Full PreFrontal

Ep. 93: Joan Green, SLP - Augmenting Life with Technology

October 29, 2019 Sucheta Kamath Season 1 Episode 93
Full PreFrontal
Ep. 93: Joan Green, SLP - Augmenting Life with Technology
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Full PreFrontal
Ep. 93: Joan Green, SLP - Augmenting Life with Technology
Oct 29, 2019 Season 1 Episode 93
Sucheta Kamath

21st century living has put a strain on our brain’s capacity to plan for the future, process and retain information, and pursue the goals of a multifaceted life. And while moving through the highly-wired and totally connected world, one often wonders if we are truly benefitting from the advancements provided by the technology that has the potential to augment the brain’s limitations or are we being enslaved by it? Often the key is to take the time to assess and appropriate the use of technology to one’s own personal needs and then to develop the insight as well as the skills to avoid the built-in lure that pleases the thrill-seeking mind. With effective coaching and training, even those with executive function challenges can learn to augment their lives with a second brain.

On this episode, speech-language pathologist, author, and expert in assistive technology, Joan Greene, will discuss how to improve our relationship to technology while commanding it to serve our needs on a daily basis. Those who help others have no excuse but to up their technology game so that the brains that are wired with technology can fire together.

About Joan Green, SLP
Joan always has an eye out for affordable cutting-edge technologies to help others thrive in life. Her mission is to help young children, students and adults not only overcome communication, literacy, and cognitive challenges, but to maximize success and happiness.

For the past 30+ years, Joan has been providing forward-thinking speech therapy services to individuals of all ages who have a wide variety of speaking, understanding, reading, writing, learning and attention challenges. She received her undergraduate as well as graduate education at Northwestern University. After spending time working for others in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and home care, she formed Innovative Speech Therapy in the Washington, DC area in 1992, so that she could provide top quality rehabilitative and intervention services using her unique approach combining cutting-edge technology with individualized action plans. She continues to prioritize her own learning by attending and presenting at workshops and conferences, networking with colleagues, and exploring emerging technologies.

In addition to providing 1:1 therapy as well as and professional development and online webinars and courses, Joan has published 4 books. Her most recent bestselling publication was published in 2018 titled, Assistive Technology in Special Education, 3rd Edition: Resources to Support Literacy, Communication and Learning Differences.

She has received several awards for her unique approach to helping others and is actively involved with many local, online and international groups and associations. Joan is ASHA certified and licensed in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC. She was born and raised in Buffalo, NY and lives in Potomac, MD. She is the proud mother of 4 wonderful young adults and 2 dogs.

Websites:

Books

Show Notes Transcript

21st century living has put a strain on our brain’s capacity to plan for the future, process and retain information, and pursue the goals of a multifaceted life. And while moving through the highly-wired and totally connected world, one often wonders if we are truly benefitting from the advancements provided by the technology that has the potential to augment the brain’s limitations or are we being enslaved by it? Often the key is to take the time to assess and appropriate the use of technology to one’s own personal needs and then to develop the insight as well as the skills to avoid the built-in lure that pleases the thrill-seeking mind. With effective coaching and training, even those with executive function challenges can learn to augment their lives with a second brain.

On this episode, speech-language pathologist, author, and expert in assistive technology, Joan Greene, will discuss how to improve our relationship to technology while commanding it to serve our needs on a daily basis. Those who help others have no excuse but to up their technology game so that the brains that are wired with technology can fire together.

About Joan Green, SLP
Joan always has an eye out for affordable cutting-edge technologies to help others thrive in life. Her mission is to help young children, students and adults not only overcome communication, literacy, and cognitive challenges, but to maximize success and happiness.

For the past 30+ years, Joan has been providing forward-thinking speech therapy services to individuals of all ages who have a wide variety of speaking, understanding, reading, writing, learning and attention challenges. She received her undergraduate as well as graduate education at Northwestern University. After spending time working for others in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and home care, she formed Innovative Speech Therapy in the Washington, DC area in 1992, so that she could provide top quality rehabilitative and intervention services using her unique approach combining cutting-edge technology with individualized action plans. She continues to prioritize her own learning by attending and presenting at workshops and conferences, networking with colleagues, and exploring emerging technologies.

In addition to providing 1:1 therapy as well as and professional development and online webinars and courses, Joan has published 4 books. Her most recent bestselling publication was published in 2018 titled, Assistive Technology in Special Education, 3rd Edition: Resources to Support Literacy, Communication and Learning Differences.

She has received several awards for her unique approach to helping others and is actively involved with many local, online and international groups and associations. Joan is ASHA certified and licensed in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC. She was born and raised in Buffalo, NY and lives in Potomac, MD. She is the proud mother of 4 wonderful young adults and 2 dogs.

Websites:

Books

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Producer: Welcome back to Full PreFrontal where we are exposing the mysteries of executive function. As per usual, I am here with our host Sucheta Kamath.

Good morning, Sucheta, I’m very much looking forward to today’s conversation.

Sucheta Kamath: Well, thank you, Todd, for being with me and always helping me set the stage for our next guest, and in order to talk about what we’re going to talk about today, I thought I’ll share some things that I have come across recently. We talk a lot about technology and how life has gotten better — or worse, it depends, but we know technology is here to help us and part of that job is to also help yourself, but recently, a funny story I came across, there was a man whose son gave him a camera or selfie stick — I forget what the deal was — and he also received this gift of he and his wife to celebrate their anniversary, like 30 years of marriage or something, a trip to Las Vegas. So, the man decided to capture the entire experience on his camera, and unfamiliar with the technology or rather, he finished the trip, he was very happy he documented every step of the way. By the time he came back, he decided to call his son and say, “What do I do next?” So, he said, “Dad, why don’t you upload these?” Of course, the dad didn’t know what the heck that meant, but he figured it out eventually, and once the video went live, it turned out, the entire time, the camera was facing the man, so he says, “Here is the Bellagio,” but no, it was the man talking from his hotel room half-naked. So, it was very interesting to see that, and these are cute stories.

Another quick story that comes to my mind is there was a picture on YouTube — I mean, a little clip I saw in preparation of this — a man who actually fell in a manhole because he was on his cellphone. So, we know these are stories, some cute and fun stories, but in the context of executive function, how do we fit technology? So, technology is like having a genie that has come out of the bottle and is willing to do whatever you wanted. The most important job you have is to give appropriate directions or appropriate commands, so that the genie can follow your command.

So, with that in mind, I’m so thrilled to have this amazing speech and language pathologist, a colleague of mine, a prolific webinarist — if I can even invent a word. Her name is Joan Green. She is a speech and language pathologist. She graduated from Northwestern University, she worked in hospitals and rehab centers. She kind of had a trajectory like mine, but currently, she is the founder of Innovative Speech Therapy and she lives in the Washington area where she practices, and she has a very broad practice where she serves children, adolescents, and adults and helping them to manage themselves using the technology as a solution. Joan always has an eye for affordable cutting edge technologies to help individuals thrive in their life. Her mission is to help young children, students, adults not only overcome communication literacy and cognitive challenges, but to maximize success and happiness, and that makes me so happy because yes, there is a way to live a life in spite of challenges and actually reach a point where you are thriving and finding contentment.

And Joan, in addition to providing one-to-one therapy, she always does lots of professional development, online webinars and courses, and she is a published author of four books. Her most recent bestselling publication was published in 2018. It’s called Assistive Technology in Special Education. It’s a third edition resource to support literacy, communication, and learning differences. She has received several awards for her unique approach to helping others and she’s actively involved in many local online and international groups and associations.

So, it’s such a delight to invite Joan to this podcast. Hello, Joan.

Joan Green: Hello, thanks so much for having me.

Sucheta: So, on this podcast, I start off with this quick discussion about executive function as it pertains to the guest that I have, so since you and I are in this field, I was wondering, the nature of executive function is personal adaptability, goal assessment, intentional focus, and goal-directed behaviors. So, what can you say about your own executive function skills, and as a young learner, as a student, what did you discover about your own style of learning and how did you apply that to learning how to learn?

Joan: That’s such a great question and I’ve listened to a number of your podcasts and it’s always so fascinating to hear which everyone has to say about this. I think that I’ve always been very good with my organization, but I’ve never considered myself as having a really good memory, and for some reason, as I grew up, I always surrounded myself with people who I perceived to be much smarter than I was. Somehow, they were just always so brilliant, and I just could not memorize things for school the way they did, but I was really well-organized and proactive in my approach to studying and learning, and so I was usually the organizer of many events, and I was able to be pretty successful just because of my approach to learning, not that I was so brilliant but that I was able to be organized and use a good calendar and manage my tasks, and a lot of the individuals around me, even though I perceived them as being quite a bit smarter than me, they didn’t always have those skills, and that’s often my strength now, is I’m always trying to stay on top of things and organize. I have four children and I have my business, and I have elderly relatives that I’m caring for, and there’s always a lot going on, but people always often wonder why I don’t appear more stressed. They would always say, watching me with my four kids, how am I calm? And I think that if you have a plan and you’re organized, it really reduces a lot of stress, and so that’s what I try to do for the families that I help.

Sucheta: That’s so wonderful and as we have come to understand executive function is this complex orchestration of skill set, I hate to see how organization gets such a — I mean, it’s minimized. Organization is the backbone of a successful life and we casually say, “Oh, all I do is organize.” No, it’s a very complex process, so kudos to you. I myself fall in that category as well that have great planning and organizational abilities. My memory was not the best, but I had great compensation for it. Do you quickly mind to share a little bit about how that insight or that intuitive sense of how to organize your life informed or influenced your therapeutic approach?

Joan: Good question. I’m trying to think, I guess it just seemed obvious to me. A lot of people come to me for help because they were just sort of scattered in their approach and it seemed that — I would ask simple questions like if you are feeling very stressed because you have so many things filling up your day that you don’t have time to do what you need, where do you put things that you need to do, and often, people say they just keep them in their head. There are a lot of people very averse to keeping lists. I almost feel like the initial sessions when I’m working with someone to help them with executive functioning are just common sense; they just seem like common sense to me.

Sucheta: Exactly.

Joan: Just starting with the basics, and I’m not even talking about using any special tools are special devices for people with disabilities or anything, just mainstream things that we all have that often, people neglect to use.

Sucheta: Yeah, and you know what’s so interesting about this commonsensical approach? I mean, I feel a lot of my therapeutic approach as I have finessed it comes from the intuitive understanding of things how to help yourself and we don’t think of that as a skill that actually is a type of smarts that influences the way you will lead a successful life.

So, let’s start with this question: is technology a source of distraction and/or power struggle? How can it be used to help people?

Joan: Well, I definitely think that there are a lot of families and professionals, and teachers out there who think that it’s better just to stay away from technology all together because it is a source of distraction and power struggle, but I think that if used wisely, it can be enormously empowering. So, when I start sessions with families, I’ll often say, “Do you know how to turn off your notifications?” If you’re on a Mac, you can just click that little Apple on the top left and go under Settings and turn off your notifications, or if you have a phone, you just silence the phone or put on your Do Not Disturb. So, a lot of times, people aren’t aware of techniques to minimize distractions or just, if you don’t need your phone or you don’t need a tablet, have it in a different room when you’re trying to focus on your homework, and there are different ways that parents can have control over the kids in terms of what they can access and how their computers might be distracting to them, but it’s really important to try to have the student take ownership of this because there are always workarounds: parents can just set limits and students can go on a different browser and have a new way to get at things, so I think that really having students or adults be more mindful of why they need to limit distraction so they can free up time to do what brings them joy and what they want to do, it’s in their best interest.

So, we’re all in this together, and so there’s a lot of psychology behind this.

Sucheta: Yes, and one thing that as you were speaking I connected with something I do, so my interviews tend to be very long when I assess executive function needs, and one of the things that I do with the technology assessment is have a student make a folder and I tell them that you are taking an executive function class and I want you to create a folder, and now, show me where you will save it, and show me why that location, and tell me what will go in it and how would you create a shortcut for that. So, as I’m kind of watching a very purposeful functional application of simple task such as creating folders, I think that is kind of a foundational skill as the student is organizing themselves, they do not have access to information which is supposed to make life easier, what we call shortcuts, they don’t even know the shortcuts for their own technology.

So, can you talk a little bit about this idea of seeing students take ownership of their own technology use? What does that look like?

Joan: Sure. In fact, I just saw a student earlier today and she’s getting ready to go to college, and she’s very scattered and anxious, and stressed, and she just is worried that she’s not ready for college and she’s having second thoughts, and she might take another gap year, and the neuropsychologist — a lot of my referrals come from neuropsychologists and educational consultants to help students get more out of their devices and get organized, and one of the first things I’ll do is I’ll say, “What’s on your mind?” and they’ll just keep saying that they don’t have enough time to do everything and there’s too much to do, and so I’ll say, as I alluded to before, “Where do you write them down?” and there’s no mechanism for that. So, I’ll often go to the Google tools. All of the newest devices have ways to do this, but often, I like Google Keep because it can be an app on an Android phone or an iOS phone, or a tablet or any of the computers, and if you go to Google Keep — and it’s free — you can just create notes, like sticky notes, and you can say, okay, you have a lot of chores that you have to do around the house, let’s say, and so you just name — I like using lots of color. You pick a color and you start creating checkboxes for a particular project or area that’s causing stress, and you just list all the things that you have to do, and just that, just a brain dump of different areas of their life, and I have them actively do it. We’ll do this for maybe 10 minutes. They feel so much less stress because now, everything’s down on paper and we’re starting to get a plan for it, and I think that that’s often the first thing that I’ll do.

Sucheta: Lovely. Yeah, so your goal there, as you’re discussing ownership, I’m thinking the steps you described is your way of showing them the urgent need for them to actually become systematic in managing this. So, the scope, you’re helping them define the scope or make this more tangible, right?

Joan: Absolutely, right, and they have to be check off-able items, so we’d talk about where would you put something on this list, like when is something a big project? When there are lots of steps in that task, or when it is a check off-able item? And when do you put things in calendars? So, we have Google Calendar and you might have Google Tasks, but often, even if you know that these things exist, how do you use them and what is your strategy for what goes where, and then how to maintain the system that you set up?

So, today, we did that in an hour and a half. That’s most of what we did, and she had a tremendous sense of relief when we were finished because there was a plan and action, and if things are urgent, then you take your task and you put it in the calendar and you find time for it because if you have your calendar set up in a way that’s helpful to you, you see where your free spots are, and then you have to have some kind of system for looking ahead and looking back, and making sure that things are getting down and reflect on what you did.

Sucheta: Absolutely. It sounds like something that you and I do is concretize their need for management and then also having a system of self-reminders: how do I remind myself to remember to remember? So, let’s talk a little bit about another idea which is what’s the family’s role in learning how to use the technology to help the students thrive?

Joan: I think that’s very much dependent on the age of the student because we know that executive functioning is developmental in nature, and so when children are younger, I think it’s more important for the parents to model good executive functioning skills, and so for example, with my four kids, even when they were in kindergarten, I had them using calendars back in the day. All my kids are — I’m an empty nester now, so my youngest one is 20, my oldest one is 26, and when they were in kindergarten, they would all have paper calendars with stickers and they would put vacation days and birthdays, and things like that, and I was always oriented toward the calendar, and they they’d start having their student planner, and I think when they kids are younger, the parents really need to be modeling how to stay organized and facilitating in any way kids doing it and having their own calendars, so that they have ownership of their time and they’re not constantly using their parents to organize their life which astoundingly happens even as kids are going to college. So, it starts from kindergarten.

Sucheta: As you mentioned this, I remember my personal story as well. I grew up in India and my father worked for a company that processed chemicals, like it was an organic chemicals company, and every year, the vendors would provide these calendars and planners as a gift, so every year, I would get — since I was in kindergarten, we would have four planners, like agendas with inspirational quote on top, and then the timed calendar, and then it would have goals. Now, remember, I mean, this is nothing — never ever in Indian schools that I learned this, but because I had access to this and my father would give us a choice and we will, in fact, have a couple of them left behind because we were only three kids we would receive like, seven to 10 calendars or planners, and I started writing these kinds of notes to myself about what did I do? Where did I play? Where did I go? And that was so helpful, so by the time I arrived in college and started having my own caseload, I was using these systems management caseload and being able to write case notes even if I forgot. I would write a note as to what happened in that session, and then my children — I have a 21-year-old and a 23-year-old as well and yesterday, my husband sent a picture to my older son saying, “Ooh, look at this.” It was a bookshelf — image of a bookshelf in a shape of a piano with a keyboard on one side, and click on a keyboard, the light lights up. It’s just a fancy bookshelf, and my son with excitement sent a screenshot of the pictures in his — I guess in camera pictures, the photo album, and so he sent a screenshot and said, “Dad, look, like four months ago, I kind of saw this image as well and I have saved it, so that I can find it,” and as I looked at the screenshot of his image, above that, there was a screenshot of his to-do list from four months ago. So, this to-do list is like, so meticulous about — it was already divided into like, three parts. One part of the to-do list was daily routines and he says 10 minutes of meditation, 30 minutes of exercise, and he had all these checklists and [00:17:33] So, it made me laugh that this is something that my kids and I, we had done it as a family or kind of taught them explicitly which kind of has become such a great way of managing a very complex life that they’re leading [00:17:48].

Joan: [00:17:47]

Sucheta: Yeah, so it was a funny story. Your story reminded me of that.

Now, so let’s talk about this concept of how you usually start working with the families or the children, or adults and they come into your office, what is the big picture of your assessment of determining technology needs to manage themselves?

Joan: Well, the first visit, I usually call a brainstorming session, and so I try, even before people come in, I have them send me reports, very comprehensive reports, so I have a pretty good indication of what’s going on. When they come in, I try to have as many — both parents if possible come with them and we brainstorm, like what are the pain points? What is the biggest problem? Sometimes, the organizational skills are fine of the student but perhaps, it’s a reading comprehension problem or a written expression problem. So, I work with all kinds of different issues, but another area is the organization of where you put content that has to be read or documents that you’re working on writing, like the iCloud management, if you’re sharing things into iCloud or Google Classroom, or Dropbox, I guess I don’t really follow an exact protocol. In that first visit, when I’m getting started, I try to figure out where the pain points are, and before we get too much into therapy, I’m trying to help them come up with potential solutions that are quick, easy fixes using mainstream products that can make the biggest amount of difference in the shortest period of time, and often, I’ll just help them set it up and have the student make as many choices as possible, so that they’re owning this process.

Does that make sense? And often, the parents are in the background and often, they’re not real comfortable with Google and Google Classroom, and Drive, and sharing things in real-time collaboration, and so sometimes, I even do extra visits just with the parents, so that they can feel comfortable supporting the students.

Sucheta: Yeah, and I think what strikes me about this, it’s how you can have a solution when you don’t know how well or how poorly you’re using technology to aide your own goals or processes, and I liked this idea that when you talk about the pain points, it depends on how people describe their pain points. A lot of times, do you experience that when people who are describing these children or adolescents or adults having difficulties, what they see is different than what you actually notice once you started getting into the thick of it, what strikes you as different compared to how other people describe their difficulties versus what they describe their own difficulties to be?

Joan: Yeah, I mean it can go on both directions. Sometimes, the parents will say, “Oh, the student is really tech-savvy. They are all over their technology and they are fast, and they are good,” the parents often think whereas when I’m really watching the student and I know where they are clicking, they are just making lots of errors and self-correcting their errors and they don’t really have a strategy in place for storing their materials and setting up systems of organization. They are extremely scattered but they are fast and they are moving around, making lots of clicks, and so often, the parents think that they know what they are doing, or sometimes, parents are really hard on their kids and say they’re not trying hard enough and they are not using the tools that they are shown, and really, I see that the kids are making good conscious decisions. It’s the parents that have no idea what they are doing and what’s going on with this whole Google world and cloud storage and word prediction or dictation, and the parents might not realize that students might be using their phone to dictate into a Google Doc. Maybe that is a good strategy for them and maybe the parents see the kids as talking on the phone and not doing their homework. There are so many misperceptions that go on, it’s astounding, so that’s why I’m really into having parents be there with the students and everybody collaborating and moving forward as a team, unless there’s some privacy issues or there are a lot of issues where people aren’t getting along well and a lot of blame to go around. It’s just very tricky and every family set up is so different.

Sucheta: You know, once the student is recommended technology or any processes that aides the student’s self-management, I also do observation, so sometimes, not as frequently — very seldomly now as compared to before, but home visits or even classroom visits, and I sit behind the student and watch how they engage with the fast-moving information and how they are using this technology that they are supposed to be using to manage, such as recording the lecture or taking notes, or kind of creating the notetaking system that has been facilitated for them. As you mentioned, those are invisible skills and sometimes, the extreme agility with which they navigate the screen almost gives an impression that they have proficiency and it’s quite misleading, as you mentioned, and one time, I’ll give you an example, I would observe a student and I sat behind, I was video recording. The students were facing the board, so nobody knew I was doing that, but my student was — actually, she spent close to 11 to 12 minutes of the beginning of the lecture adjusting the left margin, so that she can have perfect margin. So, she had not taken a single word note, she had not started the recorder, she had not done anything that would help her, but she looked so busy that the teacher from the other end — to the teacher, she looked like she was very focused, so in fact, I got the feedback, “Sucheta, when you came, the kid was very focused.” I don’t even see that and I’m like, “Oh, no, the child was not focused.”

So, I bet you see that as well, that appearance of being engaged may not be true engagement.

Joan: Right, and sometimes, these students just get caught up in the aesthetics of the document that they are creating and there are times when I will say, “It’s too much of a distraction for you, how about if you take notes — write things by hand?” It’s rare, but sometimes, just the good old pen and paper, pencil and paper, and then take a picture of your notes and store them in Google Drive, store the image. I mean, there are lots of benefits to using Google Docs and even Microsoft Word 365 is wonderful now and a lot of these products now help with word prediction and they will save your document every few seconds, so you don’t lose it. They automatically update it to the newest file, you can have a real-time collaboration. I mean, they are really good features, but sometimes, that gets in the way and it all gets back to helping somebody get what they need when they need it. I brought my kids up, they would say, “That’s not fair, that’s not fair,” and I would always say, “Fair is getting what you need when you need it. It’s not the same at the same time.” So, figuring out somebody’s strengths and weaknesses, and what task they have to do, and then implementing the tools to help them do it in the best way possible, it is tricky, and so you need help from somebody that knows the options and I think it’s really hard for families to know what is there. I mean, that’s what I have this whole webinar series and I named it theymaynotknow.com. It’s at theymaynotknow.com, how do you know what you don’t know and how can you learn more about what you don’t even realize exists? So, it’s hard but there are ways to learn and hopefully, the schools are getting the word out to the children, and if the families can’t get direct intervention from a speech language pathologist or another professional who is skilled with language learning, and technology, then the school does offer some support through there other ways to get that information.

Sucheta: Yeah, very well said. You know what? You alluded to these technologies, particularly the monster called Google, so why don’t we spend a little bit of time, do you mind walking us through how best or effectively one can use Google?

Joan: Sure. I mean, when I’m trying —

Sucheta: Sorry, I meant Google tools.

Joan: Google tools, yeah. I mean, Google apps and extensions, and all these things now, for families, we refer to it as G Suite, and so that’s the Google Calendar and Google – well, Gmail and Google Maps, I mean, there are a whole bunch of these Google apps, and so to start it all off, you need an identity, a Google identity, which many people have, and as long as you logged into Google for something, Gmail or Google Calendar or Google Maps, that is your username and password, and then a lot of times, it’s best to use the Google Chrome browser and sign into the browser, and that’s when the magic sort of happens. So, if you are using Google Docs with the Safari browser or Microsoft Edge, sometimes, you can’t get full functionality from all the different Google add-ons and extensions, and there is a whole world out there.

So, when I’m starting with people, I’ll usually start them with Google Calendar, so you could just go to calendar.google.com to sign in, or you can go through — it gets a little confusing — go through the Google Chrome web store, that’s where you get the apps. So, I’ll get them online with their computer, and then I’ll say, “Let’s go to your phone and download the Google Calendar app and the Google Keep app, and Google Drive app, and Google Docs app,” so that everything starts syncing, and then it’s wonderful, once you start typing into a Google Doc or you just enter items into a calendar and then you say, “Okay, let’s open your phone,” and they see it all there instantly, and then you can share a document with the parents, let’s say, then it gets exciting.

Sucheta: So, one quick question, so you are recommending them to have a central system that talks to the other system that they are going to use and you kind of probably do some type of orientation you are recommending that, right?

Joan: Right, right. I mean, right, I think it’s really good to have a cohesive approach, and then that way, if the student gets to school and they worked very hard on this document, you can just download it from school, you can access this information from any device.

Sucheta: Again, what’s so important about your message is that using a system that can really make your life easier, it sometimes can become a problem if you don’t know how the system works, and then the second thing I’m hearing you say is making all your systems talk to each other, and once you have that kind of cohesiveness, there is a lot more powerful ways you can access information from many places and it all is safe and secure, no risk of losing things, like it was on my laptop, I don’t know where it is, and you can remotely access it which is it’s a great powerful way of staying connected, so you don’t need your own laptop or your old laptop is dead which is what happens to a lot of students. They can’t access information because it’s locked somewhere else.

Joan: On the flipside of this, you have to be careful because if you go to a public library and you’re working on a report and you are using the public computer and you sign into Google, if you forget to sign out, that is a problem because whoever sits at that computer next has access to all of your information, so you have to be very mindful.

Sucheta: Oh, yeah, that could be very dangerous.

Joan: Yeah, yeah, so you just have to be very mindful of how you use it and determine your risk. I mean, maybe you don’t want to ever use your Google account from a public computer for that fear, but sometimes, like you will have a Chromebook at school and you sign into your Google account, and then as soon as you exit it, some of them will just sign you out, so that is safe, so you just want to keep safety and privacy in mind also.

Sucheta: The kids I have worked with or adults I worked with, it has not been their usage of a computer in a public space, but they have in fact use the computers in schools in public spaces, but it’s like part of the university or school library, and then they have left their Google account open and that has created — in fact, one of my students actually got in severe trouble because of him going into somebody’s account that was open and available and sending something inappropriate messages and lack of inclusivity, so yeah, you’re right, I think that kind of regulation, again, is a hard thing for kids and adults, or adolescents and young adults who suffer from executive function problems because they are not very mindful of these little details.

So, anything else you can share about the Google G Suite that people should really explore and do you recommend your users to kind of familiarize themselves through tutorials so you guide them? How do you go about it?

Joan: Well, video tutorials are great. I mean, once you know what you want to learn more about, you can always try to go on to YouTube and find some videos, but it’s hard to know what you don’t know, like I alluded to before, but some of the topics might be if you’re in a Google document which looks very much like Microsoft Word, you can just go to the Tools bar and navigate down and you will see something that says Voice Typing and it’s just built right into the Google Doc. You don’t add anything to it, but once you turn it on and give it access to your microphone, you can dictate and it’s amazingly accurate. If you have a voice that’s easy to understand, and even if you have an accent, it’s quite good, unless you have a proxy or [00:31:14] a significant speech intelligibility issue, but you have to learn how to use dictation to help inform the analysis of what you say, but that is a tool that is built right and that has dictation that’s very helpful to many students, but there is the skill on learning how to use it.

There are also ways to have text read out loud to you for free. There is a Google Chrome extension called Read and Write for Google that there is a feature that will read out loud and highlight the words as they are read in a great voice at a speed of your choosing, and that’s really helpful for students who have attention challenges or have reading challenges, and when you look at the words along with hearing them, it really helps it sink in better and process the information better, so there are a lot of tools. I mean, I’m just scratching the surface. I have a way for people to learn which is through webinars that I do and I put all the recordings in a site. If you go to theymaynotknow.com , you can always see my next webinar, and then there’s another button on there that takes you to a link for the previously recorded webinars, and it’s just $25 to view all my previous recorded webinars. It’s a monthly subscription, but you can stop it at any time.

On my book covers are my favorite Google resources, and I also offer free 15-minute phone conversations with anybody anywhere around the world, and it’s just sort of helping people figure out next steps that they might want to explore, so that is a free way that people can – they can just go to my website at innovativespeech.com and click on – there is a pop-up that makes it easy to contact me.

Sucheta: Yeah, and we will link all your resources. You are really prolific in the way you share resources with everyone, and we will make that available as well so people can easily access it.

My other question about this aspect of learning tools to facilitate learning, whose job is it to do that? Because it sounds like you are a specialist like I am, people consult you, people first of all need to find you, and they need to also know that they have a problem, and you and I know the barriers to that is what if you don’t know what you don’t know and what if you don’t know how to search for those who know? And so, in school context, how much do you deem the teachers to be responsible for this facilitation and what is being done in your opinion?

Joan: That’s such a hard question. I think that’s a problem, is whose job is this? I mean, is it just a regular educational technology or is it something to help people only with diagnosed disabilities? I mean, there are a lot of laws out there that say that the government or the schools have a responsibility to help the students access the curriculum and show what they know with the help of assistive technologies, but it’s very loosey-goosey and it sort of depends – it depends on the school system that you are in. I happened to come from a school system that does a reasonably good job. I mean, I tend to get a little bit – I mean, I always think everybody should be doing more than they are with the help of technology, but we have a team out in Montgomery County where I lived and they have a team HIAT, High Incidence Assistive Technology and they do a great job of training the teachers. Their mission is to help the teachers meet the need of the students, and so in our system, if the teachers perceived a need that the students have, the teachers reach out to this team and the team comes out and trains the teachers to help the students. They don’t work directly with the student. I don’t think enough is done directly to help the student, but the teachers don’t have time to do that. I mean, perhaps, it’s the individual therapists, the speech pathologists and the occupational therapists within the school system that would be really great if more of them were able to use assistive technology tools within their scope of practice to help the student, and then to provide videos to help the families in their own homes, but everybody is just so stretched to capacity, there’s just not enough funding and money to do this. So, I tend to provide most of my support directly to families because they seem to be the most motivated. They are the ones that find me or who the diagnosticians referred them to, but I can only see a couple of people a day. There are so many people out there that need this information. That’s the million-dollar question: how to get the services and this information to the people who need it the most. There was a very generous man who donated 1500 copies of my book to special educators and other therapists around the country to get this information out, and anybody who opted in, I was all over Twitter and Facebook, and LinkedIn and Instagram offering this for anyone that opted in and over the summer, we did mail out those books for people, and so it’s hard though. People don’t even have the time to look at a book that is sent to them for free often. People really appreciated it, but it’s hard. It’s hard to make this all happen.

Sucheta: So, first of all, thank you for letting me be one of those lucky recipients. I did get a web link. I haven’t gotten a hard copy but I’m very, very grateful for the link that you sent.

Joan: You should have.

Sucheta: I haven’t, but anyways, we will talk about it off-line. What is so amazing is that you’re talking about this and I’m glad that we kind of discussed this, whose job is it and it’s not defined well, and I was speaking to a psychologist recently on the podcast and she was describing the situation where the entire district had purchased this tool or curriculum, a very important and valuable curriculum, but that curriculum purchase was discussed in a meeting and that meeting, either somebody dropped the ball or nobody was paying attention, it’s hard to know, but it was never dispersed throughout all the educators in the district that this tool was purchased. So, there was a tool that makes children’s lives better, learning easier, but that tool was never made available or announced to the educators, and secondly, once she discovered it, she discovered the tool and she kind of recommended the tool to everybody, and the people’s attitude or viewpoint of that tool is it’s optional. So, let me use it when I have time or when I have a need.

And so, another thing that you pointed out that makes me very concerned about our approach to teaching how to learn effectively is we are also categorizing the students and saying, “You don’t have any need or disability, so you probably will figure this out on your own,” but the advantage of teaching, even technology use as you are talking, one can become better at self-optimizing, and so we can really aid everybody if you kind of unveil this.

Joan: You’re right, right, and most of the tools I start out using are really available to everybody. You don’t have to have a diagnosed disability and there are people, like with me, there are times if my eyes are sore or I’m tired, I want to have things read out loud to me or I want to proofread something that I’ve written, so I think giving students and adults the choice of different ways of consuming information and organizing information, and showing what they know, there are multiple ways to do that, and so even though we want people to be able to write things by hand and know grammar and all this, there is a time in a place for all of these tools for everybody. The difference is that when somebody has a diagnosed disability, they require assistive technologies in order to access the curriculum and show what they know. For others, it might be an option but for some people, the people where it’s no longer an option, it’s their only way to overcome a barrier, then those same tools become referred to as assistive technologies.

Sucheta: In this context now, can you talk about this idea of making people aware that they have technology, but they may or may not be using it effectively? You and I talked about this podcast recording, the parents, you were talking about this software engineer dad who himself did not know a lot of ways to effectively use the technology in spite of being a software engineer, so parents themselves are not really fully well-versed with the way to guide children. So, what do you see parents can do to become better mentors?

Joan: I think parents probably need to take the lead. When I see a task that is really challenging to a student, perhaps they can take initiative to explore alternative ways to approach that task, so for me, for both of us in terms of speech therapy, our domain is reading and writing, and talking and listening, and so when I’m thinking of ways that people can benefit from technology, I’ll think of the task, and then what can make that task easier? So, for example, taking notes. People come to me all the time when they have difficulty taking notes, and so parents might have their own technique of taking notes with pen and paper, but with students, if they are more technology-focused, the parents might need to do a little bit of exploring or reaching out, or they can call me or look it up in a book or something, but there are technologies available now that can record audio and sync anything that you write or type, so it’s not a whole audio —

Sucheta: [00:40:50] Scribe, you mean?

Joan: Like LiveScribe, or [00:40:53].

Sucheta: Live Scribe, yeah.

Joan: Or Evernote, I mean, there are a bunch of them, so I have a whole section of my book on that, and so parents might think, oh, you just put a tape player in the front of the room and you get the whole thing on tape, but you waste so much time when you do that. It’s better if you could take notes and maybe start something or come up with a system of taking notes where if something is really important for a test or if there’s something that you’re not quite understanding, you put a big question mark or whatever. So, I’ll go through some scenarios like that with the student, and then you can just attach either the special paper with LiveScribe or a tablet, or touch, select where you type something and you will hear what was said right at that point from the teacher.

So, a lot of parents have no idea that that exists, and it is a problem because there are a lot of school systems that even if it’s in the IP, they might not let your record because there is presumed confidentiality within the public school classrooms. Some might say or some teachers are not comfortable with it. I mean, there are a lot of issues, but I think together, parents can let the students know that they are a team and that they are going to work together to try to figure out a good solution and maybe even go to the school and maybe there is an assistive technology specialist at the school that you could talk to or meet with, or there is somebody, some learning specialist that is well-versed with these things or willing to learn with the parents and the students if they are not already into this world for these devices.

Sucheta: Yeah, I think that’s a very powerful message. Thank you for closing this loop for our listeners because I think as we talked about the complexities of making effective use of technology, we still are unclear whose job is it, so I guess it’s everybody’s job, and kind of inspiring people to play their part, and I love your suggestion that you are asking parents to take the initiative and have the courage to explore something and not be with that mindset that this is how I do things or this is what I think you should be doing without really having any pragmatic or practical application of that approach.

So, thank you, Joan, for being so candid and very generous with your ideas and all the resources you have created for people in the world. I am so grateful for that, and I can’t wait for people getting a chance to see it for themselves. I myself can’t wait to listen to your next webinar, so thank you for being on the podcast today.

Joan: Well, it’s my pleasure and thanks for all the work that you do. You are helping so many people and I appreciate you asking me to join you today.

Producer: Alright, that’s all the time we have for today. If you know of someone who might benefit from listening to today’s episode, we would be grateful if you would kindly forward it to them. So, on behalf of our host, Sucheta Kamath, today’s guest, Joan Green and all of us at Cerebral Matters, thanks for listening today and we look forward to seeing you again right here next week on Full PreFrontal.