Sean Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist and technology consultant working in private practice at The Ely Center in Needham, MA. Sean spent over a decade in the public school setting serving in the roles of SLP and instructional technology specialist. His blog, SpeechTechie, (named after you, not him) was inspired by the combination of those complementary vocations and a desire to empower those in his field to employ technology in their work. Sean currently consults to and presents for local and national organizations on technology integration in speech and language interventions. Sean is a regular columnist for The ASHA Leader, and loves hiking and breaks from technology as well.
Note: You should consult with your doctor or speech pathologist for recommendations on treatment. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Sean Sweeney and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeechPathologyMastersPrograms.com
Which came first, your interest in technology or speech? How did the two begin to intersect in your life?
I’d say technology. My dad was one of the first “library/media specialists” that existed in the late 70s- this involved him being a self-directed learner in an emerging field and so there were always various Apple products around the house, from the IIe to the first boxy Mac…so I learned along with him. I was sort of surprised when I started figuring out what language therapy and intervention even IS, that tech could be a piece of it. It’s really the visual and interactive parts offered by websites or apps (and used to be, CD Roms) that made the intersection. Tech just offers a context to get students to talk, listen, write, work together, use and develop strategies…and it’s engaging.
What made you decide to start sharing your knowledge through Speech Techie?
I was working as an instructional tech specialist and so out of the full-time SLP mode, which I missed. I had been blogging personally and liked the writing aspect, and I was a big fan of Richard Byrne’s Free Technology for Teachers blog. I wanted to start something like his, but with a speech and language spin on resource sharing.
What do you hope that your readers get out of reading Speech Techie?
Confidence to integrate helpful resources? I always like to say that the blog is named after them, not me. I hope that I provide exemplars such that they can try things on their own- seeing the syncing between helpful techniques and methodologies (e.g. recasts, Social Thinking, Story Grammar Marker) with what can be an activity-based contextual approach that incorporates tech.
You have created your own criteria for evaluating SLP technological tools called FIVES (Fairly Priced, Interactive, Visual, Educationally Relevant, and Speechie). It is a very straightforward and intelligent way of evaluating apps, sites, and other technologies for the classroom. Was there a moment when you realized SLPs needed an evaluation tool like this?
Thank you! After a few months of writing on the blog and noting that people seemed to be starting to read it, I wanted to think about the bigger picture. The acronym was to give people a tool so they could look at the array of resources out there and think for themselves. We need not be limited by the technology that was created for SLPs specifically- if we think creatively (and the criteria was meant to be a guide) we can explain the usefulness of many other apps and websites. So the criteria is also meant to be a justification of any given tech integration opportunity within a field in which clinicians can be frankly a bit judgmental of each other.
Is there a general technology advancement that has made the biggest difference with your clients?
I would say 2- the arrival of the iPad has made co-engagement, say with an interactive app, and co-creation, with tools like Book Creator really easy- for my clients and me and hopefully for the SLPs who I share these tools with. Also the spread of Google tools has made productivity a lot easier for my students.
What tech can you not live without in the speech room?
I’m a huge fan of the Apple TV for providing visual support for making plans, discussing a topic, sharing video, making social narratives and other uses. It’s amazing how kids can regulate themselves while still thinking of the group, as the screen can just be a support- even if I am just typing an agenda into a Keynote/PowerPoint slide.
How do you stay up to date on new technologies for SLPs? Where do you look?
I give Twitter periodic skims- there are good resources on who to follow like ictevangelist.com/the-periodic-table-of-educational-tweeters-to-follow/. and I tend to follow edtech blogs in feedly and again, just skim them when I can. Teachers with Apps and Smart Apps for Kids are two faves of mine, though they aren’t really talking about SLP, you can find many connections.
What advice do you have for graduate SLP students who want to implement technology in their future practices?
Come to one of my workshops! Haha…I think having access to one’s own Chromebook and iPad and not expecting those to be provided to you is a first step, realistically. Discuss with supervisors what you’d like to try and see how it goes! Consider project-based learning as it hits a lot of educational and language targets and only involves tech incidentally, which will help show what you are trying to do. Kidspiration is one of the best apps to get started with as it targets language structure (categories, associations, story grammar) and can be used in any context- I love to pair it with picture books.Published: