Thursday, November 24, 2011

Mind/Shift Post: Read, Hear, or Create a Story: Apps for Traveling with Kids", plus a few interesting links!

Today is Thanksgiving, and one of the things I'm thankful for is the opportunity to share interesting ideas and links with readers of this blog! (Cross-posted on the Interactive Multimedia Technology blog.)

The following post was written by Tina Barseghian, who is an editor/blogger at KQED/NPR for the Mind/Shift blog. Mind/Shift  focuses on ideas and technology that will impact the future of how we learn.  
Read, Hear, or Create a Story: Apps for Traveling with Kids Tina Barseghian, Mind/Shift, 11/23/11

Link to other Mind/Shift post collections:
Children and Social Media
Tech Tools
Mobile Learning
Digital Divide
School Day of the Future


Boredom Busters: 50 Fantastic Play-and-Learn Apps, Sites, and Toys
Tina Barseghian, Mind/Shift, 6/17/11

Libraries and Museums Become Hands-On Learning Labs 
Audrey Watters, Mind/Shift, 11/23/11
"A new competition sponsored by the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has just announced 12 winning libraries and museums that will receive $1.2 million in grant money to help push the boundaries of what these institutions look like, specifically helping to create facilities that are  better "learning labs" for teens"
Lauren Britton Smedley (Transliteracy Development Director a the Fayetteville Free Library)
IDEO's Design for Learning (Sandy Speicher, Duane Bray, Rachel Switzky)
K12 Laboratory at D. School (Stanford)
Books Should Be Free
StorynoryStorynory iTunes Library:  Podcasted stories for children, offers a free audio story every week, has some online multimedia activities.

Friday, November 04, 2011

CALL FOR PAPERS: Educational Interfaces, Software, and Technology, ACM CHI 2012

3rd Workshop on UI Technologies and Educational Pedagogy
May 5-6 2012
in conjunction with ACM-CHI 2012, Austin, Texas
This will be our third annual workshop in conjunction with CHI 2012.

One of the primary goals of teaching is to prepare learners for life in the real world. In this ever changing world of technologies such as mobile interaction, cloud computing, natural user interfaces, and gestural interfaces like the Nintendo Wii and Microsoft Kinect, people have a greater selection of tools for the task at hand. Teachers and students can leverage these tools to improve learning outcomes. Educational interfaces and software are needed to ensure that new technologies serve a clear purpose in the classrooms and homes of the future.

Since teachers are always looking for creative ways to engage 21st century learners, there needs to be an academic venue for researchers to discuss novel educational tools and their role in improving learning outcomes. This workshop aims at filling this void: combining the pedagogical expertise of the cooperative learning, and learning sciences communities with the technical creativity of the CHI, UIST and interactive surface communities. The objective of this workshop is to become a conference within two years.

We invite authors to present position papers about potential design challenges and perspectives on how the community should handle the next generation of HCI in education.

Topics of interest include:
    • Gestural input, multitouch, large displays
    • Mobile Devices, response systems (clickers)
    • Tangible, VR, AR & MR, Multimodal interfaces
    • Console gaming, 3D input devices
    • Co-located interaction, presentations
    • Educational Pedagogy, learner-centric, Child Computer Interaction
    • Empirical methods, case studies
    • Multi-display interaction
    • Wearable educational media
Submission: The deadline for workshop paper submissions is Dec 20, 2011. Interested researchers should submit a 4-page position paper in the ACM CHI adjunct proceedings style to the workshop management system. Acceptance notifications will be sent out February 20, 2012. The workshop will be held May 5-6, 2012 in Austin, Texas. Please note that at least one author of an accepted position paper must register for the workshop and for one or more days of the CHI 2012 conference.

Workshop Organizers:
Important Dates:

School Districts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and More!

A few years ago, social networking and media sites were seemingly frowned-upon by traditional K-12 school districts, but no more.   It is a great way to get the word out to parents, as well as the general public, about the positive things going on in our schools.

Below is just one of many examples.  High school students in the UCPS district sponsor a prom for students with special needs, including those who attend the program at Wolfe, one of the schools I serve as a school psychologist.  Below is a short video from the UCPS YouTube channel that features highlights of the most recent prom, which had a "Hollywood" theme.

(I'm home today with a stomach bug,  so I had a moment to share something positive about the great students in the UCPS district!)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Update; iGaze a[[ bu Dunedin Multimedia, good for group social skills activities

(This is cross-posted on the Interactive Multimedia Technology blog)

So what am I up to now?
I'd like to share with my readers that I've decided to continue in my present position as a school psychologist, while still devoting a portion of my free time to technology. From time-to-time I think deep thoughts about usability, accessibility,  and UX/Interaction related to off-the-desktop interactive multimedia applications running on screens of all sizes.  I'm hoping to create a few multimedia experiments using HTML5 and JavaScript, and explore jQuery if and when I can find the time!  

For the present school year, my main school is a program for students with more significant disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders.  My second school is a magnet high school for technology and the arts,  located on the same campus.  I also consult throughout the district on cases involving students who have suffered traumatic brain injuries, as well as students who have multiple disabilities.  I am thankful that I have a job in a school district that values 21st Century technology.  

I'm looking forward to another technology-rich school year. I've spent some of the time I usually devote to blogging devoted exploring iPad apps instead.  Since I'm new to the world of iPads, I'm still in discovery mode. What an adventure!

There are plenty of educational apps out there, and many of them are suitable for students with special needs.  On the other hand, there is much room for improvement - across all iPad app categories.  Since there is very little research about what makes up a killer app- or suite of apps- for students with special needs, experimenting with  iPad apps is uncharted territory. 

I made the decision to bring my personal iPad2 to work after I discovered a number of apps that I thought would be useful in my work as a school psychologist with students who have special needs, including autism spectrum disorders.

One of my intervention themes this year focuses on social skills.   This is especially important for students who participate in our schools community-based job training program.  I'm using some content from Unique Learning's transition materials,  as well as on-line activities from Do2Learn's JobTips website, because my aim is to facilitate social skills that will be useful in a variety of job and community settings.  

Although my main technology tool for working with groups is the SMARTBoard,  I've found that using a combination of interactive whiteboard and iPad activities to be especially effective.  I'm paving the way for more role-play activities in the future, and attempting to use technology to my advantage.

This past week, I used the iGaze app, created by Dunedin Multimedia, to help a group of high-school level students practice establishing and maintaining eye gaze, something that is difficult for most of them to demonstrate "in-person".  I was amazed.  Each student was excited to take his or her turn.  Even more amazing?  When each student took a turn, the other students looked at their eyes and faces.  No one rocked or "stimmed".  No one made noises.  I observed several instances of joint attention, much to my delight.   

Below is a video from Dunedin Multimedia's YouTube channel that is similar to what the students viewed during their group activity:

Here is some information from Dunedin Multimedia about the iGaze app:
"Eye contact is important to communication and social development, and yet the impaired ability to make and maintain eye contact is one of the most striking aspects of autism. iGaze is an eye contact simulator that can help to build confidence in using this important means of nonverbal social communication.  The app also contains information on eye contact and eye gaze, with links to relevant research."
During the social skills activity involving the iGaze app,  I used the SMART Board to display a large picture of a boss and a worker standing face to face, making eye contact, engaged in conversation.  The picture served as an anchor to remind the students of pictures and videos they'd previously viewed that illustrated the concept of face-to-face interaction and the importance of establishing eye-contact with others from time-to-time.

I'm hoping I will be able to access the YouTube videos from Dunedin so I can use them on the SMART Board. It will be interesting to see how this plays out!   I'm also planning to take a closer look at Dunedin Multimedia's emotion x app for the iPad.

Screen-shot of iGaze for the iPad Dunedin:

iPad Screenshot 1

The SMART Table at my school was updated today - I'm looking forward to using it for some group activities, now that it is back in working order and has new applications loaded up and ready to go!

If you are interested in learning more about technology related to students with special needs, be sure to check out Kate Ahern's blog, Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs

Kate's post about the features of Unique Learning Systems.

Upcoming:  more about tablets, interview with folks from Stantum, social-skills game-in-progress.....large displays in public spaces update....

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Songify for Instant Musical Social Stories?!

I just finished a digital social story for one of the students I work with who has autism, and I was thinking about ways I could add some music into his story...and the idea occurred to me that something like the Songify app might be just the thing I needed.   

What is Songify?  It is sort of like a reverse Karaoke.  Whatever you speak into your iPad or iPhone's microphone is immediately transformed by the app into a song.   Key phrases are repeated and integrated into the melody.   The free app comes with a few songs, stripped of the words/singing.  (There is an option to purchase additional songs through the App store.)

My first few attempts using Songify with students was to create personalized "All About Me" story-songs, in real time, during group activities in the classroom, with input from the students.  I also created a few story-songs that focused on positive behaviors - following the rules, listening to the teacher, kind hands,  waiting patiently,  calming down, etc.

Although Songify was designed to transform the spoken word into music, I found that it worked nicely with I spoke in "sing-song".   I experimented with variations of the following story/song:

"name" likes  to go to school, he/she likes to go to school, get on the bus and go to school...
"name" is so cool, "name" is so cool...
"name" likes to see my friends at school..
"name" likes to........   "name" likes to..  (play with friends at recess, learn about animals and their habitats,  go to music class... wear cool shoes... etc.)
"name" likes to go to school 

The students had a chance to share information about what they like, what they like about school, and so forth. Most had no problem participating for a 30 minute session!  


I can see quite a few uses for the app:
  • Use students' Songify creations as the narrative to digital social stories. This might be impressive on the SmartBoards - with the music coming from nice speakers rather than the small iPad.
  • Use the Songify creations as part of other group or class digital projects.  (Remember School House Rock?) 
  • Use Songify to create digital social stories for "on-the-job" routines and social skills.

The beauty of Songify is that it is simple to use- and it provides immediate, awesome feedback to the students.  I have a hunch that if Songify is used in a variety of ways, the novelty effect might be sustained

Cautions: If you work with students with significant special needs, you know how difficult it is to find activities and interventions that are effective - and also based on sound research.  The reality is that with budget cuts, it is difficult to implement interventions designed for classrooms with a higher adult-to-student ratio.  Technology can help, but iPad technology is  new.   It is highly unlikely that someone is researching the use of applications like Songify with students with special needs!

Reflection: I'm happy to have all of this technology at my fingertips.  Unfortunately, my digital life in my role as a school psychologist is far from seamless or "integrated".  Even the iPad2 requires a lot of work to create, move, share, and display content.  Mark Weiser would rolling in his grave.

Digital Stories in Schools and for Special Needs Children
LIS 5315 Course Wiki
SmartApps for Kids: a Dad's quest to find the best applications for the iPad and iPhone, 8/4/11 Intelligent Music Applications
"Khush Inc. develops intelligent music applications for mobile phones. The company was founded by music technology enthusiasts at the Georgia Tech Music Intelligence Lab."
Songify makes your speech into song, sort of

Rafe Needleman, Rafe's Radar, CNET News, 7/7/11


Mark Weiser, Scientific American, 9/1991
Note:  My school district has not ventured into the iPad world, so I'm using my personal iPad2 at work, along with a speech and language therapist.  The district purchased two Dell multi-touch tablet PCs for the school, but alas, there isn't an "App" system for Windows 7.  We'll be using multi-touch applications from the Open Autism Software Project with the Dells.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Quick Link and Video: InfoVis of Social Interactions of Children at School

Stehlé J, Voirin N, Barrat A, Cattuto C, Isella L, et al. 2011 High-Resolution Measurements of Face-to-Face Contact Patterns in a Primary School. PLoS ONE 6(8): e23176. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0023176

The article that explains it all:
Brandon Keim, Wired Science, 8/19/11 

The video: Contact patterns between the students. (Barrat et al./PLoS One)

Thanks to George Siemens for sharing this video!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Awesome Videoclip: AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) Technology at Summer Camp (via Kate Ahern)

This following video clip is an awesome example of how AAC technology (augmentative and alternative communication) can be integrated into a range of activities- learning, social, leisure, and creative, when everyone makes an effort to make it work- and not give up.  Thanks to Kate Ahern for sharing this!
The song in the background is "Talk", by Coldplay, a perfect fit for the theme. 
"This year's AAC Summer Camp students taught us a lot. This video highlights some important things to think about when it comes to augmentative and alternative communication." -Communicare LLC
Let's Go To AAC Camp! (Includes a list of AAC camps around the U.S.)

Communicare: Speech-language pathologist specializing in Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)
Communicare's resource page

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Resources for Transition and Job/Employment Supports for Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders (work in-progress)

I'm on a quest for more information about transition supports for young adults with autism spectrum disorders after they "age out" of the public school system. In NC, this usually takes place at age 21-22. Parents and guardians must piece together solutions after years of support from the "safe haven" of the school.  

There are many challenges.  From what I can tell, community programs designed to support young adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have not been established at the level required to serve the upcoming "boomlet" that will no longer be eligible for support from public school systems.    There is a need for more vocational rehabilitation counselors and job coaches who have extensive training and experience working with young people with ASD.  

If this is a topic that interests you, take the time to read the following paper:

Scott Standifer, Ph.D.    This document, in my opinion, is must-read for parents, educators, community job support professionals, VR counselors, etc.

The reality?  

Most existing programs and services for adults with significant disabilities were established when the numbers of youngsters with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) were low. At the same time,  funding for existing programs has been reduced in many communities across the U.S.   Job-skills training and employment opportunities are rare, given our current economic climate and the fact that a high percentage of non-disabled adults are unemployed.

In my opinion, advocacy is part of the solution. Parents, caregivers, guardians, and educators to become better-informed about what transition resources are currently available in their own communities. Perhaps more important is to learn about successful programs in other counties, regions, or states.    How was the program established?  How is the program funded?   If the program was established in collaboration with a university or community college,  find out about it and share the information with university/community college leaders in your area.   

The power of the web and digital media:
Although the number of "hands-on" programs might be disappearing, the Internet has the potential to provide a wealth of resources and a means for parents of young adults with disabilities to connect and share across regions.

To do my part for advocacy, I've started collecting resources related to transition for students with significant disabilities, including autism.  I will post these resources in a couple of months and welcome input from my readers.

In the meantime, I'd like to share a couple of website that I'm adding to my resource list. 

Do2Learn's JobTips
The folks from Do2Learn have created the Job Tips website, "designed to help individuals with disabilities such as autism spectrum disorder explore career interests, seek and obtain employment, and successfully maintain employment"

Although I found the site a bit difficult to navigate, it was worth taking the time to explore.  It includes extensive information about various jobs and careers, an on-line interest survey, social skills assessments, examples of job-specific environmental demands, and strategies for getting and keeping a job.  

Although some of the material is suitable for higher-functioning students with disabilities, there is plenty that can be used with students who have developed some basic job-task skills but have not yet developed the appropriate communication, coping, or social skills required for most workplaces.

On the site, I found a good number of video modeling clips for "on-the job" social and coping skills, something that I'm focusing on during group activities with the students I work with at Wolfe school.  I used some of the activities on the SMARTBoard with students last week, with success.   What I really would like is a "serious game" related to on-the-job social, coping, and conversation/ communication skills.  (It is possible that this wish might come true - stay posted for more information!)

The following information was taken from the Jobs4Autism website, a "resource of job success and job failure stories for individuals with autism, their family members, job coaches and caregivers. It allows everyone to share job ideas and help find long-term employment opportunities for those with autism."

Job4Autism was initially a collaborative project among four undergraduate students at the University of Notre Dame, guided by Professor Khalil Matta.  The project was taken over by NameStormers, as one of the company's founders is the parent of a young adult with ASD.

Posted for your convenience is a list of some of the links related to Jobs4Autism, from the NameStormers website. I've added some descriptive information for some of the resources. Below this section are other related resources.

Autism Transition Handbook (Online)
Jobs4Autism Facebook Page
CNN: 10 sites worth checking out if your child has autism
Jennifer Bixler, John Bonifield, CNN, 4/1/10

Temple Grandin's TED Talk: The world needs all kinds of minds 

"Temple Grandin, diagnosed with autism as a child, talks about how her mind works -- sharing her ability to "think in pictures," which helps her solve problems that neurotypical brains might miss. She makes the case that the world needs people on the autism spectrum: visual thinkers, pattern thinkers, verbal thinkers, and all kinds of smart geeky kids." 

Community Services for Autistic Adults and Children (Maryland)

"...a non-profit organization with a mission to provide a path for higher-functioning individuals on the Autism Spectrum to realize their potential through gainful employment"
Susan Senator, Author, Consultant, Mother of a young adult with ASD
Amelia Starr, Author, Consultant, Mother of a young adult with ASD
Lettuce Work Foundation (Ohio)
"The Lettuce Work Foundation is a non-profit 501c3 charity dedicated to serving young adults with autism and training them for the future. Our goal is to build a fully-operational, self-sustaining commercial greenhouse business that provides school-to-work transition services, job training and employment opportunities for young autistic adults in a professional work environment."

Autism Society of North Carolina
Autism Society's Transition to Adulthood Guidelines (pdf)
ASMC Supported Employment, Mecklenburg County, NC
TEACCH Supported Employment for Adults with Autism
TEACCH Types of Supported Employment Jobs
TEACCH Supported Employment Models
The Arc of North Carolina: Supported Employment Info
The Arc of Union County: Employment Services

Vocational Rehabilitation Service Models for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders Project
Current Trends in Autism Employment (pdf)
Scott Standifer, MU Disability Policy & Studies
Autism Works National Conference, March 3 & 4, 2011
"Nationally, the number of people with Autism applying for vocational rehabilitation services increased 300% from 2003 to 2008."

More to come!

Friday, August 05, 2011

BlogHer '11: Topics include technology& parenting, moms as chief home CTOs, social media for social good, and more!

The BlogHer '11 conference is full swing in San Diego, California. If you haven't heard of BlogHer, it is a "participatory news, entertainment and information network for women online", with a directory of over 22,000 blogs and a publishing network.

If I was at the BlogHer '11, I'd probably attend the track sponsored by Verizon, Parenting Magazine, and BlogHer:  "The Tie that Binds Parents and Child",  a topic that explores the use of technology by mom and kids.  

Here is the conference track description:
"Technology has revolutionized parenting. According to BlogHer's research, it's an incredible boon to most parents... helping them feel like they're in close contact with their children. In this session, Lynne Fleck-Seitz from TeleCommunication Systems, Inc. will moderate a discussion with Carrie Jacobson from Verizon, Catherine McManus from Parenting Magazine, and Jane Collins from BlogHer, who together will introduce their latest research on how moms feel about technology's role in their own lives, and in their relationship with their kids. Come find out if you're on the cutting edge of modern parenting!"

Below is a slide presentation from the BlogHer '11 conference:

E moms blogher and parenting 8 2, jkc  View more presentations from BlogHer

Tara Egan, blogger and fellow school psychologist, is the author of  the humorous blog, "Do These Kids Make Me Look Crazy".  I'm sure she's having a great time at BlogHer '11. 

The following chart is from an AdAge article about the above presentation:
"Start of the Day:  25% of Toddlers Have Used a SmartPhone"   Matt Carmichael, AdAgeStat, 8/4/11

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Great article about tech tools for communication, by Megan Bratti, MS, CCC-SLP

Being Conscious Caretakers of Communication Opportunities Created by New Technologies in Children's Speech and Language Therapy
Megan Bratti, PediaStaff, 6/24/11

In this article, Megan, a speech/language therapist, discusses the rapid advances in technologies that have the potential to support communication development among children.  Here is a quote from her post- I encourage you to read the entire article, as it provides links to good resources on this topic:

"....Caution: It is only through human feedback that the tool and the opportunity can be constructive.....All types of tools, whether they be books, bubbles, iPads, smartphones, crocodile dentists, white boards, or silly bandz, which all create communication opportunities – require constant human caretaking. You must think of yourself as part of a feedback loop: Child –>; human caretaker (SLP) –>; tool (tech device) –>; human caretaker (SLP) –>; child. Our brains are made up of mirror neuron cells. We are all simulators, players and parts of feedback loops. Play is mirroring. Play is simulation. Play is learning. Play is social. Children need us – SLPs, teachers, siblings, parents – to be facilitators, moderators, models, teachers, mirrors, and caretakers of these precious communication opportunities that new tech tools, like the iPad contribute to creating."

Thanks to Jeremy Brown for the link to this article!

If you work with, care about, or parent a young person with special needs, be sure to take a look at Jeremy Brown's AT Resources Wiki.  It is a goldmine.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

"RISE AND SHINE": TED talk video by Simon Lewis about his recovery from a serious brain injury, and how technology helped.

Simon Lewis was in an automobile accident that resulted severe injuries to his body, including a very severe head injury that left him in a coma.  As a result of his experience, he wrote a book, "RISE AND SHINE", covering his journey over 15 years of recovery and regeneration.  In the book, Lewis shares what he learned along the way, and how cutting edge technology and some non-traditional thinking helped him move forward.

Simon Lewis had the opportunity to discuss his journey at a TED partner event in India in December, 2010.   The following video of his talk is about 22 minutes long, but worth taking the time to watch. A variety of visuals are used to illustrate his journey and the research he did along the way. Near the end of the video, Simon Lewis demonstrates some of the technologies that he wears that supports his functioning.

Here is the blurb about the book from the Borders website:

"An impassioned tale of survival and recovery, this inspirational story recounts the author’s horrific car accident, his subsequent coma, and the more than 15 years of cutting-edge treatments and therapies endured during convalescence. With specific details of the rigorous rehabilitation process that ensued, including numerous breakthrough and experimental surgeries, the book also provides practical insight into navigating the treacherous world of insurance and how to differentiate between the often conflicting medical opinions offered. In addition to describing the numerous procedures undergone, the author tells not only of his pain, frustration, and despair, but also of his childlike wonder at the beauty and miracle of creation. A first-person account of sudden, unexpected tragedy and life-affirming courage, this remarkable tale of regeneration imparts lessons both medical and spiritual."

The Rise and Shine website includes many of the graphics used in Simon's video, and is worth taking some time to explore. Some of the graphics are interactive. (Since the website relies on Flash, it won't work if you try to access it using an iPad.)

Comment:  As a school psychologist with additional training in neuropsychology - specifically assessment and intervention for children and teens who have experienced traumatic brain injury (TBI), this topic is important to me.  I'm watching the video a second time, and I plan to read his book.

(Cross-posted on the Interactive Multimedia Technology blog.)

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Computational thinking across disciplines - an overview by Jeannette M. Wing, and a link to a C# programming course for school psychologists

I think every graduate level discipline should offer at least one computer programming class. In today's technological world, it makes sense that any discipline that requires students to take statistics should consider this idea!

One of the first steps to make this happen is to convince people from non-technical fields to learn more about computational thinking.  In my opinion, this needs to start at the university level so that each department has at least one tech-savvy professor who is inspired to figure out how computer programming and computational thinking can help further his or her discipline in some way.  

Below is  video of a presentation about computational thinking by Jeannette M. Wing, a professor of Computer Science and Department Head at Carnegie Mellon University.  If you have an hour to spare, you'll be treated to a good overview of the topic.

At any rate, I was happy to learn that there is a graduate course in C# programming offered by H. A. Chris Ninness, the director of the school psychology doctoral program at Stephen F. Austin State University.

"This course provides students with structured lessons and step-by-step guidance in computer programming while they learn to develop and deploy applications using object-oriented computer programming. Students will learn to develop and deploy applications using Object Oriented Programming (OOP) in the Visual C# 2008 /2010 language. The primary focus in this course will be on the 2008 version of Visual C#, supplemented with programming techniques from Visual Basic, C++, and ActionSript 3. Each class will include exercises, didactic instruction, Adobe notes, and hands on practice with an emphasis on developing and deploying a wide range of OOP techniques.
The course is designed to provide school and behavioral psychologists with the necessary skills to adapt their research agenda to the changing face of behavioral technology and applied human-computer interactive research. The course will show students how to computerize stimulus presentations and a wide range of data collection procedures (e.g., functional behavior assessment and rotation scan procedures). The course will provide details regarding the specific programming routines that can be customized and incorporated into human-computer interactive designs. A major component of the course will provide doctoral students in the school psychology program to conduct research based on stimulus equivalence and relational frame theory."

FYI:  I learned C# when I took "Artificial Intelligence for Game Development".  

Computational Thinking, Carnegie Mellon University

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Visiting and Revisiting Edubloggers' Posts


Vickie Davis, Cool Cat Teacher Blog

Vickie Davis, Cool Cat Teacher Blog

It's a Pedagogical Problem...
Bill Ferriter, The Tempered Radical, 3/11/09

The post links to this student-made video below, where the main character struggles with his "foreign learning tool",  his textbook, which simply will NOT hyperlink, enlarge photos, or allow the students to move around and share views of maps.

Communicating and Connecting with Social Media
Bill Ferriter, The Tempered Radical, 5/7/11 

Scott McLeod, Dangerously Irrelevant, 5/24/11

Vickie Davis, Cool Cat Teacher Blog

StoryVisit: A web-based story sharing/video chatting application that supports dialogic reading across the miles

I promised my colleagues at Wolfe School that I'd share something new and cool upon my return from a recent CHI 2011* conference.  

StoryVisit was one of the "take-aways" I brought back.  

is a web-based application developed to promote interaction between grandparents  (or parents) and children who are remotely located.  It is available on-line for free as part of a collaborative project between researchers from the Nokia Research Center, the Sesame Workshop, the University of Arkansas, and the MIT Media Lab

As soon as I saw the StoryVisit demonstration, I knew that the concept had potential to be useful to promote literacy and social communication among students with special needs, such as those who have autism spectrum disorders. (My story of how I tweaked StoryVisit for use with students is located near the end of this post.)

Credit: Nokia Research

One of the good features of the StoryVisit website is that it supports dialogic reading between the adult and child, by providing a Sesame Street character embedded in the story to help guide the process. 

According to Grover J. Whitehurst,  this method can support language development in young children.  In dialogic reading, the adult who reads with a child helps the child take a more active role in the process by following what is known as "PEER":    Prompting the child to talk about the story, evaluating the child's response, expanding the response by rephrasing and elaborating on what the child has said, and repeating the prompt to assess what the child has learned or grasped from the story.  This can include a discussion about the pictures that accompany the story, and questions that guide the child to think about the relationships between the characters, or prompts that help the child make predictions and draw inferences.

To get an understanding of the StoryVisit application, first take a look at how it works with adults and children - below are two related videos and an abstract from the StoryVisit presentation at CHI 2011 and a couple of related videos:

Here is short preview:

"StoryVisit allows children and long-distance adults to experience a sense of togetherness by reading children's story books together over a distance. StoryVisit combines video conferencing and connected books: remote grown-up and child readers can see and hear each other, and can also see and control the same e-book. We report on research with 61 families - over 200 users including parents, children and long-distance readers - who used StoryVisit in their homes with a long-distance reader for at least one reading session. In addition, we report qualitative findings regarding nineteen of the families who participated in telephone interviews and four families who were monitored and interviewed by researchers at home. Results show that connected e-book video chat sessions last about five times as long as the typical video chats reported in previous research on families with young children. Moreover, the addition of an animated character increased session lengths by another 50%. StoryVisit usage peaked for families with three year olds, showing that sustained distance interactions with very young children are possible if communication technologies incorporate joint activities that engage children and adults."

-Raffle, H., Revelle, G., Mori, K., Ballagas, R., Buza, K., Horli, H., Kaye, J., Cook, K., Freed, N., Go, J., Spasojevic, M. Hello, is grandma there? let's read! StoryVisit: family video chat and connected e-books CHI '11 Proceedings of the 2011 annual conference on Human factors in computing, ACM New York, NY, USA

Here's how I tweaked Storyvisit to work in a school setting:

On my first morning back at Wolfe, I decided to use StoryVisit with two high school-level students who have autism and cognitive delays.   My goal was to familiarize the students with Storyvisit so they could use it to read stories to younger elementary-level students with autism who are in a self-contained classroom.  I went to the Storyvisit website and registered Wolfe school as the "Wolfe family", using some of the teacher's email addresses as "family members".

During my session with the two young men, I placed them far apart in a large therapy room where my office is located.  Each student used earphones, since I was aware that there might be an audio feedback problem (which will be fixed, according to the Storyvisit folks).  Since the two students were not too far apart, I simply ran back and forth between them to make sure things were going OK and prompt them if needed.

I coached one student to play the role of the reader (grandparent) and the other to play the role of a younger child.  We got this accomplished successfully within our 1/2 hour session, an amazing feat, given the nature of the students' disabilities. They especially liked the video conferencing part, something that they've done at school in the past.  They communicated with each other better through this medium than in person, as the required less prompting.

The two young men were so excited about this process that after they returned to class, they suggested to their teacher that they wanted to practice with the application with their classmates.  They wanted to use Storyvisit to read to the younger students as soon as possible.  

The teacher, without much prior knowledge about the application, was able to set it up quickly.  She used the application during her morning group reading activity, displaying the Storyvisit website on a SMARTBoard.  She was impressed with the "Block Party" story - especially the great recipes included at the end of the story.   

The teacher mentioned that the recipes could be used to create snacks for a "block party" between the two classes after the StoryBook session.  The students could use the recipes to create shopping lists for a community outing to a local supermarket, and then prepared during Activities of Daily Living class (the classroom is equipped with a kitchen.)    

To see how the elementary-level students would respond to the Storyvisit website, I visited the classroom and demonstrated the Block Party book to the students using a SMARTboard. I used "Grandparent" mode, without the webcam, since I was with the students.  As I went through the story, the teacher mentioned that the webcam feature would be ideal for including students who use sign language in Storyvisit activities. (She happens to be the mother of daughters who have hearing impairments.)

Try StoryVisit by signing up at
NRC (Nokia Research Center) launches Story Visit pilot in association with Sesame Workshop
Intervention: Dialogic Reading (2/8/07), US Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences (What Works Clearinghouse)
Dialogic Reading Video SeriesNCLD Editorial Staff, 11/1/09
Dialogic Reading: An Effective Way to Read to Preschoolers (Grover J. Whitehurst -1992, Reading Rockets Archive)
Hayes Raffle's website
Family Story Play (First version of StoryVisit)
Family Story Play pdf (CHI 2010 presentation)

Since the Storyvisit activity was so positive with my students, I decided to dig a little deeper.  I use video quite a bit with students with autism spectrum disorders, and work with students to establish joint-attention skills and behaviors.  My hunch is that this is an area that warrants further exploration, especially for children and teens with autism spectrum disorders, their classmates, peers, and families.

The Co-Viewing Connection: "A blog for grown-ups about using media and technology with kids"
The New Coviewing: "Promoting Children's Learning Through Joint Media Engagement"

Game On.... Girls:  Associations Between Co-playing Video Games and Adolescent Behavioral and Family Outcomes (Sarah M. Coyne, Laura M. Padilla-Walker, Laura Stocdale, Randal D. Day, Brigham Young, School of Family Life, in Journal of Adolescent Health, 2/3/11)

Why this is important:
My grandson, "reading" at 6 months old:

My mom and my grandson reading together:

*"The ACM  Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems is the premier international conference of human-computer interaction. CHI 2011 focuses on leveraging our diversity and connecting people, cultures, technologies, experiences, and ideas."

Cross-posted on the Interactive Multimedia Technology blog.