Spice up Those Boring Worksheets With Your iPad!!

If you are like me I am sure you have several workbooks with lots and lots of worksheets that you used to copy and have since replaced but not totally with some type of iPad app. Here are examples of some work sheets that I like to use. One is for language and the other is for artic/phonology. Since starting to use the iPad kids have preferred for the most part to want to play with the apps and have at times refused to color these ‘boring’ worksheets. Even when cool glitter and paint were being used!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t get me wrong I use the iPad in about 60% of my sessions so I still use traditional paper and pen, play, board game type activities but what to do with those darn worksheets just hanging out on your shelf? Can we somehow combine the two mediums? Of course!

I came across this app called GlowColoring the other day. Its a free ad supported app with a simple interface. Glow Coloring is the first doodle app that allows you to scan in images that you can color in or trace. You can adjust brush pattern, brush size, and color. GlowColoring’s scanning technology is built upon the same technology found in JotNot Scanner (a leading document scanning application for the iPhone) so scanned images turn out great every time which in effect allows you to combine those ‘boring’ worksheets with an iPad app to create lots of coloring and therapeutic fun!! Check out the fun we had creating these pages!

 

 

(This post originally appeared on The Speech Guy)

Jeremy Legaspi, CCC-SLP, is a Speech-Language Pathologist at Upward for Children and Families in Phoenix, Az. www.upwardaz.org. He concentrates on autism, AAC, apraxia, articulation,phonlogy, and some feeding. You can follow him on twitter @azspeechguy and check him out on azspeechguy.wordpress.com and www.therapyapp411.com 

Google Forms and Spreadsheets—Fun Times with Data Collection!

Data and information collecting isn’t the most glamorous subject; however, with the influx of iPads into my school setting, and the increasing popularity of Google spreadsheets and forms, data collection has become a hot topic among the SLPs in our school system!

Several of us have embraced using Google forms and spreadsheets to make our data collecting lives border on fun.  Before Google, my folders for kids were full of sticky notes, therapy data forms, attendance forms, and other assorted loose items.    Now, progress report time is cleaner and more data oriented, because much of what I need has been systematically collected by Google forms into the spreadsheets. (There is a spreadsheet for every form.)

 This is a brief description of various ways I currently use the forms and spreadsheets in practice–click the thumbnails for full-sized versions of the examples below.  A tutorial link for creating your own Google forms is provided at the end.

1.  Recording data and notes from a therapy session with a student. 
There is still a spot for sticky notes, and recording tallies on paper to achieve percentages, but most often, the main part of my sessions with students is recorded on a Google Form.

portion of a form

 

For each of my students, I have created a Google form based on the student’s IEP goals and objectives.  At the end of the session, I can quickly fill out the form (either on the iPad, or on the computer) recording notes and data instantly.

summary of responses screenshot

 

The data entered on the form is compiled by Google Docs in to a spreadsheet, and a summary of responses can also be done through Google.

sample spreadsheet of student data

2.  Taking Daily Attendance

Portion of my daily attendance form

We all know in the school setting why it’s important to keep track of how many times a speech student was seen per reporting period, and why sessions were missed.  I used to keep attendance on paper, then progressed to an Excel spreadsheet.  Lately, I’ve been taking attendance on a daily Google form which sends all of the information into a spreadsheet stored in Google Docs.  It’s very manageable!

3.  Recording and Sharing Hearing Screening Results

This is an area that came to me one day when I was scratching out hearing screening information on a piece of paper.  A year ago, a group of us in the school began typing into a shared document all of our screening information. I’ve since developed a Google Form that I can use while I’m screening a child. I usually have an iPad at my side as I’m screening with this form on the screen. (I just tap the results in as I go).  The results are instantly sent to the shared Google Doc—no need for a pencil!

4.  CFY Supervision

This year, I’ve had the opportunity to supervise a wonderful new Clinical Fellow.  I know that she will sail through this year with flying colors, but to be fair to her, and to adequately do my job as her supervisor, I have to observe for an allotted amount of time, and monitor her activities as prescribed by both the North Carolina State Board of Examiners, and by ASHA.  I’ve created a Google Form for observations, which throws all of my observation data into a spreadsheet which I’ve shared with her online.   This transparent online record-keeping has been helpful for both of us!

5.  Weekly written feedback to a graduate intern

Part of the form

 

I am fortunate in that I work at an elementary school close to a major university that has a top-notch graduate program, so I usually supervise two students during the course of a year.    We have been asked to provide weekly written feedback which is extra work to my paperwork mountain—except that I created a Google form for providing such feedback.  My grad student and I filled it out together every Friday last year, and all of the data was collected in a shared spreadsheet.    The forms are nice in that they clearly defined expectations, and also allowed for some anecdotal feedback.  At the end was a section for the two of us to write a short term goal for the coming week.

Nothing will totally replace all note-taking, and there is a place for hand-written data still in my office.  These are just a few ways I have used technology to make my life run a bit more efficiently. I have loved the ‘sharing’ aspect of Google Docs—so for example, if several adults are working on the same goals for a student, they all can send their data using the same shared form to the shared spreadsheet.

For a tutorial on creating your own forms, go to this page.

I’m sure there are countless other ways to use these in a speech therapy setting and that we (as a profession) are only at the beginning of using technology more effectively in our practice. Comment if you have ideas for further uses for Google forms in speech therapy, or would like to see a specific Google form topic addressed.

(This post originally appeared on Chapel Hill Snippets)

 

Ruth Morgan is a speech-language pathologist who works for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools at Ephesus Elementary School.  She loves her job and enjoys writing about innovative ways to use the iPad in therapy, gluten-free cooking, and geocaching adventures.  Visit her blog at http://chapelhillsnippets.blogspot.com.

QR Codes Part 2: Using Kaywa to Generate a QR Code

In part one of this series, I described what a QR Code is, where you might have seen them, and their potential for grabbing the attention of our students.

Today, I am going to talk about Kaywa, a free site that you can use to generate and print a QR code for use in a session.

Kaywa is simple to use.  You can type or cut/paste a website URL (address) and create a code that, when scanned, will open the web browser on the device (smartphone, iPod Touch, iPad) or you can enter a short piece of text (e.g. a word with a target sound, vocab word or definition, contextual info, or a strategy you want the student to use).

1. Choose the Content type (generally you will use URL or Text)
2. For URL, you may copy and paste the URL from another window or tab (just make sure to delete http:// from the URL field before pasting (so you don’t end up with http://http:// at the beginning of your code, which would be an invalid URL.

 

3. Click Generate!

 

Here’s your code! Click on it and you will see it by itself on a page in printable form.
Like This.
Select File>Print from your browser and you will be able to print the code for scanning. You can also right-click(PC) or control-click(Mac) to copy or save the QR Code image.Here’s a short video showing these steps.  Have fun!!

(This post originally appeared on SpeechTechie)

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 consults on the topic of technology integration in speech and language and is the author of the blog SpeechTechie: Looking at Technology Through a Language Lens.

QR Codes Part 1: What are QR Codes?

I am excited to do a few “theme” series on SpeechTechie that will explore topics and strategies in more depth, as I did with Glogster EDU.  To that end, over the next month we will be looking at QR Codes, a hot topic and emerging technology in education.

What are QR Codes, you ask? Well, you probably have seen them already and wondered, “What the heck are those things???”

qrcode
This is a QR Code

 

You have most likely seen QR Codes as some part of an advertisement.  QR stands for “Quick Response” and the code is offered to you basically as an eye-grabbing teaser.  You can use an app on your mobile device (smartphone, iPhone, iPod touch, Android phone, iPad) to scan the code, and it usually opens up your web browser and brings you to a site related to the topic of the ad.  In other words, you scan the code and get more information, or more ad! Which ultimately can be kind of lame (but not when used in education, so sit tight).

 

I wasn’t really tempted to get too close to the 3rd rail on the MBTA to scan this QR code
QR Codes can lead to grossness.

So what about QR codes is applicable to us as SLPs and educators? First of all, they are extremely easy to create and print for use in sessions (though again, you need to have access to one of the devices I mentioned above, or a computer with a webcam). Secondly, they are an instant attention-grabber for kids, and constitute a kind of high-tech hide and seek. Rather than giving kids a piece of paper that serves as a stimulus (word or picture), you can present (or hide!) a QR Code they can scan in order to read a text message or see an image, website or video. Students from Kindergarten to High School are engaged by this little hook, which adds the process of discovery to any of your sessions.

Over the coming posts, I will be describing in detail how to create various kinds of QR codes, apps to use to scan them, and lesson ideas for you to try out right away! Each post must by necessity be a bit of a tease as I can’t give all the info at once, but I will let you know where I am going in case you want to work ahead!

Next week: Part 2!

(This post originally appeared on SpeechTechie)

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 consults on the topic of technology integration in speech and language and is the author of the blog SpeechTechie: Looking at Technology Through a Language Lens.

Does Technology Inhibit Our Engagement With Children?

toddler apps


Photo by jenny downing

I had an interesting online discussion with a colleague as to whether or not technology detracts from or enhances communication. She wrote, “…communication is a relational activity, it’s all about relationships. Should we be investing so much energy on encouraging children to engage maybe more with technology than they do with people? … Do we really need all of the apps in order to engage children with spoken communication or do we need to get back to the real function of speech and language which is to connect people with people?”

As a speech path, I fully agree, to a point. But does technology disengage children from human interaction? Does our enthusiasm for the iPad, and using it in therapy, have the potential for reducing the child’s interpersonal relationship with us and others? I believe the answer is that it depends on how we use technology.

Technology is a tool like any other, but with expanded possibilities. There are apps available that can be used as a starting point for conversation. New app innovation holds the possibility of animating the standard pictures we have been using in therapy for years. I find it hard to understand why that is a negative. As with all materials available to us, it all depends on how we put them to use. Letters replaced human messengers, books replaced human storytellers, radio and television took their place alongside live entertainment. Today’s technology is another medium of interaction on this continuum.

Another colleague offered this anecdote. “At the end of school last year, I grouped two preschoolers who I had been seeing separately and at the end, we used the iPad for some free time. Boy, was I surprised at the amount of spontaneous conversation between the two boys! They shared their favorite app, described how to play it, asked questions about the other boy’s app, and made helpful suggestions. I hadn’t gotten such spontaneous language from the one student for over a year of therapy!!”

(This post originally appeared on Apps for Speech Therapy)

 

Mirla Raz, CCC-SLP, is a speech pathologist in private practice (Communication Skills Center) and the author of the Help Me Talk Book: How to Teach a Child to Say the “R” Sound in 15 Easy Lessons, How to Teach a Child to Say the “S” Sound in 15 Easy Lessons, and How to Teach a Child to Say the “L” Sound in 15 Easy Lessons (also available in Kindle). Her latest endeavor is her blog Apps for Speech Therapy.

A Tech Spin on “A Picture Is Worth 1000 Words”: Using Photo Books to Increase Vocabulary, Grammar, and Narrative Skills

I recently read with great admiration Becca’s post in which she described how to make and use photo books for language development.  It is true that children love bright, colorful photos, and they love to talk about them even more when they are personally relevant! Becca’s specific descriptions (and video demonstration) of language strategies to use in the context of creating and reviewing photobooks are definitely going to be helpful to many parents and SLPs.

However, if you know my work at all, you know that I am always asking how technology might assist in any learning and language process. I am also one of the least craftsy and most printer-hating and store-averse people on the planet. Therefore ordering photos, picking them up at CVS, decorating with stickers and other flair, laminating (*shiver*) and binding the books…not a list of verbs I personally relish.  Let’s not say it’s a guy thing, but maybe that’s just the elephant in the post.  So, if you want to hear about a few digital options for implementing Becca’s terrific methods, read on!

I first have to point out that creating all-digital (or mostly digital) versions of these activities is facilitated by the way that families often do photography these days.  Many families own and know how to use digital cameras (including the ones on their smartphones), and archive their photos in places such as Kodak Gallery, Picasa, iPhoto or even Facebook. So, whether photobooks as a language context are to be created by the families themselves, or a clinician is going to create the product while eliciting language from the child, the raw materials are often already digitized, easily downloadable and e-mailable! If actual prints are involved, it is no longer an arduous process to scan them, or it can often be easier to place them out of glare and just take a nice shot of the picture with a digital camera or smart phone.  Once you have digital photos to work with, there are a few options you might consider.

One of these is Little Bird Tales, a free online picture book creator.  Little Bird Tales has a simple, kid-and-family-friendly interface (and a great tutorial) and the added bonus of allowing you to add voice captions to each picture.  When the book is complete, it can remain “private” and password-protected, but you can also share it with others via email.  The book remains digital, however, and cannot be printed.

The text and “Add Your Voice” features of Little Bird Tales are a great opportunity to develop vocabulary and sentence structure!

Another great option is Glogster, the online digital poster creator, also free except for certain premium features.  Glogster has an EDU version, and parents can also sign up at home through the regular portal.  Glogster also has a very kid-friendly interface, and allows you to create a poster of your event’s images, along with supplementary graphics and audio clips.

Glogster’s Magnet tool is all you need to upload your images, add text, and record sound! As children choose “Frames” for pictures, additional descriptive language can be elicited.

Glogster creations can be printed for offline use, and can also be marked private and shared via email.  Glogster is a little more complicated to use than Little Bird Tales (but not much!), so you might want to check out the tutorials I posted on YouTube. Additionally, both Glogster and Little Bird Tales are Flash-based (and therefore will not work on iPad, until their apps are available?) so if you run into trouble, you may want to make sure you have the latest version of Flashand update your browser, steps that are important for keeping your Web workin’!

When I mentioned iPad, did that make your ears perk up? One of my favorite recent discoveries is Skrappy ($4.99), a robust iPad app that you can use to create a decorated and annotated scrapbook of your photos! Like many iPad creation tools, Skrappy has a built-in-tutorial (in the “Getting Started” Scrapbook, so you and the kiddos can be creating in no time!

Skrappy’s simple tap-based interface lets you add whatever you’d like to your photobook: images, video, audio captions, text, decorative shapes and graphics to associate with the pictures, even music!

For another iPad take on photobooking, check out Mobile Education Stores new app, SpeechJournal (3.99), “a customizable voice recorder that you pair recorded messages with your own imported images and image sequences.”  Speech Journal is super-simple to use, contains its own video tutorial, and allows you to pair voice recordings with single images or continue recording across multiple images, resulting in a slideshow (and sequenced narrative)!  When complete, the journal can be emailed and played on a home computer in QuickTime player, a free download.

Finally, if you’d like a simple and quick (but perhaps a little more expensive) digital take on the photobook, iPhoto on Mac features a tool for you to create and order books to be delivered to you (for example, you can buy a 3-pack of one 20-page soft cover book from Apple for about $11.00). Alternately, go to the Create menu on Picasa (on either platform) to create and email/print a photo collage (expensive in a toner cartridge sense, but easy to do)!

Hope you enjoyed this digital spin on photobooking; if you have any other tech tools you’d like to suggest for use with personally relevant photos in order to build language, please let us know in the comments!

[This post originally appeared on Child Talk]

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 consults on the topic of technology integration in speech and language and is the author of the blog SpeechTechie: LookingatTechnologyThroughaLanguageLens.

Gaming into Education: Can Even Angry Birds Promote Learning?

(This post originally appeared on GeekSLP)

Opportunities for teaching and learning are everywhere. Language is also everywhere. Given this scenario, it drives me crazy when I hear someone say: “this is a horrible tool”; “I don’t know how this could be used for teaching”,or  ”this is just a game”.

I have always been an advocate to the fact that a good teacher and a good speech therapists will not need specific tools to teach students. Well, specific tools that do the work for you are great because they guide us on the teaching experience; however, we must not forget that a tool is JUST a tool and it was not designed to replace you as a therapist or a teacher.(Please note I am not at all discrediting the advantages of apps for learning ; as I have created 21 of them myself).

The explosion of apps for children with special needs, has pushed us to want tools that do more and betters things all the time. I am afraid we may be forgetting to use our creativity to transform any “useless” app into a great tool for learning. It all starts with the need to motivate the students to want to learn; what better way to do that than using something that already draws their attention? I have decided to start this series on “from useless to learning apps” with one of the biggest game apps of all times: Angry Birds!

If you are not already hooked into Angry Birds, or are afraid of loosing your prestige because you downloaded it, you may find a good excuse for downloading it or owning it on this post. The idea behind Angry Birds is that the birds need to hit the pigs to move on to the next level. You may have noticed that in order to win the greatest number of stars you may need some strategic thinking prior to sending your birds out there.

I see that Angry Birds can be used in so many different ways to teach students new vocabulary, the use of coherent language, basic question/answering skills and even story telling skills. You will just need to adjust the level of scaffolding needed to get into the skills you are trying to get into.

As a parent, instead of prohibiting your child from playing the game, consider having activities your child needs to complete prior to or after moving on to the next level.

Here are some ideas I was able to come up with on how even Angry Birds can be used to promote learning.

1. If your student/child is already familiar with Angry Birds, get him to explain the whole game to you. If you are working on writing skills, this can even be a written assignment.

Imagine all that can be worked on just from having a student describe the whole concept behind Angry Birds! You can even have some “food for thought” kind of questions such as:

Why do you think the creators picked birds as main characters?“,

Do all birds work the same way?“,

” What is the goal of the game?”

“Why do you like Angry Birds?”

There are several questions that can be used to get students to use language just by talking about the game itself.

2. You and the child can play one or several levels together; however the child has to describe their strategy to getting to the pig prior to playing the level. If you are with a group of students; how about having each student think out their strategies separately and get them to discuss which strategy is best and then put into action?

You could even have a list of vocabulary words you would like the student to use when describing their strategies such as:

a. Verbs such as : deploy the egg (the white birds have to deploy the egg at the appropriate time); pull back, drop, explode, fly, fall, hit,

b.  Different adverbs when describing the order of the birds and their actions;

c. Lots of different prepositions to guide where exactly the birds must land, and also how the objects and barriers are being arranged;

d. Adjective: used when describing the areas & targets in which the birds must land.

Maybe students can take turns to guide each other  using key words to complete the levels.

3. Select a level and ask the student to play it once, then ask them to describe their strategies verbally or create a written material that describes their strategies.

When teaching students to describe activities using coherent language (a skills that can be very limited in children with language disorders) we want them to follow an order…” you first did this.. then that”. You can use each level on Angry Birds to teach that skill. The game has an order in which things happen. You can guide students to describe it step by step which you guide them. You can both sit together to reproduce the steps he describe on the same level and even think out better ways to achieve the same goal.

There are tons of other ways in which Angry Birds can be used to promote language learning. These were just a few examples of how creativity can have more weight than the specific tool you have in front of you. In the end it is all about how you decide to use it. I will be back on this with more ” from useless to teaching app”. In the end it is all about how YOU choose to use the tool that makes the difference! Think about that. ;-)

 

Barbara Fernandes is a trilingual Speech- Language pathologist, a geek  and an app developer. She is the founder and CEO of Smarty Ears Apps , a company that creates apps for speech therapy. Barbara is also the face behind GeekSLP TV, a blog and video podcast focusing on the use of technology in speech therapy. Barbara has also been a practicing speech therapist both in Brazil and in the United States. Barbara has created over 21 applications for the mobile devices for speech therapists.

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.

Is that iPad Hazardous to Your Health?

Dizzy

Photo by dospaz

The iPad revolution has engulfed the communication disorders field. We love our iPads and other handheld devices. Just ‘flipping’ through the cornucopia of apps related to speech, language and hearing in the App Store, it is no wonder these devices and the apps they hold are becoming therapy toolbox essentials.

As our younger clients have become more engaged in activities that utilize technology, therapy programs that are supported by apps have become increasingly popular. Young people often use other, similar technology after school to play computer games, do homework or interact on social networking sites.

Whether it’s watching TV, doing homework or playing games on a computer, or using a mobile device to play games or send or receive text messages, there is a common denominator among activities many people regularly engage in: screens.  Some are large and some are the size of the palm of your hand. We spend hours viewing screens on computers, iPads and other tablets, TVs, iPhones and other handheld devices. And sometimes we view these screens in less than optimal conditions.

As an audiologist and ASHA National Office staff member, I often receive consumer questions regarding dizziness and balance problems. These complaints commonly arise from problems within the inner ear. I typically send consumer information on dizziness and balance and recommend a visit to the audiologist for hearing and balance assessment as a good first step in understanding the causes of these symptoms and to begin a plan for rehabilitation treatment for inner ear balance issues.

But I digress….back to screens. The Internet houses many discussion forums on dizziness, headaches and vision problems while viewing screens. Enough people are complaining that a term for the syndrome has been coined; the American Optometric Association refers to this group of symptoms as “Computer Vision Syndrome.” These symptoms are not related to inner ear problems or more serious neurological problems but rather to eyestrain and can include:

  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • confusion and fuzzy thinking

Apple does have some warnings within the iPad manual about complaints of headaches, dizziness, and eyestrain. These warnings are not highlighted, though–you have to do a thorough search to find them. There is also a discussion about these symptoms on the Apple support community.

There appears to be little scientific evidence about screen/vision safety but I have seen some recurring suggestions on the discussion forums and from ophthalmologists:

  • use task lighting and turn off the overhead fluorescent lights
  • take frequent breaks…look away from the screen and focus on something about 20 feet away for about 20 seconds
  • use special lens/glasses for computer use
  • adjust the lighting of the screen, some folks lower the backlit screens and get improvement
  • increase font size
  • adjust the ambient room lighting
  • position computer screens slightly lower than eye level (about 4 inches)
  • remember to blink. This will reduce dry eyes.

Have you or any of your clients noticed any of these symptoms when using iPads or other mobile devices?

Pamela Mason, M.Ed., CCC-A is the director of audiology professional practices at the ASHA national office. Before working at ASHA, she directed the Audiology Center at the George Washington University Hospital in Washington DC.

Is the iPad revolutionizing Speech Therapy? From an SLP & App Developer

(This post originally appeared on GeekSLP)

It seemed like just an ordinary day back in November of 2009, when I was playing with my iPhone and I was thunderstruck with an epiphany to create apps for speech therapists. As the iLighbulbs flashed above my head I envisioned an app that would provide therapists with the ability to select specific phonemes and have all their flashcards stored on their iPhones. For some people an idea like this can feel farfetched, but for me, a self-professed geek, having already designed several websites from a young age and understanding html very well, learning what it would take to put my ideas in action was not an obstacle that I would let get in my way. With non-stop dedication, and night after night working tirelessly, my first app –and the very first app for speech therapists– was born; like a proud mother, I still remember that precise joyful moment on January 2nd of 2010.

The app was called Mobile Articulation Probes (now renamed Smarty Speech), and it was on sale on iTunes for $29.99; and I was elated and ecstatic. Still feeling the momentum of creating something so new and useful I signed up for a booth that very same month for the Texas Speech and Hearing convention happening in March, and I could not wait to see the faces of excitement from my fellow SLPs when I showed them what my app could offer them in therapy.

But I didn’t take five seconds for myself to breathe between January and March as I was working non-stop on creating five other apps (WhQuestions, Age calculator, yes/no, iTake Turns, iPractice Verbs). I was a woman on a mission. I could feel the difference these apps made in therapy rippling through my veins and I wanted to see every aspect of therapy utilize the potential of this powerful device. Despite the fact that maybe 10 to 20% of TSHA attendees that year owned an iPhone or iPod touch, it appeared nobody had even ever considered using it for therapy! Oh, I forgot to say: all this happened before the iPad (yes, there was life before iPad).

I loved seeing the reaction of my fellow SLPs when I showed them what the app could do. A lot of people instantly recognized it was a deal: 450 flashcards organized by sounds with data tracking capabilities. This would probably cost us around $200 if we buy paper flashcards (not to mention that they don’t come with data tracking capabilities). Other attendees were apprehensive at such a change, they thought it was too expensive. The reality was this: most iPhone apps I knew cost less than $1, so I could see where they were coming from. No matter if they loved it or not, one thing was universal—their eyes bulged wide open with amazement as if they were looking at an alien, and more often than not that look of surprise turned to a smile when they saw this “alien technology” for therapy was on something they might already own—an iPhone. Today– a little over one year- -that app on its original state would be considered outdated.

I believe that at that time if you searched the key word “Speech therapy” on the app store probably 80% of apps there were developed by me. ;-) – Well, there were probably only eight apps available.

In May of 2010 the iPad was released and at the same time I saw the need to let users know about the amazing possibilities of the iPad. Although great strides had been made in accepting the iPhone and iPad as a tool for use in therapy, there seemed to be a lack of general education on using it as a therapist tool. Questions continually swirled around the web and at conventions: what happens if I delete the app? Can I use my iPhone app on my iPad? What is a universal app? Can I use the apps on my computer? That’s when GeekSLP was born. My first video–done with dark lighting, and not much planning–taught viewers that it IS possible to run iPhone apps on iPads. Today, only one year later, GeekSLP has had over 55 thousand views!

Many people have difficulty separating me as a developer and me as an app reviewer/educator/blogger of  tech for SLPs. While Smarty Ears is a company that is behind me in the development of apps, I still felt the need to do things independently from the company, such as teach about other apps that I like and about implementing technology. GeekSLP & Smarty Ears are like cousins with completely different purposes. GeekSLP gives free information (it is a free app) that can benefit almost all educational technology users by giving them tips on utilizing their iDevices, while Smarty Ears is pushing Speech Therapy and education forward by creating apps.

When I started blogging and video podcasting only a couple (and I mean TWO or so) SLPs were doing it- -especially with a focus on technology; today we have tons of blogs that want to discuss and review apps. Is this the “SLP APPidemy”?

Yes, the iPad is a revolution to our field. However, would it really be a revolution without the apps or without the people who created them?

If you search the key word “Speech Therapy” on your iPad you will see that we have 55 iPad apps for SLPs. I have created 14 of them. I have created a total of 25 apps between iPhone, iPad and Android apps! Five more in the works. I am currently collaborating with my fellow SLPs from Twitter, which has led me to start publishing apps for other SLPs with ideas like mine.

If you search the keyword “physical therapy” you get only 23 apps, and only four when you search “occupational therapy”; likewise you only see 14 when you search “counseling.” You may ask yourself: is the iPad having the same impact on these professions?
I believe the iPad is an enormous success partly due to the nature of our work: play based learning. Also because we have been stuck in the stone age with our materials: flashcards? Worksheets? But also because the apps are available; I applaud all SLPs who have created apps for us.

Today the iPad is seen as the number one therapy box for many therapists. It is also the number one topic many speech therapy groups discuss online. I have provided trainings all over the country and been invited to at least 10 state conventions for this year (and invitations for 2012 are also filling my mailbox) to teach people about the amazing power of technology and apps.

It has been an amazing year for my profession and for me and I see that we are moving towards a more environmentally friendly and engaging therapy set up. It was about time! After 15 months developing apps for SLPs, giving training all over the world on the use of apps and iPad, I still always look forward making new geek friends online, presenting, and creating apps that make a difference.

 

Barbara Fernandes is a trilingual Speech- Language pathologist, a geek  and an app developer. She is the founder and CEO of Smarty Ears Apps , a company that creates apps for speech therapy. Barbara is also the face behind GeekSLP TV, a blog and video podcast focusing on the use of technology in speech therapy. Barbara has also been a practicing speech therapist both in Brazil and in the United States. Barbara has created over 21 applications for the mobile devices for speech therapists.