I recently read with great admiration Becca’s post in which she described how to make and use photo books for language development. It is true that children love bright, colorful photos, and they love to talk about them even more when they are personally relevant! Becca’s specific descriptions (and video demonstration) of language strategies to use in the context of creating and reviewing photobooks are definitely going to be helpful to many parents and SLPs.
However, if you know my work at all, you know that I am always asking how technology might assist in any learning and language process. I am also one of the least craftsy and most printer-hating and store-averse people on the planet. Therefore ordering photos, picking them up at CVS, decorating with stickers and other flair, laminating (*shiver*) and binding the books...not a list of verbs I personally relish. Let’s not say it’s a guy thing, but maybe that’s just the elephant in the post. So, if you want to hear about a few digital options for implementing Becca’s terrific methods, read on!
I first have to point out that creating all-digital (or mostly digital) versions of these activities is facilitated by the way that families often do photography these days. Many families own and know how to use digital cameras (including the ones on their smartphones), and archive their photos in places such as Kodak Gallery, Picasa, iPhoto or even Facebook. So, whether photobooks as a language context are to be created by the families themselves, or a clinician is going to create the product while eliciting language from the child, the raw materials are often already digitized, easily downloadable and e-mailable! If actual prints are involved, it is no longer an arduous process to scan them, or it can often be easier to place them out of glare and just take a nice shot of the picture with a digital camera or smart phone. Once you have digital photos to work with, there are a few options you might consider.
One of these is Little Bird Tales, a free online picture book creator. Little Bird Tales has a simple, kid-and-family-friendly interface (and a great tutorial) and the added bonus of allowing you to add voice captions to each picture. When the book is complete, it can remain “private” and password-protected, but you can also share it with others via email. The book remains digital, however, and cannot be printed.
The text and “Add Your Voice” features of Little Bird Tales are a great opportunity to develop vocabulary and sentence structure!
Another great option is Glogster, the online digital poster creator, also free except for certain premium features. Glogster has an EDU version, and parents can also sign up at home through the regular portal. Glogster also has a very kid-friendly interface, and allows you to create a poster of your event’s images, along with supplementary graphics and audio clips.
Glogster’s Magnet tool is all you need to upload your images, add text, and record sound! As children choose “Frames” for pictures, additional descriptive language can be elicited.
Glogster creations can be printed for offline use, and can also be marked private and shared via email. Glogster is a little more complicated to use than Little Bird Tales (but not much!), so you might want to check out the tutorials I posted on YouTube. Additionally, both Glogster and Little Bird Tales are Flash-based (and therefore will not work on iPad, until their apps are available?) so if you run into trouble, you may want to make sure you have the latest version of Flash and update your browser, steps that are important for keeping your Web workin’!
When I mentioned iPad, did that make your ears perk up? One of my favorite recent discoveries is Skrappy ($4.99), a robust iPad app that you can use to create a decorated and annotated scrapbook of your photos! Like many iPad creation tools, Skrappy has a built-in-tutorial (in the “Getting Started” Scrapbook, so you and the kiddos can be creating in no time!
Skrappy’s simple tap-based interface lets you add whatever you’d like to your photobook: images, video, audio captions, text, decorative shapes and graphics to associate with the pictures, even music!
For another iPad take on photobooking, check out Mobile Education Store’s new app, Speech Journal (3.99), “a customizable voice recorder that you pair recorded messages with your own imported images and image sequences.” Speech Journal is super-simple to use, contains its own video tutorial, and allows you to pair voice recordings with single images or continue recording across multiple images, resulting in a slideshow (and sequenced narrative)! When complete, the journal can be emailed and played on a home computer in QuickTime player, a free download.
Finally, if you’d like a simple and quick (but perhaps a little more expensive) digital take on the photobook, iPhoto on Mac features a tool for you to create and order books to be delivered to you (for example, you can buy a 3-pack of one 20-page softcover book from Apple for about $11.00). Alternately, go to the Create menu on Picasa (on either platform) to create and email/print a photo collage (expensive in a toner cartridge sense, but easy to do)!
Hope you enjoyed this digital spin on photobooking; if you have any other tech tools you’d like to suggest for use with personally relevant photos in order to build language, please let us know in the comments!
Sean J. Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist and instructional technology specialist working in the public school and in private practice at The Ely Center in Newton, Massachusetts. He consults on the topic of technology integration in speech and language and is the author of the blog SpeechTechie: Looking at Technology Through a Language Lens.