Recently, one of my tech idols, Speech Techie aka SLP Sean Sweeney aka iDevice guru, has been writing about using PDFs for therapy purposes. He has covered about a million uses for Apple users, from annotating ASHA handouts to making story maps. Since Sean has focused mainly on ways to use PDFs on the iPad, I wanted to offer an alternative for Android users while branching off with a few ideas of my own. This app is actually available for Apple as well, but I’ll be focusing on how it can be used for Android. The process for obtaining and storing PDFs on an Android device is a little different than the one he explained for iDevices, so I will briefly explain that as well.
What It Is: An app for reading and annotating portable document format (PDF) files by Unidocs.
Price: $2.99 (Android); $1.99 (Apple)
OS: Apple, Android (review based on Android version)
Version: 18.104.22.168 (Android); 1.85 (Apple)
How It Works: In short, this app allows you to take any PDF file you want and use the various tools to highlight, write text, or draw on it. There are a couple ways to get these files on your device. Sean discusses how to do this on an iDevice, but here is how to do it with Android. If you’re not a naturally tech-inclined person, DO NOT BE SCARED! 😉 If you’ve never done this before, start with something easy, like downloading directly from a website. For example, I went to asha.org, clicked on the first PDF I saw on the homepage (Editors’ Awards), and it automatically downloaded. I then clicked on the downloaded file in my notifications bar, chose to open it through this exPDF Reader app, and began to draw (see more on that in the next paragraph)! If you can’t download something directly from a site, email it to yourself, then download it directly from your email. Now, if something is not already in PDF, but you’d like to use it as such, fear not! Simply open the document or image on your computer, choose PDF under “save as…,” email it to your device, and voila!
Okay, so once you have the desired PDF document/image opened in the app, you are ready to annotate! This is where it gets fun, because there are so many cool things you can do. See my screenshot of the annotated ASHA Editors’ Award document to visualize. I used the toolbar at the top of the screen to edit the PDF in various silly ways.
First, note my colorful congratulatory message to the award winners. (Pay no mind that it resembles the handwriting of a six-year-old. 😉 Focus on the lovely colors.) There are options to change color, brush thickness, brush type, etc. There is also a handy “eraser” function to erase strokes without having to undo all your beautiful handiwork. Now, scan right and see how I got smart and typed in a text box instead of using my own handwriting! Follow the handy arrow down to where I randomly drew a box around the award recipients. Then note how I highlighted part of a title and added a little sticky note to remind myself to look it up later. Afterward, I was able to tap on these various things to delete them, resize them, move them around, etc. While you can’t see it in this screenshot, I then “flipped” to the next page of the PDF and did similar random drawings and notes.
Therapy Applications: I really feel no need to reinvent the wheel, so I strongly suggest you look at Sean’s posts for the following ideas (I provided links as appropriate):
1. Viewing/annotating ASHA Convention handouts. I am fully planning on utilizing this during #asha12. I have been told I will have a million things to carry around–no need to try to keep track of paper handouts on top of that!
2. Storing visuals, printouts, etc. As Sean explains, storing frequently used documents or images as a PDF file on your device will help keep everything in one place for easy retrieval.
3. Using PDFs that are used in the classrooms (e.g. ones that the teacher has used on his/her SmartBoard) to connect therapy to the curriculum.
4. Writing/drawing on story maps, worksheets, etc. While I did not use very many worksheets with my preschoolers this past year, I used a TON of them with my middle schoolers when I was student teaching. I have a strong suspicion that many of my students would have been more excited about the idea of filling these out if they could have done them on the iPad. Learning how to highlight important information in a word problem would have been wayyyy more exciting! Practicing visualizing images during reading passages would have been sooo much cooler!
Sean really covered the basics of using PDFs for therapy, but here are a few more “spin-off” ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
1. Taking data. Y’all know my favorite way to take data is with IEPPal, but sometimes other forms are more appropriate. If you put a PDF version of the form on your tablet/phone, it’s easy to take the data directly on your device. It’s also easy to highlight things that you want to make special note of the next day, or to add a sticky note reminding you to call the individual’s teacher about progress. See the picture for a quick idea of what I mean.
2. Drawing on pictures. The first thing that came to my mind with this was the Whole Body Listening Bear. (Originally just a random outline of a bear from Google Images–now I would use a drawing from LessonPix.) I used this laminated drawing throughout last year to work on whole body listening with my preschoolers. At first it was fun to color the different “listening” body parts, but after a while it got old. In hindsight, having it on the tablet to color and edit would have been a nice way to mix things up a bit. Idea for “adult SLPs” (I love that term): put PDFs of your dysphagia drawings (you know, the anatomy drawings that you carry around to describe difficulties to patients and family members) on your tablet so you can edit and customize them as needed. Extra bonus: you can then email these to the patients and families to help them remember these things when they get home. You can also use them in future therapy visits or (if you are just seeing them for acute care) pass them along to the rehab SLP for consistency’s sake.
3. Professional development. Don’t just use this for conventions! One of my favorite ways to use this so far is for annotating research articles and the like. If you’re anything like me, once upon a time (read: during undergrad) you made all these pretty binders with alphabetically or topically ordered articles. Then you never used them again, simply looking them up online as needed. 😦 Putting them on your tablet/phone is an easy way to save yourself the time involved in organizing paper copies while still having the notes and visuals you write on the articles.
Pros: 1. Price!
2. Ease of use. If you’ve never used a PDF annotator before, this may all seem a bit confusing. I promise you, it’s way easier to understand once you try it out yourself.
3. Options. I love how easy it is to add colors, shapes, arrows, text, etc. Plus, there are just so many ways to use this, both in and out of therapy.
Cons: 1. The price is higher for Android users. Granted, it’s only a dollar, but it still irritates me that
the cool people Android folks have to pay more. If anything, it is usually the other way around! Okay, whine session over. Regardless of this blatant OS-ism (look it up, it’s a thing…even if Urban Dictionary denied my entry), I think the $1.99/$2.99 is worth it for the tool.
The Take-Away: In review, you now know a lot about my brain’s (lack of) organizational patterns, my secret tech-crush on Sean Sweeney, and my own confused love/hate relationship with Apple and Android. Hopefully you also now know a little about how to use this PDF reader for therapy! In short, this great app is a versatile tool that can be used for a wide range of therapy-related purposes, from data collection to the ASHA Convention to visual schedules and worksheets. It’s easy to use and offers some fun features.
My Questions for You: How can you see yourself using a PDF reader/annotator for therapy? What are some must-have PDFs that you’ll be placing on your tablet/phone? Are there any other PDF-annotator apps you’d recommend?