Friday, January 27, 2017

Practice Following Directions with Scratch Jr.

I've mentioned before that following directions (written or oral) is an oft-needed but not so engaging goal to address. Scratch Jr. is a free app that, like its senior (mentioned here and here) was created to teach coding and programming to youngsters. These applications use object-oriented codes that are simple to put together and work a lot like LEGOs.

A great way to start with Scratch Jr., and one in which you'll instantly see the potential for working on following directions and sequencing, is to use the intro activities. For example, students need to follow a few steps to make a car drive across the screen--a surprisingly thrilling activity for the class in which I conducted this lesson. The developers give you a great quick guide if you want to learn your way around the app first.

This simple program makes the car drive across the screen.

After using Scratch Jr., you'll likely find all sorts of contexts for it. A first grade teacher I worked with had her students program how baby polar bears "trail" their mothers, thus integrating work in following directions, coding, and science concepts. The variety of backgrounds and characters suggests potential for storytelling work as well, and these can be drawn, leading to limitless contexts. Students can also be encouraged to use strategies such as re-verbalizing directions and visualizing as I discussed in this post.

You can also create direction sheets of your own with or without text by screenshotting steps and then assembling them in Pic Collage, as I did below. In making a math "game," I encouraged the students to verbally mediate the pictured steps as is important when approaching picture sequencing tasks.

Working on skills in this context, you'll also know you are helping to address technology standards and perhaps starting to prepare your students for a career in programming!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Annotating Photos in iOS 10

Annotating a photo, or marking it up with text, highlights or shapes has many uses in language, social and executive function therapy. I have previously written about this topic with regard to Skitch. So, Skitch is no more, and though its functions were incorporated in Evernote, getting to them is almost too complicated to talk about here. The good news is that you can now annotate photos without a specialized app, because these features have been added to the Photos app for iPad and iPhone.

But first, some bad news. These features are part of iOS 10, which came out this past fall and was where Apple finally drew the line on the iPad 2. The iPad 2, now a 5 year-old line, cannot be updated to the latest version of the operating system. So...if you want to continue to be able to ride the tech train and you have an iPad 2, you might want to consider an upgrade. Not only for features available on the newest operating system, but also because as your operating system falls behind, so will your apps, and you'll soon find yourself not being able to install certain apps as they come out. I recommend the Gazelle service, which provides you with cash for trade-ins of old devices. The iPad Air 2 is a good model for clinicians to consider.

How to find out what model iPad you have.

How to find out what operating system version you are running.

How to update your iPad operating system.

Once you are up to date with iOS 10, you'll be able to annotate photos right in the Photos app. This will apply to photos you take with the camera or photos you save from Safari. Searching and saving photos from Safari brings you endless contexts for therapy, including finding images that scaffold language about curriculum topics.

Once you take or find an image you would like to add words or annotation to, you might first want to duplicate it. This would allow you to save the original and annotate a duplicate--especially useful if you may want to complete the same activity with multiple groups.

To Duplicate a photo, view it in the Photos app and tap the "Share Square."

Then tap Duplicate.

Now you will have two versions of the image, one of which you can annotate. To get started marking up the image, tap the "sliders" Edit icon in the upper right corner (next to Details). At the bottom of the menu on the left, tap the "..." icon, then Markup.

From there it is pretty self explanatory--you can familiarize yourself with the bottom menu, and how to add pen marks, change color and line thickness, add text and change its color, size and font.

In this case I was using this feature to make a visual activity with students before we took a community trip to 7-11 to get a snack. The activity aligned with Sarah Ward and Kristen Jacobsen's situational awareness "STOP" acronym-- Space, Time, Objects and People.

For more ideas on annotating photos, you can check out my linked article in the first paragraph of this post. Those ideas pertained to Skitch, but you can now do them right in the Photos app with iOS 10.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Developing Categories with Toca Life Apps

In a recent post for Mindwing Concepts, I described and demonstrated how the various contexts within the Toca Life apps, specifically Toca Life: Farm ($2.99, also available for other platforms), can be used to build narrative language skills. I have recently been using these versatile sandbox apps in other ways, including targeting category development. If you are working in the school setting, especially, working in context just makes sense. Doing so allows you to tie in with classroom topics (in this case, the basics of plant life cycles and animal biology) and sync with the topics of picture books. This practice is also supported by emerging research; Gillam & Gillam (2012) conducted a study that "revealed signs of efficacy in an intervention approach in which clinicians treated multiple linguistic targets using meaningful activities with high levels of topic continuity."

Toca Life: Farm includes scenes such as a field, barn, farmhouse and farm store, each containing movable items in a variety of basic and more abstract categories relevant to the context. Just a few I have noted and used include:

Field: fruit, vegetables, tools, containers, vehicles, ways to water plants
Barn: animals, tools, machines, cleaning items, containers for plants
Farmhouse: rooms, furniture, meats, grains, vegetables, fruit, spices/condiments, school supplies, personal care items appliances, clothing, musical instruments
Store: food categories, dry goods/refrigerated items, containers, as well as a fabulous machine that allows you to "make" products, e.g. items made from milk

Field Scene

Farm Store Scene with Machine

In context you can approach this to target both receptive and expressive categories with students:
"Can you gather 3 tools we need for planting?"
"I just had the girl sit on the chair, bed, and then couch. What category are all these in?"

Check out this and other Toca Life apps (see the Toca Boca website to start) to develop contextual storytelling and semantic skills.

Gillam, S.L., Gillam, R.B., & Reece, K. (2012). Language Outcomes of Contextualized and Decontextualized Language Intervention: Results of an Early Efficacy Study. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 43(3), 276-291.

Disclosure: author is a paid consultant for Mindwing Concepts, Inc to provide blog and presentation content.