Saturday, November 3, 2012

ECSE App All Star: Book Creator

 Recently, I have been asked to make recommendations regarding digital storytelling apps.  I am finally feeling like I have had enough experience with a variety of apps that I can make better informed suggestions. In this post, I will focus on teacher created stories and the app, Book Creator.  Special Education teachers create books for many purposes including social stories, vocabulary development, and targeted literacy instruction. In the past, creating customized books was very time consuming and involved scissors, glue, copying, laminating and binding.  Technology has made this task much less daunting.

The combination of two features, the ability to add audio and the sharing options, make Book Creator a very useful app. Book Creator works well if you are using 1-2 photos per page and need to have audio.  The audio feature is a necessity with young learners who can't read independently.  The sharing options are more extensive than many other digital storytelling apps.  The finished product is an epub file.  If a student is going to be accessing the book on the iPad, the book can be opened in iBooks and the audio remains.  If you need to share the book so it can be accessed on a device other than the iPad on which it was created, you can open the file in Dropbox.  Once I had the file in Dropbox, I pulled it onto my desktop.  I ran into a road block when I tried to open the file on my computer because I didn't have anything installed that could read epub files.  My next step was to  download the Chrome Extension, Readium.  Once the file was in Readium, it opened and the audio remained. You could put the file in a shared folder on Dropbox and make it available to other teachers.  There is also an option to email the file  as an iBook or as a PDF, which would work well for sharing the support with parents.  If a hard copy of the book is needed, there is an option to print.

Book created with Book Creator on iPad, opened in Readium.

I highly recommend Book Creator for the purpose of making materials to support students with special needs.  It is easy enough that it can also be used by young learners to create their own books.  Here are some ideas of instructional materials that could be made using this app:
Create social stories:  how to stand in line, how to ask a friend to play, how to cope with setbacks.
Create customized books with targeted vocabulary.
Create books to support speech/language goals such as functions, classification, and opposites.
Create visual schedules and sequence boards.
Toddlers/Home based
Create customized books of family members.
Create books with targeted household vocabulary.
Create books with audio from a family member who may not be available to read in person such as a grandparent or a parent in the military.
Create customized books dealing with situations that may create anxiety such as separation from a parent at child care.
Create a book preparing a toddler for a new experience such as a visit to the doctor.
Create a book from the child's point of view about sensory challenges to share with other family members.

Are you special educator using digital storytelling tools to create instructional materials?  What apps have you found useful?  What types of materials are you creating?



Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Self Regulation, the 5 point scale and the iPad

Created on the iPad with Pages
Self regulation skills has been a hot topic among the Kinderchat network on Twitter.  I have learned so much from these connected educators as they discuss this topic.  They have been sharing resources and ideas for supporting the development of these skills in young learners. These educators are aware of how complicated the concept of self regulation is and how important it is in a child’s development. Studies are finding strong connections between a child’s ability to self regulate and later academic success.  Self regulation skills also play a critical role in a young learner’s social success.  There are some children who need more support than others in developing and demonstrating self regulation skills.  There is great variation in self regulation skills at the preschool level.  Factors such as temperament, social history, social stressors, prematurity, and medications can affect a young learners ability to develop self regulation skills.  Some children need specialized instruction especially in regulating activity level and emotions.

The 5 point scale is a tool that is valuable in teaching self regulation skills.  Kari Dunn Buron is the teacher who can be credited with the concept of using this simple, but effective tool.  Her website explains the concept and provides several examples.  I highly recommend her book, The Incredible 5 Point Scale.  Think of the scale as a thermometer that provides a visual for levels of a behavior or feeling, applying a number and color to each level.  The numbers and colors not only provide a visual but also a common language that can be used to discuss and guide the behavior.  The scale can be used to teach skills such as the regulation of voice volume, activity level, and emotions, especially anger and excitement. The voice volume scale pictured above, can be used as a universal tool in a preschool classroom.  Children who need specialized instruction might benefit from repeated practice moving from a 4 voice to a 2 voice.  In our program, it is not unusual to see the special education assistants in a class wearing a small version of the chart on a lanyard.  This mobile version can be used in the library or other places outside of the classroom.  When using the scale for managing activity level, the specialized instruction might involve teaching the child how a 5 and 3 looks and feels.  The next step in the instruction would be to identify calming strategies to assist in moving from a 5 to a 3.

We typically use Boardmaker to create paper versions of the scale. The iPad along with apps such as Skitch and Doodle Buddy allow a teacher to take a picture of the paper copy and draw over the top of it.  The student can circle the number he or she is at and identify where he or she needs to be. Teachers can store the scales on the iPad and have them readily available when needed. Another option is to create a template of the numbers and colors using the application, Pages, on a computer or on the iPad.  The template below was created by inserting the square shape, filling it with a color and typing in the corresponding number.  This template can be customized with pictures from the camera roll on the iPad.  Once a photo is added,  the mask option and resizing tool will help you get it to the correct size so that it can be aligned with the corresponding number.  In this example, I used the same Boardmaker icons but you could pull real photos from your camera roll.  When the scale is finished, a screenshot of the scale can be stored on the iPad and viewed when needed.  

I am on the lookout for apps that use the 5 point scale.  I recently discovered the free app, the Autism 5 - Point Scale EP.  This app has great potential but doesn't quite meet our program's needs.  The app opens to a main screen with the numbers and colors, along with drawings of a face expressing varied emotions.  When you select a number, it moves to a screen with that number and face.  On the second screen, the app allows you to customize it with your own picture, text and even audio but when you go back to the main screen, the customization isn’t there.  It also does not allow you to save scales for different purposes.   

I am interested in hearing if others are using the 5 point scale or other visuals for teaching self regulation.  Matt Gomez wrote a post about using the app, Too Loud, to help regulate voice volume.  What visuals have you created?  Are you using any technology to support the use of these visuals?  Please share your thoughts and experiences. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Communicating Developmental Concerns to Parents

As part of my initial interview with a parent prior to beginning an evaluation, I ask what concerns prompted a referral.  When parents share that it was a child care provider or early childhood teacher who recommended the referral, I ask follow up questions about the process. In some cases, parents and educators report that the process of determining there was a concern, and making a decision to refer went smoothly and everyone was on the same page.  In other cases, it is clear that the path leading to referral was very rocky and anything but smooth. Based on my conversations with parents and educators, I developed some tips for early childhood educators and child care providers related to sharing developmental concerns with parents.

Why have these conversations?
For early childhood educators this is a very difficult task met with feelings of uncertainty and anxiety.  This is expected, it isn't comfortable to be the initiator of this topic. Monitoring a child's development is one of our roles as an early childhood educator and sharing concerns related to possible delays is a responsibility we have as advocates for young children.  Early educators and child care providers have a foundational knowledge of child development and parents are resources for strategies that may be helpful in addressing concerns. Therefore, communication between parents and educators can lead to interventions that address the needs of the child and should take place as soon as possible after a concern is identified.

What concerns have parents reported about the process?
One concern I have heard from parents is that they feel "blindsided".  Parents report that the provider or educator had not discussed any concerns until conferences even though there had been concerns prior to conference time.  Parents questioned why the educator did not share concerns as soon as the concerns were noticed, rather than wait until a formal conference time.  Another scenario that leads to this feeling of surprise relates to the setting of the conversation.  Parents often report being pulled aside during pick up time and told that their child should be evaluated.  This does not allow for the time needed to discuss the concerns and leaves the parent feeling overwhelmed and caught off guard.  Another concern I have heard is the lack of documentation to support the provider or teacher's suspicion. With these concerns in mind, here are some suggestions.

Tracking Tool
Do: Use a tracking tool such as  a developmental checklist or screening tool with all children in your program. Parents in your program should be informed of the use of and purpose of a tracking tool.  A tracking tool provides a framework for ongoing parent communication which promotes trust.  The tracking tool will provide you with the objective documentation and data needed to identify concerns.  You can use this documentation to guide your discussion and provide a visual for the parent.

Don't:  Adopt the use of the tracking tool only for one child.  Parents can feel defensive if they feel that their child is being "singled out" or treated differently than the other children.

Scheduling the Meeting
Do: Schedule a meeting as soon as possible.  If possible, plan the meeting at a time both parents can be in attendance. Provide a private setting for the meeting.  Inform parents of the topic of the meeting so that they can prepare.

Don't:  Have discussions about concerns during pick up and drop off time.  This compromises the privacy of the family and doesn't allow enough time for discussion.  Don't talk about the concerns in front of the child.  Don't avoid the discussion for a long period of time because you want to wait until conferences to share the information.

Preparing for the meeting
Do:  Prepare, prepare, prepare.  Think about what you want to say and how you want to say it.  Focus on the need to "rule out" possible concerns.  Be honest.  Give parents honest information, but use kind words.  Prepare data, observations and checklists ahead of time.  Prepare options for a plan.  If you feel a referral is the best option, have the referral resources ready.  Knowing a parent might not be ready for a referral, have some strategies prepared.  You can generate a list of strategies ahead of time, adding parent suggestions to this list at the meeting.  Some providers find it helpful to role play the meeting and script some conversation starters.

Don't:  Go to the meeting unprepared.

The Discussion
Do:  Start the discussion with strengths.
Script:  Anna's checklist indicates that she exceeds age appropriate skills in the area of motor skills.  She enjoys art projects and is already demonstrating a mature grasp on the pencil.  She works hard at cutting and is beginning to cut out more complex shapes.

Lead into the discussion of concerns by encouraging parents to share observations, questions, or concerns.  This will provide you with a clear understanding of whether they have concerns and how their concerns compare to yours.
Script:  What types of activities does Anna like to do at home?  What do you notice is more difficult for her?

Use the tracking tool as a visual.  The tracking tool gives parents something to think about without putting a label on it, it gets the conversation started and the information is objective. Keep the focus on the child and how the possible delay is impacting the child.  Be supportive.  Practice active listening techniques.  Be calm but concerned.

Script:  Based on a review of the developmental checklists and classroom observations, I am concerned about Anna's ability to.......
Be specific about the skills.  Examples might include, communicate with peers, follow directions, attend to group activities, interact with peers without conflict, complete classroom routines in a timely manner, complete fine motor tasks without frustration, etc.

Explain how her skills compare to her peers and how the difficulties are impacting her functioning.
Script:  On the checklist, her understanding of language concepts is at a 24 month level.  She is demonstrating a delay in this area compared to other 4 year old children.  These concepts are important for following directions.  Because she doesn't understand the concepts, she needs demonstrations and to have the directions repeated to her, one step at a time.  If the task involves a lot of verbal directions, she will often stop paying attention or leave the task.

Don't:  Use jargon, acronyms and labels.  Your role is not to diagnose or label, this should only be done after a comprehensive evaluation.  Focus on observable behaviors, impact on functioning, not on labels.  Avoid scaring a parent, remember, "calm but concerned".  This can be difficult, but be sure not to dismiss a parent's concerns, even if they are not the same as your concerns.  Don't frame the concerns as how they are impacting you, it will sound like complaining and can make it personal.  Again, focus on the impact on the child, not on you or the program.

Scripts to avoid (I know they are obvious!)
I think Anna is apraxic.
I think Anna is following further and further behind and might not catch up to her peers.
I know you are concerned that she doesn't know her alphabet but I am not worried about that, her speech development is much more concerning.
I can't understand anything Anna is saying, I have to guess what she wants.  I don't call on her at circle time because I am afraid I won't understand her.

The conclusion of the meeting
Do:  Be open to trying the parent's suggestions.
Script: It sounds like at home, you encourage Anna to breathe deeply when she is frustrated, I will encourage her to do the same at school.

Reassure parents that you will support them.  Explain the role and importance of early identification and intervention.
Script:  I think it would be beneficial to have a more formal observation and evaluation completed so that we can rule out any possible delay.  An evaluation can also lead to appropriate strategies that will help Anna feel more successful and decrease her frustration. She is learning in a different way and strategies I use for many children are not meeting her needs.  I want to make sure I am providing the appropriate support she needs and could use further guidance.

Finish the meeting in a positive way and with a plan, which may include referring to other resources or trying some pre- referral interventions. If the plan involves implementing some strategies and monitoring the child's response, establish a timeline and schedule a follow up meeting to discuss progress.
Script for strategies:  We have decided to try the following strategies, .... for 3 weeks and document Anna's response to the strategies.  Let's plan to meet in 3 weeks to evaluate the plan and see if any further action is needed.
Script for referral:  Thank you for your time today.  Talking to Anna's pediatrician about these concerns is a good idea.  Here is a copy of the observations and checklists we discussed to share with the pediatrician.  Let's plan to meet again in 4 weeks to discuss the results of your visit to the doctor.

I hope you found some of these suggestions useful.  As difficult as these conversations can be, you are advocating for the child by taking steps to make sure his or her needs are being met.  I am interested in hearing more about your experience as either a parent or an early educator or child care provider who may have been involved in this type of conversation.  I want to continue to support early childhood educators in this area so that developmental concerns are addressed.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Creating videos with Talking Tom

If you grew up in Minnesota,  you might have visited a small amusement park located in Brainerd called Paul Bunyanland.  I visited the park when I was a preschooler.  While I don't remember any of the rides, I do remember our arrival.  As I walked through the gate, a large statue of Paul Bunyan welcomed me to the park and he knew my name!  This same magic can be created using the app, Talking Tom, and many of the other similar "talking" apps. Young learners find Talking Tom very amusing and motivating, they are very intrigued when Tom uses their name or mentions their class in the video.  Here are some uses of the app in early childhood and special education:
Remind students of rules:  "remember quiet hands and quiet voice at circle time", "to be safe on the playground we go up the stairs and down the slide".
Encourage them to try something new:  Have Talking Tom be a special guest who speaks to the entire class when it is time to try a new food at snack.  Call him Chef Tom and have him encourage everyone to try a taste.
Provide feedback/celebrate success:  "You did it, you were safe on the playground".
Give clues or prompts for a game:  Develop a scavenger hunt related to a concept such as signs of spring and have Tom give the clues, "find something that smells good and grows".

In this example, I use Talking Tom 2 for a rule reminder.  For the students I support, circle time can be a difficult part of the day.  The combination of factors such as close proximity to peers, large quantities of verbal information, and the need to stay in one place for a long period of time, challenge many students who have difficulty with self regulation, auditory processing, and attention issues.   At the beginning of the year, the teacher usually invests a few minutes at the beginning of circle time to remind all of the children of the rules, but toward the middle of the year these group reminders aren't given as frequently.  The adults who support the children with special needs typically need to continue to provide reminders about circle time rules.  We like to provide the reminders immediately before circle time and provide immediate feedback. We know that after so many repetitions our voices can start to sound like the teacher on the Peanuts, "wah, wah, wah"! In an attempt to provide some novelty we created this video with the purpose of reminding a student of the two rules he struggled with on a consistent basis.  The second video was created to  provide feedback and celebrate his success.

To create the video, begin by accessing the Talking Tom settings, found under the iPad settings (the gear icon).  Find the Talking Tom app by scrolling through the apps on the bottom left and select it.

Turn on the longer listening time and user recorded video. Your next step is to script your message, in order to get the "Paul Bunyan effect" make sure you include the student's name or the class name.  I believe the video can be a maximum of 60 seconds.  If you pause and Tom starts to mimic your speech, that is okay, it will not show up on the video, only what you say will be on the video.  When you are ready, tap the video camera icon, located on the left hand side, near the top of the screen.  The icon flashes when it is recording.  Tap the video camera to end the recording.    

A new menu will appear when you end the recording.  If you are not satisfied with the video, tap the X on the top right of the menu and try again.  If you are happy with your product, you have several options for sharing the video.  If you have an account, you can upload the video to You Tube.  The other option is saving it the the iPad in the photo roll by tapping "Photos".  

I have been finding many uses for Tom and his friends.  I use the app with students to encourage sound and word imitation, they enjoy hearing their voice in the video.  If you are allowing a student to use the app, make sure to turn the violence off in the settings, it is found in the same place as the recording options.  Also beware of all of the ads and in app purchase options.  How do you plan to use the video feature of this app with young learners?  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Evaluating apps for young learners, my class assignment.

When I am considering the use of a particular form of technology, whether it is a web based game or an app, I look at it from the point of view of an early childhood teacher and a special education teacher.  As part of an assignment for the Technology and Authentic Assessment class I recently completed, I chose to develop a rubric for evaluating educational apps for young children.  I started by brainstorming all of the questions I ask when evaluating the app.  The tricky part was making these questions fit in a crazy rubric and having to come up with different criteria for each consideration.  I am glad that I don’t have to create rubrics on a regular basis, they make my head hurt!  Here is the list of questions I used as a basis for the rubric.   

Is the content (skills, instructions) developmentally appropriate?
I have tried apps that have appropriate content but the instructions were only provided in writing.  Umm, my students can’t read.  Delete app.  

Is the interface (navigation) developmentally appropriate?
I just used an app the other day where the menu button was at the bottom and the child’s wrist kept hitting it, returning to the main menu as a result.  It wasn’t long before her frustration level was elevated and she was ready to try a different app.  The learners I work with need very salient cues for navigation.  The interface can not be too subtle.

Does the learner receive helpful feedback?
Avoid dead silence, annoying clapping and syrupy praise.  Does the app know when a child is stuck and provide an appropriate prompt?  

Does it engage the learner? 
Most of my students have difficulty regulating their attention to a task, so this can be a challenge.  

How many and what type of skills can be targeted? 
I want a lot of bang for the buck or if it covers only a few skills, I expect that it does it very well. I like open ended apps that allow for creation of materials or lessons that can support skills across all domains. 

Does it provide a parent guide or other support for parents? 
Apps that do this get huge bonus points in my book.  I am always looking for apps that will help in building the capacity of parents in supporting their child’s development.  

Does it promote co-engagement (multiplayer, turn taking, etc.)?
Again, this is a big bonus and many times these are the apps I go to first.  

Can the tool be adjusted to the learner's level, challenging but not too frustrating?
Obviously I have students who vary greatly in their developmental needs, therefore I need apps that also vary.  If the learner is stuck, please adjust the task, giving a salient cue, so we don't have a tantrum!  

Can data be collected?
I am a special education teacher, I like data. 

Can a product be created and shared?
A product is data, something I can share with others to demonstrate the child’s progress and learning. Additionally, products created by these creative, curious minds and little hands and voices are adorable and parents love to get them.    

Can this technology promote and support play skills? Physical activities? Social engagement? Problem solving? Reflecting?  Planning?
If an app can help me teach play, pretend, and social skills, I am all for it.  Apps that encourage outdoor exploration, physical activity, problem solving and collaboration are a beautiful thing.  

So taking all these things into consideration, here is a link to the rubric.  I included links on the document to other resources regarding this topic.  This is a draft, I would appreciate feedback that would make this rubric more useful.  If I could fine tune it, maybe our EC staff could use it when selecting apps.  As it stands right now, I think it is way too lengthy to be useful so I might need to whittle it down.  Do you have more questions you consider when selecting apps for young learners?  Were some of the criteria redundant?  Which ones were more important, which ones were less important?  Please leave comments on the Google Doc or comment on this blogpost

ECSE App All Star: Alien Assignment

The Fred Rogers Center developed this scavenger hunt type app and it is one of their best yet. The child is introduced to a cute (non threatening), group of aliens who have a broken ship.  The child is asked to take pictures of objects that can be readily found in the environment in order to help repair the ship.  The aliens describe what is broken, using some great vocabulary concepts in their description.  In some cases, the request is a label such as "find a doorknob" or the request is a related to a concept such as "find something heavy".  The child is asked to take 4 pictures.  The only thing I would change is adding the ability to repeat the prompt because several times the child forgot the prompt as they were walking around the room searching.   

The windshield is broken, find something you can see through.
When the child has taken all of the pictures, he is prompted to give the phone to an adult.  This app gets bonus points for including caregivers in the activity, it is a great app for playing together.  The adult's job is to review the pictures, selecting a thumbs up if the picture matches the request.  If a thumbs down is given, the prompt is repeated and another picture can be taken.   When all of the pictures pass adult inspection, the aliens review the repairs and thank the child for the assistance. This app is useful in Early Childhood Special Education and speech therapy because many of the concepts presented are common targeted concepts in the area of receptive communication skills.  I also appreciate that the app gets kids up and moving, engaging that brain and connecting the real world to the virutal world!  It is also an opportunity to practice recall.  At the end of the activity you can work with the child on recalling  the 4 prompts and pictures. The pictures are not saved to the camera roll so the adult needs to practice some recall skills too.  At the end of the activity you could also do a drawing activity, encouraging the child to draw a picture of one of the objects they photographed, or draw a picture of the aliens.   This app could also be used with parents on home visits.  An early intervention teacher could model the use of this app, demonstrating all of the opportunities it provides for working on a variety of skills. Many thanks to the Fred Rogers Center for this app.  

The compass is broke, help by finding something that points!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Digital Story created with Strip Designer: Ten Apples Up on Top

My summer days have been filled with sun, lakes, gardening, volleyball and 100 degree days. But, it won’t be long and my thoughts will turn to crisp leaves, cool weather and apples.  Fall is my favorite season in Minnesota.  Mother nature paints the trees with vibrant colors and the trees at the local orchards are brimming with crunchy, crisp apples. In our preschool program, one of the first themes of the year is apples.  The preschool rooms smell like cinnamon and applesauce, students are voting for their favorite apples, and apple art projects decorate the doors and halls.  

One of our favorite books to read during our apple theme is Ten Apples Up on Top, by Dr. Seuss.  My goal for this iPad activity was to create a class counting book based on this book, so I turned to the app, Strip Designer.  Strip Designer is a comic book creating app that is very useful for digital storytelling, social stories and the creation of other visuals.  One of the handy features of this app is the ability to create your own stickers.

Here are screenshots of some sample pages. If you don't want to use real photos, you could use drawings instead.  For the second example, the child created the drawing on Doodle Buddy, saved it to the Photo Album and then I added it to a page.   

Set up:  Take a picture of each child in various poses, check out the book for inspiration.  Make sure to  leave plenty of space between the top of the child's head and the top of the photo.  Find an image of an apple you want to use for the sticker and download it into the Photo Album on the iPad.  

Create the comic book
Step 1: Open the Strip Designer app, choose Create New. Choose a page from the templates.
Step 2:  Add Photos and Text:  Tap Add Photo, choose Photo Album.  Choose a photo of a child.   Tap on text, add text. 
Step 3:  Add pages:  Tap Page (bottom left), then + on the bottom of the left hand sidebar.  This will add a page.  Repeat Step 2 with each child. 

Create the apple sticker
Step 1: Tap Add and a new menu will appear.  Tap Sticker, then Your Stickers.  Tap the +, then choose Photo Album and tap the apple image. 
Step 2: Choose the eraser tool and erase the white background around the apple. You will see a blurred image as you erase. You can resize the eraser tool to make it easier to get close to the edges of the apple. Select Save when the sticker is ready.  


Add sticker/s to page:  
Select the newly added sticker from Your Stickers.  Add the corresponding number of stickers to each page and resize the apple so they will all fit on the student's head.  Have the child drag the apples to the top of his or her head, counting them as they are added. Repeat this process for each child.

Share your final product:
Select Share (top right), preview the pages by tapping the arrow.  To do more editing, tap Back.  If the book is ready, select Share.  There will be several options for sharing.  You can open as a PDF in iBooks, email the PDF or send it to iTunes.  

Additional apple activities:  The blog, Toddlerbrain has some fun ideas for hands on counting and large motor (balancing apples on your head).  Mrs. Nelson's class shares many examples of creative apple activities for Kindergarten.  You Tube has an animated reading of the book, Ten Apples Up On Top. 

This app is easy to navigate.  I was able to create the pages quickly.  I used the app to create more traditional looking comics with some family vacation photos.  It was a unique way to document our summer road trip.  My next use of this app will be to create a class book for Caps for Sale, using some hat stickers.  Any other ideas?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Creating an interactive Visual Schedule on the iPad using Pages

I have not purchased a visual schedule app yet.  I know there are many available, I just haven't taken the time to research the apps and make a decision.  Our department uses schedules with many of our students for many different reasons.  We go through a large amount of expensive laminating film and velcro to create the schedules.  As an alternative, my co-worker recently created some schedules for her Interactive White Board. On the IWB, she used a garbage can for the "all done" box and she figured out how to move objects to the front and back so that the schedule pictures can hide behind the trash can.  As she demonstrated this activity, I remembered seeing this same "move to the front" and "move to the back" option while working with the Pages app on the iPad.  I tried this on the iPad using Pages and Keynote, it is a very similar process for both apps. Here is a video demonstration of the process using Pages.

Here is the process in screenshots.  The first two screenshots demonstrate how to add the pictures, create the grid and add the numbers using a text box. To make locating the pictures a little easier,  I created a Schedule Pictures album in my photo album app.  

After all of the pictures are in place, the garbage can needs to be moved to the front and the other pictures need to be moved to the back.  The screenshot above demonstrates how to do this.  First, tap the garbage can, then the paintbrush.  Move the switch to the far right, so the garbage can will be in the front.  Repeat this process with each schedule picture, moving the switch to the far left so that the schedule pictures will be in the back.  Make sure the schedule pictures are smaller than the garbage can so that they can be completely hidden when moved behind the can.

This schedule can be projected during circle time, allowing you to move each item to the garbage can when it is completed.  To move the object, tap on it until the blue box appears, then drag it to the garbage can.  You could also use Pages and the iPad to make a work station schedule, individual student schedule, or a sequence board for dressing and other tasks. Our program uses horizontal schedules, but you could make a vertical schedule by rotating the items.  It takes some practice and patience to become proficient at rotating objects on the iPad, but it can be done!  I am going to continue to post some other ideas for activities using Pages and Keynote, they are very versatile apps. 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Preschool voting with the iPad

We all scream for ice cream!  Need a way to decide what kind of ice cream to serve at the end of the year preschool party?  Model a great decision making strategy for your class by voting.  Voting provides opportunities to practice many skills. Voting can be an individual or a group lesson.  A child can travel around the school, polling adults, practicing social skills along the way. Skills such as greeting others, initiating interactions and asking questions such as "what is your favorite ice cream?", can be targeted. The entire class can get involved by setting up a polling station so that each child can cast his or her vote.  Higher level thinking skills can be promoted by asking students to predict the results of the poll and compare their prediction with the results.  Counting, one to one correspondence, assigning numerals to sets of numbers and writing numbers are other skills that can be practiced when determining the results of the poll.  The concepts of more, less, many, same, equal, and few, can be emphasized when analyzing the results.  

The iPad can be used as a polling device for your next voting lesson.  In the first example, I used the Pages app to create a template to open in Doodle Buddy.  In the Pages app, I inserted images of two different flavors of ice cream on a blank page and then took a screen shot of the page by pushing the home button and power button at the same time.  I cropped the Pages border out of the picture using the editing features in the Photo app on the iPad.  The next step is to open the Doodle Buddy app and select the tic tac toe icon, then select Photos.  Locate the screenshot on your camera roll and select it.  Tap the chalk icon and choose a color to make your dividing line.  Next, choose the stamp icon and select a stamp for voters to use to indicate their selection.

In the second example, I used Pages to create a template, adding a table to create a basic graph.  

If you do not have the app, Pages, you could make the templates on your computer with another program and then use Dropbox to transfer the template to your iPad.  Another alternative is using the drawing tool in Doodle Buddy to make the template.  You could draw pictures to represent the choices and then draw a grid. Take a screenshot of this template and then open it from the Tic Tac Toe icon. If you want to discuss the results with the group, you can connect the iPad to the projector.  Have fun voting!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Presentation for parents: Using Video with Young Children

In my previous post, I discussed the responsibility early educators and parent educators have to help prepare parents of young children to navigate the digital world.  I also referred to an assignment I was completing for my technology class.  I finished the assignment and I thought I would share it as an example of the types of materials we could be creating for parents. I completed a lesson plan that is intended for use with parents, but the presentation could easily be adapted for use with early education professionals.  Using a Google presentation as a guide, this lesson leads parents through information about using video with young children.  The presentation includes links to articles, videos and activities.  This lesson could be used with parents in a group situation such as an Early Childhood Family Education parent session or could be used with an individual parent on a homevisit.  Here is a link to the lesson plan template that acts as a facilitator guide.  This lesson could also be used by the parent independently, without a facilitator.

I am not as familiar with Google documents as I would like to be, I am still learning, so this presentation is a little rough around the edges.  It is not professional looking by any means but it provides a solid starting point for content.  I plan to develop more of these and hope to increase my skills with technology so that they look a little more polished.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Skill Set for 21st Century Parents of Young Children

As an early intervention teacher, an important part of my job is supporting parents in their understanding of child development.  Parenting is a undoubtedly a tough job, and these little ones do not come with a manual.  Parents are navigating the world of tantrums, potty training, biting and picky eating.  Parenting in the 21st century brings the additional daunting task of learning to navigate through the world of technology that is permeating our lives and the lives of our children.  In my experience, much like educators, there are parents who embrace technology and those who see it as inherently evil.  Either way, technology can not be ignored and parents need to be media smart.

Working on an assignment for my technology course prompted me to write this blog post.  I am creating a lesson plan that is supported by technology.  I chose parents as my students.  The objective of my lesson is to provide parents of preschoolers and toddlers information about using video with their children.  On the lesson plan template, I was instructed to list learner standards that are addressed through my lesson.  The International Society for Technology in Education, ISTE, provides standards related to technology skills for teachers and students, but I couldn't locate any formal standards for parents.  My findings included many suggestions that I could adapt into a standard like statement, but, a majority of these suggestions were meant for parents of older children and were frequently specific to social media.  In this post, I wanted to create my own list of skills, specific to parents of preschoolers and toddlers.  I was going to call these, "standards", but then realized that sometimes the word "standards" conjures up a negative image and feeling in educators.  Instead, I decided to call this a skill set. Here is my recommended skill set for parents of preschoolers and toddlers related to technology.  I have included a parallel skill set for educators who support parents of young children.

1.  Parents need to have a foundational knowledge of what is developmentally appropriate for their child so that they are using appropriate technology in an appropriate way.  Parents of children with special needs need to have a strong understanding of their children's needs and learning styles so that they can be successful in using technology to support their child's learning.

Implications for parent educators:  Helping parents understand their child's unique strengths and needs is often the primary focus of early interventionists.  This process should be well established so it can be applied to discussions around the use of technology to support learning.  Educators need to know how to apply all that we know about supporting children's development to the use of technology.  Educators need to know how to model developmentally appropriate use of technology and teach parents guiding principles for selecting appropriate digital media and technology.

2.  Parents need to understand the impact technology can have on their child's development and learning.  Basically they need to know the good, the bad and the ugly.  Parents need to understand how the proper application of technology can enhance and support their child's development.  They also need to understand how uninformed decisions can lead to inappropriate use which can have a negative impact on their child's development.

Implications for parent educators:  Educators need to be involved in the ever increasing discussions that are occurring in our field related to technology.  There is a great deal of conflicting, confusing and sometimes controversial research and opinions related to this topic.  Educators need to access current information and discussions so that they can provide parents with  assistance in sorting through all the hype, and developing guidelines for the use of technology that they are comfortable with and can support in their home.  A great starting point for educators is becoming familiar with the recently released joint position statement from the National Association for Education of Young Children and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning: Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8.   

3.  Parents need to know how their children will be using technology. They need to know how to use the technology.  It is very difficult to monitor and guide the use of the technology a child is accessing if you do not know how to use it.

Implications for parent educators:  Educators need to have a basic understanding of a variety of technology so they can guide parents.

4.  Parents need to know how to find reputable sources for information related to technology so that they can make informed decisions.

Implications for parent educators:  Educators need to filter and collect information to share with parents, building a broad base of resources to pull from in order to support the parent.  Educators need to teach parents how to filter and collect information.

5.  Parents need to know how to set limits, monitor use, and provide the safest experience possible for technology use.  

Implications for parent educators:  Educators need to provide training to parents in these strategies and/or lead them to resources so they can learn this on their own.

6.  Parents need to be appropriate role models in their use of technology in order to get their toddler or preschooler started on the journey towards being a good digital citizen.  Parents need to model balance and moderation.  They need to be aware of what they are viewing in their child's presence.  They need to understand the value of and model "unplugged" alternatives to media use such as creative play, reading, outdoor activities, and family time away from technology.

Implications for parent educators:  Educators need to encourage balance and moderation, highlighting the importance of "unplugged" activities in child development.  Educators need to guide parents in finding interactive uses of technology.  Educators should develop examples of ways in which technology might be used to support outdoor play, art, creative play, and other tried and true ingredients to a happy, healthy childhood.

I know this is just the beginning of a list of skills that would be helpful for a 21st century parent of young children to possess.  This same set of basic skills applies to parents of children with special needs, yet there may be some additional considerations for these parents.  Maybe that will be a topic of a future post. What skills would you add to this list?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Making You Tube more child friendly on the iPad

There are many reasons for using video with young children.  Video can enhance learning and provide visual representations the children may not otherwise be able to experience.  Video is very engaging and motivating to young learners.  The built in You Tube app on the iPad has made accessing You Tube very easy.   Early childhood teachers and parents are sometimes hesitant to use You Tube because there are very few safety features and it seems that everyone has horror stories related to searches gone terribly wrong or inappropriate related videos being displayed.  Even the comments related to each video can be offensive. To address these very valid concerns, I have been working on finding strategies that may lessen a teacher or parent's apprehension in using You Tube.        
Parents and teachers  have the option of disabling You Tube under the Restrictions section of Settings, so that the app can not be used on the iPad.  Here are a few alternatives to restricting the app.   Here are some less drastic alternatives that may make hesitant teachers and parents more comfortable.  To make You Tube more child friendly, parents and teachers should consider creating an account and playlists.  Having an account allows you to subscribe to child friendly channels such as Seasame Street, Yo Gabba Gabba, and the Houston Zoo.  By creating playlists, you are screening and collecting appropriate content for your child or students.  Once you create playlists, they can be accessed through the "favorites" tab on the bottom of the app home screen.  All of your playlists will be listed on the left hand side of the screen after you have selected the "playlists" tab at the top of the screen.  I think the app is more child friendly than the website because when you watch a video on the app, the comments do not appear unless you select the "comment" tab.  The comments are often guilty of being inappropriate.
You Tube playlists on iPad

I have been using the built in You Tube app, but was very excited when I heard about an app that makes You Tube much more child friendly.  The app, iTube Listimports your playlists and when the video is playing there are no comments or related videos.  Children can only see and play videos you have approved.  There is also a feature that can be accessed through the settings which allows an adult to set an alert that acts as a timer, warning a child that his or her time on the app is done.  The app has been "buggy" at times and has quit suddenly.  There are ads in the bottom corner of the play screen if you don't change it to full screen.  At the time of this posting, the app was being offered at no cost. 
iTube list home screen
Weet Woo is another popular You Tube related app.  This app does not allow you to import your playlists.  Instead, the makers of the app, collect kid friendly content.  You can choose an age range in order to access the most appropriate videos.  I often use this app to get ideas for appropriate videos to add to my playlists.   
Our department has also started a collaborative Google Doc.  The purpose of the document is to collect and share early childhood friendly videos that can be added to playlists.  We add videos as hyperlinks so that the person viewing the document can click on the link and be taken directly to the video.  We organize the videos by theme, and other categories such as books, songs, parent education, child development, and flashcards.  

These tips and suggestions are helpful in making You Tube something that parents and teachers are comfortable letting young children access.  Please share any of your helpful tips.    

Monday, April 30, 2012

Click n' Talk and Talk'n Photos Apps

On Saturday, I presented at a wonderful, well organized Autism Resource Fair, sponsored by Autism Allies. I was asked to give a general overview of the iPad and how it may be beneficial for individuals with autism and to highlight some apps. I had a difficult time deciding which apps to highlight in the category of augmentative alternative communication (AAC). This group of apps gets a majority of the press coverage related to individuals with special needs. The obvious choice was Proloquo2go. This app has received a great deal of attention, rightfully so, as it is a well designed, useful app. It comes with a large price tag. Many have pointed out that in comparison to other comparable AAC devices which we're thousands of dollars, $189.00 seems very reasonable. Yet, in the world of apps, this is very steep. I decided to highlight Proloquo2Go and My First AAC which has a more moderate price point of $24.99. As I was preparing the presentation, I received an email from a colleague about two apps that were free for the day. I downloaded them and tried them out. I then added them to the list of AAC apps. I really liked this price, free! Even now that the sale is over, the apps are only $2.99.

The apps are Click n' Talk and Talk'n Photos. They were developed by a school district in Minnesota. The district supported a group of teachers who wanted to develop an app to meet a specific need and the results are wonderful. AAC is only one of many possible uses for these apps. 

In ten minutes, I created a simple communication board for snack time using Talk'n Photos. You can add text and audio to the picture. Each photo is 2x2 which is quite standard. You can use your own photos or import from the web.  The grids are three across and unlimited vertically. I added messages with "I want" along with the name of the food. When you select a message, the screen stays on the grid page.  To leave an album, an arrow at the top is selected. As a communication device, this is an easy, affordable start.

Talk'n Photos Album Page, I created the Snack album, the other two are examples that came with the app.

Talk n' Photo message page.

Talk n' Photos can support many other objectives.  Grids could be created for vocabulary building, language concepts, social stories, sequencing a self help routine and visual schedules.  I hope to share other examples as our staff begins to use the app.


Click n' Talk is a little different from Talk n' Photos in presentation.  The grid is similar but when you select a picture, the selection enlarges to the entire screen, the picture needs to be selected again for the message to play.  Arrows allow you to navigate between photos.  This app may be better suited for social stories and customized books.  I created an art and snack album.  I added numbers to request a quantity for snack. 

Album page, I created an Art and Snack album.  The Milo album is a sample story that came with the app.
Snack Album page, when you select yogurt the next image will appear. 

Here is a link to a video showing a student using Click n' Talk.  I hope to post more examples soon.  Please share how you are using these apps with young learners or learners with special needs.  Thanks!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Doodle Buddy iPad lesson ideas: Creating templates using stamps.

The stamp tool on the Doodle Buddy app, is an easy way to create simple worksheets.  To encourage fine motor practice, I often tape pictures to a large whiteboard and create templates similar to the following examples.  This post illustrates how you can use Doodle Buddy stamps to adapt these whiteboard activities for the iPad.  The stamps work well for working on the concepts of big and little because you can adjust the size of the stamp.  You could create a template for sorting zoo and ocean animals.  Sequencing and counting can also be targeted skills.  I am sure you will think of many more applications!  

Begin by choosing the stamp icon. In this menu you can choose the stamp and the size of the stamp. To draw the path, switch to the chalk by selecting the chalk icon. On the new menu, select the chalk icon at the top of the menu, you can adjust the line width and color using this menu as well.  In the previous Doodle Buddy post I suggested taking a screen shot to save the template.  Another option is to select the wrench icon.  In the new menu, select "Save to Photo Album".  

To use the template, select the tic tac toe icon, then photos, then the picture of the template.  I recommend locking the screen orientation at this point so it is not turning as the student is trying to complete the activity.  If you want to save the student's work, select the wrench and then "Save to Photo Album".  To clear the template for additional use, select the trash can or gently shake the iPad. 

Here is an example of a sequencing template.  

Here is an example of a counting template.  

There is a post on the ASHAsphere blog that highlights the use of the GlowColoring app to spice up worksheets used in speech therapy.  How are you using Doodle Buddy to create templates?  What other apps are you using to create templates?