On the Episode #7 of GeekSLP TV recorded in 2010, I talked about my favorite computer game for promoting language skills: The Sims. Since then, EA Games has released the iPad version of the game called Sims Free Play. I have played the game a few times, and despite the fact that it is not even close to as flexible and powerful as the computer version, the Sims Free Play can be one great game for promoting language skills and vocabulary. This app contains rich graphics without any real verbal language; this way therapists and parents can have the opportunity to elicit language at any time. Many goals, particularly verbs can be targeted in the context with a fully animated visual aid.
Clinicians who work in languages other than English can also switch the language on the game and work with the app.
My only pet peeve with the app is the fact that, since it is a free app you are constantly bugged to buy Simoleons (Simms money) in order to purchase furniture for the house. You can still earn money by completing tasks within the game, but when using this app with children you need to be aware of the constant buy-in app request.
Let’s go on to the specifics
Possible target objectives
Vocabulary (During character building)
Vocabulary during activity
If this is the first time you play Sims on the iPad, you will be prompted to create your own characters. You get to give your character a name, pick the gender and the fun of creating the detailed features of your own person.
Selecting the personality trait of the Sim is one mini session within the character session. Allow the child to navigate through the personality options, they have 16 personality traits such as villain, rocker, crazy, spiritual, geek, etc… These personality traits can be a fantastic way for exploring new vocabulary. The sim will even have gestures that demonstrate each personality trait. As soon as I selected a personality trait (geek), my avatar started playing a video game. You can also select a rocker and watch the character play guitar.
As part of creating your Sim, there is so much opportunity for working on basic vocabulary such as colors, body parts, and clothing items. As well as the advanced vocabulary of personality traits I discussed earlier.
Once The Sims is created, you get to move them into their home with basic furniture.
The game play
Just like most games, The Sims starts with a basic set of furniture (vocabulary in context) such as a bed, refrigerator, a sink, TV, a couch. The game starts by giving some tasks that the user must complete in order to progress to higher levels, keep the character alive and happy and earn Simmoleons (following directions).
There are six areas that the user must maintain in order to keep their characters happy: hunger, hygiene, bladder, social skills, energy, and fun. Managing these areas can get challenging overtime, users need to plan their actions in a logical order to keep the happiness of their character (sequencing & planning). For example, as I played my character was both starving and tired I needed to make her eat first then sleep. Clinicians can guide children to make choices on the game by showing them to make inferences and predict possible scenarios such as ” eating takes only 5 minutes while sleeping takes 8 hours, which one should we do first to be able to accomplish our task? or “what would happen if she needs to both use the restroom and eat, which one should we do first?
These real life scenarios can be useful not only as a language-building tool but also for teaching children life skills.
As you direct the character to perform one specific action, such as eat, bathe, play with the dog, you get a full visual demonstration of verbs in context as a response of a command made by the user, in this case the child.
Purchasing furniture for your home
As the user earns Simoleons, you get to go shopping for furniture for your new home. Some furniture items as purely used as decoration, others are used for achieving a specific task. The house does not come with a microwave or cook top, you can buy one to cook better meals. You can also buy a computer, which will help your character get entertained or find a job.
Adding new characters to the game play
As you progress in the game, you are led to add a neighbor. This creates a whole new level of possibilities for targeting social skills. The characters get to interact and you get to make choices about which social engagement the characters will have, options such as “be nice” or “be funny” are available. Their friendship also progresses from strangers to acquaintances (vocabulary) to even a possible relationship. Social scenarios such as walking into a person’s home without knocking on the door can open a great social skills lesson. The possibilities for following directions and managing two characters at the same time can also be a great source for planning.
Growing into higher levels also means you will be adding a new context for practicing language skills! Let’s head to the boat party!
Overall, The Sims provides an interactive platform for clinicians or parents to engage in linguistic interactions with a child or a group of children. If you are looking to expand your Sims world to be more flexible, with even more available context, I would recommend checking out the computer versions of The Sims.
Exploring crafting apps for your speech therapy sessions
It is no secret, I have never been a crafty person. During my days in graduate school I struggled a lot with the fact that many of my peers were able to spend hours creating these amazing therapy activities with glue and various types of paper. Yes, I did question my ability to become a speech therapist when I saw one of my colleagues bring the cupcakes she had baked at home along with all these amazing cupcakes decorations for the session. I clearly was not capable of such a thing! Oh, and of course there are the scrapbooking SLPs! Clearly, I had no idea that SLPs had to dedicate hours preparing meals, buying scrapbooking materials and other tools for various “crafty therapy sessions”. In graduate school, I appealed to my technophile side to create my sessions around my computer. I know what you are thinking… ” what about the iPad?”. I didn’t even own an iPhone while in graduate school (and the iPad was still years from being invented). Today’s post is dedicated to all my fellow speech therapists and teachers who lack “craftiness” and want to be crafty on the iPad! Blessed be the iPad!
Here are some of my favorite apps for fun, creative, and open language based therapy sessions:
This application allows you to create scenes by selecting from various background options and pieces of craft that go with the theme. You can also pick from your own photos and add various pieces of provided objects and crafting materials to your photo ( see how non-crafty I am based on the photo below). The images are added to your photos. For those of you feeling a little adventurous you can even make a movie as you move the items around the screen. You can use this app for promoting language skills and vocabulary. Prepositions ( put the star on her shirt, put the tree next to the dog, etc…) is also a great target to use this app for.
This app is worth every penny I spent on it, I just wish I had it 6 years ago! The Martha Stewart app is very easy to use and offers so many possibilities. It allowed a non-crafty person like me to create a scrapbook page! The app comes loaded with possibilities. You can take photos of the students during the session or send a letter to the parents to send some family photos with the kids for the upcoming session. It is an amazing way for working on retelling a story and it is perfect for those sessions with adults! After you create each page you can print and send it home with the child. This is by far a much more cost efficient way to do a crafting session.
This app is very similar to the Martha Stewart application. It has several background, stickers, borders and embellishments you can add to each page you create. Using this app can be great for vocabulary, and following directions too. Just like the previous app you can also save the final work onto your photos and print them when you are done.
4. Hello Cupcakes (Free + buy in app) – Great app for following directions with amazing visual support.
This fourth app is truly a helping hand for those who want to do a real life cupcake but are not as talented as most of my former co-workers. The app comes with a baking tray which gives you information on which materials you will need to create the cupcakes. This app is just phenomenal; it includes step by step photos you can use for creating each cupcake. The cupcakes can be quite elaborate but this app has so many amazing visuals and it will guide you and your students to create quite the cupcake project. This is the perfect app to guide students, especially students who can benefit from visual support, for working on following directions. The app has amazing visual details. The buy in app options offer a variety of themed cupcake options too.
It turns out that not only I can be crafty, but I love being crafty on the iPad! Should I call myself technocrafty?
GeekSLP Tv #31: iPhone 5, Language Adventures, Tense Builder Visual Attention & more
This Summer has been a busy summer for me and all developers I know. While you were enjoying your vacation, SLP app developers around the world were creating apps for you to use this new school season. On this episode I talk about the release of the iPhone 5, the update to Language Adventures and R intensive, and two new apps: Visual Attention Therapy & Tense Builder. Here is a video for you:
Thank you so much for following my blog!
GeekSLP Tv #29: iPad for basic communication skills & Language Adventures Demo
I am back in Texas from my presentation at the MSHA convention ( Thanks MSHA for the invitation). I had such as great time attending the MSHA convention. This was a different convention experience, especially from the TSHA convention that I am so used to attending. MSHA organized several activities that I wish other state conventions would adopt:
1. MSHA set up chairs for “Round Robin” session in front of each exhibitor’s booth. The set up allows the exhibitors to provide information to participants such as products, services, technology, industry trends at specific assigned times.
2. A cyber cafe!
3. A tailgate party
4. A continental breakfast for attendees.
5. The location!!! The MSHA convention was set up in a resort which makes it for a very nice and relaxing experience ( which is what I needed).
I presented two tree hours long sessions, both on the iPad and apps for speech therapy ( in case you were wondering ;-). I was happy to see that most of the people who attended the 1st session, came back for the second one. I also had a lot of fun attending two other iPad sessions at MSHA, I really enjoyed listening to what presenters and attendees had to say about the apps I created.
After my 8 hours drive back home, and a good night of sleep I recorded the episode #29 of GeekSLP TV. On this episode I talk about Smarty Ears’ latest app: Language Adventures. Enjoy!
On today’s episode I am doing a video demo of an app called “Question it”. Question it was designed to be used as a tool for working on WhQuestions. This podcast is not intended to promote or reject any of the features of this app, as always I intend to do a video demo so YOU can decide if the app is a useful tool for your therapy sessions.
House of Learning for iPad: Prepositions, Vocabulary & following…
One more app developed by Smarty Ears Apps: now an interactive app with scenes and characters that targets vocabulary, prepositions and following directions. As always it will be the SLP with their infinite creativity who will lead the learning process.
App name: House of Learning
App current price: $5.99 ( prices change are possible)
Compatibility: iPad only.
What is the app:
The app contains 12 scenes (bedrooms, classroom, kitchen, bathroom, living room, dining room, etc) and several characters ( mom, dad, son, daughter, baby, grandmother, grandfather, dog). The children can play in the scenes by placing objects on them and arranging the scene as the please. It is also possible to change the characters’ pose and clothing to adjust to specific areas by taping on each character.
I really enjoy arranging the room myself, my favorite room is the girls bedroom! So cute! I love placing the characters in weird placed and poses.( see image below)
There are lots of potential with this app for learning several concepts. House of Learning comes with a built in text to speech which pronounces the items placed on the scene which is great for vocabulary learning and reinforcement.
Tips for Here are some ideas on how to use the house of learning to help your child practice language skills:
Tips for teaching prepositions :
Many children have difficulty with using correct prepositions such as “on, in, above, on top of, under, next to, to the right, to the left”. The House of Learning is the ideal iPad app for helping children understand and practice these skills while playing.
Guided house builder: Instead of letting the child play the app independently, try playing next to them and telling them exactly where to put each object. Use complete phrases such as “ place the sheets on the bed”, “place the cup on the table”, “ place the shoes under/above the bed”. Silly house builder: How about setting up the house before your session and putting the objects in “silly” places such as “the bed on top of the pillow”. When it is time for your session, you ask your student what’s wrong with the image and get them to guide you verbally to place the objects where they belong. You should expect them to say complete phrases using prepositions “the bed goes above the pillow”.
Following one or more step directions:
Following one or multiple step directions can be very challenging for some children with language delays.
Guided house set up: Guide your child along the game with one, two, three or more step commands. Such as “Get the ball”, “Get the ball and place it on top of the bed”, “Get the ball, place it on the bed and move the girl close to it.”
It is possible to take a screenshot when you are done with the scenes. Why not use these screenshots to let your students build a story? Here is how we can do this:
Set up the scenes and place the people where you want them to go.
click on “done” to display the camera button.
Click on the camera button to take a photo of the scene.
Choose to save this scene to the library;
Go back to the scene and prepare the scene for the next screenshot;
Repeat the steps.
After you have completed the “story” you can print and share with your students or ask them to create their own.
Conversation Builder: Working on Pragmatics on your iPad
Conversation Builder was released in April of 2011 and it has received great reviews not only on the iTunes store but also from close SLP friends. This is an application for older students with difficulty engaging and taking turns in their conversation. Conversation builder allows you to build a profile for your students in order to keep data of progress overtime. The app has several modules available, each with different theme such as: animal theme, with friends around town, holiday theme conversation, water themed conversations, etc…
Price: $24.99 (for all the Modules); you are also able to purchase each module separately($4.99). In my opinion this app is undervalued as it offers so much for only $24.99.
iTunes star rating Reviews:
As you can see this app has received 14 5 star reviews!!! Impressive. I see also 3 “one star” reviews here. Given the fact that I have played with the app, there are only two explanations for these reviews, as the people who wrote these reviews did not even explain themselves as to “WHY in the world did you give this app ONE STAR!?”. First possibility: these are jealous app developers with fake one start ( believe me, this has happened a lot), or someone who purchased the app without reading what it is for.
I only have access to the basic Module that comes with you purchase the app for $4.99, so I cannot give any review on the other specific modules at this point.
How to set up the app:
1. Create a profile for your student.
2. Choose a “Level of Play”:
a. 1 on 1- 4 Exchanges
b. 1 on 1 – 8 Exchanges
c. Group – 4 Exchanges
d. group- 8 Exchanges.
The level of play depends on whether you have a group setting or 1 on 1 and the length of the conversation practice you want to have.
3. Choose the Conversation Initiator: This is BRILLIANT! You have the option of having either the student or the peer ( which in the case is “you” or the “iPad”) initiate the conversation.
Being different: Brazilian campaign against prejudice of children with special needs
I still enjoy watching brazilian soap operas. Despite the fact that they are very ( I mean VERY) counter productive ( daily shows); I have recently been fascinated by a campaign by MetaSocial.org.br against prejudice of children with special needs. This is the second video I watch on the major network by MetaSocial and for the longest time I have wanted to post it on GeekSLP. However, I needed to translate it to English; so it took me some time. Click on the video below to watch it:
As an educator we all know the impact of prejudice and setting low expectation for children with or without any disability. In a world that is still filled with prejudice, we have a moral obligation for helping other understand that as well. I love how this video does not make ANY reference to the fact that she has down syndrome; but it just makes obvious that we are all different and special in some way.
If we can focus on what children CAN do rather than what they CANNOT do; we may just start making some progress.
Gaming into education: Can even Angry Birds promote learning?
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.
GeekSLP TV #14: Meet Poorani the creator of Speech with Milo
It was a pleasure to get to meet Poorani! The best thing about making this video podcast is getting to interact with people that are creating so many great products for us. I am sure all of you already love Speech with Milo- now it is time to get to know its creator. In case you are curious we recorded this interview using Skype.
GeekSLP TV #12: Expressive, the new updated AAC App for children with Autism.
On GeekSLP #12 I will review the basic function on the Expressive app for children with Autism and other expressive language disorders.
I hope you enjoyed the demo. It is very important to remember that, just like any AAC device out there, it is not about getting the device with the most features; but about finding the device that will best meet the needs of the students. Expressive was not designed to be the app with the most features out there. Proloquo2Go and other aac apps (cost $199 plus) do that very well. Expressive was designed as an entry level, easy to use app for children that are not yet ready for more complex devices/apps.