Providing Services

How to Use Digital Speech Therapy Materials In-Person

Jenn Gethers
December 29, 2021

At the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, like most of us, I absolutely stocked up on all the digital materials for speech therapy. My Boom Cards library is extensive, my TpT purchase list is full of Easel activities, and I have a digital materials subscription that I love

My students actually enjoyed and engaged with my digital materials way more than they did many of my in-person ones, so when we transitioned back to in-person learning at the end of last year, I wanted to be sure that I could still use them. My little speech room (read: closet) didn’t come outfitted with a projector - or anything for that matter - so I had to get a little creative.

What You Need

You actually don’t need a whole lot to turn your space into the perfect environment to use digital materials. There are only a couple things I consider to be “essential” when using digital resources in-person:

  • Projector* (I bought this mini projector on Amazon that has worked well for $80, and there are plenty of cheaper options)
  • Bluetooth mouse (here is one for $13 on Amazon)
Picture of a white mini projector sitting on a desk.
Mini Projector purchased from Amazon.

Here are some non-essential materials that might also make your life easier:

  • iPad or other tablet (I wasn’t provided with one by my school, and bought a 5th generation iPad on swappa.com for around $130 - you can buy an older one for about $50)
  • Projector Screen (if you don’t want to buy this, a blank wall will do! If you have dark walls, a white sheet will also do 

*Quick note about the projector: the one I linked comes with an HDMI cable, and if your laptop or computer does not have an HDMI port, you’ll need an HDMI converter. An HDMI port looks like this:

If you don’t have that port, check to see what you do have.

Picture of an HDMI port.
HDMI port.

This is a USB port:

Picture of a USB port.
USB Port.

If you have this, you’ll need a USB to HDMI adapter (approximately $9).

This is a USB-C port:

Picture of a USB-C port.
USB-C Port.

If you have this, you’ll need a USB-C to HDMI adapter (approximately $15).

How to Set Up Your Space

Once you’re set with the essentials, you’re ready to convert your space - whatever it may be - into a perfect place to use digital materials.

Step One: Identify your projection spot. A projector screen, white board, or even just a blank wall will work!

Step Two: Place your projector anywhere from about 5 to 8 feet away from your projection spot on a desk or table. Connect it to your laptop, computer or tablet using the HDMI cable.

Step Three: Connect your Bluetooth mouse to your laptop, computer or tablet. You can pass this around to students during your session so that they can interact with the materials without leaving their seats!

Step Four: Arrange your student desks or seats around the room facing the projection wall.

That’s it. You’re ready to go!

Running a Session

The secret ingredient to running engaging in-person sessions with digital materials, in my opinion, is the Bluetooth mouse. If you’re running a group, take turns passing the mouse around so that your students can interact with whatever you’re projecting (this is like screen-sharing, but in real life!). The beauty is that you can still use your own mouse, trackpad and keyboard, so you’re always in total control.

This works especially well with interactive game platforms like Speech Arcade, which has turn-taking built in.

Picture of white mini projector projecting an image on a blank wall approximately 6 feet away.
Mini projector projecting an image on a blank wall approximately 6 feet away.

If you’re projecting non-interactive materials like conversation prompts or graphic organizers, the use of the Bluetooth mouse is completely optional. One of my favorite things to do when using Easel materials is to print a copy for each student and project the Easel version on the wall, so that students can follow along more easily.

If you’re running individual sessions, you might opt to use an iPad sometimes instead of a mini projector if the student prefers having their materials in hand.

Of course, it’s your session! These tools should give you the flexibility to use all of your digital materials however you want to - even in-person.

How to Use Your Digital Materials Most Effectively In-Person

As with anything, there are pros and cons to using digital materials in-person. Thinking about the pros and cons has helped me figure out how to conduct my in-person sessions with digital materials most effectively, and it ultimately comes down to using a combination of physical and digital speech therapy tools within each session. Let me break down the pros and cons for you and explain how I like to address these things within sessions: 

PROS

  • Digital materials are extremely flexible and you can find some for any goal
  • Students are highly engaged by digital materials
  • If your session doesn’t go as planned, it’s quick and easy to switch to a new digital resource on the spot, without having to clean up a mess or print something new
  • Digital materials travel easily if you work in multiple locations - no need to cart around game boxes and toys in your trunk

CONS

  • Some students prefer hands-on manipulatives to screen-based learning, or have a hard time focusing on something that is only digital
  • A session using solely digital materials doesn’t yield anything that the student can take home with them, like a craft

After thinking through the cons, I’m still strongly on-board with the benefits of using digital materials in-person, but I do think that the cons are important to consider. That’s why in my sessions, I have always brought in a physical component as well. Here are some ideas about how to conduct sessions that use both digital and physical materials, so that your students receive the benefits of both:

  • Create a long-term craft; for example, use a motivating sticker book or coloring book that your students can work on at the end of each session
  • Encourage students to bring their fidget toys to session - Pop Its are particularly popular right now
  • Use side-by-side digital and physical materials, such as an Easel activity projected on the board while your students have their own copies
  • Split your session up into half-digital and half-physical materials - I like to do this by practicing a skill with digital materials for the first half, and then working on a quick craft related to that skill for the second

The Gist

As you can see, using digital materials in person is not only possible in any space without spending a ton of your own money, it’s also an extremely versatile and flexible way to conduct your speech therapy sessions.

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