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.

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.

Technology’s Emerging Frontier in Speech-Language Pathology, Part 2–Resources

Child with iPhone

Photo by jenny downing

In Part 1 of this two-part series, I wrote about a project I worked on researching technology in education and in speech-language pathology. The following is the  list of resources I mentioned in that post, which I think serves as a good starting off point to incorporating technology into practice:

  • Avocado Technologies–this website provides many great websites and articles related to speech-language pathology. It is a great starting point for finding current technology related to the profession.
  • Q&A: Digital Media and the Evolving Classroom–this is a blog post written in Q&A style with an award-winning journalist talking about digital media in the classroom. She describes how, in a short amount of time, there has been a huge shift in our culture regarding technology.
  • Education and the Future of Technology–this 5-minute video brings up several very important factors about the world we currently live in. However, some of the facts presented may be out of date when viewed simply because our world is constantly changing.
  • Phonetics Flash Animation Project–this website provides animated articulation of all the phonemes, vowels and consonants, in English, German, and Spanish.
  • Geek SLP–this great website provides many great resources, articles, blog posts, and information about new apps for technology covering language and speech.
  • Starfall–a great website geared toward pre-k through 2nd grade children learning to read. The website provides fun activities that focus on the phonics of reading.
  • TinyEYE Therapy Services–TinyEYE Therapy Services provides SLPs to school districts through telepractice, a delivery model commonly referred to as online speech therapy.
  • Technology Impacts on Education–this 2010 article describes the impact that technology has on education and how it continually changes the way we learn.
  • Speech Gadget–this blog contains good information regarding new aspects of technology. All therapy materials, websites, applications and gadgets mentioned in this blog are discussed as potential tools to aid in the development of speech and language skills.
  • TherapyApp411–this blog provides reviews and other content regarding apps and devices from a therapists’ perspective- SLPs, OTs, PTs or other disciplines. The posts reflects personal experience with apps and places them in the context of therapy sessions.
  • ASHAsphere–ASHAsphere is the official blog of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. ASHAsphere is intended to inspire discussion about issues related to the fields of audiology and speech pathology, and features posts from a variety of authors, including communication sciences and disorders (CSD) professionals and ASHA staff.
  • Speech Techie–this blog is about fostering language development through contextualized intervention. The author presents interactive educational technologies through a “language lens.”
  • Readeo–this website combines video chatting with interactive book reading for young children. It is designed to connect families through reading children’s books remotely. “Readeo lets you and your loved ones flip through the pages of a virtual book while seeing and talking to one another on-screen—just like if you were in the same room.”
  • The Hanen Centre–this program provides resources and training for professionals to help preschool children develop the best possible language, social, and literacy skills.
  • Apps for Speech-Language Pathology Practice–ASHA’s new section for school-based SLPs is a great starting point for more information regarding applications for technology and insurance funding.
  • Spectronics iPhone/iPad Apps for AAC–this is a comprehensive list of AAC applications for the iPhone/iPad. It contains a variety of apps that contain pictures and symbols only, text-to-speech, and text-based apps only.
  • 5 Classic Children’s  Tales Reinvented for the iPad–this article reviews interactive children’s books for the iPad. This new technology provides new opportunities for literacy engagement and a new learning tool.

These links were compiled from avocadotech.com, asha.org, and some of my own research. I simply chose my favorite links and provided a brief annotated list to share.

What other resources do you recommend? Please share in the comments.


Michael Tanner, BS, is a graduate student at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. With the support of his wife and family he is preparing to graduate in June and begin his career as a school-based SLP in the Fall.

Communication in the 21st Century: Effective or Flawed?

The other day, I sent a text message to a friend and it read, “Ok I’m done just sitting around if I can help out let me know.” After I sent the message, I re-read it and realized that I had sent the wrong message. What I meant to say was, “I’m done. Just sitting around. If I can help out, let me know.” There is a world of a difference between the first message and the second message. The first sounds like I’m frustrated with sitting around and I want to do something about it. The second one sounds like I just finished what I was doing and now I’m sitting around. If I can help out, I’m available. This text message is not the first and won’t be the last text that sends the wrong idea. Everyday, more and more people are using text messages, instant messages, social networking sites and e-mail to communicate with one another. Everyday, fewer and fewer people choose to meet in person or even pick up the phone.

When we have a face-to-face conversation with someone, we have a number of factors that help us get the message across. We have our eye contact, body language, vocal inflection and most importantly, the ability to correct a miscommunication immediately. Over the phone, conversations still have the vocal inflection and ability to correct a miscommunication. With a text message, you simply have typed words, often with poor grammar, and the way your message will be interpreted is at the mercy of the one receiving the message. At least we have emoticons that allow us to set the tone of the message.

So if face-to-face communication at its best is still challenging, what hope is left for us who choose to communicate via text messages, instant messages, email and social networking sites? How can we be sure that we are communicating effectively? It is important that we take effective communication into consideration when we send a text or instant message. We can start by simply proof reading our text messages to ensure that we are sending the clearest message possible. But more importantly, at some point, it would be wise to check in either over the phone or face-to-face with the person we are texting, to make sure that there wasn’t a communication breakdown. Use of emoticons helps as well. 😉

Hand holding smart phone

Tina Babajanians, M.S. CCC – SLP, is a speech language pathologist working in Los Angeles, California. She works in variety of settings including elementary schools, full-time and hospitals, per-diem. Her passion is voice therapy and she is working on launching a private practice that specializes in the treatment of voice and resonance disorders. You can visit her website and find her on Twitter @lavoicetherapy.

Embracing The Potential Benefits Of Using New Technologies In Children’s Speech And Language Therapy

(This post originally appeared on PediaStaff.com)

Communication is so much more than speech, now more than ever, and the gap between the technological literacy of parents and the Speech Language Pathologists (SLPs) assisting children with communication disorders has never been greater – and it is accelerating at a dizzying pace. Speech language pathologists are communication disorder specialists, not computer experts. Many SLPs are from a different, older generation, or just coming out of a newly digitally-connected generation. The communication disorder and sciences profession is rapidly changing at such a fast pace that we must adapt to new tools that were never really intended for speech language pathologists. We must find modern means to keep children’s attention and motivate them to be good communicators.

Doll at computer keyboard

Photo by Kodomut

Since facial expressions and simple gestures, humans have attempted to figure out all kinds of messages one person is trying to get across to another person, or, in a sense, what a sender is trying to convey across to a receiver. The Sender (A) has a message of information (X) for the Receiver (B). The question now is, what is the most effective, efficient, understandable way to get that informational message across from person A to person B and then back to A (and so on)? That is every pediatric SLP’s dilemma to figure out in order to provide the best possible therapy. Part of that dilemma is finding and keeping up with the exponentially changing, newest additions to the communication disorder ‘tool bag’.

All new technology is a tool; one tool of many to aid in the communication between a parent and a child. They are not gadgets to replace interaction or placeholders in important social connections between two emotional human beings. New technology is just one tool to help bring people together and aid in understanding basic, functional needs and wants for quality daily living. A new technology can motivate and facilitate a connection and exchange of ideas or emotions with another person. More tools include animals, blankets, crayons, puppets, games, music, bubbles and puzzles. Therapy tools are meant to motivate and open up opportunities for speech and language development in children. If an iPad helps a child share a smile with their parent, a shared moment of attention, attachment and engagement – that is a good thing. The tech device is just a therapy tool of gaining a child’s attention. It is only with joint attention that more opportunities for interaction can occur.

Finding that attention-grabber takes work, work on the parent’s end and work on the therapist’s end of intervention. We must engage with children and their ‘tech toys’ in order to stay connected to them to some degree. That does not mean that an app or a gadget is a replacement for interacting with a child. Interpersonal interaction will never be replaced – humans are social beings; we need each other to survive and blossom. The tool means nothing and is rather useless without the person using it to facilitate human bonding. We must find what keeps a child’s attention to maintain the level of attention required for communication opportunities. We have evolved from early interaction and attachment, to pragmatics, to gestures, to play, to language comprehension, to language expression – each one an important step in communication and engagement with one another. Each step is a huge communication milestone and it all starts with attachment, attention and interaction. We must get on the floor, be face-to-face and give our full attention to children on their level in order to begin to foster positive shared experiences.

SLPs need to learn how to use new tools and help teach parents, teachers and children how to share these modern communication opportunities. We must learn how to effectively and efficiently embrace children’s new digital language knowledge. We all use Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) devices every day. People with or without communication disorders, whether we call them AAC or not: cell phones, cameras, daily planners and computers – we are all users of AAC devices. We should not be overwhelmed by new technologies it is just that we have to take the time to learn more about them. It is like learning a new language – and if children are trying so hard to communicate – why can’t we the caregivers and therapists put in effort to understand what is available to children today? Technology is part of our new job requirement. We as SLPs have to stay one step ahead to give these children the best opportunities for communication possibilities. Our new challenge as speech language pathologists and parents is to keep up with the new ways children are learning to communicate.

It is our job as SLPs to understand and to integrate that digital language into therapy to aid children by taking technology from other fields never intended for SLPs. If children are going to engage in this type of online socialization, help them (and us) learn how to navigate this new digital world together. We cannot be perfect therapists, perfect parents, grandparents, or even perfect aunties or siblings, but we can get on the level of a child and really want to find ways to connect with them. Children want to share experiences with us strange and intriguing adults, but they need us to understand and follow their lead sometimes. Children need us to understand their world. Adults, yes, this means homework and taking the extra time to learn about areas in science and technology that may be unfamiliar to us. We must be active participants in order to connect and receive the full, active attention of the children of today.

Connection between people is the most important part of being human. Communication is always evolving. Just like our language dictionaries that require constant updates, speech language pathologists have to keep our tool bags updated and current. We have to keep up with the children of 2010, but keep therapy grounded in human connection to focus on the basics of daily living, wants and needs facilitated by real people. All technologies are just tools of getting a message, information or code (X) from person, Sender (A) to person, Receiver (B) and vice versa. New technology can seem complicated but all these methods have only one purpose- they are methods of connecting people to other people. Speech language pathologists must see all technological tools as just part of the SLP tool bag to effectively use these current and those ancient technologies in therapy. It is no longer necessarily augmentative, alternative communication, but rather, typical digital communication that we must adapt to in order to help children. That does not mean we cannot communicate with children if we do not understand this digital language. Basic, face-to-face communication will always be based on body language and gestures of nonverbal, behavioral communication which speech language pathologists are educated to understand, translate, decode and decipher as a model to the caregiver. SLPs are conduits to pass on skills to others – we are decoders and resources to children. We are resources to parents who desire to achieve attention then engagement with their child; but just need some guidance and support to get there.

SLPs will have to adapt at a faster rate to the exponential increase in therapy tools available for our tool bags and what speaks to children. What keeps their attention? There are many resources available to all of us to be better educated in an increasingly fast paced, digital world. Let us keep up with the children of today and share what we learn to stay as connected to the people we love as humanly possible. So, how do we all stay informed about the exponentially changing, newest additions in communication facilitating technology tools? As a start, we can begin by learning and sharing information from the resources right in front of us. The Internet is full of wonderful educational and therapeutic tools including information on apps and website links for children with communication disorders. Let us therapists and parents listen to children, and to what they can teach us. All anyone needs is a place to start. The following list of highly recommended links is one place to start in helping adults understand children’s digital language of 2010.

Highly recommended links to learn more about children’s digital communication:

Megan (Panatier) Bratti, MS, CCC-SLP, lives in Los Angeles, California with her husband.  She graduated from California State University Northridge with her Master’s degree in Communicative Disorders and Sciences, Speech Language Pathology in 2006.  Megan explores technology and its potential in the communication disorder and sciences field with, Avocado Technologies, co-founded with her husband, Bruno Bratti, an Integrated Circuit Engineer.  Avocado Technologies is a forum on a Facebook page and on Twitter @avocadotech to engage others with the latest stories and news about communicative disorders, language, speech therapy, education, science, linguistics, literacy and technology found on the web.

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.