For my culminating experience I have been working on a project about the history of technology in education and in speech-language pathology. The current trends of technology were also something I considered during this project. As part of the “final product” of my project I wanted to share the experiences I have had, some information I have gathered, and some of the resources I have compiled throughout the school year.
As we all have seen, and some of us experienced, there has been a noticeable increase in the amount of technology in today’s classrooms and throughout education. However, there has been a more noticeable increase in mainstream media attention around the hottest new pieces of technology. But for the first time mainstream technology is beginning to gain more popularity in the education setting, such as iPads and iPods. Technology has been consistently a part of education since it was introduced decades ago, but not until recently has there been such an exciting time to learn about and begin utilizing this new technology.
It is important for graduate student clinicians and practicing speech-language pathologists (SLPs) to be aware of what technology and resources are currently available for several reasons:
- Technology is rapidly changing and growing, which means staying up-to-date is important to keep engagement and motivation high for the students you are working with
- Exposing students to new and different technologies while working towards language and/or speech goals will help children adapt to a future involving continued use of technology. These students will grow up and face a world that will have entirely new professions and a new set of problems to solve just as the current generation is working to solve problems created from previous generations. The challenge now becomes to prepare students “. . . for a world that has yet be created, for jobs yet be invented, and for technologies yet undreamed” (Molebash, 1999 [PDF]). This is a similar idea to what a quarterback does. A quarterback does not throw the ball to where the receiver is located but instead anticipates where the receiver will be and throws the ball there. So too SLPs and other educators need to anticipate what the future has in store for current students and do our best to prepare them for what is to come.
School-based SLPs have a unique opportunity in that they have access to a growing number of children on their caseload. The use of technology can aid in the efficiency of treatment of speech/language disorders by keeping the attention and motivation of the students. It is especially important for SLPs to keep an eye on the ever-growing technology because the technology that is devoted to speech and language development is just beginning. Similar to other areas of rapid technology development, I expect that specific technology that is useful to school-based SLPs to rapidly grow. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
With such rapid acceleration of technology development there is a limitless number of directions that will develop in technology. However, knowing what the new technology will be or in which directions they can lead us is not only impossible but unimportant. “It is the recognition of what is possible that educators must consider” (Molebash, 1999). The future is an inevitable reality, of which we either adapt to or resist, but that we have the power to “envisage and take action to build alternative and desirable futures” (Facer & Sandford, 2010).
I recently had a practicum experience student teaching at an elementary school where my supervisor had a grant accepted for two iPads to use during treatment. I was fortunate enough to be there and help implement these new tools with the students. There were not many apps to start with, but from my perspective the students responded very well to using the iPad when coming to the speech room. What I found most interesting was that these young students had already experienced technology like this or similar to iPads such as an iPhone or Android and other smart phones. The familiarity they had around technology like this was impressive. One group working on language goals, particularly wh-questions at that time, were all standing around the iPad reading through the questions together and excitedly waited their turns. That experience provided a great learning opportunity for me and demonstrated the effectiveness that technology can have.
Even throughout this school year while working on this project I have noticed changes in how SLPs use technology. There are continuously more and more blogs reviewing different treatment apps and exchanging therapy ideas with one another. ASHAsphere in particular is a great resource for the profession and provides a great opportunity for graduate students as well as practicing professionals to contribute bits and pieces of our interests and expertise. I have compiled a short annotated list of resources I have come across that can serve as a good starting off point to incorporating technology into practice, which will be posted next week on ASHAsphere. You will find, as I did, that one website will lead to another, which will lead to another, and so on. The list I have compiled are some of my favorite that I have found to date, and will continually update throughout my career. While gathering information for my resource list I noticed the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has a new technology page for school-based clinicians all about the pros and cons of new technology. Additionally, ASHA provides a few insurance funding resources. It is exciting to see the acknowledgement of and transition towards the inevitable future of a world filled with technology.
I believe the next step for ASHA is to develop some guidelines for technology use across settings and ages, specifically the current media technology that seems to be picking up momentum. ASHA sets guidelines for many aspects of the profession and current technology guidelines is the next step. These guidelines should describe ways to evaluate and determine the quality of speech and language apps that are continually being developed. The number of apps specific to our profession, as well as apps that can have specific uses toward achieving student objectives is constantly growing. With this growth there should be a systematic way of evaluating the use and effectiveness of the apps.
Technology is an exciting new tool for speech-language pathologists to use but we need to remember that language is social. “If an iPad helps a child share a smile with their parent, a shared moment of attention, attachment and engagement – that is a good thing. The tech device is just a therapy tool of gaining a child’s attention. It is only with joint attention that more opportunities for interaction can occur” (Bratti, 2010).
This has been a fascinating journey and I am excited to see what the future has in store.
Michael Tanner, BS, is a graduate student at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. With the support of his wife and family he is preparing to graduate in June and begin his career as a school-based SLP in the Fall.