Let’s face it: Technology makes everything easier. But what are students really learning when they use apps or online games? And what is the best way to target speech and language goals using tech?
I interned during the 2017–-2018 school year as a student speech-language pathologist at an elementary school for K–5 students. All the sweet children I saw loved technology, having been born into a digital world. Our main source of technology at this school was a single tablet specific for the speech-language pathology department. This tablet had tons of apps, some for articulation, some for language and some for educational games.
As a student intern, I believed using technology during sessions was an “easy way out.” (Of course, this belief excluded students working with augmentative and alternative communication.) I always tried to find other things to do with my students not involving screens. I created flash cards, BINGO boards, puzzles and more non-digital activities to use. Students enjoyed these activities and I believed they were the best way to target goals.
Then a day came when we didn’t have any breaks between sessions and the tablet seemed an efficient option for targeting goals. I was hesitant to use it at first, but once I saw the potential benefits and level of engagement with the students, I embraced using technology in treatment at last!
I focused my initial inclusion of apps on targeting speech goals. I began with an articulation app—Articulation Station. I used the free app to work on every speech sound a student needed to practice. Activities include digital flash cards, matching games, create your own sentence, picture stories and comprehension questions. This immediately became my “go-to” app when working with students who need articulation and speech development practice.
Students learning language skills enjoyed finding nursery rhyme videos to target their goals. For example, while playing the “Gingerbread Man” nursey rhyme video, we ask students “wh” questions about the story, introduce new vocabulary and determine story-sequencing patterns.
Once I began using the tablet to target speech and language goals, I learned that technology in sessions can benefit students and still involve in-person interaction. And I discovered my five favorite apps to use with elementary students:
- Articulation Station: targets articulation goals.
- YouTube: great for finding videos of nursey rhymes, singalongs and more.
- WH Question Cards: Who, What, When Where, Why: targets answering WH questions.
- Speech Tutor: shows what happens inside the mouth and throat during speech.
- Talking Pierre the Parrot: Pierre repeats everything the student says in a silly voice. A great way to motivate students to articulate correctly so Pierre sounds good!
I still believe the less technology used during sessions, the better. But I now see the advantages of exploring digital activities and including some apps into session planning—especially as a back-up for especially hectic days.
Contributing author: Stephen Josephsen, EdD, assistant professor of elementary education, Stephen F. Austin State University, Austin, Texas. firstname.lastname@example.org
Rachel Allen-Newton, speech-language pathology graduate student, Stephen F. Austin State University. email@example.com