No Wifi? (Mostly) No Problem

(This post originally appeared on Therapy App 411)

I had a reader over at SpeechTechie who recently contacted me with a question.  She (very admirably) planned to purchase an iPad for use with her students with autism, but had NO interest in employing it for her own personal use (so, even more admirable).  However, she works in a school with no wireless internet available to students or teachers.  Her question: should she proceed with buying this iPad, and would there be enough apps that function without wifi?

The question was illuminating to me because I have to admit I am totally spoiled.  Not only do I work in a district with ubiquitous and pretty reliable wifi, but our IT department also embraces teachers using personal iPads to connect to the Internet. I previously received a similar question (to which I do not really know the answer, as the politics and other factors are different in every district): how to convince the powers that be to allow teachers connecting personal devices if they are not so liberal in this regard. I always need to remind myself that not every district has wireless.  Additionally, and perhaps because of this, I realized I didn’t know in general how many apps that are useful to SLPs require wifi to function (function meaning to be used in activities with students, not to back up data or update the app, tasks that can be completed when wifi is available).  Unfortunately, upon examination, it appears that the profiles on apps in the iTunes store do not indicate which apps require wifi, at least not universally.  So, I turned to the power of the the PLN (Personal Learning Network) and threw the question out on Twitter.  Here’s what ensued:

(via Chirpstory)

iPad Apps and WiFi

By SpeechTechie  with

Conversation about which apps require wifi connection to function (re: schools that do not have wifi available)

So, this was a very helpful discussion for me (and I hope to this reader, who has since purchased the iPad!), the upshot being that the vast majority of apps that are of interest to SLPs do not require wifi to function. The ones listed are really exceptions to the rule, though of course this list is not comprehensive and will likely continue to expand. Really, only apps that need to pull live content (audio, video, text, pictures) from the web in order to function would be useless in a school without wifi. For many other apps, one needs to have a connection to the Internet to build libraries or update, but the app would be useful. The reader brought up the point that we perhaps should indicate here on TxApp411 if an app requires wifi, and I will be mentioning that to the other editors here. Thanks for your excellent question!

 

Sean J. Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist and instructional technology specialist working in the public school and in private practice at The Ely Center in Newton, Massachusetts. He has presented on the topic of technology integration in speech and language at the ASHA convention and is the author of the blog SpeechTechie: LookingatTechnologyThroughaLanguageLens.

Summer Reading Part 2: Interacting with ASHA Journals on iPad

In last week’s post, I discussed how to access ASHA Journals on the web and how to stay connected to current publications by viewing abstracts in Google Reader.

The iPad is obviously a hugely popular device whose potential, I think, we are just beginning to glimpse.  So when the iPad is added to this mix, what do professional development and research look like? How can the iPad move us past printing and marking up journal articles (for me at least, I haven’t really processed something unless I have marked it up) and into digital learning and collaboration?

In the following video, I demonstrate on the iPad how to:

  • Use Safari to browse and read journals (pretty much the same steps as our last post, but more fingers-on)!*
  • Save journal articles to iBooks for later reading and organization into collections.*
  • Annotate journal articles in iAnnotate PDF using the highlighting, underlining, drawing, and text annotation tools.
  • Share your annotations with colleagues for collaboration and research.

*Note: these two steps work the same way for iPhone/iPod Touch!  iAnnotate PDF is iPad-only, but GoodReader is a similarly well-regarded (and a bit cheaper) app that has different versions for all iDevices.

View the video on YouTube

This has been a fun process for me, learning about Journals 2.0. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I have!

 

Sean J. Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist and instructional technology specialist working in the public school and in private practice at The Ely Center in Newton, Massachusetts. He has presented on the topic of technology integration in speech and language at the ASHA convention and is the author of the blog SpeechTechie: Looking at Technology Through a Language Lens.

Summer Reading, Part 1: Accessing ASHA Journals Electronically

I have to admit, ASHA’s announcement that members would no longer be receiving our journal subscription in the mail did not initially make me do flips of joy. I appreciated the opportunity to quickly peruse the contents and decide which topics I’d like to explore after picking my copy of Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools out of the mailbox,  I worried that I miss friend’s jokes about my nerdyness upon seeing scholarly journals in my magazine rack: “Oh, you read AJSLP too?”

For a time I did miss having paper journals (change is always hard), and at first felt a bit disconnected from these great resources. However, I have recently embraced minimalism, carefully considering each physical item I allow to cross the threshold of my home or office, and I prefer to have less stuff, including journals.  Additionally, I really respect ASHA’s environmentally-friendly and cost-saving decision to avoid shipping countless reams of paper quarterly to members who, let’s be honest, may or may not be reading them. We can’t always be, as Stephen King calls his fans, the “Constant Reader,” but ASHA digitizing our journals has had another positive side effect: choice. We now have access to all four ASHA journals anytime we like, instead of just one subscription.

We can therefore think of our journals as On-Demand: they are there when we are ready and willing to read them!  In this series of two posts, I’ll be showing how to access our ASHA journals online and (next time) through your iPad.  I will also be focusing on keeping journals, a critical professional development resource, a little closer to the front of our mind by viewing and sharing abstracts through Google Reader.  Google Reader is what is called an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) aggregator, a fancy term for a site that helps us keep online content of our own interest accessible in one place. Once you have a Google Reader account (your Gmail or Google Docs logins get you into Google Reader too), you can easily subscribe to feeds that show you the contents of any and all ASHA journals. See something you like? Just click through to the ASHA Journal site and log in to see the full text of that article.  If you are Google-phobic, and I know some are, you can consider using an alternative like Netvibes to organize your journal feeds and other blogs you like to read (such as ASHAsphere!)

Are you a visual learner? Check out this little video to see how it works!

View the video on YouTube

Prefer more straightforward steps? Check out this document:

Accessing ASHA Journals Electronically

Tune in next week for options for using iPad for professional development: viewing (and annotating!) ASHA journals…

Sean J. Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist and instructional technology specialist working in the public school and in private practice at The Ely Center in Newton, Massachusetts. He has presented on the topic of technology integration in speech and language at the ASHA convention and is the author of the blog SpeechTechie: Looking at Technology Through a Language Lens.

New App Review Blog For and by SLPs (and Other Therapists)!

Sometimes big things can start with 140 (or fewer) characters:

Twitter message "#SLPeeps, app reviews. Do we want to make a new blog? We can create new app reviews and also post anytime one SLPeep has a review:

At least we hope it’s going to be big! This tweet from Deb, an SLP pal practicing in Pennsylvania, started a conversation between four bloggers that over the period of one weekend resulted in a new blog, TherapyApp411, which we are happy to announce has launched this week!

TherapyApp411

We jokingly called the blog a spin-off (hopefully more in the vein of successful spin-offs such as Laverne & Shirley rather than the short-lived, unfunny The Ropers) because we will be cross-posting reviews from our own blogs: The Speech Guy, TiPS: Technology in Practice for SLPs, Speech Gadget, and SpeechTechie. The main goal is to provide a centralized location for information on the very hot topic of mobile devices and their uses in therapy. Our mission is to provide reviews and other content regarding apps and devices from a therapists’ perspective. In addition to our own $.02 on various apps and news items regarding mobile technologies, this blog is open to contributions from other writer-therapists: SLPs, OTs, PTs or other disciplines who would like to contribute! We are looking for contributions that reflect therapists’ personal experience with apps and place them in the context of therapy sessions. We have posted a template for reviews so that uniform information will be contained in each post, but also allow for individual writing style. The blog currently has reviews of the interactive book A Present for Milo, the sticker-scene-creator ClickySticky, and my take on how to re-purpose (through a language lens, as I am known to say) GarageBand for iPad as a therapy tool.  We offer an email form for subscription (free, of course) and directions for subscribing through Google Reader as part of the SLP Blogs Bundle.  You can also keep up with us by “likingour page on Facebook!  I hope you’ll check the blog out and, if you have an app you’d like to share, consider submitting a review.  Thanks!

Sean J. Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist and instructional technology specialist working in the public school and in private practice at The Ely Center in Newton, Massachusetts. He has presented on the topic of technology integration in speech and language at the ASHA convention and is the author of the blog SpeechTechie: Looking at Technology Through a Language Lens.

Should You Buy an iPad Now?

(This post originally appeared on SpeechTechie)

Probably, yes.

We have all been witness to the flurry of blog posts, tweets, Facebook updates, and news stories on the potential of the iPad for teaching and learning. Though I was initially a bit delayed in drinking this particular flavor of Kool-aid, I am definitely a convert to this device’s portability, versatility, interactivity, and the instantaneous student engagement that results whenever it is pulled out (see Heidi Hanks’ post for a second on this, and Barbara Fernandes’ for a third). My one reservation is in the “versatility” area- the iPad still has its limitations with regards to producing work, especially written work, and though it contains a web browser, it cannot access many of the wonderful educational interactives out there that are Flash-based (and therefore should not be thought of as a replacement for a laptop). However, all that said, the iPad and the cornucopia of apps available for it have proved an essential addition to my therapeutic toolkit since I bought it last Fall (and keep in mind that I say that as a part-time SLP currently- if I had a more diverse caseload I think I would be even more enthusiastic about the iPad).

Why now? I have had a number of inquiries in the past months about the iPad, and my response has been that waiting for the arrival of iPad 2 would be wise. iPad 2 was just announced this week for release on March 11, and as expected it is faster, thinner, and equipped with dual cameras for FaceTime, PhotoBooth, and video creation. The pricing structure remains the same, with the 16G WiFi model (my recommended starting option as long as you know your district will let you put the device on their network- ask!!!) at $499. Now is also a good time to consider whether you would be happy with a first-generation iPad at a greatly reduced price, as many fanboys (probably me too) will be selling theirs and Apple is offering refurbished models for pretty cheap.

So, I’d say go for it. Before the buzz around iPad 3 starts (probably in 2012) and kills our buzz.

Check out this snippit from the video used at the iPad 2 announcement on Tues, featuring Howard Shane’s (of the Children’s Hospital, Boston- Communication Enhancement Center) thoughts on it being a “game-changer” for kids with autism). It actually made me a little verklempt.

Sean J. Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist and instructional technology specialist working in the public school and in private practice at The Ely Center in Newton, Massachusetts. He has presented on the topic of technology integration in speech and language at the ASHA convention and is the author of the blog SpeechTechie: Looking at Technology Through a Language Lens.

The Communicative Function of (Blog) Commenting

Diagram of blog comments


Photo by cambodia4kidsorg

Blogs are a pretty recent entry in the history of the written word, and a lot of people don’t quite know what to do with them. Our ancestors seem to have known that it would have been considered rude to pick up the paint or chisel to respond to their neighbors’ musings via cave painting or stone tablet. Books and magazines have been similarly non-interactive; it seems senseless to deface these writings with our thoughts- “Right On!”- when the author would never see our ball-point pen scrawlings. But here we are in a new age, that of the “Social Web,” and anyone who wants to put their writing out there can, and does! Why? Well, we all have different motives, but in the case of SLPs and other educators who blog, I believe it all boils down to sharing. I recently was at a conference, and a wonderful Massachusetts principal- who is so pro-sharing that he keeps his desk in the middle of his high school lobby- put it something like this (excuse my paraphrase if you should ever see it, @bhsprincipal): “It’s not that I think I know better than everyone else, it’s just that no one else is sharing.” That “no one” has thankfully gotten a bit inaccurate in the past year, with the blossoming numbers of SLPs who blog. And we are definitely seeing that you read, so THANK YOU.

However, because we are demanding little creatures, we SLPs, we have something else to ask you for: comments. Comments feed us! It’s really great to know that others have read and have thought about our writing, and, being in the same profession, have ideas to share back. This is why we choose blogging as a medium, rather than trying to track down a publisher: we don’t want it to be just a one-way conversation! So, we know it’s hard to break out of that mode of reading that dates back to “I better not write anything on Shakespeare’s Folio,” but now, really, we are asking you to write all over our posts. In addition to meeting bloggers’ seemingly insatiable need for attention, your comment will live on with that post, along with your expertise, and enhance the experience of all who read it!

See that little “LEAVE A COMMENT” link? Unfortunately, it means no one did. But I’m not asking you to feel bad for me. OK, I am a little. But also, I put that there so that first of all you know HOW to comment.

When you click there, you’ll see this, a similar form to what you would see on any blog:

ASHAsphere asks you to leave your (real) name and email address, though others can’t access that email through this blog (be careful on other blogs- I sometimes use a “spare” email address, like my yahoo account to make a comment on a blog I don’t often frequent). Should you feel bad if you leave the Website field blank? No. ASHA and other readers don’t care if you don’t have a website. So what to write in that “Comment” field? It’s up to you, but here are a few suggestions to spark your commenting:

  • “Add a Thought”- Michelle Garcia Winner posed this excellent explanation of what a comment is- it’s simply when we “add a thought” to what has already been said. In our literacy classrooms, this is described as “Making a Connection” to one’s own experience, and the best blog commenting uses this strategy. Yet another way to think of this type of comment relates to the positive momentum of improvisational performances, which use the rule of “Yes, And…” to keep the interaction going! We can think of our conversations, real or virtual, as following the same principle.
  • Feel free to disagree (but maybe not eviscerate)- My suggestion of “Yes, And…” as a guideline for commenting should not be interpreted as meaning that you should never disagree with a blogger, especially when his or her opinion is “out there.” However, I have seen some pretty harsh (in the case of YouTube and news websites, almost inhuman) comments written in social web outlets, and I know that we SLPs, as communication specialists, can avoid that pitfall. Using the sandwich technique is always helpful: site a positive you found in the post, then a negative, and end with a positive. Maybe you can’t find two positives? Make it an open-faced sandwich! In any case, we all know that the written word looks harsher because it is devoid of all our contextualizing nonverbal signals; so it’s best to remember that sharing is caring and give bloggers a little slack when disagreeing, eh?
  • Questions Welcome- Was there something you did not quite understand about the post or do you want to delve a little further into the topic? If the post described something new and techie, do you need help? Throw that up there in a comment! I always try my best to get back to people on questions, and though it might take us a few days, you should check back on the blog for an answer. In general, the blogger will leave a response there rather than bother you at your email address!

As a blogger, I know that one way to encourage comments is to end with a question. So: what has been your experience with professional discussions, commenting and questioning online? How have you seen it change, and how has it shaped your practice?

Sean J. Sweeney, M.S., M.Ed., CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist and instructional technology specialist working in the public schools and in private practice at The Ely Center in Newton, Massachusetts. He has presented on the topic of technology integration in speech and language at the ASHA convention and is the author of the blog SpeechTechie: Looking at Technology Through a Language Lens, which won the 2010 Best New Edublog Award.

ASHA Philly Wrap Up

(This post originally appeared on SpeechTechie)

This was my fifth ASHA experience- I have been fortunate enough to make it to Miami, Chicago, Boston, New Orleans and Philly. I know that it can be overwhelming at first, and I usually get so discombobulated that I commit some kind of major faux pas. I recall back in Chicago, I saw a gentleman walking toward the escalator, spied his last name on his badge, and thought I knew him from Boston University. As I got on the escalator behind him, I said, “Hey, Jerry!” and flummoxed him (he was not Jerry) so much that he actually TIPPED OVER. Ohhhhhhh, Sorry. Tipping over was also involved in the Philly convention. After Laura and I hastily pinned up our poster Thursday morning for our session that afternoon, we rushed to get to the first talk we wanted to see (two SLPs, and neither of us could figure out that Marr Salon G meant the session was in the Marriott, and we had to ask for assistance). Coffee/breakfast lines are always an ordeal at the convention, and I still hadn’t eaten my bagel or finished my iced coffee. As we navigated the packed conference room and into some seats, late, I did this whole lose-my-balance/fall kind of thing when I was unhinged by the heaviness of my laptop bag and the narrowness of the row. Luckily the two SLPs I almost fell onto were totally cool and had a good laugh. Also, luckily I had not stuck the “presenter” tag on my badge yet, though the fact that I was one of perhaps three men in the room might have made me stand out a little. I did decide NOT to eat my bagel at that point, as I had already broken like three unwritten rules: coming in late, with a big drink, and falling.

Things got much better after that. ASHA is always a great time to reconnect with old friends and colleagues, and this time I “knew” (virtually at least) a lot more people, and they knew SpeechTechie! Maggie McGarry, ASHA’s social media director, held a “tweet-up” and I got to meet her (@maggielmcg) as well as a bunch of Twitter #slpeeps @palspeech, @geekslp, @speechalicia, and @pediastaff. Follow these guys on twitter! Maggie also had set up a twitter hashtag (a phrase starting with “#” that helps you find all tweets on a particular topic), and that was very helpful! I also finally got to meet Alyssa Banoti, my editor for my posts on the ADVANCE blog, and it was great to put a face to all the virtual communication.

Thanks, Maggie, also, for the special tweeting tag!

We actually had a terrific timeslot for our poster, so this experience was much better than my last (when no one showed up for it). The feedback was great and everyone was interested in getting our handouts. Thanks, Laura (and Katy and Christine) for all the hard work!

Then, Friday at 11 was my timeslot for my seminar. I was only vaguely nervous all morning and made it to a few good sessions. Imagine my surprise, though, when I got to my conference room and saw this:

All those people were waiting (30 min prior) to get into my session! It was wonderful to see that so many SLPs are interested in using technology in their work, and the response to my talk was really overwhelming, in a good way. Thanks so much to everyone who came.

Sean J. Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist and instructional technology specialist working in the public school and in private practice at The Ely Center in Newton, Massachusetts. He has presented on the topic of technology integration in speech and language at the ASHA convention and is the author of the blog SpeechTechie: Looking at Technology Through a Language Lens.

SLP Zen

Zen rocks


Photo by quinet

Few of us would claim that the job of an SLP is flowers and sunshine all the time. It can be super-stressful managing a caseload, planning interventions, completing evaluations, dealing with administrative hoo-hah, and keeping clients, families, and a whole other cast of characters happy. However, if our position were not challenging, many of us would surely get bored and move on to rockier pastures. The key is to be able to step back from our whirlwind work lives and avoid burnout. In this, as in many other areas of my life, I often turn to technology. Here are 5 ways technology can help SLPs with chilling out instead of stressing out.

Slow Down and Breathe- We are pretty good at teaching people how to breathe with their diaphragms but often forget to do so ourselves. Try checking out a meditation podcast to relax after a stressful day, or prepare yourself for the day to come. One great meditation series is the My Thought Coach podcasts by Stin Hansen. I have them all on my iPhone for those days that have me feeling a little too stretched! Another resource is the White Noise app, which you can use to surround yourself with relaxing sounds. My favorite is crashing ocean waves, but you many prefer a camp fire, wind, a purring cat, or even a clothes dryer.

Other Therapeutic Listening- Often we don’t need to be lulled into a meditative state to take ourselves away from the stress of work. Try finding your favorite music and building your own stations with free streaming radio services (and apps) such as Pandora or Slacker. As SLPs, we often work to help people tell their stories, and treasure stories ourselves. I love listening to the This American Life app (all the episodes are also available to stream on the site) on route to work, allowing the funny and often moving stories of ordinary people to distract me for a while before settling in to focus!

Remember the Body-Mind Connection- Our busy days can cause us to neglect our bodies, eat stuff we shouldn’t eat, and be sometimes unable to muster the energy to exercise after a long day of sessions. However, watching what we eat and getting enough exercise can become a healthy positive cycle that reduces stress and boosts productivity. Technology can help. Websites such as FitDay or The Daily Plate and apps like Tap’N’Track keep us mindful of our nutrition (and it’s harder to eat that sugar-crash-causing donut if you know you will have to enter it electronically later). Likewise, you can begin or add to an exercise regimen using resources such as The Daily Burn or iFitness.

Keep your Ducks in A Row- We all get more stressed if we realize (or think) we have forgotten something important. Technology can help keep you organized. Check out my posts on simple (and free!) Google tools like Calendar and Tasks. There are also a lot of great blogs that offer organizational tips. To read posts on efficiency with a techie spin, check out Lifehacker, and you might also like Zen Habits or I’m an Organizing Junkie.

Knowing When to Disconnect- As much as technology can be our friend in all of the above stress-reducers, and in connecting us to others for professional development, we need to be able to step back from work and enjoy other pursuits, friends and family. Although my school system’s email program has an iPhone app, I recently deleted it from my phone. It is very unlikely that there will be some language emergency or technology crisis that I need to know about at any given moment, and the habit of checking work email while at leisure just invites agita (Adam Dachis of Lifehacker wrote an excellent post on this). That email that may annoy you? Why read it during a family dinner, or even know that it is there? No one should expect an immediate reply from an email sent during off-hours. It’s just that simple!

What are your tried-and-true ways for keeping sanity and serenity in your busy life?

Sean J. Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist and instructional technology specialist working in the public school and in private practice at The Ely Center in Newton, Massachusetts. He has presented on the topic of technology integration in speech and language at the ASHA convention and is the author of the blog SpeechTechie: Looking at Technology Through a Language Lens.

Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) and Keeping Our Brains Moving

Social networking icons

Photo by webtreats

I finished my Speech-Language Pathology master’s in 1999.  I don’t know about you, but I sometimes worry that all the content I learned at that time is being eradicated by less important clutter in my brain, such as reality TV show plots, others’ Facebook status updates, etc.  One very positive movement in educational circles aims to promote more useful brain-stuffing- I am speaking about the development of Personal Learning Networks or PLNs.  If you are reading this post on ASHAsphere, you have gotten started with a PLN, a set of interactive resources to follow and participate in, whether they be blogs, Twitter feeds, and even your Facebook news feed, depending on what you put in it!

We call these resources interactive because, unlike a journal (which of course has its own value), you can easily respond and receive responses when engaging in a blog, Twitter or Facebook feed, thus making you feel more networked.  PLNs can expose you to important news in your field, inspiring ideas, or simply be a resource to ask and answer questions about our day-to-day jobs.  For clinicians that operate mostly on a solo basis, such as in an itinerant situation or a public school, PLNs can be vital in keeping you going and preventing burnout! So, here are 5 tips for getting started with building a PLN:

Facebook isn’t just for finding out what your friends had for dinner- Facebook’s Pages feature puts you in touch with helpful professional content.  When you navigate to a page (you can look them up using the Search field in your top menu bar) and “Like” it, updates from that page will end up in your News Feed.  Try “Liking” ASHA’s page, and another one I recommend is Social Thinking.

Twitter is an even better forum- Many people think that Twitter is just for the mundane thoughts of celebrity, um, twits! However, it has evolved into another great way to share information and share with colleagues. Click here for a good starter guide and start building your network.  You can follow me at @SpeechTechie, and try searching for the “hashtag” #slpeeps to see what some of the SLPs on Twitter are saying.

Blogs (like this one) provide you with great information and resources- A blog is designed to be a sounding board for the author, but also as an interactive forum for you.  The problem is, sometimes you find good blogs and forget about them, or get tired of going to them for updates.  To find some blogs to follow (you’ll find some via steps 1 and 2 above, because people often tweet or post on Facebook about new blog entries) try using Google blog search- do a regular Google search, then click on Blogs in the left sidebar.  Try clicking on Homepages in the sidebar to get an even better sense of blogs that meet your interest.  Another key strategy to following blogs is using a tool like Google Reader to aggregate all your blogs, so that you know automatically when there is a new entry. Pop my blog SpeechTechie into your Reader, and a few of my other faves include Speech-Language Pathology Sharing, GeekSLP and Free Technology for Teachers.

Bookmark socially- If you are only using your web browser to bookmark web pages, you are missing out on opportunities to carry your bookmarks from place to place and also to see what other professionals are bookmarking.  Try using a social bookmarking service such as delicious or diigo to keep track of your bookmarks, find new resources based on what others like, and join groups or networks.

Don’t get overwhelmed. You don’t have to start your own blog.  You don’t even have to comment on anything to get started with a PLN. Like everything, it’s best taken one step at a time, and you’ll be surprised what you learn!

Sean J. Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist and instructional technology specialist working in the public school and in private practice at The Ely Center in Newton, Massachusetts. He has presented on the topic of technology integration in speech and language at the ASHA convention and is the author of the blog SpeechTechie: Looking at Technology Through a Language Lens.