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.