos app.

If you would like to see this as a video, here is a good representation of the process (after more comprehensive screenshots).

I have found having my photos on the iPad is very convenient as it helps me prepare for these assessments, and it also adds an engagement factor for the student when they are asked to view the photos on the iPad.

I hope you do explore this book when you have some time this summer!

Disclosure: Author was provided a copy of Thinking about YOU, Thinking about ME. However, I owned dog-eared copies of both the first and second editions of this book already! The opinions are all mine.