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.