Saturday, October 13, 2018

Explain Everything in Chrome

Explain Everything has historically been a great "whiteboard"/"explanimation" app allowing us to create a series of slides so to speak, with recording capabilities making animations as we draw, move images and drawings around, and speak to record narration. However, I have found their rollouts and pricing very confusing; they have had a number of versions of their iPad app and it is currently $14.99, which I believe is overpriced for education markets (I'd accept $9.99 for an app this powerful).

In any case, particularly in our school environments where Chromebooks are often available, you'll want to take a look at least at their free account now available through the Google Chrome browser. You can log in with a Google account and make 3 projects (delete-able and downloadable). Explain Everything is unique in allowing you to make stick figures and animate them- think a teched-up version of Comic Strip Conversations or Stickwriting (for social cognitive or narrative representation, respectively). One trick you need to know is to make drawings move independently, as shown below, go to the [i] inspector icon and select the items, then Ungroup.

There are many uses of a tool such as Explain Everything, and one is narrative retelling. I love books that unfold over one setting, such as The Runaway Pumpkin, in which a humongous pumpkin is pushed down a hill. Here you see an example of a recording you could make with students to retell this story:

Image from Gyazo

Friday, September 28, 2018

Peanuts Minisodes on YouTube

Cartoon Network has recently produced a series of Peanuts "minisodes" available on YouTube through this playlist. As a general strategy, locating playlists of videos on YouTube can help us find resources on a theme or potentially useful for similar clinical targets. Additionally, identifying YouTube channels we find useful, always represented by a circular icon and a red button to subscribe (the circle for Cosmic Kids, below, is a little hard to see with all the white) when you search, also helps us find a flow of resources:

Subscribing to a channel (red button) or saving a playlist (nearby orange circled item with lines and a check) will add resources to your menu (upper left circled item when signed in to YouTube with your credentials):

Regarding the Peanuts minisodes, these are short, engaging videos for kids and a great way to explore and identify the Zones of Regulation® and to map narratives. Peanuts interactions often also have a lot of figurative language and reference to seasons and holidays useful for these themes.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Tinycards, teched-up flashcards

I have previously written about our potential role in promoting study skills through a) targeting connections and categories b) promoting use of metalinguistic "tricks and b) motivating our students' participation as at some point, tests and grades matter to them. Duolingo's Tinycards- Fun Flashcards is another nice (100% Free) app for SLPs to look at because it provides access to appealing interactive flashcards. These let you move through a category by responding in different ways e.g. identifying via typing, describing, multiple choice to promote different connections within the category. For SLP students also, there are quite a number of anatomy categories available. Note: you can also make your own cards!

Friday, September 14, 2018


Lookup: An elegant dictionary ($2.99) would be a useful app for MS and HS clinicians to have in their library. The app contains cool, attractively designed posters that illustrate the meaning (more precisely, often a semantic association) to a word. The array of posters is not yet of true dictionary breadth, but the ones contained within would provide a great inspiration for students to make their own posters. Consider doing so with construction paper, or with Pic Collage or Google Drawings. The Expanding Expression Tool and Beck/McKeown/Kucan's contextual vocabulary strategies would be good methodologies to employ alongside the use of this app.

Here's an image I whipped up in 5 minutes using Google Drawings, related to a vocabulary word I heard targeted in a HS classroom this week:

To create this I:
-started a new drawing, go to, Google "Google Drawings" or from your Drive click New, then More, then Google Drawing.
-used Tools>Explore and looked up an image of "dollar"- dragged it in, selected it and copied/pasted a number of times, rotating and resizing.
-Used the Line>Scribble tool to draw a stick figure, then changed the line weight
-Added and reformatted text.

Here's a complete tutorial on using Google Drawings, a tool with many uses, particularly in Chromebook environments.

Creating visuals with Google tools has the advantage of creating collaborative and sharing opportunities between students and possibly making collections for studying. 

You'll find that the above features (web search, doodle, backgrounds, text) are also available in Pic Collage EDU.

Friday, September 7, 2018

More on Breathing

Breathing is an important tool that SLPs can employ in a variety of client populations. For our students with self-regulation difficulties, having tools they can use anywhere without disruption of the current situation they are in can be very important (see Zones). For us, too-- our jobs can be stressful, whether it is a difficult treatment situation, a contentious IEP meeting, or just going back to work after the summer (I AM STILL NOT REALLY READY)...we need tools.

I've always found any kind of mindful breathing to be useful, but this summer I stumbled upon a link from VICE News that led to some interesting science. One study sited here documents the effects of "coherent breathing" at a rate that balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, leading to increased calm for people with varied conditions: "In subjects with MDD (major depressive disorder) treated with resonant breathing (coherent breathing with pursed lips resistive exhalation) at 4.5–6.5 breaths per minute (bpm), HRV (heart rate variability) increased and mood improved." Part of the technique is that one should avoid counting, say to 6, as that engages the sympathetic side too much.

I was easily able to find an app that therefore provided other cues so that breaths could be timed to correspond with the BPM guideline: The Breathing App (free for iOS). I have used this as a warm up for groups and also frequently for myself. The app provides different modes: in one, a ball enlarges as a visual for inhalation timing, and decreases in size for exhalation. I have found especially useful another mode which uses audio tones of different notes to time the same--great to use in the car when feeling just a tad anxious on the way to some work task. Check it out and try the technique!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Stories of Summer

In working with students individually or in groups, I find that sharing our own stories can be a very effective elicitation technique. I'm a social interactionist at heart, and it's just pragmatically appropriate. Tell a story about yourself and you seem like a real person to the child. This interaction then becomes a context for all kinds of targets: listening skills, visualization for comprehension, use of comments and questions, and the students' own narrative language.

This was described as the "Conversational Map" by McCabe and Rollins (1994): "In spontaneous interactions you have to tell a story to get a story. Almost everyone has experienced awkward silences in social situations. No one can think of a thing to say. However, the minute one person launches into a tale about locking keys in his or her car or leaving lights on in a parking lot, virtually all others in the group share a similar incident that happened to them. The exact content of a story prompt is not important per se. What is important is that children are asked to talk about experiences that mean something to them. In general, children are likely to tell their best stories about being hurt or scared. These are experiences that almost all children have had but are significant enough to any particular child to be worth talking about."

One tech twist I have on this technique is that I like to present a photo if possible. Photos provide visual support and extend students' understanding of the situation you are describing. The photo you use may also support their commenting or questioning about relevant parts of your story, or constructing inferences based on the way you present the story. They say "the best camera is the one you have with you," and it's true that this is one good use of our smartphones. Keep in mind that small mundane stories that we experience (a spill or broken thing, whatever) can also be good opportunities to photograph and use in therapy.

Telling stories need not be completely free-form, but can be tied into specific strategies. I try to keep mine short enough to allow for conversational appropriateness and foster use of comments and questions (see Mindwing Concepts' 6 Second Story conversational scaffold). We can also progress from explicitly visual techniques like sketching to using Visualizing and Verbalizing®'s structure words to promote visualization, comprehension and responses.

Here are a few examples of photos (that I was just taking anyway, as a selfie enthusiast) that served as good therapy materials and summer stories, along with model narratives:

I bought a new car this summer, but left it at home when I went for a week down the Cape. I heard from my neighbor that a car parked right near it somehow went on fire! We don't know how, but everyone was OK. I was worried about the car but glad it didn't get damaged.

I went to see the Taylor Swift concert at the end of July at Gillette Stadium. They gave us all wristbands and I wasn't sure why. It turned out they lit up all around the stadium in synch with the music to make patterns. It was a cool surprise!

We went to Scarborough Beach in Maine in August. It turns out a foreign ship had docked nearby and brought a new seaweed with it, which was out of control. It stunk and made the water really gross. We found some areas on the beach to swim that didn't have the seaweed.

I went for a hike on the Welch and Dickey Loop in New Hampshire. It was beautiful but harder than expected. I'm afraid of open high spaces and it had a lot of those. This steep ledge was wet from rain the day before and I slipped and almost slid backwards down it. Thankfully I grabbed onto a tree and was safe!

Have fun telling your stories!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Building Context through Technology

In my last post, I discussed how some Star Wars conversation led a group of mine to some engaging self-regulation activities incorporating movement. I always like extending themes, and observe that both watching short videos and, for some reason, watching me type into a presentation slide both get kids talking! I found a Star Wars template easily and we used this "blank space" to map out some social narratives related to play, thinking, self-talk and regulation, and social cognition after reviewing some short videos.

In this video Obi-Wan uses a Jedi Mind Trick. It was a great context to analyze the narrative, in our case with Story Grammar Marker®, but also could be approached with other strategies.

I feigned some blanks in my knowledge and together we summarized that:
Character: Obi Wan
Setting: Tattoine
Initiating Event: The Rebels have put plans for the Death Star, which show how to destroy it, on R2-D2. The stormtroopers stop the group and want identification
Response: Calm
Plan: Get past the stormtroopers
Action: Uses a Jedi Mind Trick to get past
Conclusion: They continue on their mission

The narrative could also be flipped and analyzed from Luke's perspective, who at this point is mystified by Obi Wan's powers.

In addition to talking through the narrative elements, focusing on cause-effect relationships, we also talked about the theme of Jedi Mind Tricks as a way to talk about changing thoughts of ourselves and others (awareness of self-talk) in both pretend and real ways (see above re: simple uses of PowerPoint, Google Slides or Keynote for visual support):

We also role-played JMTs just for fun and playfulness.

Follow-ups! Contexts that get kids talking and thinking about concepts, skills and strategies are always worth repeating, so see also:

-Rey ineffectively using her skills, then succeeding after regulating herself better.
-Yoda's statement of "There is no try" prompted a great conversation and narratives in my group about times they had effectively tried, and the role of failure in learning.
-In a fun followup contextual activity, my students worked in small groups to make a "same but different" version of this activity using the free Scratch Jr. app, instead of a car in the city driving a Star Wars vehicle across space or the desert.
-The book Darth Vader and Son (Jeffrey Brown) is filled with comics building mini-narratives incorporating perspective taking and inference.

May the Force be with YOU this school year!

Friday, August 17, 2018

Incorporating Movement in Sessions

A theme of my agendas for sessions last year included engaging my students more in movement. Movement at the beginning of or during sessions promotes self-regulation (it can be a Green Zone of Regulation® "tool") and following a Group Plan (via Social Thinking®) but also can be a way to practice the language of giving and following directions. Anytime we get our regulation-challenged kids up from a table also gives us a lot of teachable moments. With one group last year I did short movement activities we framed as "Jedi Training" as they were all interested in Star Wars. I noted they liked doing activities like planks in unison or one at a time, providing opportunities to "think with their eyes."

Check out Sworkit Kids (free for iOS and Android) which has short "workouts" with exercises shown via video models (also touching on an EBP). It's simple, and you can skip exercises and do what you want within a 5 minute "activity." A lot of these have kids on the floor so you may want to get some mats of some kind. I'm going to try these this year with a few different groups as part of "Jedi" or other themed "training."

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Still want some lemonade?

They say August is one long Sunday. Here in Massachusetts we still have about a month left until school even starts, so its difficult to see posts from friends across the country who have already started, as well as the ubiquitous "back to school" and "summer's almost over, so..." ads. It pulls you out of it a bit, you know? I've spent my summer working on getting fit, hiking and doing some traveling, so it's been great. But HOT!

So consider some Lemonade! Remember the old Lemonade Stand game? You are given weather information and need to decide several things: how many cups of lemonade to make, how much to charge for it, and how many signs to make to advertise your stand. In the process, we can engage students in a number of language and social competencies:
-"listening with the brain*" and language comprehension
-using visual supports, however we provide them
-applying functional math and problem solving
-causal and conditional language ("It's going to be hot, SO let's make more cups...")
-following a "group plan,*" i.e. making logical rather than silly decisions to sell as much as possible

*language from the Social Thinking® methodology

Here are two ways to play it.
-Classic Lemonade Stand is a free app for iOS that uses the 'ol Apple IIe text interface, but is still fun
-Toward the end of the school year, I played the Alexa version on Echo Dot (enable the skill by saying "Alexa, launch Lemonade Stand"). This free skill provided a few extra elements that I found helpful: more opportunity for auditory comprehension and listening work, turn taking in speaking, using visual supports, and processing the humor and figurative language offered in this particular skill.

I always like pairing activities for further context, and our students before playing worked together to make a lemonade stand "sign." This engaged them in pretend play and lots of conversation. This could be done with poster materials or with the free app Pic Collage as we did below (You could also do this with Google Drawings on a laptop):

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Presenting at ASHA Convention Boston 2018

As many of you know, Boston is quite proudly my own hometown. So although I would have gone to ASHA Convention regardless, I was thrilled to be involved with two proposals that were accepted for November's event. One is a collaboration with two wonderful colleagues from Waldo County General Hospital in Maine. Although I do not currently do telepractice, I have worked over the last several years with Amy Reid and Nathan Curtis and their staff there on the potential of tech tools within telepractice environments (e.g. apps and websites that can be used to set context and provide language-facilitating interactivity within a session). Here's some advance information on the sessions!

Topic Area: Language and Learning in School-Age Individuals
Session Number: 1327
Title: Pairing Picture Books & Apps for Contextualized Intervention: Hub of History & Innovation Edition
Session Format: Seminar 2-hours
Day:  Friday, November 16, 2018
Time:  8:00 AM - 10:00 AM

Author(s): Sean Sweeney (PRESENTING AUTHOR: Author who will be presenting)

Another edition of this popular presentation from ASHA 2012-2017 describes pairings of picture books and apps setting intervention contexts related to science and social studies curriculum areas. Boston, a center of history and scientific innovation, is the perfect location for exploring connections between language intervention and these content area contexts, with picture books and apps providing tools for linguistic interactions.

-Identify 2 apps and picture books containing language structures and contexts within text, visuals and interactions
-State 4 features of disciplinary language within science and social studies providing contexts for language intervention
-Describe 2 session plans pairing books and apps based on contextual overlappings

Topic Area: Telepractice and Technology
Session Number: 1752
Title: Evolutionary Telepractice Approaches: Bridging the Gap Between Integrating Evidence-Based Methodologies & Methods of Delivery
Session Format: Seminar 2-hours
Day:  Saturday, November 17, 2018
Time:  8:00 AM - 10:00 AM
Author(s): Amy Reid (PRESENTING AUTHOR: Author who will be presenting), Sean Sweeney (PRESENTING AUTHOR: Author who will be presenting), Nathan Curtis (PRESENTING AUTHOR: Author who will be presenting)

Speech-Language Pathologists aim to meet the goal of evidence-based practice by integrating clinical expertise, scientific evidence, and client/patient/caregiver perspectives. This presentation discusses how to utilize evidence-based methodologies in telepractice. We will present the underlying research and methodologies as the framework upon which to make clinical decisions about context. We will share video demonstrations of materials and approaches.


List three ways to include evidence-based methodologies in telepractice sessions
Describe two clinical techniques applying technology with curriculum-based materials to complete evidence-based approaches in telepractice
State three ways to engage clients on curriculum-based content using digital and “hands-on” resources  

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

On obvious signs and "hidden rules..."

Presenting a video can be a simple use of tech that can establish context, provide visual support, engage students in discussion, and open the door to a related post-activity addressing language skills. A good example is this video which features about 100 unnecessary signs such as:

The video moves quickly, but pause as many times as you want! You can also screenshot to pick and choose signs you'd like to explore (perhaps a good move to work on functional reading). Some ideas on using the video:
-Metalinguistics: what makes the message obvious and unnecessary?
-Social Cognition: the video can be used to have students practice "thinking with their eyes" for the greater context of what makes the sign silly, as well as engaging in humor. Using signs in therapy activities is also a good way to introduce the related Social Thinking® concept of "Hidden Rules" (related to Dr. Brenda Smith Myles' Hidden Curriculum); there are many (more complex than shown here) rules that we need to learn through observation and experience in order to be successful socially.
-Narrative Language: Have students discuss or sketch stories depicting why someone thought these particular signs were necessary. This context would also allow for working on complex language and conjunctions like if, because, and so.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Do Not Touch (By Nickelodeon)

Do Not Touch (By Nickelodeon) is a fun tongue-in-cheek free app for iOS that provides a nice warm-up activity. This augmented reality (AR) app overlays digital visuals in your real space; point the iPad at a floor or table and interactive animations will appear. As a language activity this can be used to have students share space, follow a "group plan," observe, describe and take turns. The interactive pieces such as the whack-a-mole also could be used to target spatial concepts (i.e. point the iPad up). As the app is free, it's nothing ventured, nothing gained, but two caveats: a) you need to have students who won't dysregulate from humor related to farting and poop (one activity has you shifting position to allow a poop-emoji to climb and dive into a toilet) b) you'll need iOS 11 to download the app. In context, this app could be a good dramatic play situation to pair with a book like Mo Willems' That is Not A Good Idea!

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Stop, Breathe & Think Kids

Stop, Breathe and Think Kids is a great free app that promotes age-appropriate mindfulness through video and play-based "missions." These can be a great way to start a session with youngsters and promote "portable" strategies/tools related to the Zones of Regulation®. The videos are also contextual, based in characters, settings and actions, so can be used in conjunction with narrative teaching strategies. The "Find a Mission" option in the app aligns a video with the students' current mood and emotion, thus allowing for teaching of feelings vocabulary. The app and its older brother Stop Breathe & Think, useful for older students, also offers a web app.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Price it Right

Price it Right is a free Amazon Alexa skill that provides for a terrific game-based activity. The skill allows you to have multiple players or play solo against another random user (you don't directly interact with that person). Through the game, items on Amazon are described (e.g. a humidifier or 12-pack of dog food) and you are asked to speak out a price estimate. Closest guess wins! The length is just right for a language activity, about 6 turns. I used this activity with several groups with some previewing to target:
-visualization: for comprehension it is helpful to visualize the spoken description of the item, perhaps you can even sketch it.
-smart guess/wacky guess (Social Thinking® concepts)
-world knowledge and perspective taking: students should develop a sense of what items cost. You can place this idea into narratives about asking parents for items, and the perspective taking aspects involved.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Video Tips from Students, Part 2

In my last post I discussed how sometimes a tip from a student about what might engage him or a group may lead to a great activity. Another example came from a student who offhandedly mentioned that he likes to watch EvanTube, which he said had fun "how-to" videos. I checked it out, and EvanTube is a "family-friendly" channel full of challenge videos, among other things. I discovered a number of them could be done with minimal or simple materials, and thought that the process of figuring out what is needed, the sequence and overall plan would be a good language, social and executive function activity. The two activities I did with my group turned out to be some of the most fun ones I had this year.

The 3 Marker Challenge turned out to align very well with our social goals as a group and Ward/Jacobsen's Get Ready/Do/Done (GRDD) model. We watched the video:

And interactively completed a GRDD graphic organizer that when complete would look like this (note that the numbers next to the do-steps are estimates of time in minutes, and we used a clock to map these out):

You can access this Google Drawings file here and if you like, make a copy for yourself (File>Make a Copy if signed into Google Drive) to use as a template. It was a very fun activity and we practiced a lot of different skills.

The following week, we tried another! First, we quickly did the Yanny/Laurel experiment (which, incidentally now has its own EvanTube vid), which is a good social activity that underscores that people have different perceptions and perspectives (but pssst. It's Laurel). Related to this is the channel's Backwards Word Challenge:

Great again for goals of executive function, social, and humor but also phonology and just listening! Similarly, we did a GRDD activity- I try not to gather materials for students but ask them to do it, and this included finding an app to do the task. You'll find a free one easily! The results were hilarious and all had a great time again practicing some important skills.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Video Tips from Students...Part 1

I use YouTube videos in social cognition groups for many purposes, and they often prompt clients to ask, "Can we watch...?" My rule is I have to watch it first so, "Not today, but maybe next time." Sometimes this leads to really engaging, fun contexts and lessons.

For example, I learned about Doge. Doge is a meme, basically, and series of silly animations often showing the inner monologue of a dog. My student asked about Call of Doge which was filled with explosions, so, uh, no. But then (showing flexibility in his response) he said, "Well OK...maybe watch Doge Adventure?" This turned out to be a silly music video BUT connected to the idea that different settings and events lead to different thoughts (narrative landscape of consciousness, anyone), so led to a good discussion and post activity drawing comics with thought balloons. It also paired well with the mindfulness-oriented picture book Puppy Mind, which my students probably wouldn't have bought my reading them without this video segue. I always like a balance of materials so I read the actual book. Another tip and lesson next time!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Tic Tac Toe with Echo Dot

Tic Tac Toe is a "skill" you can enable on the inexpensive Echo Dot just by asking Alexa to play it. Since we interact with Alexa only by speaking and listening, it will be important to make a visual sketch while playing the game. You and Alexa just pick positions (top left, top, top right, left, center, right) and so on, therefore providing a context to target: turn taking, concepts, listening skills, "thinking with the eyes," and self-regulation. As my group has been exploring a Star Wars theme, we sketched asteroids and stars instead of X's and O's. This game is also a good place for you to implement a gradual release of responsibility: I do it (I made the markers in the sketch), we do it (we'll all take turns making the markers).

Thursday, April 26, 2018

AR Treasure Hunt App

ARrrrrgh is a free app that lets you perform augmented reality treasure hunts, and is lots of fun (and meets the FIVES criteria). The title of the app is a play on both pirate-speak and AR, augmented reality, the technology that allows us to display digital information over the real world. Sounds complicated, but this app is very simple. One student goes into a space to hide a virtual treasure chest in the floor (in an open area, the camera is activated and can detect walls, furniture etc). The controls are very simple. The student is then prompted to hand over the iPad and the seeker(s) are given a visual guiding them toward an X that marks the spot. When they successfully navigate to that area of the room and dig, a "treasure" is revealed.
App Store Screenshots
My students greatly enjoyed this app! I'd suggest you try it out yourself first so you know how to guide them. Wi-fi connection is best. A number of skills can be worked on with this app:

  • Social Thinking®: The Group Plan, Thinking with the Eyes, Body in the Group, Smart Guess, Sharing Imagination (also this app could be a good play followup to We Thinkers Vol 2 which has a pirate-themed story/unit)
  • Executive function skills of spatial awareness, planning, time management (I had a highschooler who took an excessive amount of time to bury the treasure and a re-do helped him with this skill)
  • Language skills of spatial concepts and giving clues

Thursday, April 12, 2018

MA area SLPs and educators- Free EdCampAccess event May 5, 2018

I am happy to be helping to organize the EdCampAccess unconference again this year. Hope to see some of you there. Information is below!

EdCampAccess, in the tradition of EdCamps that have taken place around the world, is an unconference devoted to K -12 educators who work with struggling learners. It is not limited to special educators, but anyone who wants to reach students who struggle with reading, writing, organization, behaviors, executive function skills, etc. An unconference is a "collaborative conference" where the attendees build and create the experience. As is the format for unconferences, we do not schedule formal sessions in advance; instead, we do so together as a group at the start of the day via a crowdsourced session board. Attendees may choose to facilitate a session, lead or participate in discussions or attend sessions of interest to further their professional learning.

Some ideas likely to be discussed in sessions are already up on the EdCampAccess website, as is a link to free registration.

Where: Marshall Simonds Middle School, 114 Winn Street Burlington, MA
When: May 5, 2018- Registration begins at 8:30, 9:00-2:00
Cost: again, FREE

Organizers (on Twitter):
Patric Barbieri - @PatricBarbieri
Karen Janowski - @karenjan
Beth Lloyd - @lloydcrew
Sean Sweeney - @speechtechie

Friday, April 6, 2018

Using Google Slides as a Visual Support and "Workbook"

With my older students, I appreciate the role of technology as a visual support. Having a screen involved-- not necessarily to be touching or interacting with-- can be engaging, regulating and motivating. I often say I am fascinated by how much my students will attend and converse with the topic when I am simply typing into a slide. We do have Apple TV present in our clinical rooms, which helps, but the same effect can be provided when connected to a projector or interactive whiteboard, or just with a laptop on the table (less ideal but it works).

With one of my groups I am working on problem solving and self-regulation. Westby and Noel (2014) created a great acronym (BEST PLANS) for problem solving steps you can read about here. In an activity I incorporated this as well as Ward/Jacobsen's STOP strategy for situational awareness, and the 5 Point Scale. I was pleased with the group's engagement as I presented a made-up problem (similar to what they would face and probably struggle with at home), and the tools within Google Slides let me mark up the visuals (boxes, making stuff bold or underline, typing into shapes) as we came to some decisions. The link to this file is here and you can feel free to make a copy (File>Make a Copy) to your own Drive and change it up.

SlidesCarnival is a free resource featuring many engaging-looking Google Slides templates you can use for this sort of work.

Friday, March 30, 2018

News elsewhere...

Hi Folks,

An update on a few things I have had going on...

I am excited to be a featured speaker at ArSHA in Tucson in a few weeks! Hope to see some of you there.

SpeechTechie was named one of the Top Speech Pathology Blogs of 2018 by the website Speech Pathology Master's Programs. Many great resources are listed there. You can read the interview I provided for the website here.

I have written a number of columns for Mindwing Concepts and ASHA published over the past several months:

Tech Tuesday: La La Land, Part 1 (recapping resources provided at ASHA Convention)

Tech Tuesday: La La Land, Part 2 (recapping resources provided at ASHA Convention)

Tech Tuesday: Plotagon’s Emotions Connect to the 6 Universal Feelings

Apps that Ease Assessment of ASD and Social Learning (ASHA Leader)

Lastly, three courses I created for MedBridge are now available! You can join MedBridge to obtain CEUs through great courses; see my affiliate link for a discounted rate.

The courses are as follows:

Therapeutic Technology Use in Language Intervention For School-Age Clients
Tell Me a Story Part 1 
Tell Me a Story Part 2 

You can even see me in a tie! That is indeed a rare sight.

Disclosure: Author receives a consultation fee for providing blog content to Mindwing Concepts. Author has also contracted with MedBridge to provide three courses and is part of their affiliate partner program. He will receive a royalty when his courses are available and are completed by members. Additionally, he receives a commission for each membership purchased through his affiliate link.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Scratch's updated Getting Started page and Coding as a Language Activity

As I have mentioned here and here, coding is a naturalistic language activity in which we can engage students to build a number of skills: following directions, collaborating with peers, and expository language. This can extend to using if/then sentence constructions or explaining how they constructed a program. These activities need not take any programming expertise on your part, or extended amounts of activity time; simple, discrete activities can be conducted using the web-based (Flash in fact, so you'll need your laptop or a Chromebook) Scratch and their Getting Started page. Call it building "games" and your students will be hooked.

To get started with Scratch, you'll want to sign up for a free account. The Getting Started page has selected activities, but I would recommend downloading the entire set of "cards" and printing them on a color printer (you can also buy the whole set for $18.50)- the colors are helpful for students to find. You can also download the card set, send it to your iPad and have the visual be displayed from iBooks as the students use a laptop or Chromebook.

Here's a simple sample activity. You can't imagine the joy I saw on two 2nd graders' faces as they were successful in creating a program where you click a trackpad and a letter changes color:

In the process, they needed to practice: 
-stating the "big picture" of the activity (using when or if/then)
-following written directions
-"thinking with their eyes"
-navigating categories (of scripts- Events and Looks)

Friday, March 9, 2018

Book Creator as a consult and individual therapy tool

In my last post, I described the newly available Book Creator for Chrome. Now in Chrome or via the iPad app, you can consider one of my favorite uses for Book Creator- "journaling" with students. In my various modes of service delivery, including school-based consultation and some individual therapy sessions with students I also see in group, I have turned to Book Creator because it:

-is an engaging way to provide visual support for social-cognitive, language organization and executive function methodologies and concepts.
-can I say engaging again? My students love the opportunity to co-create journal pages and add to sketches or other visuals.
-reminds me and students of what we talked about the last meeting, and results in kind of a cumulative toolkit.
-results are sharable- screenshot any page or export or share the link to the whole book.

You can start by having your student design his own "front page" (I usually leave out names):

Book Creator is a great place to sketch out and modify methodologies such as the Zones of Regulation (created here with emojis in an interactive discussion with a student):

It's an easy place to create Incredible Five Point Scales due to the space and availability of colors:

Create story maps and problem solve (icons from Story Grammar Marker®) walking through the steps of making a goal and action plan.

Expand students' thinking about situations and relationships (or non-relationships) with peers. In this case we were discussing patterns of behavior that the student should recognize and decide to avoid a peer.

Create Comic Strip Conversations to provide visual support during a review of a situation. In this case we incorporated the Superflex 5-Step Power Plan in our discussion accompanying the visual.

I'd love to hear if you are using Book Creator in this way, along with some of your "tricks!"

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Book Creator in Chrome

I've long sung the praises of the Book Creator app. It's definitely the best way to create an e-book due to it's elegant simplicity, ability to add any kind of content (text, photos, drawings, audio, video) and share in both PDF and ePub format. In our work, creating books can be used for narrative and expository language development, social cognitive strategies, metacognitive language strategies, speech practice, repetitive line books to develop microstructure, and so much more.

I recently had the opportunity to get to know Book Creator in Chrome (so, usable on Chromebooks or in any device running the Chrome browser (on iPad, still use the terrific app). It's a lovely port and works exactly the same as the app. One improvement, in the Chrome version you can search for images on Google, which is handy for quick co-creations with students. Sign up as a teacher and you can create 40 books for free (this account also allows you to delete books in your library). Learn about Book Creator here and sign up for your account here. If you are in a Google Apps (G-Suite) environment you can create books FOR your students and have them join your library (where they can read or create).

In my next post I'll talk about one of my favorite recent uses of Book Creator. Check out this great resource giving 50 ways to use Book Creator.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Considering Games with the FIVES Criteria

When considering whether a game-based or "game-like" app is useful for an intervention context, I've found that a number of characteristics or features related to the FIVES criteria can be considered. I actually was looking for a game-based app related to the Winter Olympics but came up short...until Fiete emailed me this morning with an announcement about Fiete Wintersports (I had already been a fan of their Summer Olympics app and was looking to see if they had a winter one). This app provides a good example of some aspects of FIVES that make it very worthwhile:

F- Fairly Priced?
The app is free to download and provides you with two sports- skiing and bobsled. 14 in total can be unlocked with one in-app purchase of $2.99. To me, fair, given the below.

With games, you want interactivity to be within limits. Fiete Sports has a timed aspect but you can't time out, and no matter what, you get a medal. There is no way to stall or go off-course with any of the sports. Each sport shows you how to interact with the screen VERY SIMPLY (e.g. tap quickly, tap and drag) as the sport launches. The activities are very short, promoting the possibility of children in a group having many turns, or you can divide the play of one event among several students.

Each sport gives you a visual sense of how it works- much of which would be new to young learners and build semantic knowledge. The visuals would promote verbal expression as students could be asked to describe how the event works, perhaps using a frame like Ward/Jacobsen's STOP- Space, Time, Objects, People. I found that using the app while mirroring to an Apple TV in my clinical setting kept all engaged with the visual, and commenting on the event.

E-Educationally Relevant?
An app about the Olympics relates to current events, social studies and geography. Though the app provides limited verbal information about the events or Olympics in general, it provides a post-activity to reviewing picture books or other texts about the Olympics, focusing on vocabulary, figurative language (see my book collection at EPIC Books for Kids, the "Winter Olympic Sports" series has some nice slang), or look up the Olympics on Newsela.

The app itself targets no clinical objectives- but the language you can elicit around it within your activities would elicit cause-effect statements of why the event went as it did, categorizations of sports (winter vs summer, individual vs. team, ones played on flat surfaces vs. hills), and any activities done around text as mentioned above. Pair with a YouTube video about sportsmanship and you can do some narrative language, observational and social cognitive work. As mentioned in my previous post, explore how to re-create events in "real life" play and target the group planning aspects of this!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Free interactive book Dino Olympics

The Olympics start this week! The associated topics of sports and geography are great ways to engage students around language objectives. I discovered the free book for iPad Dino Olympics, created by the makers of Puppet Pals. The app is an interactive exploration of different dinosaurs' strengths and weaknesses when competing in Olympic events; it has delightfully silly animations that are extended and further contextualized when students tap on the screen.

In terms of language development, the book is a context for targeting:
-categorization (winter vs. summer events or ones which are easy/hard for the dinosaurs)
-connecting to the concept of multiple intelligences (in Social Thinking® parlance, different kinds of smarts, though it is the dinos' bodies, not their brains, that impact upon their success)
-labeling actions and using causals, "thinking with your eyes"- e.g. observing that Apatosaurus is not good at luge because his long body makes him bounce off the curves of the track.
-I also used this book with a post-activity of creating a "luge course"- a gym scooter on the floor makes a good simulation of this and planning obstacles for the course via sketching a "future picture" is an executive function activity (see the work of Sarah Ward and Kristin Jacobsen).

Saturday, February 3, 2018

A Cat in Therapy

Some years ago at the ASHA Convention, I saw in the program a poster entitled "A Cat In Therapy: Cute, but Effective?" I thought this title intriguing and at the same time, funny, and I was sad to have not been able to locate the poster. Fiete Cats AR ($1.99) gives you the opportunity to test this proposition out. AR--Augmented Reality-- is technology that overlays digital content over our world, often through the camera. In this case, the app makes a cat appear in any room, including your treatment space, and offers a number of interactions:

-Name up to 3 cats
-Observe the cat's needs (think with your eyes)
-Pet and play with the cat
-Feed it when it gets dirty (from playing in paint)
-Provide him food and drink when hungry/thirsty
-Put him to bed
-Record your interactions to make a short movie (saves to Photos app)

My kitty using his litter box ON MY RUG! Oh, NO!

Effective? Well, for sure the app is engaging, and provides a context for social observation, labeling actions, and using cause-effect and conditional structures.

This app is also a great pairing with picture books (narrative or expository) about cats. Consider making your own "picture book" with Book Creator, which would allow you to import screenshots or the videos recorded within the app. Students can write about their interactions with the cat, a context for any number of objectives.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

3 Ways to Motivate and add Narrative Complexity to Writing through Emoji

When targeting narrative language, one objective is to move students toward more complexity and elaboration with inclusion of elements such as character response (feelings) and plans. Additionally this can facilitate the microstructure within narratives including complex sentences (e.g. The Patriots turned the game around so we were excited but not surprised). This corresponds with movement toward a "landscape of consciousness" (Bruner, 1986) in mature narrative, describing mental states and emotions, as opposed to merely relating action.

Emoji are fun, and incorporate one way students currently communicate- through texts, Instagram posts and even Venmo cash transfers, noted to be a place where people mark the rationale for the money with emoji. However, they can also serve as a visual support and scaffold for including the story grammar element of character response to events when students are writing personal or summary narratives. Here are 3 easy ways to include emoji- see also my previous post for Mindwing Concepts about this topic.

On iPad through Predictive Text
Predictive Text, when turned on (Settings>General>Keyboard>toggle on "Predictive") provides blocks of predicted text above the keyboard as you type. This is one example of how features previously only available as "assistive technology" have turned out to be incorporated in operating systems to benefit everyone. As you type a word for which an emoji is available, it will trigger an emoji suggestion in the Predictive. You can choose to replace the word with the emoji, rebus-style, or type the word and then type it again and replace with emoji. This also can save time versus having students scroll through pages of emoji within the keyboard.

Equip your Mac or Chromebook with Emoji
If you have a Mac, the Mac App Store has a free app called Emoji Lite. You can search and copy any symbol into a word processing, presentation or other document. As we do lots of typing into a web browser, you can also add the Emoji Keyboard by EmojiOne™ to your Chrome Browser (also a good option for Chromebooks).

Within Google Docs
EasyPeasy. While writing in a Google Doc or Slides presentation, just use the Insert menu, select Special Characters, and change to emoji via the dropdown.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Look to MedBridge for high quality PD courses

When it comes to professional development, it’s great to have options. The end of your certification maintenance interval can sneak up on you. Additionally, it seems of late unfortunately difficult for clinicians to obtain release time to attend professional development and continue our high level of training--I know this as a frequent PD speaker!

Online learning has always been an option, and MedBridge has elevated the format with their professional development courses. After developing many offerings for PT and OT, they have reached into speech-language pathology in the past several years, and specifically have endeavored to create relevant courses for school-based clinicians. I was asked to create several courses for MedBridge in the past year (see disclosure), and have been very impressed with their process.

The features of their courses and website are designed to leverage all of the possibilities of the format, for sure. First of all, the process of creating the course is geared toward maximizing learner engagement. Presenters go onsite to MedBridge’s studio and film their course in person (I felt like I was on TV myself!) so that the result is a high-quality video presentation. There are many additional features to their courses that make the experience comparable to attending PD sessions in person, including:
  • Engaging visual presentations; these courses are more like watching a talk show than a PowerPoint
  • Modeling of techniques with students and clients 
  • Q/A sessions with real professionals within the videos 
  • An easy-to-follow progression of “chapters” within each course, along with the ability to complete each course with breaks, at your own pace 
  • Downloadable handouts and extension activities for you to apply the material in the course 
  • Learning assessments that feature real-world, practical (but short) case studies followed by questions to gauge your own understanding of the material presented 
  • Multiple-part courses (each with CEU value) for in-depth learning 
Offerings for pediatric clinicians working in schools (there are also libraries for other populations) run a range including courses regarding English Language Learners, visual supports and Literacy development for students with autism, caseload and service delivery management in schools, preschool language, and language and literacy, among many others. A full listing of available courses is viewable here, but see my affiliate link below, however, if you would like to join at a reduced rate.

Over the past several months, I myself completed two courses through my MedBridge membership:

Balancing & Scheduling Speech-Language Workloads in Schools, presented by Kathleen Whitmire.
In this course, Dr. Whitmire describes the workload model to managing productivity in the school setting. I had seen Dr. Whitmire previously, and her presentation years ago inspired me to implement the 3-1 Consultation model at my school, revolutionizing my role and teaching me how to be an effective collaborator and consultant. These skills are hugely important to my current work in private practice and consulting to schools. This course was very engaging and I found several elements to be helpful to me and potentially extremely helpful to clinicians first encountering these ideas. Dr. Whitmire describes “activity clusters” which help define the workload vs. caseload approach and will be very valuable to SLPs looking to open conversations with administrators about optimizing their role in their settings. Additionally, one major issue with transitioning to a workload and/or 3-1 approach is getting started. Dr. Whitmire offers some very do-able suggestions to taking these steps gradually. As is often the case within the MedBridge library, one course may lead to another. I plan also to take Dr. Whitmire’s courses in effective collaboration and educationally relevant speech-language services.

Focusing on Friendship: Building Social Groups That Work for Children with Autism, presented by Laura DeThorne
Dr. DeThorne’s information on engaging with first-person perspectives of students, including a Q/A with an autistic researcher (he describes why he prefers that descriptor), were very informational to me and changed MY perspective on identity- vs. person-first language. It is important to note that this discussion suggests steps that align with considering client values, a tenet of evidence-based practice. This aspect of the course dovetailed extremely well with the following chapters, which provided practical advice on creating interest-based social “affinity” groups, including examples of potential activities and measurable goals that focus on “interaction rather than individual skills.”

I hope that you will check out MedBridge’s offerings when planning your PD activities over the coming year. My courses are still in post-production, and include one on developing narrative and expository language using tech resources, and another on alignments between research-based practices and app-based activities. Currently you can subscribe to MedBridge’s offerings using my affiliate link at a greatly reduced price of $95.

Disclosure: Sean Sweeney has contracted with MedBridge to provide two courses and is part of their affiliate partner program. He will receive a royalty when his courses are available and are completed by members. Additionally, he receives a commission for each membership purchased through his affiliate link. However, the review detailed in this post represents Sean’s independent evaluation of several courses he completed through the MedBridge site.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Find the right tool for the right task

I have a student who was struggling with map tests. Don't ask me whether I think students need to memorize maps nowadays but...anyway, he had to. He was very frustrated, but at least thought the whole thing was over. It's important to establish rationale-or the presence of pointless work that nonetheless is required and might develop our skills and strategies- I had to break it to him that many more map tests await.

He showed me that the recommended study guide was Quizlet, which he was using via a matching task:

Now don't get me wrong, Quizlet is GREAT, and I'd recommend it for many tasks such as reviewing vocab or even literary elements of novels, etc. It's also excellent that they have evolved to include visual elements. But in this case, you can probably see immediately why this might not be the best tool for this task. Studying a map requires literally and figuratively a "big picture." This is just one stack but the images of the countries are small and it's hard to relate part to whole.

I showed him an old standby, Sheppard Software, a website built in Flash so it must be used on a laptop or chromebook. He liked it much better, and here's where curriculum contexts can always be blended with a strategic focus. Reviewing a region in "Learn" mode (via big picture), we made up a silly sentence cueing the country names roughly from north to south. Anyone remember the old BrainCogs program? I loved that. In any case, the verbal mediation was meaningful to him. In Quiz mode we also practiced strategies based in language, helping to make the blob of countries have a meaning, "Oh, French Guiana is closer to France than Guyana is. Ecuador is literally on the Equator."

The experience of tackling this task reinforced a few things for me. Rationale. Tool Selection. Strategic Focus.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Teaching in Social Media Contexts

Social Media is part of life--and a good context for targeting social cognition and narrative language. In general, social media is now one context for us all to be sharing our stories through words and pictures, and also is a way we send messages about ourselves and interact around them. Of course this should be self-monitored; I've shared with my students that I set an intention of at least 2 hours daily in which I don't look at Facebook or Instagram (if you have a goal, you need a measurable action plan). Don't always make it, but I'm trying.

A few contexts in which I have used social media in the last several months:

GCF Learn Free has great simple tutorials on social media outlets. These are good if you are working with individuals who want to begin to use social media as an interactive outlet (learning more about others and making connections).

Related to this, I have been working with a wonderful SLP who uses Instagram photos (mine and many others) to help students "get the story" (situational awareness) implied by a photo, make inferences about relationships depicted in photos, etc. Identifying a few resources you can use with students (screenshot, perhaps, instead of showing them your feed) make for great lessons. These students have also stepped into sharing on Instagram with parental guidance.

There are a number of good resources you can use to make mock text conversations, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat posts. These can be great for presenting narratives and exploring expected and unexpected social media behaviors. Just google and you'll find ones like Status Clone- they produce an image of a fake interaction that you can use in an activity. also has student-friendly versions of these for you to use for co-creation (see their FakeBook, Twister and SMS Generator).

Here's an example (note: that's not an actual spoiler). 

On iPad, I haven't always found similar tools. Social Dummy performs similar functions but I would never use it in front of students because of its horrible name (Dummy meaning fake, not in the way it might be interpreted)! You can use this app to make teaching images saved to your photos app, however. A recent free tool is Texting Story Chat Maker, which allows you to make a dynamic video of a text conversation unfolding. These are additionally good contexts in which to explore the use of emoji, which are easily accessible on mobile devices.