Gone 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
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!