November 1, 2013 Columns

App-titude: Mobile Devices Show You the World

Interactive apps bring the gamut of cultures and nationalities into the speech room.

App-titudeGone are the days when clinicians who wanted to use culturally relevant materials had to search for hours for magazine pictures, videotapes, music or books. Mobile devices and apps open doors to a world of immediately accessible content that can be used as a context for treatment. As a result, we can easily explore issues regarding communication and culture with clients and students, and we also can use images, video, text and audio that are relevant to clients' nationalities and cultures as contexts in which to build communication skills.

Rather than tracking down photographs or purchasing expensive photocards, clinicians can use apps to find images to use as stimuli for description and narrative language. A number of apps, including the Fotopedia series, present interactive interfaces for browsing and viewing locations around the world. Fotopedia, known as a "collaborative photo encyclopedia," has free apps for iOS that allow users to explore UNESCO World Heritage sites, Women of the World, and individual countries such as France, China, Japan, Morocco and Burma. Each app contains vibrant photos linked to descriptive text. Though no audio is provided, iOS' Speak Selection feature (Settings>General>Accessibility>Speak Selection) can be used within the apps so that text is read to clients and can be used to build comprehension. These apps are not available for the Android platform, but the Fotopedia website provides much the same experience of location-based photo browsing.

Exploring maps is also a great viewpoint into culture, and is a key feature of Stuck on Earth (free for Android and iOS). This travel guide links beautifully detailed photos to map locations all over the world, along with "Top 50 Lists" and the ability to save photos into "Trips," thus tapping organizational and sequencing skills.

An even more interactive experience is provided by Google Earth, free for iOS and Android. I've mentioned this app in a previous column, but it's worth revisiting in a discussion of culture, especially with its recent addition of 3D content, "Tour Guide" animated tours, and other features. Google Earth allows you to "fly" or zoom in to any location with a finger sweep or pinch, and includes 3D views of landmark models and geotagged pictures from around the globe. A recent addition to the iOS app, Google Maps Street View, lets you "walk" down streets for a 360-degree view of far-flung locations and even enter buildings such as museums, parks, government buildings and malls! A list of key locations explorable in Street View is available.

You can take the "virtual field trip" experience to a new level with your clients through the use of Sphere, free for iOS. This app features collections of 360-degree tours from a variety of countries, as well as a map exploration tool. The app has an augmented reality "wow" factor that will definitely engage your clients: As you move the device, the viewpoint changes, as if you are looking around the depicted area, making this a "must-try" app for exploring and describing geographic locations!

Move from seeing to "tasting" the world with the fun More Buffet app ($1.99 for iOS). This dining simulation allows you to build and "eat" a plate filled with more than 250 kinds of food from 19 countries, including Brazil, Ethiopia, Greece, Korea, India and the Philippines, while developing vocabulary, naming skills, categories and descriptive language along the way.

You can also explore the world of social behavior with apps such as International Business Etiquette (free for iOS, programmed for iPhone). This app provides clinicians with basic guidelines for working with families from other cultures, and also can open instructional dialogues about norms for behavior in other countries, a helpful context for clients with social-cognitive difficulties. The app provides text-based statistics on a great variety of countries, as well as information on aspects of communication such as greetings, body language and many other social behaviors.

Finally, music videos can be a window on culture and also present a narrative for building storytelling skills. Vevo, free for iOS and Android, has a channel of "World" videos from many countries, with descriptors indicating their origins. Just be sure to preview, as music videos are not always appropriate for all ages!

Sean Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP, is an SLP and technology specialist working in private practice at the Ely Center in Newton, Mass., and consultant to local and national organizations on technology integration in speech and language interventions. He is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 1, Language Learning and Education. His blog, SpeechTechie (www.speechtechie.com), looks at technology "through a language lens." sean@speechtechie.com

cite as: Sweeney, S. (2013, November 01). App-titude: Mobile Devices Show You the World. The ASHA Leader.

  

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