Apps to Get Them Chatting A mobile device doesn’t have to be a conversation-stopper. Some apps can help keep your clients’ conversation flowing. App-titude
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App-titude  |   November 01, 2016
Apps to Get Them Chatting
Author Notes
  • Sean Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP, is a clinician and technology specialist in private practice at the Ely Center in Needham, Massachusetts, and consultant to local and national organizations 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 a clinician and technology specialist in private practice at the Ely Center in Needham, Massachusetts, and consultant to local and national organizations on technology integration in speech and language interventions. His blog, SpeechTechie, looks at technology “through a language lens.” sean@speechtechie.com×
Article Information
Telepractice & Computer-Based Approaches / Normal Language Processing / App-titude
App-titude   |   November 01, 2016
Apps to Get Them Chatting
The ASHA Leader, November 2016, Vol. 21, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.APP.21112016.np
The ASHA Leader, November 2016, Vol. 21, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.APP.21112016.np
Conversation is key to communication. It involves storytelling, listening and responding—skills that may be, and often are, hampered by the presence of a mobile device.
However, our devices and mobile apps can play a helpful role in visually supporting conversation through prompts, strategies and models. Check out these apps and technology strategies to get your clients talking and interacting.
Prompt it
Use topical and visual prompts—often more engaging for clients than using paper, card or photo resources—to initiate conversation. Conversation Therapy ($24.99 for iOS, free to try), designed to spark a conversation among middle school and older participants, provides a toolkit of photo and question prompts. The app promotes critical thinking skills around topics and conversation by framing questions according to simpler uses of language (describing or defining), and scaling up to more complex questions about discussing feelings, inferring and predicting, and storytelling.
For the younger set, Talking Together ($9.99 for iPad) shows a spinning question and topic wheel that scripts the use of questions in simple social categories such as “about me,” school, recreation and favorites.
Both apps provide a systematic interface that allows for tracking of responses, and in the case of Talking Together, potential student goals and objectives.
Structure it
We can teach conversational behaviors as a series of actions, from storytelling and describing to commenting and questioning in response to others. My iPad is indispensable in displaying visuals related to this process, including cue cards for story structure, wh-questions, and the thinking that underlies commenting.
The desktop or mobile versions of PowerPoint and Keynote, available for multiple devices and platforms, provide great tools to construct visual supports to help clients organize language. Doodle Buddy (free for iOS) or Drawing Desk (free for Android) have drawing and writing tools to construct visual sketches and comics on the fly. A good practice is to save visual supports in iBooks or similar repositories for quick access when you need them.
Model it
App developers continue to apply the evidence base of video modeling—using video displays of specific targeted behaviors in the context of social situations such as conversation. Everyday Speech has an ever-expanding library of digital video supports, for various skills and levels, viewable on a computer or mobile device web browser. A free 30-day trial allows you to preview the entire library ($99/year to subscribe), which includes videos on essential conversational skills such as topic management, making connected comments, and balancing talk time.
You can also use your mobile device camera—along with video shooting and editing apps such as iMovie (free for iOS) or similar video production apps for Android—to create videos, or check out specialized apps such as iModeling ($9.99 for iOS).
Script it
Some students may be uncomfortable with video practice and role play, so another option is cartoon-based tools that offer engaging visuals and a comforting distance from direct work. Plotagon (free for iOS), mentioned in this column previously, is a powerful tool for scripting conversational behaviors. Develop a written script targeting relevant skills at your client’s pace and comfort level, and animated characters will speak the conversation, providing a doorway to potential generalization.
For younger students, animation apps like the fantastic Toontastic (free for iOS) allow you to scaffold and record verbal exchanges within a playset-like interface. Using the interface, you can move character and prop “toys” while screen-recording movement and conversational dialogue.
Play it
Having a long conversation around a table may not be in young children’s developmental “zone.” The key behaviors of storytelling, questioning and commenting can be fostered through play-based apps such as those from Dr. Panda and Toca Boca (various prices and platforms). With these apps and your scaffolding, students can engage with one another in play contexts such as a hospital, store or racetrack. Better yet, use minimal toys and other objects (a box can serve as so many things!) to help students transfer these scripts to real-world play.
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November 2016
Volume 21, Issue 11