Why is the "Interactive" Element of Technology So Important?
In my last post, I proposed a set of criteria that can be used to evaluate potential resources for direct therapy in the school (or other clinical) setting —summarized in the acronym FIVES.
I am going to stay with this theme for a bit, because I have learned it is often better to develop ideas than skip from notion to notion as my brain would prefer to do!
To clarify what I mean by direct therapy, I am referring to what would be on the sections of the Individualized Education Plan that outline the time you will spend conducting or facilitating therapy with the student, whether individually or in a group. This is an important distinction to make, because there are certain technology resources that would be great to set up as part of a student's program, perhaps under your consultation services, but would not make much sense to use in direct therapy (Some examples of these quiz-based resources include Earobics or certain commercial flashcard-like programs,often on CD-ROM). If the student can guide him/herself through the activity without your scaffolding, or with only the supervision of a teacher or paraprofessional to remain engaged...well. An important principle of using technology is that it probably shouldn't count as direct therapy if the instruction is really being provided by the computer.
This is where the I in FIVES can help us to make good technology-based choices for our direct therapy. True interactive resources differ from quiz-based technology in that students are given more room to make choices, solve problems, and to make mistakes that your scaffolding will help prevent or review, so that it is a richer learning experience. Interactive resources also tend to be more deeply rooted in an educationally useful context, and ideally move at a pace that allows you as a clinician to "get a word in" —whether to model language, question, extend, and of course to provide a pre- or post- activity that emphasizes language targets.
Let's take, for example a resource that is indeed Free, Interactive, Visual, Educationally relevant, and Speechie — Earth Sun and Moon—An Interactive Learning Experience. I have always considered the concepts involving the relationship among these planetary bodies pretty abstract, and not quite suited to the 2nd grade curriculum where this unit is placed in my district. After an engaging and thankfully brief and forgiving arcade game, students are able to navigate their rocket to the Earth, Sun and Moon and use key strokes and mouse movements to make things happen!
The activity creates a strong visual experience that helps kids move beyond the simple knowledge that "Yep, we're on Earth" to understand some of the larger scientific concepts. In the classroom setting, I have seen kids left to their own devices to complete this activity and then be largely unable to articulate what any of it meant. However, with discussion facilitated by the SLP throughout the activity, kids can be scaffolded to use more complex language to produce some wonderful descriptions and connections.
What has your experience been with different kinds of technology resources? Have you had experiences where you felt uncomfortable just looking over the shoulders of the kids on the computer? What resources do you think are better relegated to consultation? Alternately, let us hear about tech resources that really make you feel part of the process!