One-Dimensional Speech-Language Therapy: Is the iPad Alone Enough?

Dimensional Doors

Photo by the_tahoe_guy

Smart phones, iPods, e-readers, webcams, iPads and more…my humble listing does not even touch the surface of the plethora of hard-to-pass-up gadgets introduced by technology.

We undoubtedly live in a digital era. I just co-authored a digital songbook for speech, language and hearing goals. I am in the process of developing an app for the iPad for language intervention. My 3-year-old daughter could easily become an iPad junkie if allowed unlimited access. I’ve also been guilty of texting my husband from the upper level of our home because I was too lazy to walk downstairs. I understand emails and text messages have become primary modes of communication, and I am not opposed to the reality in which we live.

My concern today is that I have heard of SLPs who are abandoning all traditional or old-school therapy materials and methods and beginning to strictly incorporate the iPad in most if not all of their therapy sessions.

I cannot deny the iPad is a powerful motivator, a versatile and effective therapy tool if used appropriately, and a great time-saver in multiple ways, but can I deny the effectiveness of other tried and true therapy tools? Have flashcards, markers and paint, manipulatives and hard copy storybooks become obsolete? My personal and professional opinion is a resounding NO!

When recently perusing a long list of available apps geared for speech/language pathologists, I was amazed to find that there truly seems to be an app for everything—articulation, phonology, minimal pairs, wh– questions, following directions, predicting, inferring, pragmatics, categorization skills, verb usage, homophones, comparing/contrasting, story starters, goal-writing, and on and on and on. While these resources are great and I commend the innovative SLPs creating these wonderful apps, my only caution is that we not become one-dimensional in our provision of services.

Allow me to clarify that I love my iPad and use it regularly with various children I work with, however, I don’t believe any one tool will ever be sufficient or appropriate for every child or for every intervention goal regardless of how technologically advanced it is.

The crux of the matter is, in addition to our digital reality, the other reality I see is that children still must learn to interact with people in addition to machines. There is still much to be said for the meeting of the eyes, for the exchanging of words between humans, for appropriate physical contact, for the manipulation of objects in one’s hands, and so forth, so we must not write-off valuable non-techie resources and materials that are still available to us.

This is not a call to put away our iPads, it is merely a call to evaluate and utilize all of the effective tools we possess in order to provide excellent speech and language services to the individuals we serve.

Let’s not sacrifice all traditional therapy materials and methods on the altar of technology!

(This post originally appeared on The Speech Stop)

 

Ana Paula G. Mumy, MS, CCC-SLP,  is a trilingual speech-language pathologist and the author of various continuing education eCourses, leveled storybooks, and instructional therapy materials for speech/language intervention, as well as the co-author of her latest eSongbook which features songs for speech, language and hearing goals.  She has provided school-based and pediatric home health care services for nearly 12 years and thoroughly enjoys providing resources for SLPs, educators and parents on her website The Speech Stop.

Apps Targeting Language for Middle Schoolers

Visione e prospettiva divergente

Photo by mbeo

Far fewer middle school students need our services as compared to the number of preschool and elementary aged children who do. Those who still need therapy present with the unique challenges. After all, they still need our services. Finding apps for our middle school population can be challenging.  I have found a few apps that can be used with those students who have deficits in language.

Proverbidioms: After publishing this post, I downloaded this app. Rather than publish a new post, I decided to edit the post by adding my review of this app. T.E. Breitenbach produced an illustration, Proverbidioms, in 1975, that became a popular poster. It is now produced as an app. It approaches the understanding of 264 proverbs and cliches in two ways. The student is given a list of idioms. He selects one and then searches for it in a scene where a specific illustration demonstrates its literal meaning. The scene is busy but one can increase one’s specific area of focus by moving two fingers outward on the screen. This enlarges a specific illustration. This also allows one to scan the screen and see more detail. Once one matches the idiom and picture, a screen appears that defines the idiom and its derivation. If the child correctly makes the match on the first attempt, he is awarded a gold star, two attempts a silver star and three attempts a bronze star. I think middle school students will enjoy the pictures and the challenge of matching idiom and picture. A word of caution: some illustrations may be more explicit than one may consider appropriate for this age group.

Ages: 13 to adult
Ratings: ++++
Developer: Greenstone Games
Cost: Free for one illustration, $1.99 to $2.99 for additional illustrations

Word Stack Free: This app can be used to strengthen a student’s vocabulary and reasoning skills. It does so by presenting a stack of words. Each word is arranged in random order on eight blue stacked strips on the left side of the screen. The task for the student is to find relationships between words. Words can be synonyms, antonyms, or be made into compound words. To start the game, the student reads the starter word that is on a green strip on the bottom right hand side of the screen. The student looks to find a word on a blue strip that is a synonym, antonym or can combine with it to make a compound word. The student places the word selected on top of the first green strip. If the selection is correct, the strip turns green. There is now a two word green stack. Next, the student must find a word on the left for the new word on the stack. Again, it must be a synonym, antonym or combine with it to make a compound word. The task continues in this fashion until all blue strips have been correctly stacked and are green. If the word the student selects is incorrect, it cannot be stacked and returns to original position. I played a few rounds and found that, at times, finding the right word can be challenging. (A word of caution: words can be randomly placed until one is found that turns green.) To extend the task further, the child can be why the words are the same or opposite in meaning. If a pair of words forms a compound word, one can ask the student to use the new word in a sentence.

Ages: 12 to adult
Ratings: ++++
Developer: MochiBits
Cost: Free for 40 game stacks (one stack per game). One can purchase additional stack packs for $.99 each or all four stacks for $1.99.

Confusing Words: This is not the first time I have downloaded an app and then months later cannot find it in the app store. But I was able to find what looks to be a similar app, called “Which Word?” Both of these apps try to help untangle similar sounding words that tend to confuse such as affect and effect, passed and past or there and their. I have not downloaded Which Word? so cannot review it. However, it looks similar to Confusing Words but in a more pleasing format. Each word is defined and then used in a sentence. The confusion of similar sounds words can be most evident when students write. This app may help students better understand which word to use.

Ages: 10 to adult
Developer: Triad Interactive Media
Cost: $.99

Feel Electric: I reviewed this app a few months ago for my post on descriptive apps.  Feel Electric is animated, interactive and offers a variety of options for learning a range of 50 emotions. The student starts with What’s the Word to see faces of real people expressing each emotion. From there, the student can select her emotions at the moment, create a diary of emotions, manipulate the facial features of creature to show specific emotions and play a Mad Libs type game that, when completed, will create a zany story based on the words selected. There are three fun interactive games where the child needs to pair the facial expression with the written word. Each of these 3 games is scored. The app also allows one to add ones own pictures, music and videos. This is a great app to use with middle school students. It can be used to help tweens and teens identify and discuss a range of emotions they may be prone to feel. The app’s activities can be expanded to make this a fun language learning activity.

Ages: 5+
Rating: +++++
Developer: The Electric Company by Sesame Street
Cost: Free

(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.

Turning Pinterest Boards Into A Therapy Activity!

If you follow me on Pinterest, you might notice I use it A LOT. A few weeks ago PediaStaff started creating boards with pictures to be used in therapy. They made boards with action pictures, pronouns, problem solving, inferencing and concepts. As soon as Heidi emailed me and told me about them, I knew I could adapt them for speech therapy on the iPad. I figured it would be way more entertaining than printing them all out! About the same time, I won an app called TapikeoHD. After playing with it for a while I realized it was perfect for the PediaStaff Pinterest boards. Let me show you what I came up with!

The app I used is called Tapikeo and available at this time for $2.99 in the app store. Tapikeo allows you create your own audio-enabled picture books, storyboards, audio flashcards, and more using a versatile grid style layout. Check it out for yourself in the itunes store here.

First I opened Pinterest on my iPad and decided I would make an activity working on labeling verbs. I opened their board for actions words.

Then I saved the pictures to my ipad by holding down on them to save.

Next you will head on over to the app and start a new grid. When you click on the empty grid square you will get a screen like this. If you want text to accompany your photo/audio (and I did because I want to support literacy skills!)  you can type that in at the top. I type ” The boy is ___.” Then select ‘browse’ to add the photos you just saved to the iPad. Then select record. For my grid I saved my voice reading “The boy is.” When I use it with younger students, all they need to do is name the verb. For older students working on full sentence generation – I can turn the sound off and they are responsible for developing the whole sentence.

Once I finished adding all my cards (it took me about 5 or 10 minutes) the board looks like this.

When the student clicks on one of the pictures, it expands to fill the screen and the audio/visual joins the picture. This is when my students identified the verb or created a new sentence!

There is also an ‘e-book’ setting where the app transfers your pictures into more of a slideshow like setting. I kept mine on the grid formation so I could work on receptive language skills at the same time. I had the students pick their picture a few different ways: by following directions with spatial concepts, by answering WH questions, or by listening to clues and making basic inferences.

These boards are easy to make in the app and PediaStaff has done most of the work finding all these great images. What other topic boards would you like to see PediaStaff create?

(This post originally appeared on Speech Room News)

 

Jenna Rayburn, M.A., CCC-SLP is a school based speech language pathologist from central Ohio. She is a graduate of The Ohio State University. Jenna is the blogger at SpeechRoomNews.blogspot.com, sharing fun treatment ideas and technology tips. Visit SpeechRoomNews on Facebook.

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.