Friday, May 29, 2015

Pic Collage, Revisited

Pic Collage (Free from Cardinal Blue for iOS and Android) continues to be one of my go-to apps for all sorts of visual tasks. With it's ease of use, unlimited opportunities to help our students "see" language and social concepts, and again, freeness, it's just gold. You can read my column on the many uses of Pic Collage for ASHA Leader here.

I have also been very impressed by the developers' responsiveness to questions and concerns as an educator. They were very quick to clarify for me that the iOS Settings for the app (Settings>Pic Collage) allows the turning off of social features (which were also linked to ads) and videos if need be.

The app's Web Images search is a unique feature that allows us (and students, who take to the app very quickly) to build a visual very quickly. These searches are based on Google's most restrictive search settings; recently, I was working with a group of teachers around the app and we searched for all sorts of dirty words and found no results (something might slip by, so monitor what your students are searching for).

Creating Pic Collages can be part of a sequence of activities, as in the above example. Students interviewed each other to work on asking wondering questions, then added images to a "People File" (Both concepts targeted within Social Thinking® and specifically the comic book Superflex® takes on One-Sided Sid, Un-Wonderer and the Team of Unthinkables)

I recently learned that Pic Collage has released a Kids Edition, also free, which automatically turns off social features, so enjoy that without having to navigate to and switch off any settings.

Pic Collage has also added GIFs to its image search. GIFs (pronounced JIFs, so you don't seem uncool) are briefly animated, looping visuals--kind of like a Vine but shorter. This image format has gained popularity in social media because of its ability to show movement or more of a story.

I initially was a bit annoyed by the ability to add GIFs, as I thought they were too distracting, and I sometimes restrict doing so by directing students to go to the Images tab within Web Images. However, for language therapy goals such as describing actions or formulating an action sequence narrative, well, GIFs are actions! See for example this quickly-created collage of all the actions a cat might perform (note that you don't have to save your collage as a link but tapping on the share button and Share Link allows you to do so). When reviewing a collage in the app with a student, you can pinch out to zoom in on an image to make it larger and screen out other distracting GIFs. Note also that when creating collages that are designed to be printed, you should avoid GIFs as they won't print in action mode.

Thanks to Richard Byrne for pointing out this new edition of Pic Collage- his blog is a great one to follow!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Online Clock for Executive Function Skills

I had the privilege recently of co-writing a column with Super-Executive-Function-Specialist Sarah Ward for the ASHA Leader. As many of you know, I have been a fan of her approaches for many years, and find her language-based and practical concepts for teaching kids how to be aware of situations, plan, monitor time, and develop self-awareness within these process to be useful for many populations we serve: the academically challenged "LLD" kids, students with social learning issues, and the straight-up "disorganized" kids. In the article, Sarah and I describe resources for getting regulated, planning, and time tracking, and link these to models Sarah and her colleague Kristen Jacobsen describe in several recent SIG Perspectives articles. You can view the article here.

One strategy Sarah and Kristen developed is the use of an analog clock as a tool to assist in self-monitoring and task execution. Generally a glass-faced, tickless (to reduce distraction) analog clock works best. As Sarah and Kristen describe it:

Using a dry erase marker on a clock with a glass face, students sketch the total “pie” or amount of time they estimate they would need to achieve the future picture. This enables students to see the volume of time available. On the clock, students also use the dry erase marker to create time markers: a starting time, an ending time, and midpoint check in (Ward and Jacobsen, 2014).

Using this approach with small groups, classrooms, and individuals alike can help the student to:

  • Learn to make better guesses about time needed for tasks
  • Monitor himself within that time period for distracted behaviors and pacing
  • Reflect after a task on how he actually did, compared to his plan

One problem is that glass-faced, tickless analog clocks aren't as easy to find as one might think (and if you write on a plastic-faced clock with dry-erase marker, it doesn't completely come off. Sarah and Kristen's practice, Cognitive Connections, sells great clocks on their website, but I am always looking to have more around. Recently I was in a classroom where was being displayed on the interactive whiteboard to help kids monitor themselves within a time allotted for a task, and I realized that the website features an analog clock! This is a great tool if you are using an interactive whiteboard that has software associated (e.g. Smart Notebook) to allow you to "draw" on the clock. However, it can also be used in the same way described above with a laptop and the Google Chrome browser (sorry, I don't have an iPad solution for this yet, besides the resources described in the ASHA Leader, and is based in Flash, so it does not work on an iPad). For me, at times the analog clocks we have in our practice are being used, but I always have my laptop with me!

So here's how you do it:

1. Using the Google Chrome browser, navigate to the Chrome Web Store and search for the free extension Page Marker. This allows you to draw on any webpage.
2. Navigate to the Online Clock and click on the link to view it full screen (this eliminates some of the ads).
3. I found it helpful to add the link to the full-screen analog clock to my Bookmarks Bar so it will always be available.
4. Once you have added the Page Marker extension it will appear as a small red "marker" button in the upper right of your Chrome window. Click on it and you will be able to draw on your clock, like so:

Page Marker does allow you to change colors, but not use different colors within the same annotation. But it's a start. Enjoy your long holiday weekend!

Ward, S, & Jacobsen, K. (2014). A clinical model for developing executive function skills. SIG 1 Perspectives on Language Learning and Education, 21, 72-84.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

FIVES Criteria Update!

I definitely missed out on posting this on 5/5! For FIVES, get it?

The FIVES Criteria frames this blog as a tool for evaluating the vast world of repurposable technology resources in terms of factors that make them useful in speech and language development: Fairly Priced, Interactive, Visual, Educationally Relevant, and Speechie/Specific to learning and clinical objectives. Over the past several years, I have been weaving this into all my presentations as well as a tool for people in our field to think about apps that were not designed for language development, but are nonetheless very applicable to what we can do with an app. I often say that it doesn't matter what an app does, it matters what we do with it--in the same way we use books, games, toys and other tools to elicit and shape language.

I was very excited to recently co-author an article including FIVES, and can now say that it is "peer-reviewed!" Dr. Kerry Davis, a longtime colleague and friend and frequent contributor to the ASHAsphere blog, joined me in writing Reading, Writing and AAC: Mobile Technology Strategies for Literacy and Language Development for SIG 12 Perspectives on Augmentative and Alternative Communication. As I often disclaim, I am not an AAC specialist. However, when approached about the article, Kerry and were excited to collaborate; her perspective as an AAC expert is that many of the same applications can be used to promote communication with or without AAC tools. As such, apps that are within our budgets, promote interactive choice-making, visual scaffolding, syncing with classroom curriculum, and specific speech and language objectives are discussed in the article, as is the FIVES criteria itself. I hope you have the chance to check out the article. My "Perspective" on ASHA Special Interest Group membership is that it is valuable not least of all for the access to the journals regularly published by the 18 divisions (and membership in one SIG gives you access to all Perspectives journals).

I recently also created a FIVES criteria worksheet that you can download from this link. I hope that this might spur discussions in your professional development meetings as you take a look at apps that might be helpful in your work. Consider great resources such as Yapp Guru, featuring both dedicated and repurposed apps, apps such as Kindertown, a guide to apps for young learners, and educational technology blogs such as Teachers with Apps, iPad Apps for School, and Smart Apps for Kids. Put these blogs in your Feedly app for one-stop shopping for information on new apps.

Happy FIVE(s)'s one of my favorites!