Quick summary of what the SLP Summit was all about:

We all need help figuring out how to get the most out of our devices to help families thrive. This presentation highlighted my top picks for customizable features, free apps, and strategies that speech-language pathologists (and others) can use during sessions to maximize successful outcomes. Many of the resources I presented may be new to you but can help improve speaking, understanding, reading, writing, attention, and executive functioning.

It was an absolute blast connecting with so many of you! I loved the enthusiasm and engagement of the 800+ participants in the live audience, as well as the follow-up interactions I’ve had with many of you who viewed the recording since then. And I’m definitely pleased to have seen the sales of my recently published book, Assistive Technology in Special Education: Resources to Support Literacy, Communication, and Learning Differences, 3rd Edition, soar and the newly created IST Tech Savvy Solutions Facebook Group grow exponentially!

Answers to live viewers’ questions

Part 1- Google Chrome Apps and Extensions

How much do the extensions typically cost?

All of the extensions and the features that I highlighted are totally free for everyone to use.

Can you use Read&Write for Google Chrome to read aloud students’ writing to help them find errors?

Absolutely! I often encourage students or adults who are writing an essay in Google Docs, creating an email response, or completing an online form to use the text-to-speech features of the Read&Write extension to proofread their work.

I haven’t seen Google Slides before. Is it like PowerPoint?

Yes, it is very much like PowerPoint. For users in the business world who primarily use Microsoft products, PowerPoint is a fantastic tool included in the MS Office Suite. One significant advantage of Google Slides is that it is free, automatically saves every few seconds, and is an excellent tool for collaboration and sharing.  

Can we use the Google apps you showed us in school? Can we share them with other parents to use with their children at home through Google Drive?

Yes and no. It depends. This is where things get tricky.

Many schools use Google Classroom which, depending on how it’s configured, may limit with whom the account user can email or communicate. Some schools allow students to add any free extension or app to their account, while others place tighter controls on the apps and extensions that can be added by the user. I suggest speaking to the school’s Google administrator about what is permitted and what isn’t. I tend to work primarily with families in my practice, and many students end up with two Google accounts, one for use with family and personal interactions, and the other for use in school.

Can you use all of the Google features “offline” or without an internet connection?

No, you can’t use all of the features unless you are online. That said, if you enable specific options in some apps, you can use them offline, and they will sync all new content the next time they are online.

How do we get the Google extension for free as a teacher?

I believe that this question refers to my presentation of the Read&Write for Google Extension. The text-to-speech feature that can be accessed by either selecting text or hovering over text is free for everyone, even after the initial trial of the premium version has expired.

For teachers, sign into Chrome with your preferred the email address for use with the extension. Using that account, complete this form. It’s fine if you aren’t affiliated with a “Google” school. It will probably take a day or two for the information to be processed and for the premium subscription to be activated.

Do I need to use a Gmail account to access these incredible apps and extensions?

No. You can link a non-Gmail email address to the Google account and use it to sign in to your Chrome account.

Can you use text-to-speech on PDFs?

Yes, but that is beyond the scope of this webinar. In practice, it can be a little tricky. A quick answer is that PDF files that you upload to Google Drive or Classroom become editable text, enabling the use of accessibility features and extensions, such as having the text read aloud to you. There are also ways to markup/ annotate the PDF, which is great for helping students when paper-based worksheets aren’t working for them.

What’s the best way to securely send information directly to families via text or email?

Remind (Formerly Remind 101) may be a good solution if you work at a school to send one- way communications to families. Also, Gmail has been recently updated to send messages in “confidential mode.” This new feature is being rolled out to all users who update their Gmail app, whether or not you are in a school. It allows the sender to set an expiration date on the email, require a passcode, and limits the receiver’s ability to copy/paste, download, or print the email.

What is Backup and Sync?

Google Backup and Sync is an app for PC and Mac that locally backs up files and photos in Google Drive and Google Photos. I use it to work locally on my Mac, so my content will be automatically backed up and synced with Google Drive. This way I can access my content from any of my devices. If I am on an Android or iOS device, I can go to the Google Drive app and access the content from there.

Is there a Stay Focusd option for iPhones?

Sort of. Stay Focusd is a Google Chrome extension, so it won’t work on an iPhone. It only works on devices that use the full version of the Chrome browser. However, there is another app that many people have found useful on the iPhone called Freedom. When working on an iPhone, it may be helpful to turn off all notifications and use guided access to lock yourself into one app until you complete your task or for a reasonable period.

Can you share the group’s Google Doc address again?

Sure! I created a Google Docs so that we could all post suggestions of our favorite features, apps, and strategies. Here is the link: http://bit.ly/2LUoQlA. I will be sure to share the results if more of you post responses in the document.

Moving forward, there has been a great deal of interest in the new IST Tech Savvy Solutions Facebook Group I created, so we can continue to share and help each other out as we figure out how to use tech to help children and adults with communication, reading, writing, learning, and executive functioning challenges. All are welcome to join! You just have to answer three quick questions, and you will be accepted into the group.

Will there be information on your website about any new classes that you’ll be offering?

Absolutely! I have been busy creating new classes based on requests from many of you. Typically, I first announce new opportunities to the members of the IST Tech Savvy Solutions Facebook Group. After that, I post it in the Events and Webinars section of my website, send an email to people who want to stay in touch, and try to spread the word on my various social media channels.

Have something to add? Join the discussion in the comments below!