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.