Thursday, May 29, 2014

Canva- a great resource for flyers, strategy cards or other therapy visuals!

A number of great webtools have become defunct in recent months (bye, xtranormal, and see ya, Kerpoof, sniff sniff), so it's great to see that useful websites are still being developed. Canva premiered in the past year as a tool to make design accessible to everyone.  Canva is free (some backgrounds or stock photo options available at cost) and a super-easy way to make a snazzy visual: a flyer for your services, event, or practice news, an appealing reminder to use a particular language strategy (concepts from Social Thinking® spring to mind) or a creation tool to make a poster emphasizing "language underpinnings" of a curriculum topic.

Note: Canva is NOT accessible on iPad currently. Messages on the website indicate this is coming in the future.

Canva promotes itself as "Amazingly Simple" and it is! Select a layout or background (or both), add and edit your text, and insert photos (many stock options cost $1, or add your own photos or digital drawings). Your product will be linkable or downloadable as an image or PDF.

Canva contains some specialized options: for your social media peeps, you can make blog images, Pinterest-friendly pics, Twitter or Facebook cover images, and more.

Our bulletin board- filled with Canva-produced announcements!

What visual do you have of using Canva? Let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Link Updates and One "for the Girls"

Some updates on other writings- so far this year I have had several columns published in ASHA Leader, in case you missed them:

May 1, 2014. Tech-Supported Wellness

April 1, 2014. 'Skitch' Up your Visual Aids

January 1, 2014. Zooming in on One Multitalented App

Recently I also posted for Mindwing Concepts on infusing use of Braidy, The Storybraid with Social Thinking's® terrific Incredible Flexible You program

When Lego's® Friends line of toys came on the market, marketed as "Lego for Girls," it met with some controversy about gendered branding. After all, there already was a Lego for Girls. It was called Lego.

Despite this, it seems girls do respond to the look and feel of Friends, and I appreciate any toy that develops hands-on, narrative and cooperative play. I also applaud Lego for their creation of a number of free, language-useful apps, even if the goal of these apps is to get people to buy more Lego. Minor critique aside, Lego does make a great product.

I recently found Lego Friends Story Maker app very useful in working with a small group of girls- the app is a pretty simple and limited scene creator, but in some cases it can be helpful to present only small arrays of choices. The goal can always be, how do we make a story of what we see here?

The app allows you to select from a variety of backgrounds (beach, school, etc) add characters and setting elements, as well as smaller props. As an added bonus, you can record an audio narration for your created scene, always a good opportunity to practice applicable speech and language targets or strategies.

Scene creators provide a context to develop all sorts of language targets, from concepts to description to sentence formulation. The app is limited in its text features (i.e. I'd really want to make a comic with it), but here's a place you can "app-smash." Just screenshot your scene and then add the photo to Strip Designer and you're good to add word and thought balloons and captions, helpful for scripting and other aspects of social development.

As in other cases, if you have any Friends or other Lego toys on hand, the app can help you practice play scripts and plans to enact with real-world toys.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Re-usable Images!

As SLPs and other educators delve into creative visual tools, it opens up a world of language opportunities for our students. Creating videos, animations, books, comics, and other products is always a language process, and we can scaffold the use of many strategies while using these tools. However, using visual creation apps often requires images, and there is more than privacy at stake in this matter. We also must consider copyright and fair use.

As a general rule, using pictures saved via a Google Image search is going to be fine if what you are creating is staying on your iPad and not being republished or widely disseminated. For some examples, you're OK if you have saved a Google Image for educational purposes and you:
-Mark it up with photo annotation tool Skitch, save it to the Camera Roll and/or print it for use with the student or display in a classroom.
-Add it to a visual made with Custom Boards (which also has a built in Google Image search).
-Use it in a social story of which there are one (or "few" according to the confusing guidelines) copies.
-Add it to an album in the Photos app and only use it there.

We have to consider where trouble with copyright could occur on somewhat of an app-by-app basis, or even via some "if/thens" within a given app. For example:
-Toontastic, a wonderful animation app, allows you to add backgrounds from the Camera Roll, making for unlimited contexts for storytelling. If you have saved a Google Image without attention to copyright and send your completed toon containing that image as a background to Toontube, the app's optional sharing site, this is an issue. However, the app also has the option to just save toons within the app or to the Camera Roll, which is OK.
-Tellagami, a great talking avatar app, has a similar background image capability. Save your creation to the Camera Roll, and you're good. Upload that video to YouTube, and you're not.
-Many e-Book creators such as Scribble Press and My Story allow you to share your books, but only by first uploading them to their websites. This is a problem if you (or students) have saved images indiscriminately. Unless using images licensed for reuse (see below) share the book only to iBooks on your device or use a different app such as Book Creator, which allows you more diverse sharing options.

The purpose of this post is ultimately to offer solutions, not just scary problems. So if you know your work is to be shared (emailed to many parents, tweeted, posted to a website, uploaded to an app's sharing "gallery" of any kind) when it is completed, simply start by obtaining images licensed for reuse, along with citation information. Two easy ways to do this:

Google Images
Wait, didn't we just say use of Google Images is potentially problematic? Not if you customize your search to find images labeled for reuse.

This option was recently added to Google Image Search. Click/Tap on Search Tools, then Usage Rights, and filter by "labeled for reuse"

When saving your image, also note the source so that you can site it in your work with an "Images From" section or some sort of credit.

Flickr Creative Commons
I like Flickr Creative Commons for its wide selection and ease of identifying the source of an image for citation. This resource requires a few extra steps to get to a downloadable/save-able/citable image:

-Click/tap See more on the license level you want to use- I generally use Attribution.
-Search for images, tap or click on one you like to see it in detail
-Tap the 3 Dots, then All sizes
-Tap and hold on (if on iPad) or right-click/ctrl-click image to save. Note creator at the top of the page (e.g. johnsmith on flickr) so you can provide attribution if republishing, and use a link if possible.

image licensed for reuse by scott1346 on flickr
Above, an example of citing an image when republishing!

For some more background on this issue and these strategies for obtaining images, check out Common Craft's great video on Copyright and Creative Commons.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Stick Around: The Spectrum of Repurposing

Much of my efforts in writing and conducting trainings is geared toward helping SLPs and other educators see the potential use of apps and tools they might not have recognized initially as language-based. That has been the focus of this blog since its inception- "looking through a language lens"- even back when we were talking about interactive flash-based websites and webtools, way before apps.

I found great validation of my advocacy for "repurposing" in an article by Jessica Gosnell in the ASHA Leader in 2011, and consistently use this quote in sessions:

“A search focused only on a specific profile of dedicated apps (speech production, targeted language goals, augmentative communication) could miss many well-designed apps that offer motivating and fun learning opportunities. Using creativity, clinicians can reach beyond an app's intended target audience and purpose and adapt it to support interventions.”
-Jessica Gosnell (Children’s Hospital, Boston), “Apps, an Emerging Tool for SLPs,” ASHA Leader Online, October, 2011

I think as we progress in incorporating technology into our work thoughtfully, we are getting better at seeing these connections and potential uses of a wider variety of apps. Recently, I was presenting on apps for pediatric populations at the ASHA Healthcare and Business Institute and included a great recent release called Stick Around. This educational app allows the creation of puzzles featuring "stickers" that can be dragged on top of an image or array in order to develop labeling, sequencing, or describing in just about any context. As I was showing it with other apps that could be repurposed for language therapy, a participant asked, "Is this really even a repurposed app? It seems like language heaven!"

I replied, "Good point!" But the fact is, many in our field might not think to look past the icon and description (or even stumble upon it in the education category of the App Store), and it wasn't designed specifically for speech and language pathologists. So, while on the spectrum of repurposing, it's not such a stretch as using Bobbleshop- Bobble Head Avatar Maker for developing descriptive language, we all could use a push to see what a valuable app Stick Around could be.

Tony Vincent, an amazing resource on technology integration and the author of Stick Around (in partnership with Explain Everything creators Morris Cooke), definitely sees these connections between language and learning, and has presented for our peeps at conferences such as those held by the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities in Florida. He designed Stick Around ($2.99, very Fairly Priced and meeting all other points of the FIVES Criteria) to be a blank slate where educators--and students--could create these self-checking puzzles for learning in all contexts. So let's take a look at it.

Stick Around may first look a bit daunting, but this is just because its interface allows for such a large array of options and customization. I figured the process out in about 10 min, but there are also great video tutorials available should you get stuck. Though it might seem strangely dairy-specific, in the shots below I am showing how to set up a puzzle that could be used for life skills and executive functioning ("feature teaching" ala Sarah Ward). You could think up all sorts of other contexts for puzzles (In Las Vegas, I modeled a puzzle labeling the casinos on the Vegas Strip from a screenshot using Google Earth- you need Stick Around on your iPad to access this file)!

Start with deciding the image you would like to use as a puzzle (the app also has templates such as Venn Diagrams and sequencing frames). In this case, on a community trip to the supermarket, we snapped this image of the dairy section. You can also save an image, but just be aware of copyright should you plan to share your puzzle (see my next post).

Using the Stick Around app (see above the array of sample projects to spur your imagination- try not to be intimidated by how beautiful their graphics look), begin a new project.

I created a blank project so that I could use a photo background. Tap the + to add this from your Photo Library or other source.

Your next step is the stickers. These can take various formats (Text, Image, or Drawing Sticker). Double tap the sticker to write the label, and you can also add a description via text or audio (a great feature for SLPs). Arrows can be added as well.

Create your Answer Key by drawing each of the "regions" where the sticker, if placed or pointed, will result in a correct answer when the puzzle is played. Make sure your regions don't overlap. While creating the Answer Key, you will want to place the sticker or its arrow head in the correct region to link the sticker and its region, as seen above.

Finally, you can tap Play and try out your project in puzzle form. As a great example of continuous improvement in apps, Stick Around recently added the faces indicating correct or incorrect answers when you tap "Check."

When you are done with your project, save it (when navigating back to My Projects, you will be prompted to give it a name and save, or you can give it a name in the Info tab). The Export button (arrow into box) allows you to send the project to the Puzzles section of the app (from Projects) so that it can be played but not edited.

One of the best features of Stick Around is that puzzles you create can be shared with others who have the app. From My Projects I simply exported this one to Dropbox, and if on an iPad with Stick Around installed, you can click this link to add it to your Projects and play it!

So, what are your thoughts? What can you imagine creating with Stick Around?

As always, Happy Repurposing!