Welcome to Science Class Not comfortable in the chem lab? No worries. Apps can help you wow students with science in a controlled, language-based way. App-titude
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App-titude  |   September 01, 2014
Welcome to Science Class
Author Notes
  • Sean Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP, is an SLP and technology specialist working in private practice at the Ely Center in Newton, Mass., and consultant to local and national organizations on technology integration in speech and language interventions. His blog, SpeechTechie (www.speechtechie.com), looks at technology “through a language lens.” sean@speechtechie.com
    Sean Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP, is an SLP and technology specialist working in private practice at the Ely Center in Newton, Mass., and consultant to local and national organizations on technology integration in speech and language interventions. His blog, SpeechTechie (www.speechtechie.com), looks at technology “through a language lens.” sean@speechtechie.com×
Article Information
Telepractice & Computer-Based Approaches / App-titude
App-titude   |   September 01, 2014
Welcome to Science Class
The ASHA Leader, September 2014, Vol. 19, 44-45. doi:10.1044/leader.APP.19092014.44
The ASHA Leader, September 2014, Vol. 19, 44-45. doi:10.1044/leader.APP.19092014.44
Do speech-language pathologists need to be science experts? No, of course not. But using science in your work with students is a double bonus, helping them develop language strategies and science knowledge simultaneously.
By using science, we scaffold students’ success in the classroom (which is, after all, why they receive our services!). With “curriculum-relevant therapy,” as it’s called by SLP and educational-relevance maven Barbara Ehren, SLPs can use science contexts to teach the “language underpinnings” of the curriculum: vocabulary, descriptive schema, text structure such as lists and sequences, and complex syntax.
That’s where apps come in. Their interactivity provides a hands-on science- and language-learning experience that is simple to plan.
Leaf-IDing and chemicals reacting
Take Leafsnap (free for iOS), which has been on my and many others’ list of best science apps for several years. The app is an electronic “field guide,” allowing you to snap and “scan” a photo of a leaf to identify a tree. In a recent lesson with a social cognition group, we used this app to emphasize social concepts before going out to collect leaves, and schematic language aspects (such as the difference between a flower, bush and tree). Through the fun experiences of exploration and scanning, this app provides great visuals of leaves and tree parts to develop observation skills and descriptive language.
Tying science to real life can also be very helpful for students with language disorders. goReact, from the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, is a prime example of making chemistry practical and accessible (free for iOS, and Android). This interactive periodic table allows for not only working with categories of chemicals, but also for dragging elements together to form reactions that produce compounds helpful in real life. The “Featured Reactions” tab provides guides to “make” chemicals used in personal and household products, electronics and automobiles, and environmental processes. goReact features vibrant pictures that support comprehension, description, narration, conditional language and even following directions.
Stargazing and life cycles
Astronomy is a curriculum theme that’s continually revisited, from the simplicity of seasons to the complexity of planetary bodies. At any level, Star Chart (free for iOS, and Android) is a window on the heavens, with kinesthetic learning to boot! Move your device across the sky, and the app uses augmented reality technology to display the stars and planets above. Selections within the app display detailed pictures and text related to topics such as the planets and phases of the moon. Your SLP lens will easily detect the underpinnings of vocabulary and descriptive language that can be tapped with this app.
A helpful series of science apps for iOS from Sprout Labs ($1.99–2.99) covers topics from plant, butterfly and water cycles to identifying rocks and minerals. Each app explores a key topic with supportive images, videos and quizzes, tapping not only knowledge but higher-level thinking, aligning with Bloom’s Taxonomy and the Common Core State Standards.
For young learners, the Smithsonian’s Shutterbugs Wiggle and Stomp is a simulated trip to the National Zoo to observe animals and “photograph” them. In the process, students follow auditory directions and can practice verbs and -ing forms. This activity is available for free across multiple platforms: for iOS, Android and on the Web for laptops and desktops.
And don’t forget the vast array of interactive science activities available at sites such as www.learningscience.org. The many “virtual labs” featured here develop scientific understanding along with vocabulary, sequencing and complex language. Many of these sites are Flash-based but can be accessed on a laptop, Android device or through a “flash-enabled” iPad browser such as Puffin ($3.99.
Here’s to many new “discoveries” this school year!
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September 2014
Volume 19, Issue 9