Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My World for iPad

Many of you know I have a thing about maps! Maps are fascinating to examine, but from an SLP perspective can be used to target all kinds of skills: categories (i.e. continents, states, cities, capitals), spatial concepts, and clearly intersection with classroom curriculum.

Technology has made maps more interactive and therefore a more engaging context. My World for iPad ($.99) is a nice little tool to have if you would like to use geography as a way to build language skills. Specifically, you can zoom in to any location by pinching, or use the location functions of the device to identify where you are on the map (doable with many maps apps). The hook of My World is that it allows you to create a line and find out a) the distance of the path between places and b) the amount of time it would take to travel by plane or car. In both cases, students are engaged with a personal connection (their location, as measured in relation to locations relevant to classroom topics) and can be asked to apply language around distance or, more importantly for many of our students, time.

Using My World would benefit from some structure imposed on your part, for example the creation of a scavenger hunt/challenge to find distances and times and record them on a graphic organizer.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Workshop: Applying Technology to Support Social and Executive Functioning

Hi Folks, please spread the word about the following workshop being held by the Massachusetts Speech-Language Hearing Association.

Applying Technology to Support Social and Executive Functioning

Saturday, April 5, 2014, 8:30-3:30, Emerson College, Boston.

This workshop will demonstrate a variety of visual and interactive applications that can be used with students with difficulties in social cognition and executive functioning, particularly with a lens on addressing these issues in the educational environment. Webtools and apps for iPads will be covered, including those helpful for older students struggling to access the curriculum and manage their workload. Participants will have guided practice time throughout the day, as well as opportunities for sharing and collaborating with colleagues.

Learner Outcomes
1. Participants will describe a variety of tools applicable to students at various age levels to support social interaction in the school, community and home settings.
2. Participants will apply applications towards assisting students and parents with executive functioning: planning, organization, behavioral regulation and time management.
3. Participants will align technology tools with specific approaches supporting social and executive functioning, such as Story Grammar Marker® and The Incredible 5-Point Scale.

Find out more and register on the MSHA Website.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Have a "Smashing" Saint Patrick's Day

"App Smashing" is a term I am starting to tell people about at workshops. Apps do discrete things, and no one app does everything. But we can capitalize on one app's capabilities when combined with another's- chiefly through saving a product to the camera roll. This provides both an opportunity for us to expand our tech comfort and for kids to follow multiple step directions. "App Smashing" was coined by Massachusetts educator Greg Kulowiec and you can learn more about it here.

St. Patrick's day can indeed be about more than the stereotypes (no comment, but I am too old, basically, anyway), and this week I used the context to do an activity about positive self-talk. In a brief lesson we illustrated how our self-talk can influence our feelings and therefore our social behaviors- it's the difference between "Lucky Thinking" and "Unlucky Thinking."

Students then used the free app St. Patrick's Day Booth Free to snap a selfie- you may have to try a few to make sure the top of the head is hat-ready- and add festive stuff. This app allows you to save to the camera roll (tap the download/box symbol).

Next, use a photo comic app such as Story Me or Strip Designer. Add the photo to a single-paned comic from the camera roll, and add a word balloon or thought balloon after working with the student around some "Lucky Thinking" from their day or week. This also targets sentence and narrative formulation as well as social cognition. 

See our model used with our center's doggie, Stella!

Have fun with App-Smashing!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

"Diagnose" with Dr. Pet Play

The iPad is such an engaging gadget that we sometimes can be too focused on its screen--kids especially. For this reason, it is helpful to locate apps that provide context or creation, but let us break away from the screen to focus on the communication and learning aspects of the activity.

Dr. Pet Play by Pretendasaurus is an app that supports just that kind of context, turning the iPad into a pretend "medical device" that can be used in a play-based interaction with children. Just add a stuffed animal and the screens of the can be used to prompt questions and record answers given in play between kids, as in the video below.

The "examination" can be used to target many language concepts and vocabulary including feelings, body parts, gender, age, weight, and action words, as well as pronouns:

The app includes some fantastic interactive elements such as the ability to activate the camera and snap an image of the "patient," annotate the "X-Ray," and scan and control heart rate and temperature.

Language Lens:
-In addition to concepts and vocabulary, interactions using the app could be used along with Braidy, The Storybraid or Story Grammar Marker® to have students tell stories about why they came to the vet that day.
-To add more context and sequential/causal language, including "treatments," other props might be helpful. I have (and love) the Pretend and Play Vet Set.
-Interactions around the app can support social development, including Social Thinking's® concept of "sharing an imagination," important across all age levels.

This app can be downloaded in its free version, which has only a template for a cat, or the full version ($2.99), which has templates for 10 animals (chiefly different in the X-Ray image and the prompted questions).

So try Dr. Pet Play and take your kids way beyond the screen!

Disclosure: author is a consultant for provision of blog content to Mindwing Concepts, Inc, creators of Story Grammar Marker and Braidy the Storybraid.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

AR Flashcards Space

Last mARch I focused on applications of augmented reality (AR) in education. Augmented reality is the technological process of accessing digital information in our analog world. Location or device orientation information, printed "markers" or other data are used, often in conjunction with a mobile device camera, to display relevant information. AR has a major "cool" factor and is very engaging for students to use- often they have not ever experienced anything quite like it!

AR can be quite simple to use as well, as is the case with apps such as AR Flashcards-Animal Alphabet, which I wrote about last year and also just won the 2013 Best Mobile App in Education Edublog Award. The folks who created this app have targeted another topic- the Solar System- in their new app AR Flashcards- Space ($.99)!

This app would be a fun tool to incorporate for students studying space, the solar system or an earth/sun/moon unit. After you print a set of colored flashcards (available here if you would like to preview them), launch the app and point your rear-facing camera at a card. The planet depicted will appear in dynamic 3-D. Tap the planet to hear its name (SLPs, let's acknowledge that the articulation of the students who recorded the planet names, well, has some errors) and another button will play a paragraph-length audio description of the planet.

Langauge Lens:
-The images that appear are great stimuli for descriptive language skills- what do you notice about the planets?
-The information played auditorily for each planet is schematic (focusing on category, e.g. gas planet, temperature and other features) so could be used for auditory comprehension activities or also perhaps to fill out a planetary scavenger hunt graphic organizer of facts about each planet.
-This app could also be paired with Aurasma to create your own content about the planets or another topic.

AR Flashcards-Space is well worth it for $.99!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Travolta's Teachable Moment

YouTube is a great resource when it comes to finding timely video clips- just preview the exact one to make sure you know what you are showing.*

Sunday at the Oscars, John Travolta made somewhat of a gaffe by, I guess you could call it mis-introducing singer Idina Menzel, because it went far beyond simply mispronouncing her name. Your students are likely to have background information about this as the song she was singing is from the animated hit Frozen.

I know many have sympathy for Mr. Travolta for various reasons, but nevertheless, the humorous situation can be used as a teachable moment for students (and us)! Though we emphasize social concepts such as "People Files" (see Social Thinking® and the work of Michelle Garcia Winner) regularly, students still benefit from regular review of why it is important to at least use others' names purposefully, if not have deeper knowledge about them, and this situation seemed totally on point. Use YouTube to look up the occurrence, or see this link for video, and for an engaging twist, a little interactive that lets you "Travoltify" your students' names.

You can also show at least the beginning of the performance immediately after and discuss why it was important for Ms. Menzel to react professionally:

If you have been to one of Sarah Ward's workshops, her STOP strategy for situational awareness (Space, Time, Objects, People) goes well with this situation.

Space- onstage, backstage, audience, well, uh, the world.
Time- Before the show, each piece of the show is rehearsed several times. What happened right after this? What should Mr. Travolta do to make up for his mistake after this?
Objects- Paper (could have been used as memory aid), teleprompter.
People- What do we know about Mr. Travolta? What about Ms. Menzel- unfortunately this was a shining moment for her that got messed up a bit. What did others think about his mistake? What are the emotions involved for the speaker, singer, viewer. See this ad by the promoters of Idina Menzel's new Broadway show capitalizing on the humor of the story.

The concepts established with the clip can then be applied to activities emphasizing names and people files within the group.

*I also like to use apps such as TubeBox to save clips (avoiding connection/blocking problems in buildings) and remove distracting adds and sidebar clip libraries.