Are you up for a challenge?

This post is brought to you by the word:

calisthenics [kal-uh s-then-iks] /ˌkæl əsˈθɛn ɪks/
noun

1. (used with a plural verb) gymnastic exercises designed to develop physical health and vigor, usually performed with little or no special apparatus.
2. (used with a singular verb) the art, practice, or a session of such exercises.
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So, tonight Jeremy asks :

fitness challenge

If you know me at all, you know I jumped right in and said yes! But then I was left wondering what to do. Mary helped hash it out with input from Jeremy and Caleb and we came up with phase 1 (so far) of our fitness challenge. I’ve done #plankaday (thanks so much – you guys rock) and I’ve done half of the 2011 pushup challenge (you ladies also rock) but this time we’re combining some stuff to make it more whole body-ish. Also, we’re looking to be leaner by ASHA in November 2013, so it’s called #ASHAFit13.

Here’s the deal

New Year’s Day is DAY 1 – do a 10 second plank. Then add 2 seconds to your plank every other day (odd days). How to do a plank. Can’t hold the plank for 10 full seconds? That’s OK, do 10 seconds however you have to with brief rests – you’ll work up to blending them in no time.

January 2 is DAY 2 – do 2 pushups (whatever kind you prefer). Then add 2 pushups every other day (even days). How to do a basic pushup. On knees (“girl pushup”) is optional and perfectly acceptable!

By April 21, 2013 you’ll be able to do a 2 minute plank and 100 pushups – go you!!  Then we maintain those (I honestly believe that 100 pushups and a 2 minute plank every 2 days is more than enough) and add lunges to the plank day and start to build those. But that will be phase 2 – we’ll work out those details later. One step at a time, right?

mfpWanna join us?

We’ve set up a (private) group called #ASHAFit13 on myfitnesspal.com (love love love this site/app by the way) and you can check in daily there and/or on Twitter to report that you’ve done your plank or pushups. Additionally, if you don’t want to see food tracking and such, Dailymile.com is a great way to log workouts and keep track of your numbers. I can’t set up a group there but feel free to track your planks/pushups/etc on dailymile.com and post that you’ve completed your workout to twitter (using #ASHAFit13 tag in your tweet) or on Facebook. That should cover everyone who wants to track or participate they way they prefer 🙂

We’ll keep you posted on how long or how many you should be at. Also, to keep it from getting boring, we’ll give you suggestions for ways to change up your pushups/planks/lunges.  If you need to slow down, no problem. If you’re reading this for the first time on March 1st and you join late, no problem. Just do what you can do, build on it incrementally, and see where it takes you. You can leave a comment here with your myfitnesspal.com handle or tweet me, @mtmaryslp, @cmniece, or @azspeechguy with your handle and we’ll add you to the group.

So, are you ready to get healthier and feel good? Let’s do this!!

Chain Letter Link Up

This post is brought to you by the word:

suite [sweet] /swit/

noun

1. a number of things forming a series or set.
2.a connected series of rooms to be used together: a hotel suite.
3.a set of furniture, especially a set comprising the basic furniture necessary for one room.
4.a company of followers or attendants; a train or retinue.

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No, you’re not in high school again and yes, you read the title correctly! I’m happy to participate in this great idea, but let me explain what’s going on. An SLP blogger, Teach Speech 365, started a chain letter, of sorts, of SLPs who blog. She created a series of questions and then asked some SLPs to respond on her blog, then they were to have 2 new SLP bloggers respond on their blogs and so on. Somehow I got asked to participate and so here we are (thanks for inviting me, Mary).  Many of the SLPs have posted free downloads from their blogs and/or TPT stores but I don’t have any such thing. However, if you keep reading, one of my blogging SLP friends has a potential gift for you! I’m hoping you’ll take some time to visit Teach Speech’s site and track through some of these blogs to find new ones you like!

Wait, did you hint that there’s a giveaway??

Yes, I did.  Sean graciously provided a code for the Mr. Reader app. I’ll give it away randomly and to be entered to win you need to leave a comment by January 1st citing how you keep up with technology without becoming overwhelmed!

I’d like to thank both of my participants for responding to this during the busy holiday season. Without further ado I’d like to (re)introduce you to two bloggers I really enjoy:

Blogger #1: Sean Sweeney

1. Your name, email, blog address, link to TpT store if you have one
Sean J. Sweeney, www.speechtechie.com
2. When and why did you start blogging?
I’m coming up on my 3 year anniversary on SpeechTechie.  I first became interested in blogging when pursuing my 2nd master’s degree in Instructional Technology.  I did this program online through a local college and it involved a lot of writing, which I really enjoyed.  At the time, a few of my friends were using LiveJournal and so I started keeping a personal blog there, goofy stuff about TV and travel, etc. After being an SLP in the school setting for about 9 years, an opportunity arose to take a position as an Instructional Tech Specialist in the Middle School setting in my district.  While there, I started reading a lot of tech blogs and using Google Reader extensively to follow these.  I missed my day to day work as an SLP and the tech integration I had done in that role, so I decided kind of impulsively to start a blog to share ideas about these tools. I was really inspired by Richard Byrne’s Free Tech for Teachers, but wanted to do something that of course showcased websites through a “Language Lens.” I toyed with the idea of calling it SpeechieTechie, and am glad I didn’t! Too many “ies”=overly cutesy. I had no idea the response would be so positive.  When I started, I only knew of about 3 or 4 others blogging about SLP work-Barbara Fernandes and Eric Sailers among them.  It’s great that there are now over 70 blogs in the SLP Blogs Bundle!

3. What is your favorite population to work with?
Elementary- High School Language and Social Cognition are the areas I feel most passionate about.

4. How much time per week do you spend blogging and/or creating materials?
I aim for 1-2 posts a week (been a little under lately but that’s definitely a goal for 2013), and I’d say the writing itself takes about 1-2 hrs weekly. However, I probably spend about 3 additional hours weekly reading blogs, twitter, and other resources to get ideas that can be “re-purposed” in the form that you see on my blog.  I also blog for other people and do some writing that takes additional time, as does corresponding with people who ask questions, etc.  So, I’d say about 5 hours total.

5. What’s your favorite topic to create materials for?

Technology, clearly! Lately I have been focusing on iPad apps as there is obviously a huge interest in that area, but I also want to keep letting people know about what’s available on the web. You’ll note that I often don’t write about dedicated SLP apps (I do think they are terrific and I helped make some at Smarty Ears and also present on dedicated apps). However, I do get more excited about helping people think outside the box when applying apps, websites and technology in our work.

6. What’s the best thing about blogging?
My blog has clearly been gratifying to me and has actually become somewhat of a business of its own, opening the door to consultation and presentation opportunities that have allowed me to create my own job, to some extent.  But the actual writing is a process I love, and it’s immensely rewarding to see and hear that people are reading and finding the information helpful.  So, it helps me feel I am making a difference not only for other professionals, but for kids who struggle with language and learning disabilities as well.

7. Do you have any blogging tips?
Hmmmm.  Well, keep it brief (I don’t always succeed on this one).  Use the technology well by providing links and images.  Avoid drama and controversial topics, unless you like that kind of stuff (I do not). Schedule posts ahead of time so that you can write when you have time, and publish regularly.  No idea is too small.
8. Add a question and answer of your choice. OK…How can SLPs keep up with technology without becoming overwhelmed?For this I will again mention the SLP Blogs Bundle (you can see a video tutorial at that link) and Google Reader, which syncs with iPad apps such as Mr. Reader, which I have provided a code for as part of this response.  There are lots of great SLP bloggers writing about tech and non-tech areas in the bundle, and Reader lets you give it all a quick skim.  The starring, tagging and sharing functions within the app will help you organize and access the information when needed, as well as connect you to colleagues (even just by sharing a post via email) that will help you see the value of being involved, even receptively, in social media.

Blogger #2: Shareka Bentham

1. Your name, email, blog address, link to TpT store if you have one

Shareka Bentham, speechreka@gmail.com,  www.easyspeakideas.blogspot.com, @speechreka on twitter

2. When and why did you start blogging?

Started out in 2010, just wanted to share some of my ideas and the crazy things I did in therapy, with others.

3. What is your favorite population to work with?

Children with complex communication needs

4. How much time per week do you spend blogging and/or creating materials?

blogging- not as much as I used to. Probably once a month now, hopefully more often in 2013. Creating materials probably 3-4 times a week.

5. What’s your favorite topic to create materials for?

AAC!

6. What’s the best thing about blogging?

Seeing the feedback from others who have tried out your materials/ideas

7. Do you have any blogging tips?

Keep it simple and don’t bite off more you can chew. I still am yet to write a blog post that I promised ages ago. Life happens. Oh and have fun with it! 

8. Add a question and answer of your choice (can be speech related or not).– What is your favourite thing to blog about? Mine is making therapy functional.

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Please drop a comment to share how you keep up with technology in this tech filled world! You could win a Mr. Reader app on January 1st!

Exciting News I want to share

This post is brought to you by the word:

enterprise [en-ter-prahyz] /ˈɛn tərˌpraɪz/

noun

1. a project undertaken or to be undertaken, especially one that is important or difficult or that requires boldness or energy.
2. a plan for such a project.
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Firstly, I want to thank everyone who nominated me (@mtmaryslp, @atklingensmith@SLP_Echo, and @deantrout) and also who voted for me in the 2012 Edublog Awards – I cannot believe that I came in 3rd for Most Influential Post; it’s mind blowing. I was also very proud of so many of my #slpeeps friends who placed or won their categories in the Awards this year. SLPs made such a strong showing that the Edublog Awards team mentioned them and it was suggested that there be an SLP category next year.

Image

I think this only proves how strong the community is that they rallied together and voted en masse, with no small thanks to people like @speechtechie for writing summarizing blog posts to help us know who in our community was shortlisted.

While placing top five in my category for the Edublog Awards is nice, that’s not really the exciting news I wanted to share.

You may have read Aubrey Klingensmith’s post about joining the team at Yapp Guru, a website launching in January 2012 that will help therapists and educators find the apps they need and also see what others like them have to say about it.

When Mai Ling Chan first told me about her vision for the website, I was thrilled for her to get it up and running ASAP because there is such a need for it. I was impressed by her ideas and passion, as well as her thoughts on making it a part of the community since I’m all for anything that contributes to and helps build the SLP community, both on and offline.

Uniting expert blogs and app reviews for language, learning and living

The weekend that Aubrey posted to her blog and revealed that she would be a partner in the venture as Director of Website Content Development, Mai Ling approached me to also participate in this venture with them (and others). I was blown away by the request! I took a full week to think about it and be sure it would be right for me, my family, and the company.

Given my passion for social media and my addiction to love of technology, and after a lot of careful reflection and consideration, I’m VERY excited to announce that I am now Director of Social Media and Branding for Yapp Guru!

You may or may not have noticed that when @YappGuru tweets (you follow us, right??) there is now usually ^M or ^T at the end of the tweet; I’m the T!  I’ll also be the primary person for all of the social media presence for Yapp Guru.

I’m really excited for what this website/company will be able to do for people using apps to help others! Even before I joined the team  (or knew I would be invited to join) I knew Yapp Guru was going to be one to watch – you should watch/participate too! We’re on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest so far and sharing content primarily on apps for rehab and learning. Please connect with me there!

Part 4: Online Discussion Group: #slpchat

This post is brought to you by the word:

concatenation [kon-kat-n-ey-shuhn] /kɒnˌkæt nˈeɪ ʃən/

1. a series of interconnected events, concepts, etc.
2. the act of linking together or the state of being joined.

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Blog Hop graphicAt the recent ASHA convention, I was proud to volunteer behind the scenes and help organize the the Social Medial Learning Center booth.  At both the booth and the Learning Lab that was offerred, they talked about why it is imperative that SLPs understand and embrace the world of social media that is taking our profession by storm.  Whether you want to interact daily or prefer to sit back and listen, social media has become an invaluable resource for communicating with colleagues and staying on top of recent research and trends (as you well know if you read my blog – I can’t shut up about it).

The booth and panel were both quite popular and visitors expressed an interest in learning more that they could take home with them to digest at their leisure.  We anticipated that this would be the case, so several of us “#SLPeeps,” together with Heidi Kay at PediaStaff, co-authored and produced a simple e-book that we would like to share with you as a blog hop. If you are stumbling into this post midway into the e-book, please see the end of this post for all links in the blog hop.

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WHAT IS #SLPCHAT?

Shareka Bentham, a Barbadian SLT, and I wanted to take the increasing professional network of SLP/Ts on Twitter a step further, and created a discussion group called “slpchat” (speech and language professionals chat). While the #SLPeeps have constant discussion and interaction occurring on Twitter, #slpchat allows for a more structured discussion forum on a specific topic, at a previously advertised date and time (usually Sundays at 2 pm Eastern Time), moderated by @SLPChat – a profile created on twitter solely for that purpose. As moderator, @SLPChat poses questions to stimulate discussion and may suggest sources/resources, but does not provide definitive answers. The discussions surround a wide variety of topics in the field of communicative disorders.

The #slpchat discussions have been occurring regularly since January 2011, all held on weekends for greater convenience. Topics covered have ranged from Cycles for phonology, dysphagia/feeding, oral motor therapy, autism, first words, evidence based practice, literacy, fluency, AAC and many other topics. They have received great attendance and feedback from professionals in the USA, Canada, Barbados, the UK, Ireland, and Australia/New Zealand. Also, full archives of the previous chats are available on the blog (slpchat.wordpress.com)

The chat has become so popular that, in February 2012, #slpchat began to be hosted a second time, running the same chat topic in the same weekend, from an Australian time zone – primarily moderated by Lauren Osborne (@speechieLO) from Sydney, Australia. Also, Bronwyn Hemsley (@bronwynah) at University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia helps out a great deal behind the scenes to support Lauren as well as the chat topics and blog posts. This expansion has allowed many more twitter users to participate in the chats, as well as more diverse topics with 4 people writing blog posts and taking the lead.

Anyone in the speech and language field or anyone related to that field (parents, teachers, therapy assistants, etc) are invited to participate. @SLPChat is also open to suggested topics for future discussions.

HOW TO PARTICIPATE

If you would like to participate in #slpchat, you must have a (free) Twitter account. Once you have a Twitter account you must follow @SLPChat’s tweets. Be sure to be on Twitter at the designated time (posted on the blog and on Twitter when chats are upcoming) and follow the #slpchat hashtag to participate in the discussion and see what everyone else is sharing.

The only hard and fast rule for participation is that you include the #slpchat hashtag in EVERY tweet during the chat. This way, everyone can follow the chat and not miss anyone’s contribution. You do not need to follow everyone in the chat to participate and interact with them, so long as you tag EVERY tweet you make during the chat.

Also, if you are tweeting ‘privately’ (your tweets are protected) you need to turn your protection setting off during the chat for everyone to see your tweets. Protected tweets don’t show up (even tagged) to your non followers and sometimes don’t show up to your followers either in a hashtag search.

HOW TO FOLLOW THE #SLPCHAT TAG WHEN PARTICIPATING

There are several ways to do this, depending on how you prefer to use Twitter. Here are the most popular options:

  1. Search for #slpchat on Twitter (once you are signed in). You can then refer to this search (by clicking on the search bar and selecting it from the drop down menu) whenever you want.
  2. If you use Hootsuite or the old version of Tweetdeck, you can create a column based on a search. In Hootsuite, for instance, you would click ‘add column,’ (‘search’ and then type #slpchat as the search word). You will then have a dedicated column feeding only tweets with the #slpchat tag.
  3. You can use Tweetgrid to search for #slpchat in a column and even have more than one column (e.g. mentions, direct messages). Here is an overview of how to use Tweetgrid (thanks to @thecleversheep, Rodd Lucier, for posting this for his #educhat discussion group tutorial).
  4. Similar to Tweetgrid, you can use tweetchat.com to follow tweets with a particular hashtag. It will also remember to keep the hashtag in all your replies automatically so you can’t forget.

We strongly recommend Tweetgrid and Tweetchat during the chat itself to make following and replying to others easier.WHAT TO EXPECT DURING THE CHAT

slpchat on AACDuring the chat, questions will be posed to get discussion going and keep it moving. People respond to the questions and begin discussing their responses. This is not a neat and tidy process. You can expect to see multiple responses at once but not in perfect order, since people take different amounts of time to respond and Twitter sometimes gets bogged down for a moment now and again.

It will usually take a moment for someone to respond to someone else and others will have responded in the meantime. However, if you read the tweets as you go, you can make sense of it without too much trouble. A few times during the chat it may appear that no one is tweeting, but really Twitter is somewhat overwhelmed by the number of responses. Be patient for a minute or two and then the tweets will pop up for you to read.

@SLPChat will continue to put forward discussion questions throughout the chat to keep everyone on topic (more or less) and keep discussion moving.

HOW TO FIND OUT MORE

You can subscribe to the SLPChat blog (slpchat.wordpress.com) to find out by email about upcoming chats so you don’t miss any, as well as visit the blog to learn more about how to participate in the chats and read various tips. You can also tweet @SLPChat, me (@SLPTanya), or @speechreka and ask questions at any time on Twitter.

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To continue reading the document and follow the blog hop, please go to Part 5:  Other Social Media Platforms

We will post the entire PDF next week, but in the meantime, please hop away and support all the great contributors to this fantastic resource! You can find all posts (in order) from our blog hop here:

A Letter from a Founding Member of the #SLPeeps

Discovering Social Media:  Growth Starts Here

Part 1:  Using Pinterest

Part 2:  Embracing Blogs

Part 3:  #SLPeeps on Twitter

Part 4: Online Discussion Group #slpchat

Part 5: Other Social Media Platforms

An outpouring of support

As many of you know, and maybe some of you don’t, Maggie McGary has been the Online Community & Social Media Manager at ASHA since May 2008.  She is behind the @ASHAWeb and @ASHAConv handles and has been in charge of more or less their entire online presence (ASHASphere, LinkedIn groups, other member groups on the ASHA.com site, etc.) and has done a great job of keeping members and non-members abreast of all info SLP and AUD related in the online community.

Maggie is leaving ASHA to take on a new role with the FDA. It’s a tremendous opportunity for her and we’re all sad to see her go but want to wish her well in her next position.

Our community has become fantastic at supporting and showing our love and appreciation for each other. We’ve done it many times in the past. Let’s do a ‘sneak attack’ of appreciation and goodbye’s for Maggie before she leaves ASHA. Her last day is December 14th, but let’s start the outpouring December 5th.

If you would like to donate to a group farewell gift for Maggie, please email Heidi (Heidi@pediastaff.com). Heidi will be signing the card for the gift “Best Wishes and Love from the SLPeeps” followed by the names of the people who contribute – so if you aren’t on Twitter, you can still contribute and be acknowledged!  Also, Maggie’s ASHA email address is mmcgary@asha.org in case you want to send her a more personal (or longer) farewell.

UPDATE: I’m making this post public now because I feel that most of you have provided your support to Maggie and word is out pretty strongly. Thanks everyone for showing Maggie how much we love and appreciate her contributions to the online community of SLPs and Audiologists.

2012 Edublog Nominations

Well, I’ve been wanting to post this for several days but have been caught up in other things. I also thought nominations closed November 28th, which they actually close November 26th but I’m hoping they’ll take a one day late post. And even if they don’t, this is a good exercise in sharing resources! So here are my nominations for the 2012 Edublog Awards.

Best individual hashtag: Obviously I’m going to pick the #slpeeps tag, since it has been extraordinarily influential in my own life and the lives of many other professionals. It has unified a profession across the globe and across populations with whom that the profession (SLP) works.

Best New Blog: I would have to say that Mary Huston’s Speech Adventures is my favourite new blog. The Twitter community hassled her to have a blog for years and now that she has, it has been very enriching.

Best Group Blog: I like ASHAsphere for this category. They have many different contributors and post great information on a regular basis.

Best Individual Blog: I love Aubrey Klingensmith’s blog Speechie Apps. I have often read her reviews of apps and used this information to decide if I should try one or suggest it to others when I am (frequently) asked. She even does Android app reviews, which I don’t use but I know many who do and want this information.

Best Individual Tweeter: I like @pediastaff for this category this year. Not only have they been tweeting great content for multiple professions for years, they performed a giant undertaking in funding a Social Media Learning booth at the ASHA conference this year, in order to teach others about social media and how it ca help their professional growth. Many people helped out at the booth and behind the scenes but organizing it and having the idea to do it deserves major kudos.

There are so many other great people out there but these are the categories where I felt compelled to nominate this year and just some of the people contributing to my PLN right now.

And the winner is…

Well, I woke up early this morning so I went to a random number generator and drew a winner. There were 12 participants and a total of 21 entries (remember, I enter you every time you tweet). I suppose the law of averages works nicely when there’s a small sample size, cuz the winner is one of two who tweeted the most times *insert drumroll here*  @alour! Ashley tied for the most tweets/entries (5) with @dibsondebs so I shouldn’t be surprised, but I still was!

Congrats, Ashley – I’ll be in touch to get your address to mail you stuff and give you the code today. Thanks to everyone for participating. Here is a Chirpstory of the tweets during the contest.

To be on the up and up (as best I can) here is a picture of the number generator and the list of entrants in the order they tweeted with the tags #ashaless and #slpeeps (or I that noticed their tweets) through the week:

ASHA-less Giveaway

This post is brought to you by the word: lugubrious  [loo-goo-bree-uhs] /lʊˈgubriəs/

adjective

mournful, dismal, or gloomy, especially in an affected, exaggerated, or unrelieved manner.
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I really wanted to go to the ASHA conference this year, but it wasn’t possible. I’m hoping to go next year, but in the mean time I’ll content myself reading the tweets and watching the goings on of all the #SLPeeps who are there in real life, like I have for the past 2 years. I know many of you are also ASHA-less – unable to attend this year and also sad about it.

To cheer us all up, I’m going to have my first blog giveaway ever. And it’s only for those of us who aren’t at ASHA this year. Don’t worry ASHA attending folks, you’re going to have plenty of giveaways and contests while you’re at ASHA. Actually, anyone can participate, but only those who aren’t at ASHA can win a prize.

How to have a chance to win

If you want to be included in the draw you must include the hastags #SLPeeps and #ASHAless and a reason you love some online community of SLPs – it can be twitter, pinterest, blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn – whatever! But you have to have those 2 hashtags in your tweet to qualify to win (and most importantly so I see your tweets and can enter you in the contest).

If you are going to attend ASHA this year, you are welcome to also tweet why you love the #slpeeps and include the #ASHA12 tag – I’ll include your tweets in the chirpstory I make later (you knew there had to be a chirpstory at the end of this!). However, you have your own contest at the Pediastaff Social Media Learning Centre featuring #SLPeeps. Don’t miss the 3 Tweet and Greet times where you can record a video of yourself and be entered to win a prize. See here for how.

Prize drawing for non ASHA attendees will be random, but I’ll put your name in as many times as you tweet reasons – upping your chances to win. The contest will run from today until the end of Saturday, November 17th. The draw will occur on Sunday, November 18th.

What you could win

At this point there are 3 things up for grabs: a digital copy of the movie Rio (such a great movie), #slpeeps swag of your choice (more or less), and a copy of the Profile of Phonological Awareness app.  I’ll keep you posted if anything else is on the table (e.g. gets donated).

Wish there was an app for that? Write it yourself!

This post is brought to you by the word: contrive [kuhn-trahyv] /kənˈtraɪv/

verb (used with object)

1. to plan with ingenuity; devise; invent: The author contrived a clever plot.
2. to bring about or effect by a plan, scheme, or the like; manage: He contrived to gain their votes.
3. to plot (evil, treachery, etc.).

verb (used without object)

4. to form designs; plan.
5. to plot.

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If someone had told me in 2009 that I would author apps, I would have told them that wasn’t possible. How could I write an app? I didn’t know how to code them or how to get them on the market. I was an app user – just wishing there was an app out there that could do this, that, or the other thing for me; until I got on Twitter.

Stumbling Into App Authorship

When the #SLPeeps first formed, there was an explosion of sharing thoughts, ideas, and resources, as I’ve blogged about before. One of the things that came of it was the #SLPeeps Shared Folder on Google Docs (now called Google Drive – thanks to Shareka Bentham (@speechreka) who created folders initially). As a part of this sharing process, we decided we wanted a repository of common goals we use and discuss – to make it easier to share our goals with others. Janelle Albrecht (@albrechtjn) set up the SLP Goal Bank to fulfill that goal, and it still exists.

A little before this, Barbara Fernandez was busy writing some of the first SLP specific apps with her company, Smarty Ears Apps. I knew about her, sometimes interacted with her, and watched her company and apps with interest. She approached those of us who had first started the SLP Goal Bank to write an app with our own goals.

It all happened extremely fast but suddenly I was a co-author for an app! I just sort of fell into it by accident and found the process very interesting. However, for that app, all I had to do was contribute a bunch of my own goals to various areas of speech pathology – I didn’t have to do any lay-out or trouble shooting. I couldn’t even test the app because I didn’t yet have an iPad at that time.

Writing the App

This process got me thinking, though – what if I could write an app that was missing in my life? I now knew a little bit about how to write it while working with a designer/publisher and realized it’s as ‘easy’ as writing a book (and I actually did have to write a book for my app, but most people wouldn’t need to do that).

As it happens, what was missing in my app life was a phonological awareness profile. I had grown weary of the CELF-4’s screener1and was screening kids with it more or less daily. So, in the summer of 2010, I started thinking about what I would want a phonological awareness assessment app to look like and do. I contacted Barbara at Smarty Ears, who loved the idea, and then I started working on it – SLOWLY.

The Content

I started by writing the profile the way I wanted it; touching on the major areas and skipping the not so major areas that contributed to the length of the screener I was currently using. I fleshed out things I wished I could speak to better, like segmenting consonant clusters. I spent quite a bit of time (months) choosing words that target a variety sounds and word lengths, as appropriate, and aren’t too similar to other sounds/words in the same subtest.

I took time to organize the profile items into a more or less developmental progress, but by overriding type, and decided not to create a criterion score. This was so that there’s no worry of false positives/negatives and so that sections of the profile can be skipped as an educator sees fit depending on age and reassessment status. There’s nothing worse than feeling obliged to administered several subtests you know the child can/can’t do (or shouldn’t be able to yet do) just to get a criterion score.

Portion of pen and paper test version of the Pro-PA

I then put the whole thing into a pen and paper screen and passed it out to several of my friends globally as well as my own colleagues, to test it out on real kids and get feedback on items that failed consistently or anything that didn’t work. Then I spent several months refining the screen.

I should note here that I didn’t go into designing my own profile out of nowhere – assessing PA skills in children and setting goals to target these areas is something I do daily in my practice. Also, my graduate thesis was on early literacy skills, and I sit on a committee to organize a literacy workshop every year, in which I often present as well. I’ve read and done research in the area and I looked to current research and my experience when writing the app.

App Lay Out and Functionality

I worked on the concept in my head for a while but, basically, I spent the better part of 10 months writing and organizing the content of the app. THEN I wrote the app structure and lay out, which took me a month or so (working on it bit by bit and after many months of considering the app layout in my head as well).

I did my mock up in Power Point, making each slide a different page from the app. This went beyond mocking up how it would look, though. I also had to think a lot about lay out and functionality in terms of navigating the app in the simplest way possible. When would I need to get to various menus and pages inside the app? When might I need to get out of them again? How will the app progress? How will I input various things such as success or failure of items, make notes about the items, or enter client names and information? For that matter, what client information is most important to include and why?

PowerPoint mock up of results in Pro-PA submitted to Smarty Ears

Actual in-app results section of published Pro-PA app

Discussion With the Publisher

Actually, given the type of app I was authoring, the lay out for the ‘test’ portion was the easy part – the part that was most difficult was the menu. Up until that point, other apps like mine displayed only one client at a time, but I wanted to be able to organize by groups (e.g. class, school, etc) and also have the results available by group (e.g. an entire class) to help direct where the group generally needed to go next, but not losing the information for individual children. How to lay it out best?

This is when I went to Barbara and proposed what I wanted to do and how I thought it might work, but she and the programmer might have had other ideas how it could work with the programming options available. Barbara and I spent a while discussing it via email, Facetime, and Skype to flesh it out better so that she understood what I wanted and could give ideas based on how apps are written/function. She was also able to foresee some things I hadn’t fleshed out because of my inexperience in writing apps, which was very helpful.

Once I had the app laid out and submitted to Smarty Ears to code it, I then had to write the manual from start to finish. This was also a rather large task, but most apps wouldn’t require such a hefty undertaking. We then beta tested it (used the app to work out bugs and issues) and it was submitted to iTunes.

From my first ideas of the concept, to its’ being published in January 2012, I spent about 18 months on this app. I could have written it faster, but I work full time and have a family I like spending time with, plus I’m a big perfectionist when it comes to these kinds of things.

Learning Opportunities (a euphemism for Mistakes)

One thing I learned through this process is that you need to think through every possible functionality or navigation of the app from the start. I mean VERY specific and detailed. I got most of them, but forgot to highlight the idea that the profile can be stopped at any time with skipped sections. I had thought through colour coding yellow in the results to indicate that a section had been skipped, but not how to quit the ‘test’ portion if you don’t want to do the final section(s). So the programmer coded the app (initially) so that it only finished the ‘test’ and went to the results once you administer the last section, which is how other apps had worked (like the Sunny Articulation Test, for example).

This was a pretty big oops for my app functionality, but to change it and add a ‘finish test’ button, or something like it, the programmer would have had to reprogram the entire app from the ground up again, which would cost too much money. This was a detail I didn’t know going in, since I’m not an app programmer. So, I had to live with the app saying that a child scored incorrectly on the final section (substituting final sounds) for several months until the programmer could redo the app over again. I’m happy to say that it’s been fixed now, but I had to be patient for that part.

My advice (to myself if I write any more apps) is to take the extra time and energy to visualize and think through the entire app – every single page possible. Visualize the app as it’s being used and ask: If I’m doing this in the app, what might I want/need? How will I build the app to allow this to happen? What ELSE might I want/need? Going a little more slowly can pay off a great deal in the end and ensure a very well designed app of which you can be proud. Not that I could have gone much more slowly last time, mind you – there will probably always be that one thing that you didn’t foresee. That’s just life, though2.

Why an App Publisher?

You can choose to find someone who knows how to program apps and strike some sort of bargain with them or pay them outright. I know a few SLPs who have done this but I chose to go with a publisher. It’s basically the same as going with a publisher of a book, versus publishing it yourself. If I had tried to publish this myself I would have been in charge of: getting it made (programmer fees), submitting it to iTunes (small fee – learning curve), updating it regularly (more programmer fees), and advertising it. So I made the trade off of not making as much percentage per sale for not having to front a bunch of expenses and time and not have to worry so much about advertising. I’m fairly confident that I’ve come out ahead with my choice.

I didn’t write this app for the money, I wrote it so that I could use it in my daily practice. However, I couldn’t have fronted a rather large programmer bill to get it made and risk not making that money back on the sales. Nor do I have the time or ability to properly advertise for an app to be able to make back those various fees. Not to mention recompense for the considerable time I put into the app authorship – my time is worthwhile too. I specifically chose Smarty Ears Apps because I had experience working with them before, I knew Barbara from Twitter and had a relationship with her, and she is the biggest app developer for SLP related apps on the market (even though mine is for SLPs and Educators alike – I know lots of educators use her apps as well as SLPs).

What about you?

Is there an app you wish you had that doesn’t yet exist? Maybe you could write it for yourself, and other people might like it too. Have you authored any apps? Please drop a comment to share any similarities or differences you had from my experience and any tips you think helpful for others who might author their own!

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1 – I want to say here that the CELF-4 PA skills criterion referenced screen has served me very well over the past many years. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, it’s actually a vey good tool and very thorough. I just wanted/needed something faster. On the CELF-4, there was no way around giving every item in a section, regardless of the child being clearly unable after the trials, which is painful for the student as well as for me as the assessor. Also, it is typically ‘forever’ before you reach the ceiling, making it even longer to administer. Finally, I would frequently use it on a grade 2 or 3 who could do lots of things, but couldn’t identify or produce rhyme at all. These students would typically ‘pass’ the criterion score, but clearly had difficulties that were not age appropriate, and could cause a lot of grief working on word families and other reading/writing techniques. Obviously I would write appropriate goals and recommendations based on this piece of information, but it looks odd to parents and teachers when a student ‘passes’ a test and is still told there’s work to be done.

2 – Like when I put I-don’t-know-how-many thousands of hours into my graduate thesis, only to see a type-o on the first page I flipped to when I finally got my bound copy. Somehow, I, and about 6 other people, missed it but of course I found it within the first minute after it was printed.

The #SLPeeps go to ASHA: Creating a hashtag that sticks

This post is brought to you by the word: muster  [muhs-ter] /ˈmʌstər/

verb (used with object)

1. to assemble (troops, a ship’s crew, etc.), as for battle, display, inspection, orders, or discharge.
2. to gather, summon, rouse (often followed by up ): He mustered all his courage.
verb (used without object)

3. to assemble for inspection, service, etc., as troops or forces.
4. to come together; collect; assemble; gather.

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At the last #slpchat, an OT asked how to make a hashtag that a community might use similarly to the #SLPeeps tag – which has united an entire profession on Twitter. At the same time, @pediastaff has been doing a ton of work to create The PediaStaff Social Media Learning Center Featuring #SLPeeps (#1823 in the Career Fair section of the exhibit hall – more on this below) for the upcoming ASHA 2012 conference.

A physical booth dedicated to online PLNs for SLPs and Audiologists with a hashtag in its’ title? You bet that’s a hashtag that has ‘stuck’. So, here’s how our community created the hashtag and made it stick so well.

This blog post is meant to do several things:

  1. Give a history of the #SLPeeps tag
  2. Explain what factors made it so popular
  3. Give you details on the upcoming #SLPeeps booth at ASHA 2012

Disclaimer: This may or may not work as well for you if you decide to create a hashtag, but the following elements seem to contribute to general popularity of use.

Have a specific group or purpose for the tag

To understand how #SLPeeps was born, you need a bit of history. If history is boring to you, skip the next two paragraphs.

I joined Twitter in March of 2010 at my husband’s insistence that it could be used as a learning tool (contrary Twitter’s claim that I joined in November of 2009 – I was most certainly still in the ‘scoff’ stage‘ of Twitter acceptance at that time). I found around 15 SLPs to follow and was exceptionally lucky to have jumped in just as a tight-knit group of professionals was finding each other and beginning to share knowledge, ideas, learning, etc.

After a short time, we began to realize how much professional growth (and bonding) was happening in each of us as a result of these long and intense conversations that were occurring almost daily. A problem arose, however: what if you were actually busy in real life during these great conversations and sharing sessions? You missed out on a great learning opportunity and possibly an opportunity to swap resources.

We agreed that we needed a way to track our group’s conversations more easily so no one would miss anything really great just because they were busy at that moment. This is when I learned how hashtags were being used on Twitter and decided we needed one of these to help track our conversations and make sure we didn’t miss out. But we had to find a term that wouldn’t be confused or used by others. #slp was often a common tag people were using but if you searched it, you also found tweets using it to mean ‘sleep’; not helpful to have 50 other tweets in the middle of the conversation we were trying to track.

Create a completely unique tag

At this same time, @speechbob put out a general #FF to all of his SLP ‘friends’ on twitter. In order to save space, he created a great witticism, saying “to all my SLPeeps”. Everyone loved the term and thought it was brilliant and I realized that no one on Twitter could possibly use the word “SLPeeps” in any other context imaginable. I took a poll, everyone liked it, and voila – a hashtag was born.

Note: While Bob originally was mashing ‘slp’ and ‘peeps’ together, the tag has come to represent all speech and language professionals, whether your title is SLP, SLT, SLPA, or otherwise. Many tend to think of it as “Speech and Language Peeps”.

Get others to use it 

Now we had all agreed on a very unique hashtag and we had planned to start marking all our tweets with it whenever a really great conversation began to emerge. Except, this is difficult to do in a naturally evolving twitter conversation. Suffice it to say that we would forget to do it, especially when we were caught up in a really good discussion.

After a short time, however, we realized it was better to use the #SLPeeps tag to flag especially pertinent tweets for everyone to notice. This is what the tag is used for today, and to great success.

The success is because our small group or original #SLPeeps began using the tag consistently to mark tweets that would be interesting to the rest of our group. This consistency is key. If we were only using it occasionally, I don’t think it would have bound the group as well as it did or taken off to such popularity.

I still remember around early summer of 2010 when our small group began to notice ‘strangers’ (new twitter SLPs we didn’t know) using the tag to mark tweets of interest to other SLPs. This both surprised and excited us. We had never considered that others would begin to use it, but since we were modeling its use so much, of course other SLPs joining Twitter began to use the hashtag.

With those three things, you can usually get a hashtag off the ground. I’ve launched quite a few, including #SLPeeps, and as long as I am or someone else is using them regularly, so do others.

Bonus: Community branding

The #SLPeeps tag has become an identity for our community – we proudly refer to ourselves as “the SLPeeps” and now we have mascots/logos and you can even buy #SLPeeps merchandise online! More on that below.

This ‘branding’ isn’t necessary for a hashtag to become commonly used, but it certainly helps. This is especially true if you are trying to unify an entire community of people online. Frankly, it requires a bit of luck (we certainly stumbled into it with the #SLPeeps tag) and/or a certain type of community. I’m not sure that #AUDPeeps has taken off as well, partially because the online community of audiologists generally has a different ethos from the SLPs online.  Plus let’s face it, SLPs are a loquacious bunch, which also contributed greatly to the success of our hashtag unifying us as a global community. It also helps to have something catchy/witty that people like to say, like SLPeeps (thanks, again, Bob!).

The PediaStaff Social Media Learning Center Featuring #SLPeeps

Nothing says branding like a booth devoted to an online community!

Thanks to Pediastaff.com (particularly Heidi) and several core #SLPeeps volunteers that pediastaff has amassed (they need more, by the way, if you’re interested) there will be a physical social media learning center (booth #1823) at the exhibitors hall at ASHA 2012 in November. With community input and a lot of hard work on Heidi’s part, we also have very cute mascots: Julio for the SLPeeps (pronounce wholio) and Julia for the AUDPeeps (pronounced wholia).

The booth (#1823 – find it here before you go) will be a place for #SLPeeps and #AUDPeeps to find each other and connect in real life, but it will also be a place of learning for those interested in online PLNs. There will be rotating lessons there on using Twitter, Pinterest, Blogs and more. There will be information and sessions targeting beginners as well as the tech savvy. There’s even curriculum available and a learning lab on the Friday for people to come learn about social media and SLPs/AUDs.

The booth will be staffed by PediaStaff and #SLPeeps/#AUDPeeps volunteers (have I mentioned they need more volunteers to help? Contact Heidi @pediastaff if you’re interested – c’mon, you know you want to ‘party with the #slpeeps!’ – which reminds me to thank Bill @Lessonpix for adding to @pediastaff’s Julio and creating the ‘I party with the #SLPeeps’ image – located in my sidebar. Read here how Bill is trying to have exhibitors join forces around the #SLPeeps).

Going to ASHA?

If you’re going to ASHA this year, consider volunteering at the SocMed Learning Centre booth for an hour. I’m so disappointed that I couldn’t participate in all of this, but very glad to be at home with my baby. I’ll actually be volunteering from home via Skype, hopefully, so you don’t have to go to help out!

Also, don’t miss the three “tweet and greet” opportunities to record a video message to the #SLPeeps/#AUDPeeps who couldn’t come! They’ll be posted to youtube later.

Whether you’re going to ASHA or not, there will be several contests running for everyone to participate in so stay tuned for more on that!

Get the swag for yourself

Finally, be sure to order your t-shirt or other #SLPeeps/#AUDPeeps swag before you go! The booth will have some things there as demonstrations (and will be passing out buttons) but you can only buy t-shirts and other swag from the online store. There are 2 online stores:

Spreadshirt SLPeeps Store is the best (and cheapest) place to buy the shirts/hoodies. If you get ladies sizes, order up, they fit small. You can also get very nice mugs and an iphone case there. I’m still waiting for my shirt and mug to get to Canada so if you’re international, order right now to hopefully get them before ASHA.

Zazzle SLPeeps Store is the other store with keychains, tote bags, different mugs, water bottles, magnets, ornaments and shrits. The shirts cost a lot more here, though. The benefit to the zazzle store is that everything they have can be personalized! I got a keychain with my twitter handle on the back. For a lot more $ if you’re interested in personalizing your shirt, zazzle is the place to get it. It’s an exorbitant amount in shipping outside of the US though. Thank goodness I live on a border town!

I’d love to hear your history

Please leave a comment and tell me how you came to be in the #slpeeps/#audpeeps community!