Apps That Help Students ‘Get It Done’ Looking to support students with executive-functioning problems? These apps aid regulation, situational awareness, planning and time management. App-titude
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App-titude  |   May 01, 2015
Apps That Help Students ‘Get It Done’
Author Notes
  • Sarah Ward, MS, CCC-SLP, is co-director of Cognitive Connections, a center for executive-function skill development in Concord, Massachusetts. She speaks domestically and internationally on practical strategies for students with executive-function challenges. swardtherapy@aol.com
    Sarah Ward, MS, CCC-SLP, is co-director of Cognitive Connections, a center for executive-function skill development in Concord, Massachusetts. She speaks domestically and internationally on practical strategies for students with executive-function challenges. swardtherapy@aol.com×
  • Sean Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP, is an SLP and technology specialist working in private practice at the Ely Center in Newton, Massachusetts, and is a consultant on technology integration in speech and language interventions. His blog, SpeechTechie, 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, Massachusetts, and is a consultant on technology integration in speech and language interventions. His blog, SpeechTechie, looks at technology “through a language lens.” sean@speechtechie.com×
Article Information
Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / Telepractice & Computer-Based Approaches / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / App-titude
App-titude   |   May 01, 2015
Apps That Help Students ‘Get It Done’
The ASHA Leader, May 2015, Vol. 20, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.APP.20052015.np
The ASHA Leader, May 2015, Vol. 20, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.APP.20052015.np
“He has difficulty doing anything independently.”
“She’s always in a different place from the rest of the class.”
“This boy cannot organize his materials.”
Speech-language pathologists often hear these comments about students with possible executive-functioning challenges. With our broad understanding of the cognitive underpinnings of communication and learning—and our expertise in improving these processes—SLPs have much to offer students with these issues. Apps that promote visual learning and time management can support our work.
Where to start
A relaxed state of alertness is optimal for school performance. Apps can promote such a calm state through appealing visual scenes, auditory input or interactive experiences. Calm immerses you in nature via choices of vibrant scenes and audio tracks, along with timed or guided exercises. Many schools are implementing school-wide mindfulness programs based on evidence supporting these strategies.
Apps and electronic resources that support these efforts include the primary-geared Cosmic Kids Yoga Channel (on YouTube and at www.cosmickids.com), which features kid-friendly meditations and exercises promoting regulation and use of language about our thoughts.
Also consider apps that engage through simple interactions, such as tablet-based drawing apps or “experiences” like Epic Zen Garden (free for iOS) or Kaleido Free (for iOS), a kaleidoscope app that can quickly regulate students at the start of a session through a calming and engaging visual/tactile activity.
Make a plan
Executive function specialists and SLPs Sarah Ward and Kristen Jacobsen endorse visual teaching strategies and catchy language to support the metacognition of executive functioning. They describe their work in several recent Perspectives issues (bit.ly/ashasa, bit.ly/ashaclinicalef) and include models such as “STOP”—assessing and teaching the student awareness of situations through the details of Space, Time, Objects and People. The authors also describe how to break down tasks using a “Future Picture” of the completed activity with photos or sketches, and analysis of steps and materials needed through a process called Get Ready-Do-Done.
Apps offer a helpful complement to the highly visual instruction promoted by practitioners such as Ward and Jacobsen. One app that provides personally relevant images (such as classroom settings) and allows users to snap pictures and add annotation is the free and wonderfully simple Doodle Buddy (for iOS).
Doodle Buddy, a virtual drawing tablet that’s an engaging alternative to a whiteboard, allows you to sketch a plan for virtually any task, from school projects to group obstacle courses or recipes. The app also allows you to add a photo background and create a sketched overlay of aspects of a task or depicted situation, thereby providing endless contexts for more detailed visual analyses with clients. For a comparable Android-friendly app, consider the free Drawing Desk, also available for iOS.
Other apps capitalize on mobile devices’ imaging and video features. One is Can Plan (free for iOS with in-app purchase for full features), which allows for task analysis with photo and audio supports incorporated into a calendar. Another is Photosynth, which allows you to represent a location—a classroom, for example—with a client as a 360-degree photo; have the student move through the space as you photograph to represent a series of actions in the setting, such as completing a classroom chore. This app is free for iOS, or use the Panorama or Photo Sphere features of iOS or Android devices, respectively.
You can also use your device’s time-lapse photography to take and play back a “fast video” of expected actions to represent a mental dress rehearsal of a future activity or task (see the free Hyperlapse for iOS or Lapse It for Android).
Track time and tasks
Many students with executive-function challenges have difficulty managing their time. On a micro-level of tracking time in a work session, the free app 30/30 (for iOS) is useful for analyzing the stages of a task and setting time increments. Runtastic Timer (free for iOS and Android) offers a simpler option for setting a working interval followed by a break time.
For longer time spans, apps such as My Homework (free for iOS, and Android) or inClass (free for iOS) offer varying features for the teched-up assignment notebook, including the addition of photos to visually support tasks, and space to train students to include EF-based details, such as estimation of time needed for homework tasks. For students who require a more visual display of homework and project planning, Trello or RealTimeBoard offer options for integrating text, images, sketches and even files.
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FROM THIS ISSUE
May 2015
Volume 20, Issue 5