Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Using Podcasts in Speech Therapy
I don't think I've always been so techie.  I guess when I look back in time I did go to computer camp in 1985 with Mr. Linson.  I did have an Atari 2600 with a keyboard.  My dad had a Tandy 2000 (yeah, that was a computer brand) and it came with a super sweet dot matrix printer that my brother and I used to use Print Shop to make banners to hang up around the house.  The funny thing is, now, I still own a Dell computer with a 3 1/2" floppy drive (What's that?) and I still proudly use a dumb phone.  Yet, here I am teaching and informing people about technology. Luckily for me, my school district is beyond generous in its ability to provide students and staff the technology tools they need to succeed.  I think my curiosity with technology continues to evolve as we have entered a new stage of technology:  Web 2.0.  The funny thing about that term is that it's probably already outdated.  In a nutshell, Web 2.0 is a newer version of the internet and how we interact and collaborate.  The old internet was a one-way street--you visited website, read information, and used it accordingly.  Now, with Web 2.0, it's all about collaboration, sharing, and interacting with one another.  
The Print Shop by Broderbund

Now you're probably thinking, "Wasn't this supposed to be about using podcasts in speech therapy?"  Yeah..yeah, I'm almost there.  Anyway, I took two courses in Educational Technology (highly recommended) and learned about new ways to use the web to create projects with students (much like my old Print Shop activities from computer camp).  One of the tools that I learned about was using podcasts.  When I started to learn about podcasts, I quickly found out that people listened to them for entertainment, education, and leisure.  Then it hit me--I can use podcasts as a tool to get students to record, reflect, and improve their speech and language skills!

It took some time to figure out how to record into my computer and then upload them onto a podcasting website.  It helps if you like to sit at a computer 24/7.  If you're not like me, however, you can figure it out by watching tutorials on YouTube or other websites.  That's the technical part you need to learn.  I know that sounded way too easy.  Hey, you have to figure out some of it on your own!  The real meat and potatoes of using podcasts as a tool in speech therapy is to figure out how you are going to use podcasts in speech therapy.  Man, I'm good!

So, how can you use podcasts?  How about for articulation in connected speech?  Speech fluency.  Reading fluency.  Prosody.  Phrasing.  Rate of speech.  Conversational skills.  Volume control.  Topic maintenance.  Topic shifting.  Turn taking.  Self-reflection.  Self-correction.  Recording language samples.  Documenting stuttering moments.  Keep thinking.  There's more!

I really like the podcast format because it's current.  It's age appropriate. It's interesting.  If you let the students take the lead on the topic, then you've got buy-in.  For instance, I had a rather quiet high school student with moderate speech articulation errors in connected speech who didn't really participate much with his speech therapists.  (Hey, he was in high school and he wasn't really motivated to go to speech therapy.)  So I asked him what he liked.  Zombies.  I knew absolutely nothing about zombies.  This was perfect because he could tell me everything about zombies.  Guess who was excited to create his very own podcast about zombies?  Hook, line, and sinker!  We recorded at least four podcasts about zombie rules and zombie survival skills.  We even spent two to three sessions coming up with an intro to our podcast using Hells Bells and Thriller as our theme songs.  Get creative!  Recite poetry.  Tell jokes.  Read lines from Shakespeare.  Do a product review.  Interview guests.

Pointers for creating podcasts:
Free Podcasts
  • Download some podcasts to listen to for fun.  Explore and see what they sound like.  If you have a smart phone/iPhone/ tablet/iPad (anything that I don't personally own), you can download them and listen at your leisure.  I do have a school issued iPad, by the way, which is how I do it.  
  • It will take time, but you can download Audacity (and Lame for Audacity) and learn how to use it.  It looks very technical, but with a little patience (and YouTube tutorials), you'll get the gist of it.  I haven't done it yet, but you can also record in the Garage Band app.
  • Practice recording tracks on your own.  My first project was reading a chapter at a time from my Educational Technology book for my class.  I played around until it made sense.
  • Write a general script/outline.  Interview your student.  Have the student interview you.  Pre-write the questions.  You know those dumb questionnaires that are always floating around on Facebook?  Print one of those off and ask questions.
  • Find a free podcasting site.   I use Podbean.  It's free.  There are others out there.  Most of them are fairly cheap.  But if you want to practice without paying, try Podbean.  
  • Keep confidentiality in mind.  That's a big one.  Obviously, you shouldn't post anything online without permission from the person/family.  My former student gave me permission to post our podcasts (see below), but if you didn't want to actually post them, you could send them home via their mp3 players (I know that's outdated) so that they could share with their families.
Here are a couple our podcasts (with permission given to me by my former student):

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Fat Cat Snappy Chat

Fat Cat Snappy Chat
by Point-and-Read, Inc.
I have no idea how I stumbled upon this app, but I've found it to be quite humorous and age appropriate for some of my students.  Fat Cat Snappy Chat is an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) app that gives users opportunities to communicate common (and sometimes funny) greetings, questions, and responses.  Ideally, this is the type of app that you'd want to use with an iPhone or iPod Touch, but you could also utilize it with an iPad. The messages, for the most part, are how kids actually talk. 
What's happenin'? Get out of here! C'mon, you can tell! Chill out! OMG!  Who cares! Seriously! Like,whatever! Hello?!

You know what I like the most about it?  It's age appropriate. The kids using this app require some basic reading ability, but could learn the buttons pretty quickly even if their skills were too low.  

So here's the gist of it:

  • Fat Cat Snappy Chat features 160 phrases that focus on casual language for kids.
  • Users can quickly "snap" phrases to participate in everyday social communication.
  • The phrases can be sent as text messages (instant messenger), SMS text, and even Tweets.
As a disclaimer, there are a few phrases that might be a little "older" for some kids.  Words like poopy and booger make appearances.  The app features parental controls so that you can adjust it to the user's liking.

Believe it or not, I use this app with a student who happens to be very verbal.  He struggles to code shift with his peers and often talks very formally.  After playing around with this app, I've seen him independently use some of these phrases very appropriately with his peers!  We've used it many times to differentiate how you talk to peers versus adults.  It's been very effective so far!  Hey, for $.99 it's worth a try!  
I'm outta here!  Later.  Gotta run.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Question TherAppy 2-in-1 App Review

Question TherAppy 2-in-1
by Tactus Therapy Solutions
Do you have an iPad and wonder what in the wide, wide world of sports you're supposed to do with it?  I have seen quite a few teachers who have been overwhelmed by technology overload in the classroom.  Here's a new SMART Board.  Oh, and how about an iPad?  We have new curriculum and it's all online. Oh, and you're supposed to teach on top of learning all kinds of new technology!  Geez!  I can see why people get burned out with technology.  Since we're always trying to find ways to incorporate technology and supplement what we're doing in the classroom, I thought I'd share an app that kids (and adults) can use to build upon their skills either in a one-on-one setting or independently.  And, since I also work in nursing homes and home health care, this app covers areas that many adults are working on for cognitive language therapy.  That is, however, if your nursing home lets you use iPads as a therapeutic tool.  I'm still working on that one.

With that said, I wanted to tell you about an app that I've been able to use with clients to practice asking and answering questions.  Tactus Therapy Solutions created a nice combo app called Question TherAppy 2-in-1.  Both apps can be purchased individually or you can buy both with a discounted price.

Answering TherAppy covers several areas that are useful such as answering "wh" questions, orientation questions, and yes/no questions.  It features the ability to switch between spontaneous responses to a multiple choice option.  I liked the "wh" questions because it also provides a visual picture along with auditory cues (and hints).  Tactus Therapy always has therapists in mind when creating these apps as they've included a User Hub in which you can compile data and generate reports.  I've found this as a big-time bonus because it's one less thing I have to jot down in therapy.  The bottom line is that Answering TherAppy app works on exactly what it is intended.  There really aren't any bells and whistles like dancing animals or funtime music, which might lose a kid's interest after awhile.  It does, however, allow you to insert your own questions and it will ask questions about you, the user.  That's pretty cool.  I could see this feature as being really useful for my adult clients in the nursing homes.  Then again, if you did this with kids, they would likely be motivated too.  If you add Mario, Spongebob, or Star Wars questions, then you'd probably get some major interest from kids (well, my son, at least).

Asking TherAppy, as you can guess, is the counterpart of Answering TherAppy.  Users get to practice constructing and expressing questions when given various scenarios.  The Ask Wh- section gives an opportunity to explore and investigate questions by learning about the individual parts of a question.  This eventually segues into matching questions with answers.  The app also features three ways to ask yes/no questions: multiple choice with auditory cues, uncued, or with a question spinner.  The question spinner lets the user to generate questions by aligning the question segments.

Overall, Tactus Therapy Solutions has created a nice, high-quality app for therapists.  Since asking and answering questions is paramount to just about any therapy plan, this app provides therapists with a tool that should be included in their tote bags.

Question TherAppy 2-in-1 is available in iTunes for $34.99.  You can, however, try it free with Question TherAppy Lite in order to give it a test run before you purchase it.