Friday, December 19, 2014

A Few Thoughts about Language and the Serial Podcast

For a few years now, I have counted podcasts among my key resources of information related to technology integration. If you are not sure what they are, podcasts are basically radio shows distributed online; the term podcast dates back to the iPod being a revolutionary method of accessing audio as iTunes opened the door to many people sharing ideas through independent podcast creation. Time was, podcasts needed to be accessed by downloading on a computer and then syncing your device, but this can be done easily (and for free) now with the Podcasts app. 

This fall brought the release of the most popular podcast ever. Serial, from the producers of the also-great This American Life, followed one story over the course of a season of 12 episodes released weekly. Journalist Sarah Koenig attempted to unravel the 15-year-old murder of Hae Min Lee, a teenage girl- her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed was convicted of the crime, but as we learned, the details are far from straightforward. The podcast became somewhat of a sensation, with media outlets and people all over social media weighing in as each episode brought new twists in the case. So what does Serial have to do with language?

Serial reminded me first of all of the value of listening. Our world has become inundated with tech-mediated visual experiences, and it's rare that we slow down to experience the purity of listening to language. Though this practice is something I have tried to revisit as much as possible, I was so thrilled to have company in the audio realm as many friends became immersed in and were eager to discuss a story that is riveting, emotional and quite tragic, possibly on several levels. Koenig herself became somewhat of a celebrity for her intimate narration of her investigation, which at times felt like being a listener inside her head. Most of all for me the listening experience awakens meditative and metacognitive processes- you don't think about your thoughts when watching TV quite the way you do when listening. I often noted the way I was visualizing the narrated events as they unfolded and thanked Lindamood-Bell for giving me a structure within Visualizing and Verbalizing® to make this imagery even more "sharp," at times painfully so.

Serial also is ultimately about narrative language, hence the title. What you think at the end of the series depends on whose version of the story you believe. Throughout the series, Koenig continually reframes episodes of this story in ways that make you reconsider the characters, key settings, initiating events and responses. Key to the story in particular is perspective taking: could Adnan have been that angry after the break-up to commit this crime? What do the people who surrounded Adnan at that time think about his state of mind and possible responses? Timelines also play an essential role, as each episode forces us to consider disparate sequences of events leading up to and surrounding Hae's murder. For me, Serial underscored the importance of narrative language as part of the experience of being human--which is one of the reasons I am so clinically engaged in building discourse skills. It was interesting that as the series drew to a close, there was much concern that Koenig wouldn't present us with a satisfying conclusion, as if this were a carefully plotted piece of episodic television. I found the "ending" satisfying, though also unsurprisingly a reinforcement of the truth that life is messy and often evasive of clear narrative conclusions.

If you haven't listened to Serial, I strongly recommend it. Start at episode 1, avoid "spoilers," and think about language.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Edublog Awards and Year in Review

I have had the honor of being nominated for Best Individual Blog in this year's Edublogs awards. Each year this event serves as a reminder of the importance of social media in education, as well as a great place to find new blogs and other resources for ideas in your work. As has been the trend, SLPs have made a good showing this year, including:
If you get a moment to stop by the Best Individual Blog category and give me a vote, I'd appreciate it! This requires signing in Twitter, Facebook or Google. In the case of Facebook, you need to allow access but not to allow Listly to post.

It totally slipped my mind to do nominations this year, with ASHA Convention and all, so I want to give a shout-out to Chris Bugaj and family at A.T.TIPSCAST, who continue to provide entertaining and extremely helpful podcasts. Check them out on your free Podcasts app. Chris should be at least as popular as Serial. Though I am obsessed with Serial.

2014 was a good year. I got to quite a few places to make presentations- Atlanta, Las Vegas, Michigan, Ottawa, Nova Scotia, Nashville, Orlando, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Cincinnati. I wrote a bunch of columns for the ASHA Leader and nearly 50 posts here on the blog. Whew! Looking forward to a productive 2015, but I need to take a rest for a few weeks!

To close out the year (though I probably will sneak one or two in), here are the most popular posts of 2014:

Calming, Part 2

TED Talks of Interest to SLPs and Language Folks

Re-Usable Images

Stick Around: The Spectrum of Repurposing

iPad Essentials: Window Shopping in the App Store

Phrasal Verbs Machine (don't quite know why this one got so many hits, but OK)

DirecTV's "Don't" Commercials

Social Fortune and Fate/Comics Head


Write About This

Hope these are of use to review or if you missed them! Have a great Holiday Season...

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Calming, Part 4

Rounding out this series on apps to explore calming and self-regulation in the course of language intervention is the free app Epic Zen Garden. This title seems somewhat of a contradiction in terms as it hypes up your expectations for a "Zen" experience that just "is," but especially given the price it is a worthwhile app to explore. Zen Garden (let's just call it that, now) made a notable debut at a recent Apple event highlighting the power of the new interactive programming format called "Metal." The result is a beautiful graphical experience allowing you to explore the grounds of a house and engage in visual activities such as making a tree bloom, playing in a Koi pond, making patterns in the sand, releasing butterflies from a fountain, and viewing the house from afar. It's a simple experience but could be used as a sensory tool and for eliciting descriptive language. See also Beth Lloyd's great posts on apps for sensory seekers.

Friday, November 28, 2014

ASHA 2014 Takeaways!

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! For me, the holiday followed soon upon returning from the ASHA 2014 Convention in Orlando, where I presented and also attended many sessions.

It was fun being in Orlando, even with sort of crappy (cold, then rainy) weather. I rented a Yaris just like mine at home! Well, newer and nicer, but...

Overall I applaud ASHA for a great event. My hotel was easy to obtain and nice, the shuttles ran without a hitch, and the convention center was pretty easy to navigate! Along the way, I learned a lot:

At Carol Westby and Kristine Noel's session on Social Cognition and Emotional-Behavioral issues, they presented recent work on Theory of Mind (summarized in Topics in Language Disorders) and their framework for Narrative Intervention and Problem Solving, honed with incarcerated youth with language issues and also summarized in their article in that issue of TLD.

The mother and daughter team of SLP Henriette Langdon and Counselor Maxine Starr presented a helpful session on self-care and balance in our work as SLPs. They sited eight areas of balance to consider in living a healthier life.

The folks at Sunshine Cottage School for Deaf Children (Dorman, Lee, Gloria and Ritter), folks who have presented many informative sessions analyzing board games for speech and language aspects (repurposing!), applied their "language lens" to a number of apps and presented video on how they use them. I was happy to learn about Vocab Scenes ($1.99), which reminds me of the very useful but defunct Kerpoof website.

The Social Thinking® Team of Nancy Tarshis, Kari Palmer and Ryan Hendrix presented important new information on building resilience in our students with Social Cognition challenges. I can't wait to make some "potions" (colored oil/water jars with little objects inside emphasizing positive tools) and also to use the marshmallow test video to discuss self-talk.

Tara Roehl presented great ideas on integrating apps with contextual activities building language and executive functioning. Be sure to check out her resources on her blog and Pinterest.

I always love to see the "Divas Plus One" (this year including Whitmire, Singer, Appel--the plus one--, Wallach, and Malini) and their session celebrated the work of Barbara Ehren on curriculum-relevant therapy. This year Dr. Ehren was a recipient of ASHA Honors of the Association. You can view much of her work and influences on ASHAWire.

Many of the authors of a recent issue of Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools (Kahmi, Appel, Wallach, Gillam, Hadley) presented findings, reflections and best practices around clinical practices in language disorders. I will be studying this issue for some time.

It was great as always to see Michelle Garcia Winner, in this case discussing the important role of social attention and executive functioning in social cognition. You can read more of her and Pamela Crooke's ideas on this in a recent article.

I attended a terrific session on the overlappings and collaborative potential between cognitive behavioral therapy and speech and language pathology by Lynne Hewitt. You can see her work in a recent issue of Perspectives and view my tweets from this session, in a compilation of items shared by other attendees.

In addition to Barbara Ehren, several people I admire were honored at the ASHA Awards Ceremony, including language maven (and SpeechTechie supporter) Rhea Paul and my BU Professor Elizabeth Gavett, whom I am happy to see semesterly to give a talk in her class. All these folks have been critical in shaping my thinking over the years! Wonderful also to see John and Annie Glenn present the Glenn Award to Bill and Willie Geist. I have to admit that this was my first time attending the awards ceremony and it was an impressive production!

Saturday afternoon I attended a terrific presentation by Mindwing Concepts' Maryellen Rooney Moreau and Linda LaFontaine of the Curtis Blake Day School with awesome contextual tie-ins and many language activities conducted around the book Letting Swift River Go, which describes the creation of the Quabbin Reservoir outside of Boston.

I was proud to see my friend Beth Harmon present an extremely practical and fun session on pairing topic boards with the iPad to encourage use of core and fringe vocabulary along with word combinations. See some of her ideas at Sync Up Autism.

And my session- I was happy to have a really good crowd (despite the Saturday afternoon timeslot) show up to learn about contextual pairings of picture books and apps. Thanks for the tweets, Brittany and Angela:

PHEW! That was a lot to learn. Hopefully some of the links are helpful to you!

Monday, November 17, 2014

ASHA 2014 Orlando Session

I am excited to be presenting in Orlando next week, as well as having the opportunity to see great friends and get lots of ideas from attending sessions!

This year I am presenting another sequel to my Pairing Picture Books with Apps series. This is one of my favorite topics and I have at this point presented about 30 contextual pairings of books and apps. This year's session focuses on several categories of post-book language activities and examples within them.

Post-Book Art Activities- Reading picture books interactively with students can provide a context for drawing or creation within similar contexts, and models within books can influence the content and language use of students while creating a visual response (Bartelo, 1984). Apps provide an avenue to target language while creating visual artworks simply and quickly and omitting some of the time-consuming aspects of drawing or crafting.

Post-Book Discussion Webs- Visual diagrams can be used to map elements of a text or topic to develop categorization and association skills; webs can also be employed to have students respond to higher-level evaluative questions (Alverman, 1991). Apps use a touch-screen interface to create visual webs, and also can provide a context for topically related webbing and discussion.

Post-Book Dramatic Play- Acting out elements of or related to a story can be used to target sequencing skills, sentence formulation and overall story comprehension, and enhances children’s ability to explain ideas (Putnam, 1991). Apps can provide visuals that scaffold language and sequencing during the process of play.

Post-Book Story Grammar Cueing- Teaching students story elements such as character, setting, initiating event and conclusion has been shown to improve narrative comprehension and formulation (Davies, Shanks & Davies, 2004), and a number of apps can assist with visualizing and practicing this process.

Each of these categories provide a framework for choosing apps and books that go together contextually. I hope many of you can make it, but if you can't, check out a quick example of a post-book art activity in my post over at Daily Genius, spreading the word about a similar session I am presenting at EdTechTeacher's iPad Summit Boston.

The details of the session are as follows:

Session Code: 1718
Title: Pairing EVEN MORE Picture Books & Apps to Contextually Address Language Objectives Day: Saturday, November 22, 2014
Time: 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Location: Orange County Convention Center Room: W414CD
Session Format: Seminar 1-hour

Abstract: Support for using picture books in intervention is long-standing and relevant to the development of language skills. Books pair with apps with similar contexts to serve as visual, interactive post-reading activities. Revisiting a popular topic from ASHA 2012-2013, this presentation describes overlaps between books and apps and suggestions for interventions.
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 Outcome 1: Describe resources helpful in book and app selection for language intervention Learner Outcome 2: Identify key categories of post-book language activities that align with app use Learner Outcome 3: Discuss the contextual overlap of presented books and apps and their potential use in language intervention

Alverman, D. (1991). The discussion web: A graphic aid for learning across the curriculum. The Reading Teacher, 45, 92-99.

Bartelo, D. M. (1984).Getting the picture of reading and writing: A look at the drawings, composing, and oral language of limited English proficiency children. Plymouth, NH: Ply- mouth State College. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 245 533)

Davies, P., Shanks, B., & Davies, K. (2004). Improving narrative skills in young children with delayed language development. Educational Review, 56, 271-286.

Putnam, L. (1991). Dramatizing nonfiction with emerging readers. Language Arts, 68, 463-469.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Calming, Part 3

Incorporation of mindfulness techniques, regardless of instructional discipline, is a strategy that has more than emerging evidence. A systematic review of studies of mindfulness training for students and adults with developmental disabilities found significant effects on a range of areas, documenting reduced aggression and anxiety and increased social skills and academic performance (Hwang & Kearney, 2012). Many programs such as Mindful Schools are being implemented school-wide, teachers are being encouraged to practice mindfulness and leading treatment practices incorporate activities such as Yoga classes.

For our students who struggle with managing their own thoughts, and so are led in tangential/oppositional/anxious/dysregulated directions impacting their communication, mindfulness can be incorporated in small ways. Books, videos and audio files focused on awareness of and strategies around thinking can be very engaging, and also serve as language activities by virtue of eliciting descriptive and metacognitive language.

I highly recommend the Cosmic Kids YouTube channel for a start for short meditation activities for your young students. The Zen Den series are short, beautifully produced, visual meditations focused on a variety of calming thinking strategies. I have field-tested these with a range of groups, with great responses from both girls and boys. The fact that the clips are on YouTube makes a great connection to home, as meditation is meant to be done regularly, even for short periods of time.

Even if that carryover is not achieved, clips such as Master the Monkey establish a concrete connection and vocabulary for an abstract concept: our mind can be like a hyperactive monkey and we can practice strategies to keep it present:

Movies in My Mind presents a fun visualization exercise for which you can conduct a language-based debriefing after the fact: "What did you see on the other side of that door?"

Getting Wanty discusses a specific situation of wanting something in a store, but can be applied to many other situations involving "JustMe" vs. Thinking of Others and social behavior (see the work of Social Thinking®).

See also the great Yoga Adventures videos that put yoga in the context of settings and "stories," again offering connections to language activities and themes.

Hwang, Y, & Kearney, P. (2012). A systematic review of mindfulness intervention for individuals with developmental disabilities: Long-term practice and long lasting effects. Research in Developmental Disabilities. 34, 314-326

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Calming, Part 2

Many of our students have difficulty regulating themselves around problem situations--or situations that are not even really a problem. These students benefit from strategies such as building causal language, using visual tools such as The Incredible Five Point Scale (my favorite being the Problem Scale from Disaster to Glitch), The Zones of Regulation, and self-talk. Lynne Hewitt recently wrote a great article on the connections between Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Speech-Language Pathology, so do check that out as well.

Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame (Free) provides a fun context to explore these strategies with your young students (PS-grade 1). The app presents five episodes including frustration about getting dressed, separating from a parent at school, and a block tower that falls down. Interactive activities guide the student to help the "monster" use diaphragmatic breathing, visualize plans, and choose a plan to solve the problem.

In addition to the above resources, the app also aligns well with use of Braidy the Storybraid and The Incredible Flexible You Program (TIFY), the five episodes being individual Abbreviated Episodes containing character, setting, kickoff event, response, plan and conclusion, and relating to the social cognitive instruction in TIFY. See also Sarah Ward and Kristen Jacobson's terrific work on executive functioning and making a "future picture" to accomplish tasks.

Disclosure: Author is a contractor with Mindwing Concepts, Inc.  for provision of blog content and professional development.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Toca Boo!

I'm taking a brief break here from talking about calming/regulating apps to discuss the power of a little scare. Toca Boca, a studio I have long been a fan of, just released Toca Boo ($2.99), a great app to grab and have some language-based fun this pre-Halloween week.

This highly interactive app allows you to play the role of a "ghost" and wander a darkened house scaring members of a family. Seems a strange concept, but it's loads of fun.

Have you ever played hiding games with kids who proceed to hide themselves or items in plain sight? This illuminates, pun intended in the context of this app, problems around perspective taking and "thinking with the eyes" (see the work of the folks at Social Thinking®). In Toca Boo, to achieve a maximum scare, the ghost needs to avoid the family members' flashlights and hide in hotspots (e.g. under the covers of the bed or in a box) or behind furniture. Watch the trailer below:

The process of coaching students to effectively scare the characters will give you the opportunity to model and elicit if/then and causal language, as well as target spatial and positional concepts, in addition to the social cognitive ideas mentioned above. The app provides a good context for building the category of rooms of a house as well.

Do use your judgment of the trailer to consider which of your students would like this app, and whether it might be too scary for some. I do think they go a little far in having you scare (and knock over) the comical older man with the cane. I admit I laughed at this, though (America's Funniest Home Videos being a guilty pleasure of mine)! Toca Boca as always does a good job of discussing the ideas around the app in the "For Parents" section of the app, but I'm a believer in a little scare, suspense or humor being a great context to get kids talking.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


October is tough for me. I live in the Northeast (in a location that is in a questionable time zone), and have a touch of seasonal affective disorder, so fall isn't the best time. Mums, hay bales, scarecrows, apples and pumpkins, while triggering joy for most in the area or those who travel here specifically to see those things, bring about the rather the opposite in me. I deal.

One of the strategies that has been of great use to me in recent years is incorporating mindfulness and cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques in my daily life. We all have the experience of encountering our email or a potentially stressful IEP meeting and being overcome by thoughts of RISK, rather than OPPORTUNITY. In my own life and work with clients, it has been helpful to channel my already brain-based inclinations and apply them to myself in simple ways. Though technology has been rightfully sited recently as a culprit in increasing anxiety and counteracting mindfulness, it can also give an assist by bringing us content that helps us work on being aware of our thoughts, relax and be more effective in our work. These tools can in turn provide a good context for "check-in" activities with clients and discussions of mindfulness that can be very language-based.

I have written about a variety of tools in this vein, but in this post I wanted to point out Calm. Navigate to and your browser turns into a serene scene with the option of simple timed or guided meditation. Even 2 minutes--which there is an option for--is helpful and is a good step for training your brain or just being calmer in the moment. Consider saving it to your bookmarks bar for a visual reminder to practice, putting your browser into full-screen mode and closing all tabs to eliminate any possible distractions for a few minutes.

Also check out the free Calm app for iOS, which offers a similar experience.

For another take on this practice, see SLP Kim Lewis' recent post at Activity Tailor. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Welcome to Social Studies: a "Sphere" of Language Development

As a companion to my column for the ASHA Leader App-Titude series, "Welcome to Science Class," this series explores how technology can serve as a context for teaching "language underpinnings" related to the social studies curriculum.

When using apps and contextual connections with students, we can follow a few principles:
-Think carefully about the "S"/"Speechie" in the FIVES Criteria- how can the app serve as a context to address specific language objectives relevant to the student or students? What structures will you add- visual supports such as graphic organizers, verbal supports such as questioning and scaffolding- to make sure this happens?
-Avoid becoming overwhelmed by the curriculum- take a few topic areas you have become familiar with and begin using them in even a broad sense with a grade or grades.
-When possible, find an app you can use in different ways over a span of years, keeping in mind how the objectives might change depending on the student, his or her grade, and level of development.

An app that can be integrated to exemplify some of these principles is Sphere (Free). Sphere brings you 360º views of landmarks and locations around the world, so you can bring students on "virtual field trips." The app uses the gyroscope and a form of augmented reality (layering digital info over our ordinary world) to respond to your movement of the iPad, so that your view of the location changes as you move around. Answers to common questions about this app: the view is not live, but a still 360º image, and if you walk forward it does not affect the view.

The best way to understand what I mean is to download this free app and give it a try. The app does require a sign-in; you can use a Google or Facebook account. This has the advantage of allowing you to tap the heart to "Favorite" 360º views and save them for use with students (hopefully year after year), itself a step to bring structure to your use of this app.

The 360º view of the Great Wall of China will change as you position the iPad in different directions or angles.
Sphere can be a resource for contextualized, specific therapy activities over several grade levels. Taking some curriculum progressions in Massachusetts, for instance:
At Grade 2, explore landmarks from various continents or use the China "Collection." Have students describe what they see in a location using conceptual words such as beside, above, under, right, left.
At Grade 3, explore locations from one's home state. Use a "5 Senses" based graphic organizer to have students generate sensory details they might experience if standing in that spot.
At Grade 4, view areas from regions of the United States. A more schematic graphic organizer can be used to incorporate more abstract language, e.g. comparisons to other settings. The Story Grammar Marker® Setting Map is a good example of this type of scaffold.

Along the way, you can be considering if the target activities are within the particular student's "zone," or if he/she/they need a simpler task within the context.

Thanks for coming along with me for this trip through some tools and contexts within social studies- I am going to say "goodbye" to the topic for now and will be saying "hello" to Nashville, Cincinnati and Halifax, Nova Scotia as I travel a lot in October. I'll check in when I can!

Disclosure: Author is a contractor with Mindwing Concepts, Inc.  for provision of blog content and professional development.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Welcome to Social Studies: Use Infographics as Language Contexts

As a companion to my column for the ASHA Leader App-Titude series, "Welcome to Science Class," this series explores how technology can serve as a context for teaching "language underpinnings" related to the social studies curriculum.

Have you ever heard of infographics? Infographics are visual representations of data and information, and have become popular as teaching tools, both as a presentation tool and creative context. Infographics boil down a particular topic to its essential information points, but can also contain higher-level analysis or evaluative content.

From a speech/language perspective, infographics can serve as tools that already display information broken down into key "language underpinnings," such as the expository text structures of list, sequence, description, compare/contrast, cause/effect, problem/solution, and persuasion. Additionally, they are by nature visual tools providing images and icons to support vocabulary, concepts and the relationships between them.

From a "Techie" perspective, infographics are free tools that are not only searchable via your iPad or Computer, displayable and zoomable (to limit information overload) through these same tools. They also are products that you can create (solo or with students) pretty easily with tech tools, thus providing them opportunity to practice the use of expository structures. Infographics can be saved in different ways, so do experiment with saving a PDF infographic to the iBooks app, an image infographic to your Photos app, or using on-screen navigation tools where ever they are housed.

To go with our theme of resources related to social studies, check out this excellent Pinterest board, Social Studies Infographics by Susan Pojer. My favorite: If you had to, could you survive doomsday?

You can also search Google for infographics on specific topics. A few great examples:
Latitude and Longitude (with key vocabulary and visuals)
An Infographic about the Greatest State (MA)! (with some fun lists and sequences)
Eight Great Ways to Be Thankful (with a social skills spin)
Where are Europeans going in the United States? (with context both around European flags and countries, and for making guesses about why these cities are so popular with tourists).

Also, check out my simple infographic I made with Piktochart!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Welcome to Social Studies: Barefoot World Atlas

As a companion to my column for the ASHA Leader App-Titude series, "Welcome to Science Class," this series explores how technology can serve as a context for teaching "language underpinnings" related to the social studies curriculum.

Continents, countries, and cities provide a great context for developing language skills. The sequential/hierarchical nature of these arbitrary (well, except continents) regions can confuse many of our students and therefore provides good ground for concept development. Additionally, the spacial and semantic aspects are rich, with so many places to be explored. At many points in our students' academic careers they are confronted by these topics--my 2nd graders were expected to learn not only the continents and oceans but the content on units regarding China, Mexico, and Ghana--marking a key entry point to educational relevance.

Back in my early days dabbling with technology integration, I sorely lamented the lack of interactive materials regarding continents and countries. While taking an educational web design class, I actually completed my project by creating web pages (the hard way) with some interactive elements such as FANCY images that changed when you rolled over them with your mouse! Wow! *sarcasm*

How I would have loved to have Barefoot World Atlas ($4.99), a "magical, interactive 3D globe" featuring small animations that can be used to build schema about world countries and much more. Barefoot World Atlas can be explored with the fingers or via multiple directories (e.g. Regions, Countries, alphabetical elements).

Each animation can be viewed closely along with a kid-friendly text explanation. Tap the speaker icon and it can be read aloud, and a real image is also provided for each!

Regions and Countries also have text/audio content, schematically presented in a language-based manner corresponding with the "Five Themes of Geography"

The app is a great example of F- Fair Pricing (compare to the price of a book!), is clearly I-Interactive, provides great V-Visuals, and is E-Educationally Relevant as described above... So is it S- Speechie/Specific to your objectives, resulting in true FIVES-friendliness? Depends on how you use it!

-Construct a small (or large) "Scavenger Hunt" with language clues about where the different elements can be found.
-Identify elements that are the "same but different" from those in your city/community and have kids describe the similarities and differences.
-Use the audio for listening activities and to give kids a break from listening to you for a few minutes!
-The content is filled with expository text structures such as lists, sequences, and cause-effect relationships. For these, and all of the above, consider using this app in conjunction with graphic organizers to build connections in language. Don't miss the potential alignment with these Common Core Standards in Literacy in History/Social Studies:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.3 Identify key steps in a text's description of a process related to history/social studies (e.g., how a bill becomes law, how interest rates are raised or lowered).
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.5 Describe how a text presents information (e.g., sequentially, comparatively, causally).

Barefoot World Atlas is complete on its own but does have some nice expansion packs such as "Major Cities" and puzzle tasks, generally available for $.99.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Welcome to Social Studies: 5 Language-Enhancing Activities Made Possible by Google Earth

As a companion to my column for the ASHA Leader App-Titude series, "Welcome to Science Class," this series explores how technology can serve as a context for teaching "language underpinnings" related to the social studies curriculum.

I have long considered Google Earth (GE) to be one of the best free resources for developing language in the context of social studies content--though it is great for developing language related to math, science, and even language arts (since it is filled with settings in the story grammar sense). Google Earth is basically the inspiration for the V (Visual) aspect of the FIVES Criteria; it provides endless visual contexts for language, while remaining virtually language-neutral, making it a great stimulus for our scaffolding. For the purposes of this post, I will be talking about what can be done with the free Google Earth iPad app, which keeps getting more powerful, though surely more can be done with the desktop/laptop and Android (this being a Google product) versions.

1. Pull out GE for incidental teaching: I am currently doing some individual language therapy for a student using his class assignments as jumping off points for strategy work (e.g. use of Story Grammar Marker®, Expanding Expression Tool, and Visualizing and Verbalizing®). In working through some reading, he asked me what a gulf was--having my iPad right there, we quickly reviewed a few examples of gulfs and compared it, in sequence, to smaller bodies of water that are formed as water goes into the land: bays and harbors. Geographic features are definitional!

2. Take virtual field trips to regions/countries/states/landmarks/settings of books being studied and use to elicit spatial, descriptive and narrative language: Most major cities in Google Earth now contain "3D Buildings"- providing a great "wow" factor and much visual material to be described.

3. Employ the "Panoramio Photos" and Wikipedia Layers for more specific visual and linguistic material: Google Earth displays information in layers which can be turned on and off via the menu in the upper left corner. These include the 3D Buildings layer but also the moderated and geo-tagged Panoramio Photos (turning this layer on displays blue photo icons that can be tapped and displayed) and Wikipedia, which provides general information about locations (though the W icons can be a bit hard to find)

4. Tour Guide provides a more structured, curated view of landmarks: Sweep up from the bottom of the screen in any location to view Tour Guide- this shows brief animated fly-overs of locations as well as great photos for description.

5. Use Street View even for your youngest learners: Think about the category of community buildings. Street View lets you walk around any town or city and view examples of places in the community- personally relevant ones! Just drag the "Peg Guy" onto the street and you can begin to navigate- sweep your finger around to change view and double-tap to move down the street and describe. Kids love to visit their houses too!

Have fun with Google Earth- it's easy to get started with the tutorial that plays when you first open the app- it's also replayable (and a great following-directions activity) from the Settings menu in the app.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Welcome to Social Studies: Hoopa City

In this month's column for the ASHA Leader App-Titude series, I discussed how relevant science concepts and content can be used as a context for language therapy (see the great work of Barbara Ehren on curriculum-relevant interventions). Like science, social studies has much opportunity to teach language underpinnings involving the skills that our students can struggle with, thereby providing rationale for our interventions. Social Studies is full of narrative, vocabulary and definitions, sequences of events, categories and cause-effect relationships, as well as the spacial concepts needed to understand geography. This month I will be posting a series running parallel to this column exploring technology resources that can provide an easy context to build language skills supporting our students' success in social studies.

Up first, Hoopa City by Dr. Panda Games, one of my favorite publishers (available for iOS and Android, $2.99). Imagine the interactivity and engagement involved in a tool that allows you to build a city. I have always enjoyed aspects of SimCity for this, but it becomes very complex. Hoopa City can be used for the simplest city-building activities, but has enough complexity for us to engage even upper-elementary learners. Basically, Hoopa City allows you to add buildings and city features to an open space by tapping on a material (heart, coin, lightning bolt, road, brick, water, leaf) and then on a block of land to place the element. However, you can go far beyond the hospitals, shops, roads, houses, etc that go with a simple use of one material by combining materials. Simply select a different material and tap again on the space where you have placed an element of your city.

So, for example, if you tap a brick, then a square of land to place it, you create a house.

Tap the heart and then the same square you placed the house, it becomes a school!

I love the figurative and semantic combinations that can be discovered and discussed in this game, such as combining a brick and heart to create a building that nurtures, i.e. a school.

Once you have created buildings, Dr. Panda characters move about and interact with them subtly (you can't control, but can observe this). Now, you could use this game in an exploratory manner with students to see (and make guesses about while using if/then language) what combinations might produce, but it is helpful to have a guide, so see Geeks With Juniors comprehensive list of what you can create with Hoopa City.

Language (and Social Studies) Lens:
-Use Hoopa City to build categories such as community buildings, vehicles, bodies of water, types of stores, etc, as well as language around the functions and associations (e.g. what might be inside) of buildings.
-Pair with Doodle Buddy to sketch what might be inside of your buildings, thereby developing visualization and further description skills.
-Your "map" can be used as a writing or speaking activity for giving directions around the town or describing positions spatially (with left or right, etc or N, S, E, W).

Note: the one improvement I would suggest, besides some elaboration within the app of how to produce a few select combinations (I almost abandoned the app, until a bit more research unlocked this element), would be the ability to save and work on different cities. For now, you can sweep the "globe" and build cities in different locations. [EDIT: the free update released on 9/17/14 addressed this issue; you can now save multiple cities, making this app more useful for multiple students or groups]

What language and social studies applications do you see in Hoopa Cities? Let us know in the comments...

Thursday, September 4, 2014

"Back to School" Links

I have been enjoying a few weeks off before things pick up again! Though out of the traditional school schedule, my work still revolves around the academic year, with therapy groups starting in September as well as school consults, programming, and evals (and most of my presentations and trainings as well).

Over the summer, I had a great time blogging about research for Mindwing Concepts' blog and their "Summer Study Series." I have been making a lot of efforts over the past few years to connect with research that informs technology use, or per my usual message, intervention approaches that can be aligned with particular applications.

In July, we discussed an interesting study that compared structured narrative intervention in one classroom with more traditional (e.g. wh-questions, among other approaches) programming in another. The study was also the first to look at the efficacy of in-classroom discourse intervention by speech-language pathologists (Gillam, Olszewski, Fargo & Gillam, 2014). The link to the actual study was accidentally left out of that post, so you can find it here in full-text for ASHA members.

Just recently, we also looked at interesting research into typical expository language performance for the upper-elementary to high-school population. The study used a protocol similar to one I have used in the past, with some interesting tweaks such as setting clear expectations and providing schematic scaffolding and planning time prior to the students producing a language sample. Data has thus far been lacking to compare students' performance in terms of key factors such as linguistic complexity, so these are welcome findings. The link to the full-text, again free to ASHA members, is in the post describing the research of Heilmann & Malone (2014).

Additionally, I published a column for ASHA Leader about prepping for travel to the 2014 Orlando Convention (but helpful for all travelers). I am excited to be presenting at the convention a sequel to previous sessions- Pairing EVEN MORE Picture Books & Apps to Contextually Address Language Objectives (Session 1718, Saturday, November 22, 1-2pm)- on Saturday afternoon. Hopefully I will see some of you to talk with you about one of my favorite topics-- before you leave or head to Disney World!

As a tech tie-in, I'd like to mention the tool that I am finding the best resource for reading and annotating journal articles. Sente 6 for Mac and iPad allows you to build "libraries" of research articles and annotate and sync them across your account accessed on Mac or iPad (Free for up to 100 references per library and with 250MB of syncing). The advantages for me are that I tend to do this reading on my laptop, and tools such as Preview or Adobe Reader do not have the same features. Also, when highlighting, you can create notes that can be cut/pasted into another application or exported. Check it out if you like to read journal articles; there is a bit of a learning curve but nice support videos available.

Disclosure: Author is a contractor with Mindwing Concepts, Inc. for provision of blog content and professional development.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

MarcoPolo Ocean

MarcoPolo Ocean (free for iPad and iPhone/iPod) is a well-designed app designed as a "sandbox" exploratory and interactive experience. The app targets science, technology, engineering and design (STEM) concepts around biodiversity, earth science and landscapes, construction and function of various ocean vehicles, and related vocabulary.

The app has six core activities that function as exploratory puzzles, with the additional features of zooming to other areas of the screen for additional exploration, as well as audio labeling and narration of actions or functions of the depicted elements.

Construction of an underwater reef is completed by dragging different elements to their highlighted spots

The boat construction activity includes many elements that can be described as well as compartment names such as hold, galley and bridge.

Language Lens:
-This app could be used to have children interact with scenes and vocabulary related to ocean or habitat units and practice labeling and vocabulary in those contexts.
-The construction activities (a boat and submarine) particularly focus on the parts and functions of these two vehicles, and so could be used to practice these semantic skills.
-The habitat building and exploration activities would lend themselves to pairing with Social Thinking®'s Incredible Flexible You curriculum for early learners, particularly the "Body in the Group" Volume, which centers around an ocean theme and narrative. In addition to the theme elements, the scenes show ocean creatures swimming in groups and out of groups, which can serve as a visual to apply the skill of identifying physical proximity as a social concept.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Find great photo contexts with Getty Images app

Photos have nearly endless applications in speech-language therapy: descriptive skills, focus on specific structures such as verbs or prepositions, social and executive functioning. Programs such as Visualizing and Verbalizing use photos to build schema and gestalt processing. Technology naturally makes obtaining such stimuli easier, and one such resource is the recently updated Getty Images app (free).

Getty Images is a source of over 60 million images, and though designed for creative and media professionals, its galleries are free to view. The free app allows you to search for photos tagged with a specific term (e.g. "kids" or something much more specific), add ones you like to a "lightbox" and display the photo full-screen within the app. Multiple lightboxes can be created and named to help you access photos you would like to view again.

As the images are designed for sale, the app naturally doesn't allow you to save them to the camera roll. Creating a free login for the service, however, will allow you to view the photo without a distracting watermark and use it within a session.

I did not want to potentially violate copyright by posting an image other than what is shared in the App Store, but you can see below the myriad of search terms and attributes attached to one photo, offering a sampling of what you can use to search for photos (and a hint that this app may be used to work on attributes as well)!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Summer Reading and More: Overdrive Media Console

Purchasing books (e- or otherwise) and audiobooks is an expensive proposition, especially if you don't necessarily want to add them to a real or virtual collection for revisiting. This is one way our public libraries can come in handy. But did you know you can get many titles for free without even leaving your home?

Overdrive Media Console (free for iPhone, iPad and Android) has been around for some time, but has improved with its own updates for usability, in addition to the increased availability of e-materials through public libraries. Overdrive allows you to sign in to your local library with your login and password, then download or join waiting lists for e-books or audiobooks, all for free.

E-books can be quickly downloaded with a few taps and added to your Kindle app, while audiobooks (download while on wi-fi to avoid data charges) play in the Overdrive app themselves. This is the perfect summer app for you to grab a few titles for lounging on your porch, or perhaps an audiobook or two for a long drive. The only caveat is that you have to finish the title within a set period of time (in Boston, two weeks) or it disappears from your library (i.e. is returned). This is one reason I tend to use the app more for nonfiction, so I won't remain in suspense should there be a wait to re-download the book.

Currently I am working my way through my (2nd) download of Malcolm Gladwell's David and Goliath, in which he argues that what we perceive to be advantages and/or disadvantages may not actually be. In one chapter, he details the many people with dyslexia who have gone on to great success because--he claims--of the other qualities they have needed to develop, such as resilience and listening skills. Though certainly there are tons of people who have overcome learning disabilities to achieve wonderful success, I'm not sure I bought the "dyslexia universally helps you" argument at all (naturally, this chapter was controversial and spawned some criticism). However, Gladwell tells a good story, and I am glad I didn't have to pay $20 to read it, considering.

Overdrive is also a handy tool for SLPs and support teachers of any kind for free access to curriculum contexts such as books being read by our students in their classrooms. Over the years, I have found audiobooks to be a great way to utilize my commute time so that I could be on the same page, context-wise, and construct activities for my students when their classrooms include chapter books such as Number the Stars. 

Do note that my experience is based on using this app in conjunction with a membership in a large urban library, and I am not sure how your connections will serve you. However, I have seen this app recommended at workshops and elsewhere as a great resource for e-books. Hope you find a few free books to pass your summer time!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Some TED Talks of interest to SLPs and Language Folks

Summer is a great time to slow down and think. TED Talks have long been one of my favorite ways to take in some new info- these short (varying from 5-20 min) presentation recordings are created at Technology-Entertainment (the E should be Education for as much as these talks address that area)-Design conferences around the world and feature leading researchers and creative people speaking on important topics. TED Talks are naturally facilitated by technology as they are available on YouTube and the free TED app.

All of the talks are food for summer thought but a few have caught my eye recently as relevant to speech and language:

Disability-led innovations for the masses- SLP and Assistive technology trainer Chris Bugaj, author of The Practical and Fun Guide to Assistive Technology in Public Schools and the A.T.TIPSCAST, explores the many examples of accommodations for people with disabilities (e.g. touch screens) that have become the norm, illuminating principles of Universal Design.

How to speak so that people want to listen- Sound consultant Julian Treasure discusses subtly "unexpected behaviors" in social communication and the effects of aspects of speech such as register and prosody, providing a good resource to use with clients working on these areas.

Autism — what we know (and what we don’t know yet)- Geneticist Wendy Chung shares what we know about autism, both from a genetic and developmental perspective.

What makes a word "real"?-English professor and linguist Anne Cuzan explores our evolving language and the notions that word changes reflect the populace's usage and not just our judgments of what should be "correct" English.

Use these as jumping off points to other talks- I am happy to have just discovered the "Words, words, words" playlist while writing this post!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Social Thinking Providers' Conference 2014

This past weekend, I was thrilled to be part of the Social Thinking® Providers' Conference in San Francisco, CA. I always leave this event (this was my third) with renewed energy and a ton of ideas informing my work, which nowadays centers around language therapy and a whole lot of social cognitive work with kids who have learning challenges in this area.

This year's agenda featured updates from Social Thinking founder Michelle Garcia Winner, of course, but also great presentations from prominent thinkers in social cognition such as Dr. Jed Baker, author of The Social Skills Picture Book among other works, and Kari Dunn Buron, creator of one of my favorite tools, The Incredible Five Point Scale.

Breakout sessions featured terrific information from Maryellen Rooney Moreau, creator of Story Grammar Marker, Jenny Sojat presenting a great therapy idea about teaching kids "levels of like" to address black/white thinking, Alana Fitchtelberg on great simple activities addressing the skills in the ILAUGH model, and Nancy Clements and Anna Cotton on Project Based Learning and Social Thinking.

Some specific ideas I walked away with:

Social Thinkng is about providing very accessible language to define super complex ideas at the level of therapy. (Michelle Garcia Winner)

It is very hard to teach kids "rules." Adults think it's awful to put a "Kick Me" sign on someone's back but if doing so with humorous or gentle intent, kids actually are showing each other they are "thinking of each other"- it's validating! Similar example, if a friend gets a good grade on a test an expected response can be: "You suck!" To kids that can handle it, we must teach nuance. (Michelle Garcia Winner)

A new concept in assessing and treating early learners in play contexts is the Social Thinking GPS (Group Play and Problem-Solving Scale): ME-based players are self-focused on their object-oriented play and include adults when adults join their attention "in a tunnel" or follow the child’s lead. WE-based players are emerging or emerged in their ability to socially attend to peers and able to engage in peer based play with varying levels of support. (Kari Palmer, Nancy Tarshis, Ryan Hendrix)

The idea around the 5 Point Scale is that more language is not working, so we systematize (see Simon Baron-Cohen's Empathizing-Systematizing Theory). Similarly, calming sequences are based on training of first responders and automaticity: "when this happens, we do this, this, and this." (Kari Dunn Buron)

Working with students around formulating "Levels" and sequencing items within them can target concrete thinking and build acceptance of shades of gray. Start with "Levels of Like" (e.g. foods, games) and creation of an "OK Line" can help students to compromise when making a group plan regarding an activity/compromise. (Jenny Sojat)

Try to avoid examples of "non-active listening" when working with resistant students (I recalled saying some of these myself, ruefully) :
• “There’s no reason to be so upset.” (Denial of Feelings)
• “Mrs. Peru was just doing her job.” (Defense of the other person)
• “I think you’re missing the point of the assignment, again.” (Blaming)
• “Just do it and get it over with.” (Advice)
• “That’s life. You don’t always get to do it your way (Philosophical response)
• “I feel so sorry for you!” (Pity)
"Sounds as if you (feel/thought)..." is a good way to start an active/empathetic listening statement. (Nancy Cotton)


And then our Ely Center staff took advantage of flying all the way from Boston to the West Coast to...go to a Red Sox Game!

---End Intermission---

Jed Baker, an amazing speaker, discussed the efficacy of peer training at middle and high school level in changing a school climate to be supportive of students with social learning challenges. He also mentioned that response cost systems (e.g. Class Dojo, taking away points) should be used with students who are disregulated with positive emotion, not negative emotion.

Students can build social cognition and skills through project-based contexts (see Project-Based Learning). These interpersonal effectiveness videos are great resources for expected and unexpected behaviors in contexts of working in a group.  (Nancy Clements)

Finally, I was very happy to be presenting at this conference myself. My session was a new approach for me, presenting 3 different apps (Pic Collage, Keynote, Toontastic) that could be used for Social Thinking along with an analysis of their features and presentation of examples of how I have used them. The participants then had time between each resource to brainstorm at their tables and add ideas to a collaborative digital "wall." This in-depth "zooming in" on resources was a lot of fun and those who attended added many great new thoughts on how the apps could be used for social development.

Here are the 3 walls on Padlet, below (just use your mouse to move around the wall and "hover" on any boxes hidden in order to read them):

I highly recommend getting to a Social Thinking conference soon!

Social Thinking is based on the work of Michelle Garcia Winner. See for great products and free resources.

Disclosure: Author is employed by The Ely Center, LLC and is a contractor with Mindwing Concepts, Inc. for provision of blog content and professional development.

Friday, June 13, 2014

World's Worst Pet-Vocabulary

I am often asked about apps that build vocabulary and am at a loss for an easy answer. Are you looking for apps for basic or more advanced vocabulary? Do you mean semantics instead? There are many terrific apps that can be used to build semantic networks, categorization and description (take Bag Game, Naming TherAppy and Describe it to Me as a few examples), and though these skills provide the foundation for expanding vocabulary, this is sometimes not what the person was asking for.

What I often try to do is guide people toward context and repeated exposure, two principles of vocabulary development espoused in the terrific Bringing Words To Life by Isabel Beck (more on this in a minute), and again my answers aren't so straightforward:
-Read books and use Kidspiration or Inspiration to map or categorize vocabulary in context
-Keep a vocabulary journal in Evernote

While the above approach aligns with my philosophy about apps, i.e. that they are tools to be used as part of a bigger context, process, sequence of pre-/post- activities etc, it was really nice to find an app that can be used to develop vocabulary by providing content and context within an engaging package. I'm speaking of World's Worst Pet-Vocabulary (FREE!) from the folks at Curriculum Associates, which was designed specifically to develop Tier 2 Vocabulary (another concept discussed in Beck's book)- those high-frequency words used by "mature" speakers.

World's Worst Pet contains tons of content that can be worked with across 5 grade levels (grades 4-8 are suggested but with scaffolding, this can be used with younger grades in the same way kindergarteners learn Tier 2 words using Beck's approach). The concept is that Snargg, the world's worst pet, keeps bolting and you need to interact with vocabulary to "chase" him through a particular setting (e.g. a bakery) and retrieve him. You move vocabulary words to complete tasks such as matching words to the main idea of "book" titles, finding synonyms or antonyms, responding to questions/categorizing around the vocab words, or identifying examples/nonexamples. Your choices guide Snargg via steps, catapult, rocket, etc in engaging ways, and the app follows a commonly-enjoyed structure of encouraging accurate completion of each level by earning "pupcakes."

My favorite part of the app is that the sets of 10 vocabulary words are contextual, related, relevant to real life, and supported by student-friendly definitions (more Beck). The sets include topics such as words about performing (audience, popular, melody, public), words about going places (journey, roam, guide, proceed), and words about the mall (merchandise, extravagant, desire, vendor).

The levels and sets give you a place to start for students with weak vocabulary and a structure that might serve you (and them) over several years of instruction. You can challenge the students to complete each set perfectly, and the pace of the game will give you a lot of "air time" to discuss each word and provide additional models. Each level can be a doorway to activities over several weeks, including a suggested writing activity, and can be a topic of consultation with teachers so that there are multiple exposures to the words (as building vocabulary only in the "speech room" can have limited efficacy). EVEN BETTER, you can flip this model and use this app as the context for in-class programming, thereby facilitating vocabulary development in the classroom. Beck's book will give you many more ideas for wordplay activities to provide students with multiple exposure to words!

Let me know what you think of this app-it's one of my favorite finds this year. Thank you to Richard Byrne of iPad Apps for School for pointing it out.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Summer Professional Development

Summer approaches! Here's what I will be up to:

I am happy to be presenting at the Social Thinking® Providers' Conference in San Francisco this month (June 20-22). The topic is Zooming in on App Integration: 3 Apps and Divergent Uses for Social Thinking Instruction.

The Ely Center is hosting two sections of Mindwing Concepts' terrific Story Grammar Marker certification course, followed by a 3rd day focused on technology integration with Mindwing's narrative and expository text comprehension and production tools (I facilitate the 3rd day). The two sections will be held July 21-23 and August 18-20. See Mindwing's website for more information and registration.


Webinar for Administrators (please let your administrators, even beyond MA, know about this one)- Integrating the iPad for School Administrators, various dates.

Tell Me A Story: iPad Apps for Digital Storytelling and Explanimation (July 24, Waltham).

The iPad as a Social and Organizational Tool: Apps to Promote Social Cognition and Executive Functioning (August 21, Bedford)

Have a great summer!

Disclosure: Author is employed by The Ely Center, LLC and is a contractor with Mindwing Concepts, Inc. for provision of blog content and professional development.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Everything You Need To Know About WWDC 2014

You may be thinking, "I don't even know what WWDC is," which is fine. However, the Worldwide Developer's Conference is one of Apple's (usually 2) opportunities each year to announce what's coming next (in this case, this fall). Yesterday's Keynote featured a number of announcements that are important for SLPs and other language teachers to know about. Here's a brief rundown.

iOS 8 coming this fall: iOS, of course, is the brain of the iPad. New releases of operating systems not only add features to the device or change the look and feel (as iOS 7 did substantially), but also affect the way all your apps work and update. After an iOS update, many developers update their apps and add features--so if you don't or can't update the operating system, you would miss out on app updates. Even more importantly, if you are running an outdated operating system, this makes you vulnerable to security issues when you surf the web (e.g. and buy something with a credit card). Some main points about iOS 8:

iPad 2 users, you're still in! Apple deals in an element of "planned obsolescence"- as their software advances, sometimes the hardware has to drop out for the software to run properly. This has happened with the 1st generation iPad, which though still usable became technically obsolete when iOS 7 came out, as it could not be installed on that device. The rumors ahead of WWDC were that the new operating software would not be able to be installed on the iPad 2 (which is no longer being sold by Apple), but it seems we have a reprieve here, and your iPad 2 will be able to be updated. This is important for all the reasons listed above. Because I help integrate a cart of 30 iPad 2s at a local school, I also breathed a sigh of relief about this one.

QuickType is an advanced word prediction technology that will be available in the Messages app. This feature actually responds to your previous messages with any given contact and suggests words as you are typing that correspond with your communication style with that person. This will be a boon to people with print or other disabilities- I hope it will also be available in word processing tools eventually. You can see how it works here. In Messages you will also be able to record and send short audio messages that expire after playing, SnapChat style, and this is also a nice feature for those with communication issues.

App Store will have a number of enhancements making it easier to get information about apps, including App Previews, videos that developers can upload so you know what you are getting before you buy. This is essential information before purchasing dedicated SLP and other apps and will help you evaluate your potential purchases. Bundles of apps will also be available for the first time at discounted prices.

Passcode protection on everything including third party apps. This was not demonstrated so I am not exactly sure how it will work, but it seems to mean that you can set a passcode to prevent students from opening certain apps.

Family Sharing is a set of features making iOS like a "virtual refrigerator door" for families- the demos of sharing calendar items and reminders between family members look great for those with autism or executive function issues.

Health will be fostered through iOS 8 with a new app that synchs with now popular simple body-monitoring devices to track everything from sleep to blood pressure.

iCloud Drive is a new aspect of iCloud allowing addition of files from compatible apps. This may end up being easier to use than Dropbox or Google Drive, especially if you are using creation apps and "app smashing" a product from one app to another.

Metal is a new technology for creating apps that looks like it has great potential for interactive experiences that foster language. The Apple team demonstrated an amazingly detailed and interactive Zen Garden app (that, incidentally, will be available for free when iOS 8 is released).

Photos as always continue to improve with shooting and editing features, as well as easier sharing between devices, which you will want to turn off because beverages.

iOS 8 will be released for free this fall for iPad 2 and above, iPhone 4S and above, and will be available through your Software Update in Settings at that time.

Mac users: a new version of OS X called Yosemite (these operating systems are now named after California locations) will be released in fall as well. Its features include a new look and feel, translucency ala iOS 7 that brings a sense of context on screen, and many aspects that link your Mac to iOS devices. I am particularly excited to be able to AirDrop rather than email photos to my Mac, as I need to do this a lot when writing email updates to parents about therapy sessions. You can see a rundown of new Yosemite features here.