As a speech-language pathologist, I'm always looking for ways to make meaningful connections between what we are doing in the speech therapy environment and a student's classroom and home environments. Why? Because the ultimate goal isn't for the student to improve his communication skills with me in the speech therapy room - it's becoming an effective and efficient communicator within his daily environment. That includes his general education classroom, at home with his family, playing outside with friends, running an errand at the store with his mom, or swimming at the pool in the summer.
Speech-language pathologists aren’t alone in this endeavor. Educators in general and special education settings are always looking for ways to strengthen the connection between home and school environments. This might involve sending a special folder home each week, writing a class newsletter, using a designated online space, sending emails, etc.
A simple feature found in Toca Boca’s Nature app provides a new tool for your communication toolbox. As users explore their newly created landscape, the camera feature allows them to preserve their adventure by taking snap shots. Sending student pictures home via email with a specific message is easier than you think.
Depending on what you are addressing in speech therapy, you may want to send emails to both the parent and the student's general education teacher. These emails provide an opportunity to share more than a picture, but also a written story, new vocabulary words, practice speech words/sentences, or whatever else you and the student are working on.
Parents too may enjoy using this activity at home, as it adds a literacy component to creative play. You may find email responses from home sharing continued adventures, new sentences containing practice sounds and words, or success stories.
While Toca Boca doesn't offer an option to email pictures within the app, emailing pictures is no different than sending your own photos. When you take a picture with the app's camera, the picture is automatically saved to the device's photo app - just as if you had taken the picture yourself via your device's camera.
Turning your pictures into emails is no different. For iPads, simply open your photo app, select the photo(s) you wish to send, then select the email icon. An email message opens using the email address already programmed into your device.
Depending on how you have your device set-up, the student will most likely be using your email address. For a school device programmed using your professional email account, the recipient would receive an email from you at this address. If your device is only programmed with your personal address, you may wish to email it to your work email first, to remove your personal email address before sending it to others.
There are a few important issues to consider before starting an activity of this nature. First and foremost, you want to ensure that no identifiable or confidential information is shared via email - particularly information that may violate the privacy laws and policies surrounding the educational services that you are providing. Furthermore, you want to adhere to your school's technology policy, as some require parental consent. Always consider how each student's family values technology. Some parents may value this form of communication, while others may see it as frivolous or putting their child at risk.
(If you want to capture an aerial view, simply take a screenshot.)
Supervision is another critical issue that must be considered when using email. Depending upon your device's settings, it is never recommended that another individual, student or otherwise, be granted access to your email account.
All the more reason to complete this activity together.
A few options include:
- Typing a message that the student verbally dictates
- Supervising the student as he types the message,
helping him construct the message or spell specific words
- Have the student write the message on a sheet of paper,
then email the Toca Boca photo and a photo of the message
- Allow the student to type the message on another device or app,
then email the message and photo
Let the adventure begin...but as always, beware of bears!