ELR Software produces a range of computer programs designed by speech pathologists for speech, language & literacy intervention. Our programs may be used interactively within therapy sessions, to increase efficiency in service delivery, and to improve access to the Internet for people with special needs. We are also available as consultants to clinicians and research projects in the fields of literacy and accessibility issues associated with the Internet.
The aim of this newsletter is to inform you of developments and changes to our major products eLr (Extra Language Resources), Build-a-Sentence, Word Meanings Rude Readers and EIA (Enhancing Internet Access). We welcome the opportunity for feedback and questions, and will be pleased to consider including reader contributions and announcements.
This Newsletter (and previous editions) as well as a "print-ready" PDF version of the current edition is available online at www.elr.com.au/news. An email version is also sent monthly to members of our mailing list (See Subscribing/Unsubscribing).
In this issue -
2010 represents quite a milestone for eLr; in February it will be 10 years old! What began as a personal solution in about 1997 has evolved into a substantial resource for many practicing speech pathologists, teachers in schools, and families in a number of countries.
Back in the late 90s, computers were just starting to be used clinically by a few speech pathologists, and the internet was promising to be a tool that would enable easy access to information and resources. Some speech pathologists were starting to design their own therapy sheets on computers, often using clip art. But, my experience was that I often couldn't find those sheets ... "they are somewhere on this computer... but I can't find it NOW!!", or, in fact, I'd forgotten the ones that I'd already done and would "reinvent wheels".
Rob Seiler (our computer programer) envisaged a system where the therapy materials were catalogued, retrievable, and were also available on the internet. This meant the therapist could access them from wherever they were working, and the families could use the specific tasks that were relevant to their needs, at home via the internet. We also wanted to use the computers ability to include interaction in the tasks for its motivational value on sometimes less than cooperative clients.
Thus, the concept of eLr was formed. It was a slow evolution. First, our small team spent about 3 years drawing out our ideas on the trusty white board . This helped Rob absorb the nature of speech pathology practice. Things like - we might need to shift focus or difficulty level part way through a session. Perhaps, we might want to explore a skill area that we hadn't planned prior to the session. Maybe we'd need to change the nature of the activity, eg from an expressive task to a receptive task. All of these variables are part of the interactive nature of speech therapy. eLr needed to be the type of resource that would allow, and encourage, flexibility, interactivity, and the ability of the clinician to respond to the changing needs of the client.
These first years also allowed the 2 speech pathologists (Toni Seiler and Anna Breakell), to begin to understand what the computer "can do", and what it "can't do". In effect, the speech pathologists and computer programmer needed to develop a common language. With colleagues we also tested various programming solutions in the real world and reported some of these findings (Proceedings, Speech Pathology Australia, National Conference 2001 p329). An early finding of the testing was that internet access was not always as available or reliable as we'd hoped, and from that eLr-Offline was developed. It allows you to use eLr without needing an internet connection, and is still widely used, as internet access is not suitable for all locations and users.
Then came the launch, in February 2000. At that time, eLr, contained about 1,600 activities and we thought that was pretty big ... but over the years, it has evolved and now has nearly 11,000 activities. The Directory now covers Phonology, Phonological Awareness, Reading and Spelling, Semantics, Sentence Processing, and Using Language. So that, for those clients for whom computer activities are appropriate, the clinician is usually able to select tasks that support most of the identified needs.
We decided early on to use some standard, well known graphics in eLr, and are grateful to Mayer-Johnson for their ongoing support with the PCS symbols. But we also needed (and continue to need more) additional graphics for special purposes, and for these we particularly thank Anna Breakell and Bill Marron.
Future plans? The small ELR Software team continues to work towards our aim, which is to provide a flexible and comprehensive resource to support clients who have speech, language or literacy disorders. We'll continue to add new areas of coverage, new tasks, and flesh out areas that need more or varied materials. And we'll work on the program internals to allow easier delivery of tasks for home practice. As a number of Mac users have discovered, we also need to improve compatibility of the web site for different browsers. Recently we began offering "over the web" sessions to give an overview of eLr, and to provide training and support for eLr.
We have appreciated the feedback from subscribers - usually very positive, and often accompanied with further requests and suggestions about new tasks, as well as "eagle eyed" error detection in some existing tasks. A number of you have been using eLr for many years, and we've often been told we've "changed the way therapy is delivered". We thank you all very much, and look forward to sharing continuing developments with you.
There are 28 new tasks in "Reading and Spelling - Consonant Blends" and "Consonant Digraphs". Consonant blends occur when two or more consonants occur together, and each consonant is sounded out eg /st/, /sp/, /sk/. A consonant digraph is a single sound that is spelt with two or more letters eg /sh/, /ch/, /th/, /tch/. The aim of the tasks is to provide material to strengthen spelling skills with words that contain consonant blends (eg sled, speed, desk), or consonant digraphs (eg ship, branch, watch). The model used is LookThenCover. In this model, a word appears on the screen. Below it is a button - "cover". The student looks at the word, uses strategies to learn the spelling, and then clicks "cover". The target word disappears, and the student recalls the spelling by typing the word with the onscreen alphabet, or the keyboard. As well as this, the student may be encouraged to write the word.
The clinician, teacher or parent is able to select the specific activity to suit the needs of the student. For example, there are tasks that work on consonant blends at the beginning or ends of words, or words that have, or don't have, letter to sound correspondance. In this way, the student is able to experience success by starting with tasks that match their skill level.
As an occasional feature of this Newsletter, we include simple, unpaid announcements of products developed by other small, independent developers, who, like ourselves, are practising clinicians who have put their ideas and experience into resource materials for general distribution. Links and brief information about these sites may be found at www.elr.com.au/links/developers.htm. To date we have listed -
If you would like your materials listed on this page (at no charge), please contact us.
ELR has a number of free or evaluation files available for downloading directly from our website. Please see www.elr.com.au/downloads.htm for specific details. For other supporting materials and documents available for free download, please see www.elr.com.au/support.htm.
ELR Software is now able to offer eLr support and short tutorials over the web. We can provide this sort of support to individuals, or to groups who would like to have an overview of eLr. Please contact us for details.
- Speech Pathology Australia 2010 National Conference:
Sunday 16th - Wednesday 19th
We will have trade stand #46 at this conference. Contact us for further details
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