Thursday, October 29, 2015

Haunt the House

Many games meet the FIVES criteria for being highly interactive, visually supportive of language formulation, and geared toward addressing "Speechie" objectives such as categorization, sequencing, and interpretation of body language. Some additional factors I take into consideration are language neutrality (does the app work like a wordless picture book as a context to elicit language) and pace/timing (can the action be stopped by pausing or taking the iPad away for a moment to discuss?).

Though this is almost too late to make it useful for Halloween use (you can of course continue the app into the following week for "Halloweeen season"), I wanted to feature the app Haunt the House ($1.99)! Sort of a stepped-up version of Toca Boo!, this app has you act the role of a ghost attempting to scare people out of various settings including a village, mansion and train. The ghost can "possess" items in each room, prompting predictions about object function.

Using apps such as these with students is a good opportunity to target executive function and Social Thinking® applications around monitoring time and turns. My students yesterday posed that a fair turn would be 6 minutes! We limited them to 1-minute turns (with a timer) and then asked "how long that felt" to play or wait for a turn--it's plenty. The timer or clock can then be faded or facilitated for independent use.

We used this app with several pre/post activities:
-A mini lesson about "thinking with the eyes" and physical proximity (body in the group). You know you are being successful at scaring residents when they "notice" the object's movement with their eyes, and the best strategy is to move to rooms where people are present.
-From memory, I asked my students to create a map of the house, thereby targeting the story grammar element of setting and the executive function skill of mapping a space one is to navigate (see the work of Sara Ward and Kristen Jacobsen). I scaffolded by placing a few "anchor" rooms on the map so the students had a model of how to sketch, as well as a place to start.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Toca Boo- Currently Free and Full of Fun Scares

This is partially a repost from last year- Thanks Smart Apps For Kids for letting us know that Toca Boo is Free for a short time- please click through to the App Store from their site to support them.

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.

New idea: try following this app with some dramatic play, perhaps filming with your video camera an "unsuccessful scare" vs. a "successful scare," at the same time targeting the sequential language of hiding and popping out and some feelings vocabulary.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Notes adds simple but powerful tools in iOS 9

The new operating system for iOS devices, iOS 9, came out several weeks ago. It's always a good idea to wait a while before updating (remember, all updates are free) so that Apple can work out the bugs that often persist past the "beta testing" phase. At this point, several updates have been released to iOS 9, so I'd say you are safe to update. That said, you'll want to follow some steps to ensure your update goes without issue. Cult of Mac always provides a nice guide to these updates- please see this link for information on which devices will run iOS 9 and how to update.

I do a lot of observation and consultation as an SLP, and notetaking apps are essential in this process. I have often recommended Evernote for notetaking, and still do- it has some great features including cloud storage (so I just use student initials, creation of notebooks, and audio recording).

However, the simple Notes app that comes as part of the operating system received a nice upgrade with iOS 9, and I have been revisiting it in the last few weeks. Notes now allows you to:
-Create Folders to organize notes (like notebooks in Evernote)
-Insert photos in notes
-Create a sketch in a note
-Make a note into a checklist

Each of these features makes Notes a more interesting tool when working with or for students, and also simplifies recommendations around assistive technology, as students can now do more with the operating system itself as opposed to downloading a separate app that requires an account.

As an example, I recently observed a student I work with who is struggling in math class, particularly with the word problems presented at the beginning of each period. Having a peek at the process gave me a sense of the language level of the problems, and how the student approaches them. I noted the student went right to setting up an algorithm to do the calculation and had trouble understanding what the problem was asking. Using Notes I quickly typed out the problem and collaborated with a supporting teacher on a visual "story" of the problem and how sketches might be used to support the language and mathematical thinking both in our sessions and in class. Doing this in Notes gave me a sharable record of the visit, without having to deal with any paper (a bonus for me)!

To find out some of the other education-related features of iOS 9, check out Tony Vincent's great update on the new operating system.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Links of Interest

Hi Folks,

Some news and links of interest I wanted to share with you.

On October 15-16, I am slated to present a two-day workshop sponsored by Mark R. Hammond Associates in Portland, Maine with Nathan Curtis of (famed Telepractice Training Center) Waldo County General Hospital. The information on the workshop, "Integrating Technology for TherAPPy and Education," is at this link.

On October 23, I will be presenting "'Outside the Box' iPad for SLPs- Apps Through Language/Literacy Lens" for the Central New York Speech-Language-Hearing Association. The brochure is here.

I have published a number of columns for ASHA Leader, linked below:

September 2015, Just Google It! Google offers simple, free tools for sharing, organizing and interacting with student materials 

September 2015, Your Students, You and the Tube!: Need a visual for any context? YouTube offers a “social” solution. 

August 2015, Up Where the Air is Clear (Apps for ASHA Convention) 

And for Mindwing Concepts' Blog:

Create Visual "Explanimations" to go with your Expository Lessons (Using Educreations app to explain ideas)

Bring EPIC! Contexts to your use of Story Grammar Marker® (Story Grammar and the EPIC! E-Books app)

Vocabulary and Story Grammar Marker (combining the World's Worst Pet- Vocab app with SGM and Social Thinking® Lessons

Happy Reading- hope to see some of you at a conference soon or at ASHA (check the planner- I'll be there!)

Author is a paid consultant to Mindwing Concepts, Inc for creation of blog content. Social Thinking is based on the work of Michelle Garcia Winner (see