Thursday, July 28, 2022

Another Example: 10+ Stories to "Tell" with Toca World

Continuing here to post some companion pieces to my session this week at the SLP Summit (available in its recorded form with others until August 15, register here). One of the app resources I discussed were those available through Toca Boca's Toca Life apps. These are available individually, for example, Toca Life: Vacation which I will discuss here, or the Toca Life: World (also playable on newer Macs w M1 chips) has a way of pulling together your previously purchased apps. 

The Toca Life apps are just filled with real-world contexts and therefore can be used to model, co-create, and play out stories in very structured ways or loosely. Make a scene, involve lots of movement onscreen, or record whatever you do as a story through the screen recording feature. This can be done individually or with a group taking turns, or as explicitly or implicitly as you see fit (e.g. with story grammar cues or not). See my recent post on Mindwing's blog about models of learning and instruction.

Taking Toca Life: Vacation, let's consider how the context can lead us to scaffold a bunch of different stories with students.

Airport: Besides the process of arriving, checking in, going through security, waiting at the gate, and taking off in the plane, what if...

1. You need to buy a ticket (use the ATM etc)?

2. Your flight is not listed on the board of funny-sounding destinations and you need to ask for help?

3. You left something at home (if you have Vacation and City added in Toca World, you can move characters in and out of the panel at the bottom and change locations)?

4. A parent surprises you at school with a vacation (same, start at School and move the characters to the airport in Vacation)?

5. Your flight is delayed (good vocab word)?

6. A dog flies the plane and you don't end up where you planned?

This or other parts of the app could be used in conjunction with Google Earth to "fly" to a location and see some landmarks in 3D!

Hotel: Besides checking in, taking the elevator to your room and doing hotel stuff (bathing, sleeping, changing from your luggage, etc), what if...

7. You win a shopping spree at the gift shop?

8. You eat EVERYTHING at the buffet?

9. You make a mess of your room and need help or equipment from housekeeping?

Beach: Besides all sorts of watersports and maybe a wedding (?), what if...

10. Someone gets trapped on the island?

11. The fish get silly and decide to live on land? 

And don't miss the treasure chest out on the island...

As I mentioned in the session, check out short videos like this that can show you lots of potential stories you wouldn't even know were there!

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Another example: Storytelling with Google Slides or Jamboard

I had great experience presenting live for SLP Summit yesterday! The people and responses were wonderful. My session will be available in its recorded form as will the other excellent presenters' until August 15. Register here, the conference is presenting more live sessions practically as we speak; CEUs for live/recorded sessions are available for a small fee. To thank the many who attended and (I noticed!) subscribed to this blog as a result of the conference, I thought I'd elaborate on the content with some additional examples over the coming weeks. 

In the session I started by describing how Google Slides and Jamboard can be used to create, interact with and retell stories through activities like making a scene or story mapping. I had previously posted a video on this you can check out. Another example is making a visually supported story retelling activity, in which you can think of Slides or Jamboard as sort of like the old Colorforms- images you insert can be like your stickers!

You can do this with most any context or story, but this past spring I really enjoyed reading We Found A Hat (Jon Klassen) with some groups. There are others in this series but they are a bit darker in ending. The author uses exaggerated eye illustrations (and not much else) to signal thoughts and intentions. Use the book or a video like this one!

For a playful way to work on retelling, make this book a scene. You can do this in either Slides or Jamboard. Slides would offer you more ways to play with formatting; Jamboard would allow easier collaboration (and if you wanted to sketch to change/highlight eye gaze you could do it more easily here). The basics as I show below would be the same.

Start with a blank slide- (either remove any text boxes and such or insert a new blank slide). If you have nothing selected on the slide you should see Background on the bottommost menu. Click that, Choose Image and the Google Image Search choice usually does a good job for any kind of background. 

For your mobile (to click and drag about) turtles and hat you can try Insert>Image>Search the Web. This worked well for a hat. Remember to use the term PNG to try to get images without backgrounds. 

Sometimes you may have trouble getting images that actually are PNGs. I just go over to Google Image Search (open a new tab and search on Google, again using PNG). From here you can right click and copy images to your creation.

A word about this- be aware of copyright, don't republish or attempt to sell something you have created using Google Images unless you have searched for images that are ok for reuse. This goes for all digital storytelling creations. 

Here I copied and pasted the turtle and clicked on Format Options to flip one of them.

From here, use your imagination! 
-move the elements to model a story retell and then have students do the same (a SmartBoard might be fun here)
-You can make Google Slides look less cluttered by collapsing menus or hiding elements under View.
-Add text boxes or shapes for dialogue.
-Make a "same but different story" where the turtles find something else besides a hat. Would they make a different decision? Why?
-Talk about cool things you've "found" (bridge to personal narrative)

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

5 Reasons the iPad is Still Relevant to SLPs

When the iPad came out in 2010, I was skeptical. It seemed like a big iPhone and I wasn't sure it would take off. Showing how much I know, it soon became an educational sensation and took off, particularly in the field of speech-language pathology. Before you knew it, there was a surge of interest in my blog, SLP app lists, and professional development sessions on using it as an assessment and therapy tool. The App Store filled with apps designed for SLPs (still relevant also) and schools invested in carts and equipping all their staff with an iPad.

Apple still pumps out new iPads but there is much less talk about them. First of all Chromebooks made accessing the web and Google productivity apps cheap and easy for schools. Secondly, a pandemic pushed everyone into an environment where iPads were less useful (between skittishness about touching shared objects and confusion/limitations about using it in remote teaching), and I believe everyone also got a bit tired of technology, after it became non-optional for so long. In 2022, I think the iPad is still useful as a tool, however, and here are a few reasons why.

1. Lower screens to the table. Raised screens laptop-style promotes faces-in-screens. It's much easier to have a conversation over an iPad or with the use of an Apple TV and reinforce those face to face interactions.

2. Pass-and-play. A form of play and conversation is adding thoughts to a context. This is supremely easy to do with an iPad (and hand sanitizer) and not so much with a laptop. Consider an activity like adding contextual items to a collage (or trimming around them to create a gestalt) with Pic Collage.

3. Price. The newest iPads are relatively inexpensive at $329. There are also still many free and low-cost apps available.

4. Little Hands. Let's face it- it's still not easy for K-3 students at least to log into a Chromebook and handle a mouse. Feeling successful with a tap is more engaging than frustrating clicks and drags.

5. Interactivity and No-BS access. There are few rivals on the web to assets such as Toca Boca and their younger kiddo company, Sago Mini, the apps of which bring visuals and interactivity to countless world contexts, therefore opening the door to speech and language targets. Similarly, many web resources charge subscription fees for full access. By and large when you download an app (avoiding the ones with many in-app purchases), it's yours without more haggling. The integration of camera/photos and drawing/text tools in apps like Book Creator, among other easier-to-use creation tools, is also less seamless on a laptop.

In conclusion, I currently favor having the option of both a full web browser (e.g. laptop) and the iPad at my disposal! If you are interested in hearing about some more examples, be sure to register for SLP Summit (free) where I am presenting alongside some amazing people next week!

If you have more reasons the iPad is still relevant to you (or not), please let us know in the comments!

Monday, July 18, 2022

Presenting for SLP Summit Next Week (FREE!)

It is an honor to participate as a presenter for the SLP Summit this summer! Save the dates and join me for my live course on July 25! 

SLP Summit is a 4-day virtual event with 8 presentations from speakers who are in the trenches. We know you’re busy and need practical tips and strategies that you can implement the next day in therapy. Over the 4 days, we’ll be bringing you amazing SLPs who will be sharing their best tips and tricks covering highly requested topics! 

My session description: Narrative language comprehension and expressive skills have implications for academic and social success, and are particularly relevant to school-based practice. This workshop will model the targeting of comprehension and expression of stories through easy-to-use and engaging interactive technology resources. Interactive activities and the use of creation tools incorporating images, book creation, and animation can be aligned with research-based methodologies such as story grammar teaching and use of text structures. This session will review a selection of tech resources which can complement instruction in aspects of social communication such as conversational storytelling.

The best part? SLP Summit is a free event! Register now so you don’t miss out on these .8 CEUs. Register at

*Courses are free but there is an administrative fee of $24.99 if you would like Bright Ideas Media to submit the courses to ASHA on your behalf.

Trust us, you don’t want to miss out! But, you don’t have to take our word for it:


“The amount of work you and your teams do behind the scenes is unbelievable. For free???? It’s a testimony to your spirit and love for the profession.” - Nina


“Another great summit! Thank you, ladies!” - Shelley


“The best one [Summit] yet” - Sharon


“So much thanks to all involved in this SLP Summit, it made me so proud of our profession!” - Jill