Modeling AAC Virtually
So, how the heck do you use evidenced-based practices such as core vocabulary and aided language stimulation when you're doing teletherapy or virtual instruction? Here is your crash course 101!
Let me start this blog by saying that I LOVE technology, which is why I love being an AAC Specialist and doing Assistive Technology in my district. Covid-19 has brought many challenges, but modeling instruction virtually does not have to be one of them. I have tackled this challenge head-on in the last few weeks, and I'm excited to share with you five very awesome options. I have video examples of most, so pick the one that will best meet your needs, and that you have the tools and resources for.
Option number 1: Zoom allows you to share an iPad or iPhone screen using Apple's Screen Mirroring feature. Here are the directions (https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/201379235-iOS-Screen-Sharing-with-the-Zoom-Desktop-Client) straight from Zoom as I did not present that portion of my screen for you to see. Once you are connected you can share your screen and the audio to anyone viewing your Zoom meeting or recorded meeting. I recorded how to do this along with how to use the AssistiveTouch feature on iOS devices to show what you are pointing to. In relation to AAC, Proloquo2Go does have a built in pointing feature, but none of the other apps that I used in the video had that feature built in or if it was I didn't have it turned on.
If you don't have access to a high tech AAC app, I did try it by just taking a photo of a low-tech core board and then using the AssistiveTouch to point. This also worked. Remember that if you are doing asynchronous learning in your district that you can record a Zoom meeting of yourself presenting material and save the recording to your computer and upload it to YouTube to share in your Google Classroom or whatever online learning tool you are using. YouTube has many privacy settings that will allow you to post something and keep it private or unlisted so that only people with the link can see it.
Option 2: Use of an Osmo and the new Projector app (also made by Osmo). If you don't know what Osmo is, it's essentially a mirror that reflects whatever is below/in front of your iPad to the forward facing camera on the iPad. You can buy just the Osmo reflector for your iPad, iPhone or Kindle Fire for $10 (at the time of posting) from the Osmo website (https://www.playosmo.com/). You will need a way to prop up your device, so if you don't have a stand you'll need to invest in one or get creative (there are plenty of DIY stands out there, just do a quick search. The Projector app is FREE (THANK YOU, Osmo!) Check it out!
Option 3: A Document Camera.
Think of it as a high tech projector, and instead of needing transparencies and a screen, it will project to your computer via a cable connection and some software. Since you can share your screen on many video conferencing solutions, it allows you to share hard copy/paper based materials in real time. The difference between a high end document camera and Option 2 is that you have the ability to zoom in and the image quality is much better. Now, if you don't have access to a document camera through your school, and you don't plan to get into telepractice, is this something you should buy out of pocket? Definitely not. The professional ones are pretty expensive ($150-$800) depending on brand and quality of the camera. But, if you have access to one, like I do, then definitely grab it and don't think twice about it! I've created a few things using a document camera. Here is a video demonstrating how to make a sandwich in which I'm switching between presenting the ingredients, modeling, and writing a recipe. Being able to switch between those three tasks was super easy using the document camera. (This could also be done with the Osmo.) I also used a split screen to show myself and also the document camera.
Option 4: Use of a communication device manufacturer's software. Prentke Romich Company's PASS software (https://www.prentrom.com/prc_advantage/free-software-download-pass) is what comes to mind when I think of this. It is free, too. If you have a student using LAMP Words for Life or Unity software, PASS becomes a very good option when teaching virtually. Personally, I think I would still prefer to use one of the other options (1-3), though, as it would give me the greatest ability to present a multitude of material. But, if you don't have access to an iPad with LAMP or a device with Unity, having access to PASS is a very good option. Tobii DyanVox's Snap+Core (https://www.tobiidynavox.com/en-us/software/windows-software/snap-for-windows/) is another communication application that can run on your computer, too, which would allow you to project your screen.
Option 5: Put a core board on the wall behind you and record yourself reading a story or delivering content while pointing to the core board on a vertical surface that is within the view of the webcam. Folks, there is NOTHING wrong with this option. This is likely what happens during a lot of group lessons, and your students are used to seeing this type of modeling. A few of the cons that go with this method are: (1) the board may not be seen very well, (2) you may not have the wall space for said vertical core board, (3) you may not have a large core board available to you, and (4) you may want to model on more than one communication board.
Things to think about:
A colleague of mine and I were talking about her experience as an online teacher for students with disabilities, many with complex communication needs. She shared that a lot of her students benefited from seeing her hand pointing to communication boards, which would make me lean toward use of a document camera/Osmo over sharing your iPad screen. If we are individualizing education for students, though, how you present the communication system will vary based on the needs of the students you have, and the materials you have available to you. One of the most critical pieces of what you will do is to decide if the material you're presenting to your students is engaging and motivating? This needs to be at the forefront of all that we do, whether that is in person or virtually.
When I began making videos I made a conscious decision to make videos that are real. I don't edit them. They aren't perfect. I include my kids, because they're home and they want and need attention, too. I don't look or sound perfect. For a Type A perfectionist this can be hard to do, but I want people to see #RealLife. None of us have a classroom to use, or all of the equipment we normally have access to, heck many of us don't even always have access to color printing and velcro on the good days! Do what is good for you and will benefit your students the most, remembering that just seeing your face and hearing your voice can calm the anxiety of these days that don't follow our normal routines. Read a story, check in to say hi, and if and when you're up to doing more give some of these suggestions a try! Don't be scared to play around with the technology. I've hosted a lot of Zoom and Google Meet meetings just for myself to try things out. Remember that whatever you do during this time will be enough, so have a growth mindset, expect that things will go wrong, and know that it is okay!
I'm sure there are other ways to model AAC virtually, if you have come up with other solutions, please share as we are always better together. I always learn so much from others' experiences. I'd love to see some of the material you are making, too! Share it with me on Facebook @buildingaac or on Twitter @jjschubring. Keep checking back, too, as I continue to create some perfectly imperfect videos for all to use!
Good luck, and happy creating! You've got this!