ELR Software Pty Ltd
eLr - What's New 2010
Thirty-nine new tasks have been added to "Semantics-Picture Associations-Other Associations". These tasks use the PicPairs model, and focus on the ability to detect associations between pictures. The PicPairs model displays pictures on the left and right sides of the screen. The client clicks a picture on the left, and then selects the matching picture on the right. Reinforcement for correct response is provided by red highlighting and the two correct pictures move to the centre of the screen, further reinforcing the association.
In these tasks the clinician or helper is central to develop a range of language processing skills. For example:
- At the beginning of the task, encourage the client to name each picture. This strengthens expressive vocabulary and word retrieval.
- Once the client has chosen the two pictures that match, encourage the client to describe how they go together. This may involve producing a category name (eg "they are both animals"), or it might be how the objects are used (eg "you use a hammer to hit a nail").
- For extended expressive language practice, encourage the client to provide reasons for the association, or more information.
Within this section there are varying levels of difficulty. The tasks this month are in the "Field of 3" subsection. This means there are only 3 pairs on the screen. Existing subsections also contain tasks with "Field of 2" or "Field of 4". The tasks are also labelled "lower level" or "higher level". The "lower level" tasks involve associations that are concrete, whereas the "higher level" tasks require more world knowledge and the associations are not as obvious.
eLr-Offline is a standalone program which lets you use eLr on your own computer (Windows only) without needing any internet connection. This mechanism was introduced in the early days of eLr to support those users who had no or slow internet connections. Internet availability and speed continues to improve, and devices such as the iPad now let you easily run eLr directly from the web, but eLr-Offline remains very popular for installation on laptop computers for use "out of the office".
We create a new edition of eLr-Offline every month to include all new and changed eLr materials. Each edition is named for the month of preparation eg "Dec 1010" and it remains operational for the subsequent 12 months. So it's important that you always have an edition of eLr-Offline that's less than 12 months old. To date we've provided subscribers with a CD containing the current edition at the time of subscription/re-subscription, and then every 6 months while their subscription remains current. It's also been possible for any subscriber to download and install the current edition directly from our website www.elr.com.au/offline. We described in the July version of ELR-News how to use the "Check for update" option (on the "Help" menu) to simplify this process.
Any current edition of eLr-Offline can operate in a "Registered" or "Unregistered" mode; the difference is the presence of a "Registration key" - a tiny computer file than informs your copy of eLr-Offline about your subscription status, User ID, PIN etc. Again, this has previously been distributed on and automatically installed from the CD we provide to subscribers. But now you can retrieve your specific key file directly from the eLr website using the new "Get registration key" option also on the "Help" menu. More information about eLr-Offline and these processes is included in our FAQ page at www.elr.com.au/support/elrfaq.htm.
Together the "Check for update" and "Get registration key" will allow our subscribers to easily obtain a current, fully operational version of eLr-Offline every month if they wish. Our plan is to use the next year to encourage and train subscribers about this process so that we can offer the CD an "optional extra" for those that need it, but keep the subscription rates unchanged for everybody else. All existing subscribers (as at the end of June 2011) will continue to receive the eLr-Offline for free if they wish.
This month we've concentrated mostly on fine tuning the cross-browser compatibility for eLr, and we've also revised the "User Guides" to ensure that all recent models are discussed. The "User Guides" were introduced 3 years ago - they appear on the main "loader page" along with the eLr Directory, just below the Quick Load List. New users can use them for a quick overview, and existing users may find some areas you haven't yet explored. Those supporting inservice training to integration aides and assistants should also find them useful.
Each User Guide has a descriptive paragraph or two about a topic, followed by an example set of annotated eLr tasks with a "thumbnail" image of each task. It's possible to directly open any of these example tasks by clicking on the "thumbnail" image. There are 4 sections in the new User Guide Library.
1. The "Usage and Rationale" section describes the design principles behind eLr tasks which are intended to be used within an interactive language session. This section has 5 "User Guides" describing how to get the most out of eLr, and addresses some of the common questions, such as "why no sound", "why no scoring" etc.
2. The "Directory" section has 7 "User Guides" outlining each of the main sections - Phonology Skills and Early Sounds, Phonology - Later Sounds, Phonological Awareness, Semantics, Reading and Spelling, Sentence Processing and Using Language. The contents of each section is described, and examples of illustrative tasks are provided for you to explore.
3. The "Models" section has 6 "User Guides" describing all the 53 models (or game types) currently used in eLr. Models are often used in a number of different sections, so the "User Guides" provide an example task, and a comment about how it may be used in the various sections.
4. The "Sample Clients" section provides you with 3 "User Guides" covering different fictitious clients, eg a young child with phonological and language delays, an older child with literacy impairment, and an adult with an acquired language disorder. For each of the clients, a selection of appropriate tasks are illustrated and discussed.
Following our recent efforts to ensure the eLr website will work on Apple Macs, some further adjustments now allow us to announce that it will also operate on the Apple iPad. These are certainly exciting machines and our recent experiences suggest that children especially will very much enjoy "doing their eLr" on these neat little touch screens.
Thirteen new tasks have been added to "Semantics-Word Retrieval". They are grouped in semantic categories in two levels of difficulty. The "Common" subsection contains vocabulary that is frequently used, while the "Higher level" subsection involves less frequently used vocabulary.
These new tasks use the ClueWords model. This model allows for two presentations of the words. The client may be initially primed with the vocabulary by reading the clue and selecting the matching word from a group of words on the screen. Following that, by selecting "Keyboard", the client may be encouraged to retrieve the words that match the clue, and then type the word without seeing the candidate words. At this level, the client may be provided with prompts, such as seeing the "initial", "final" or "vowel" letters. The process of priming, followed by retrieval with a range of prompts, provides a very flexible way of encouraging semantic associations for vocabulary development and word retrieval.
This "Word Retrieval" sub-section is particularly useful for adults with acquired language impairment, or paediatric clients with developmental language issues. This type of task is best used in an interactive session where the clinician/carer expands on the semantic associations by discussing word meanings, using the words in a sentence, and talking about other words that are related to the target vocabulary.
We've also modified ClueWords (and the related model CluePics) slightly so that all tasks using this model now have a "Size" option. This can be used to adjust the number of potential choices and memorized words to provide additional client assistance. This is an excellent feature, as it allows you to substantially modify the task to match the processing capabilities of the person with the language impairment. For example, you can work on the first on 3 words. Then add 3 more, and so on. You can then follow this with revision or repetition with the full set of target words.
eLr on the website www.elr.com.au/elr.htm now seems to be fully functional for Mac users with Safari(v5+), Firefox(3.6+) or Google Chrome(v5+). If you do find errors, or even "odd" screen placements, please let us know as they'll probably be easily fixed.
eLr-Offline won't run natively on a Mac but it can be run on a modern "Intel Mac" using one of these options.
Please contact us in you need more information about setting up you Mac, or installing eLr-Offline.
Yes - it's finally happened! We know a lot or users and families have been waiting a long time to be able to to use eLr from an OS/X Mac, or Firefox, Safari or Chrome browsers. We appreciate your patience.
In the early years of eLr, the website would work for both Windows and Mac using Microsoft Internet Explorer (MSIE) as the browser. And in those years a Mac version of MSIE was available, however there's been a gap during which there was no current version of MSIE for Mac, and the other browsers such as Safari and Firefox didn't support certain key elements of eLr - in particular the coloured, often draggable icons (such as the animals, vehicles, dinosaurs etc) which are commonly used in eLr tasks. These are actually special "embedded fonts" we made for the purpose, and the good news is that in recent months other browsers have finally begun to support these mechanisms.
So this month we've updated the entire eLr web site and it works almost perfectly with MSIE, Firefox, Safari and Chrome on Windows and Safari, Chrome and Firefox on OS/X the Mac. I say "almost" because there are a few small bugs yet to resolve, especially for the Mac browsers. We're still working on some spacing and placement issues, and the icon "dragging" is not fully resolved at the time of this newsletter. Hopefully fixes will be in place over the next week, but if you find any issues with using a Mac or non-MSIE browser, please let us know.
This month we have added 10 new tasks in a new subsection in "Semantics - Concepts - Spatial" called "Through and Around". The activities use the IconPositioner model and provide materials to teach the concepts, "through" and "around".
The IconPositioner model allows the clinician or carer, to modify the task depending on the goals and level of the client. For example, you may be working on the client's ability to comprehend the concepts. In that case you could introduce one concept at a time by selecting only one of the concepts.
Or you may wish to focus on expressive language. This model places icons on the screen in the locations that match the concept you are working on. For example, if you are focusing on "through", all the icons will be in a "through" position. The role of the clinician or support person is a critical element. The client is encouraged to use expressive language to tell you where the icon is, for example "the rabbit is walking through the forest".
You can also use this model to add other variations to the activity such as reinforcing the use of plurals. By selecting "1", "2", or "many", and "accumulate", the number of icons that appear can be changed. This allows you to reinforce concepts such as "one", "few", "many", "some", "all". And finally, these tasks can be used as "free form" activities by clicking and dragging the icons to any other position on the screen.
This month we have added 11 new tasks in "Sentence Processing - Parts of a Sentence - Verb Tenses". All tasks use the ImageBoards model, which is fairly new to eLr. The aim of the tasks is to provide material to work on the client's ability to use correct verb tense. The ImageBoards model enables the clinician/helper to teach the concept of "past", "present" and "future", supported by PCS (Picture Communication Symbols) from Mayer Johnson. Then the clinician can engage the client in either a game, or a more structured practice session, where the client produces sentences using the verb depicted in the picture, in the correct tense. The role of the clinician or helper is central to these activities, as the client benefits from feedback, modeling and expansion of language structures.
Difficulty using correct verb tense commonly occurs with children who have language impairment. It is beneficial to have activities that provide lots of repetition, and for some children, the ability to focus on a small number of verbs. The tasks in this section have been organized so that the clinician can select a task that focuses on only two verbs, or a larger number within the same task (eg four, five, or up to ten). The clinician can also select to work on only one tense, or all verb tenses in the one session.
As with all eLr tasks, click on "?" for "help". This provides information about how the task is used, as well as tips about how to provide extension and expansion of language skills.
There are a total of 26 new tasks this month. 22 of the tasks appear in "Sentence Processing - Parts of a Sentence - Verb Tense", using the ImageBoards model. The four tasks that were put in this new section last month have been renumbered, something we usually avoid. But in this case, it allowed clearer grouping of the targets.
The aim of the tasks is to illustrate the concept of past, present and future tense, and to encourage the client to use correct verb tense in sentences. There are subsections for "regular" and "irregular" verbs, and this month, the theme of all of the new tasks is a Teddy character. Teddy is depicted doing a range of actions, such as "sleeping, eating, skipping, drawing" etc, and will appeal to most of the younger clients.
Four tasks, also using the ImageBoards and the Teddy character, appear in "Semantics - Naming - Verbs". The aim of these tasks is to expand vocabulary knowledge. The first task contains very basic verbs, such as sleeping, eating, drinking. And the remaining tasks focus on more specific verbs, such as skipping, hopping etc.
The ImageBoards model is quite flexible. The clinician is able to provide a game activity, where the clients collect points after production of a sentence, or naming the verb. If a more structured activity is required, it may be presented without the game element, by selecting "0" players. Literacy skills can be reinforced by selecting "both" (image plus word), and the clinician/helper can choose to focus on a specific verb tense, by selecting the appropriate board.
eLr-Offline is a version of eLr which can be installed on your own computer and allows you to use the materials without needing an internet connection. We add new content each month (as above) to the eLr web site which are immediately accessible to all users. But, although we also create a new edition of eLr-Offline each month, many of our users are not getting this (and subsequent updates) until they receive their updated eLr-Offline CD each 6 months.
It is now possible to simply install each eLr-Offline update(s) yourself directly from our website www.elr.com.au/offline. Make sure your computer is connected to the web, then start eLr-Offline as usual. Open the "Help" menu and click on the item "Check for updates". The program will check whether a newer edition is available, you'll see a confirmation box, then follow the prompts and the newest edition will be automatically retrieved and installed for you.
This mechanism has been in place since January 2010 so all current users will now have this facility. We're keen to see as many as possible begin using it so that you can get the fullest value from eLr. Some users may have difficulties due to firewalls or administrator rights on their computer. Please let us know if this is the case so that we can prepare better guidelines for this process.
Thirty eight new tasks have been added this month, a new model has been developed, and three new subsections have been included in the Directory.
The new model is called ImageBoards. Four new tasks using this model appear in "Sentence Processing-Parts of a Sentence", in a new subsection called "Verb tense". The aim of this new subsection is to provide material to strengthen the client's ability to use verb tense for regular and irregular verbs. ImageBoards presents images in "boards" labeled "Past", "Present" and "Future", using PCS symbols to reinforce the tense (this will be useful for those clients who are using the PCS symbols as part of other materials produced by the Boardmaker program). As with all of the eLr material, there are a number of ways to modify the task to suit client needs. For example:
- you can present the task as a game with 2, 3 or 4 players, or as a more directed activity with "0" players
- you can select a specific verb tense (such as past tense), or work on all verb tenses
- you can choose to have picture only, or words+pictures. If words+pictures is selected, literacy skills are reinforced, especially for irregular past tense
Fourteen new tasks have been added to "Semantics" in a new section called "Word retrieval". The models used are WordSearch and SmileyMan. The aim of these tasks is to provide activities that encourage clients (adults or children) who have word based literacy skills, to retrieve words in categories. The SmileyMan model is like a hangman game. The client is presented with a screen that shows how many letters in the word, and an "on-screen" alphabet. The client is then encouraged to solve words within given categories (eg occupations, animals, tools). This model allows the client to get a clue by clicking one or more letters. There is a matching WordSearch for each of these SmileyMan tasks, so clients who need more support would be encouraged to do the WordSearch first (to practice the words in a given category), and follow this with the SmileyMan to practice word retrieval.
Six new tasks have also been added to a new subsection called "Stick figures". This new subsection is in "Using Language-Sequencing-Seriation". This section is in response to a request for material to practice "Theory of Mind" skills. The model used is ImageSequencer. The tasks depict the sequence of drawing simple figures using geometric shapes. The activity can be presented as a barrier game in which cients are encouraged to use the ImageSequencer pictures to give instructions to a listener in how to draw a picture. For example, by looking at the sequence for a house, the following instructions may be given:
- "draw a white square"
- now "draw a red triangle on top of the square"
- now "draw a yellow rectangle inside the white square"
The instructions given above begin the process of drawing a house (adding a roof and a door). You can vary the degree of explicit language required.
There are 14 new tasks this month. Ten of the tasks are in a new sub-section in "Semantics-Categories", called "Sorting". The aim of these tasks is to strengthen vocabulary skills, and the ability to understand the concept of categories. The IconPositioner model is used. In this model a scene is displayed on the screen, the client clicks the "Go" button and with each click an icon appears. The client is encouraged to name the icon, name the category, and then drag the icon to an appropriate position on the scene. The tasks this month are in the easiest level, called "Common". At this level, there are two categories per task (eg "animals/flowers", "vehicles/buildings"). In later editions, the tasks will be at a more challenging level with more than two categories per task.
This model allows for a number modifications to suit client needs and skill level. For example, you can:
- * select to work on only one category at a time. This allows you to focus on teaching one category, then the next category, and then do the task with both categories.
- * select "One", "Two", or "Many" icons to appear with each click. This provides variation, and also the ability to reinforce other concepts, such as counting, use of plurals etc.
- * select "Accumulate". This means the icons will remain on the screen until you finish the activity. With "Accumulate" switched off, the icons disappear each time you click the "Go" button.
Depending on the goals for the client, this activity can be modified to work on other related goals. For example, to expand sentences, you can use techniques such as modeling or repetition, eg "I'll put the flower on the bush", or, "I'll put the flower on the bush with the blue flowers".
Four other new tasks appear in "Concepts-Spatial-First/Middle/Between/Last". The IconPositioner model is also used in these activities. It encourages the client to use language to describe concepts. As described above, this model allows you to work on each concept separately, and then to consolidate knowledge by working on all concepts at the same time.
It is now 10 years since we launched eLr and as part of a review of what's needed for its future we've made some small changes to freshen the look of the pages and tasks. There's a new shiny logo, and buttons have a slightly glossy look. In addition to being more consistent with modern web and browser design, we think this look will be more familiar to a generation of children using glowing screens on games, phones and so on.
eLr has a design ethic in which the layout has been minimalist so as not to interfere with the therapy session, and to load quickly over slow internet connections if necessary. These new changes barely add to the page "weight" and so will not materially effect loading times. We welcome any feedback.
There are 19 new tasks in "Semantics-Concepts-Spatial". Most of the tasks are in the sub-sections "top/middle/bottom" and "front/back/behind". Last month the new tasks using this model were in "in/out", and "on/off/under/beside/next to", and we've also added a few more tasks to those sections.
The IconPositioner model is new to eLr (it was added in the March 2010 edition). It compliments the existing free form models DragCentral and LR IconPlacer currently used in many "Semantics-Concepts" sections in which the helper gives instructions that support the concept being taught (eg 'put the shark UNDER the boat').
In contrast to the free form models, IconPositioner more directly encourages expressive language from the client. A scene is depicted on the screen. The client (or helper) clicks the "Go" button, and an icon appears on the scene in a position that reinforces the concept being taught. For example, when teaching the concept "on/under", the icons will appear either ON the chair, or UNDER the chair. The client is encouraged to describe where the icon is positioned. Thus, expressive language related to that concept is encouraged. If the client is reluctant to use spontaneous language, the clinician/helper is able to use a range of strategies to support expressive language development, such as modeling, repetition etc. There are a range of ways that the IconPositioner model can be modified to suit client learning needs. For example:
The clinician/helper can choose to work on only one of the concepts by using the on screen "Concept selector". The allows for repetition of that concept, using a range of icons in different locations, all depicting the same concept. For example, the icons may appear UNDER the chair, or UNDER the couch.
Once the icons appear on screen, they can be dragged to other locations. This encourages verbal interaction and description, and if appropriate, modeling of other concept words.
The number of icons that appear can be changed to "two" or "many". This enables reinforcement of other language goals, eg the concept of "both", "lots", "many" "a few", "most", as well as grammatical structures such as plurals.
The clinician/helper can choose to have the icons "Accumulate". This means that each time you press "Go", the previous icons remain on the screen. This provides another way to model the concepts mentioned above, such as "most", "a few", "many", "some".
By selecting the concept "Anywhere", the icons will appear in random locations, allowing modeling and discussion about other concept words, such as "in the corner", "right/left" hand side, etc.
As with all eLr tasks, an assembled screen may be printed, allowing for paper based repetition of the task.
This month a new model called Icon Positioner has been created to provide material that encourages expressive language for a variety of concepts. A scene is depicted on the screen: You, or your client, clicks "Go" and icons appear at specific target locations on the scene. For example, if the target concept is "on/under", the icons will appear "on" things, or "under" things. The client is encouraged to describe where the icon has been placed.
The first 12 tasks using this new model are in "Semantics - Concepts - Spatial", in the sub-sections "In/out" and "On/under/beside/next to". Within each sub-section, the tasks start with scenes that are uncomplicated, and build up to scenes that have more items. This allows you to teach the concept initially in a more concrete way, and progress to scenes that are more representative of real situations.
There are a number of ways the clinician or helper can modify the task in this new model. You can decide to work on only one, or all of the concepts, or have the icons go randomly anywhere on the scene. This allows you to focus the task initially, and then later provide a more spontaneous activity to encourage generalization. You can also select to have "one", "two", or "many" icons appear each time you click. This allows you to work on plurals, and concepts of "few, many, most" etc. All icons can also be dragged around the scene which means you can first talk about the concept word, and then change its position to provide contrast. To make the activity more challenging, or form part of a game, you could tell your client that they need to watch for icons that go "on" things. Then click "Go", and the client calls out when an icon has gone "on" something in the scene.
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.
This month there are 25 new tasks in "Reading and Spelling - Short vowel sounds - three letter words". These tasks all use the Word sound buttons model. The aim of this model is to teach or reinforce the knowledge of sound letter relationships. The target word appears on the screen with a series of buttons under the word. The client is encouraged to first of all, sound out the word, and then to click each button. By saying the sound as the button is clicked the relationship between the sounds of the word, and the letters that spell the word, is reinforced. For these tasks (in "three letter words"), each sound is represented by one letter. But as the client moves on to other sections (such as "Long vowel sounds", "Diphthong vowel sounds), the sounds in words may be represented by more than one letter (digraphs or trigraphs) such as "ay", "ea", "ph" etc.
eLr-Offline can be installed on your own computer and allows you to use eLr without needing an internet connection. We add new materials each month (as above) to the eLr web site which are immediately accessible to all users. But, although we also create a new edition of eLr-Offline each month, many of our users are not getting this (and subsequent updates) until they receive their updated CD each 6 months.
It has been possible to manually downloaded and install an eLr-Offline update(s) from our website www.elr.com.au/offline, but to date this process has been a little complicated. However, with the changes to the core program discussed last month, we now have been able to include integrated "web updating" in eLr-Offline. Look in the "Help" menu and click on the item "Check for updates". The program will check (you'll need to be connected to the web) whether a newer edition is available, you'll see a confirmation box, then follow the prompts and the newest edition will be retrieved and installed for you.
Obviously, since this month's edition (Jan 2010) is the first with "web updating" if you try it this month you'll get a message telling you the you already have the most recent version! And of course, since the older 2009 editions don't have this mechanism, you'll have to wait for an update CD, or use the former manual processes (please contact us for details if you're unsure).
In any case, all users will have this this new "web updating" by the end of June this year, and we're keen to see as many as possible begin using it so that you can get the fullest value from eLr.
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