As COVID Continues…

Some of you may be out for the summer, some of you may have one more month, and some of you may be gearing up to start summer school. Whatever these next three months brings you, one thing remains the same; we will continue to provide curriculum and technology support as well help you brainstorm and provide a number of resources to meet your students’ unique needs.

In this issue of Tips and Tricks we are sharing one way a user has implemented SiLAS’ new components. Cheryl Fitzgerald is a SLP from Tenafly Public Schools in New Jersey. Cheryl was also showcased in a previous SiLAS Spotlight. Please take a moment to read Cheryl’s excitement and success she has experienced using SiLAS with distance learning. 

“I was watching your video this past weekend (on how to make the videos remotely) and set this as my students’ assignments for the week.  And within day, a student made a video with his mom, saved it and I was able to view it!  This is SOOOOOO cool and I’m so appreciative of you guys for all your amazing work, so thank you!  For the prior 2 weeks I used the anxiety curriculum–given the current situation, I wanted to gauge their overall well-being–and was able to find books to go along with it, on EPIC (Scaredy Squirrel, Jaylah’s Jitters, etc) that they have access to. I used Google slides to make a presentation, and then they could type their responses right in there.  It was a great lesson and it brought up a lot of things.”

After reading Cheryl’s enthusiastic response, we thought there isn’t a better way to both show you the potential of the distance learning tools and our willingness to come alongside our users and help ideas become reality! Our team is always excited when educators share their personal spin on the SiLAS curriculum. This week we encourage you to select an element from the program and make it your own! The bulleted list below highlights Cherly’s spin and a few other ideas to support kids. 

  • Choose Read Alouds or Independent Books to Accompany Topic
  • Incorporate Other Apps and Programs into SiLAS Lessons (NearPod, Google Slides, etc…) 
  • For Students Without Access to Technology Create a Script By Phone 
  • Engage Learners by Creating Polls Using an App Like Kahoot to Critique, Review and Assess Example Videos 
  • Encourage Students to Create Scripts/Animations Independently and Schedule a Zoom Debut
  • Be Creative and Share Your Brilliant Ideas! 

From all of us at SiLAS, stay well and find ways to relax and enjoy the nice weather!  

SiLAS receives grant in partnership with Dr. Torres, Rutgers University

SiLAS is excited to announce that we have received a grant in partnership with Dr. Torres, Rutgers University &  the New Jersey Autism Center for Excellence from the NJ Governor’s Council for Medical Research and Treatment of Autism. The two year grant will help us connect social skills and emotional rhythms.

The Abstract

We combine the Socially Interactive Learning Avatar Software, SiLAS the computer technology successfully used across schools of NJ, with new fit-bit like technology that provides real-time measures of biophysical activities, while engaging the children in natural social situations that they themselves design. Through playful settings the children interact socially while using as proxy avatars that they themselves build and watch interact. SiLAS teaches the child about social appropriateness. Importantly, since the children themselves build their social script, and SiLAS endows the avatar with their own voice, eyes and bodily motion patterns as the interaction unfolds, the ensuing learning process is dynamic and fluid. SiLAS helps develop a sense of body ownership and leads to the self-discovery of social appropriateness by having the children assess and discuss the social consequences of their actions with their teacher, as a social group. This form of awareness built through access to their own facial gestures, voices, eye and bodily motions, goes beyond direct prompting. It speaks of intrinsically generated rewards that emerge from emotional awareness and social binding, generalizing to multiple contexts.

SiLAS integrated with computational tools developed by neuroscientists will provide real time biofeedback on levels of stress / satisfaction, as the children enact their scripts and acquire ownership and agency of their social interactions and their consequences. Further, the program will be deployed in the vocational training classes, to help adolescents excel at job interviews and job retention, during their transition into adulthood. At the completion of the project, the curricular activities including SiLAS as part of their training at the schools, will include new scripts made by the children/adolescents and teachers, new biometrics of social interactions for real-time biofeedback, and a wealth of biophysical data for use in neuroscience, and special ed.

Is it May yet?

If you are like those of us at SiLAS, you find yourself asking, “Where did the day go? What day is it?”  For many states, the governor has already announced school buildings will remain closed at least through the end of the school year. Some states have even mentioned the possibility of carrying distance learning into the fall in some fashion. Other states may open within the next month. No matter what type of instruction you will be providing, SiLAS has the solution! 

April brought with it significant additions. These changes and additions made were in response to the need of supporting students in the digital environment. Below is a short review of the latest curriculum developments. 

  • Distance Learning component offers educators five day lesson plans with step by step instruction on skills related to SEL needs during these unprecedented times. Each lesson includes a link for parents, teachers and students. Just click on the Distance Learning Tab. 
  •  We have created a series of social narratives centered around the issues facing us all due to the pandemic. This use of Evidence Based Practices introduces, reinforces and provides continuous support to share with your students.
  • Free Resources for All! Our team believes the most effective way to support students in these uncertain times is to provide any and all teachers, administrators, practitioners and parents free access to all of SiLAS resources including; lessons, teacher and ability to create animations. Sign up for a free account by clicking on this link!  Free SiLAS Resources
  • The Create Link provides students the opportunity to create their own movies AT HOME! No video system or hardware required. All a child needs in a device with a keyboard, internal microphone and internet connection. Click on the link for step by step instructions. Social Narrative Create Option