January 1, 2013 Columns

App-titude: Mobile Tech Trends to Watch

Look for devices to shed bulk and limitations. Look for apps to add speed and interactivity.

For many of us (including me!), keeping up with what is happening today with technology is enough of a challenge. But we also need to keep an eye on the future to ensure that we're critical consumers and clinicians and that we develop realistic yet "envelope-pushing" expectations of the technology we use in our evaluations and treatment. Here are four mobile-app trends that may reshape the way we use technology in the coming years.

Devices and app availability

Devices and app availability

We are already seeing increased adoption of mobile devices in schools across the country, with many piloting 1:1 programs in which all students have a tablet. Many districts are also looking to supply their speech-language pathologists with iPads or other tablets for use in evaluation and treatment. This increased availability of devices is positive, but we must continue to stress critical thinking about app selection. As a consultant, I frequently encounter questions about which apps should be supplied to all SLPs in a particular district. Although bulk purchasing deals can be practical and tempting, SLPs are probably more likely to integrate apps in their work if they have had a voice or direct choice in selecting them.


Having a many-in-one treatment tool saves clinicians time in planning and gathering materials, and also reduces stress on our backs and cars. And it seems only a matter of time before publishing companies begin to translate their standardized assessments into mobile app form. This change will, of course, necessitate additional standardization procedures, but imagine the potential impact not only in reducing the need to lug stimulus books, protocols and manuals, but also in providing more automatic scoring, use of audio recording technologies for speech and language samples (also already built into several existing qualitative assessments) and fast report generation.

Interactivity, animation and educational relevance

With advances in programming, developers are producing increasingly interactive speech and language apps, allowing clients to make choices and solve problems as part of language comprehension and expression activities. We see this with the increased use of animation in language-based apps such as Mobile Education Store's Tense Builder, in which movement and action target an understanding of tense. An abundance of (perhaps more inexpensively developed) interactive websites are directly related to the language of curriculum content, but engaging apps filled with classroom concepts are published daily. As is the case with Disney American Presidents, these are usually not free, but they offer multimedia aspects and interactivity that engage all students in often-abstract language contexts. 

Information sharing

You likely have noticed—and perhaps have used—the QR, or "Quick Response," codes in printed materials that direct you to online content. You can leverage this technology in your treatment via apps such as Scan and QR Reader for Android. These apps allow clients to engage with vocabulary, narrative content, articulation targets, social language tips or images you share via QR—created and printed quite easily on sites such as Kaywa. You also will likely see more apps that incorporate augmented reality, in which you access a "layer" of information or visuals by scanning a code or marker or navigating to a particular location with your mobile device's camera. Examples include Tour Wrist, which immerses you in 360-degree pictures of worldwide geographic locations that you can navigate by moving your device—a descriptive language goldmine.

In the years to come, these and other technological developments will no doubt continue to reduce drudgery in our jobs and enable us to focus on the parts we enjoy.

Sean Sweeney, MA, CCC-SLP, private practice in Newton, Mass., an instructional technology consultant, and product development manager for Smarty Ears Apps. His blog, Speech-Techie (http://www.speechtechie.com) looks at technology "through a language lens." sean@speechtechie.com

cite as: Sweeney, S. (2013, January 01). App-titude: Mobile Tech Trends to Watch : Look for devices to shed bulk and limitations. Look for apps to add speed and interactivity.. The ASHA Leader.


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