Our new digital platform with enhanced features
Talking mats have been researched and developed over a period of more than 20 years. Initially Talking Mats developed as a paper based communication framework but there was always much interest in having it as a digital resource so our first digital Talking Mats platform was released in 2012.
In the years since its release the Talking Mats digital platform has helped thousands of people who otherwise would find it challenging to express how they feel, but with the discontinuation of Flash player the opportunity to create a new web-app presented itself. We are delighted to say that it is here! Combining it with the new website means that we are able to include many of the features that our customers have wanted, including the ability to:
- Add and save photos
- Personalise conversations by adding symbols from other sets
- Create and save your own personalised mats ( provided you are foundation trained )
- Think through and order your Talking Mats conversation
- Change and select an appropriate Top Scale
- File your thinker’s mat in an easy to retrieve manner
- Easily carry out remote Talking Mats conversations
Our Digital Support Officer, Mark, is here to take you through the headlines of the new app, as well as some useful information for existing users.
In a nutshell
The new Digital Talking Mats (DTM) is a subscription-based web app which is access via our new look website www.talkingmats.com. It contains all the Talking Mats resources currently available to purchase to ensure that it can be used in as many different contexts to help as many different people as possible.
We wanted to ensure that there was a DTM subscription for everyone. To that end, there are three different levels of individual subscription (starter, enhanced, complete) which can be renewed on a monthly or annual basis. There is also a licence specifically for organisations which offers the chance to have multiple users tied to an organisation, all at ‘complete’ level.
Once you have signed up for a subscription, you can easily see the details in the ‘subscriptions’ section of your account.
Existing Digital Talking Mats customers
If you had access to version 1 of the digital Talking Mats please keep an eye on your inbox as you will be getting an email giving you access to the new version . If you do not receive such an email please get In touch with us.
App Features and How to Use Them
Once you have subscribed and accessed the app, there is immediately a helpful video which tells you all you need to know about how to use the app. This includes setting up a new thinker, creating a new Talking Mat with the symbols of your choice, and how to view snapshots of previous sessions you have carried out.
All browsers are equal, but some are more equal than others. Our app is optimised for Google Chrome, but will also work on Firefox and Microsoft Edge. Internet explorer is not supported. It is a good idea to make sure your browser is as up to date as possible for the best user experience. Mor detailed information on browser compatibility is available here
We recognise that internet is not always available in homes, schools or many other places, and so it is very important to us that the app works offline. Unfortunately due to the fact it is till relatively fresh, the app will not work offline yet, but rest assured this feature is in the pipeline. One option in the meantime is to use a device that can hotspot (most smartphones will have this feature) and carry out a Talking Mat online.
When you are navigating from page to page in the app, it is actually creating overlays on a single web page. This means that when you are in the app, if you press the ‘back’ button on your browser, it will take you out of the app completely.
If you have any questions about the Digital Talking Mats platform or you are interested in learning more, you can get I touch with Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What they are called, what they cost and what you get.
The re-developed Digital Talking Mats is nearly ready to launch with its new look and new functions. How you can buy it is new too so the team here thought we should put the new price structure down in black and white. The blogs we normally publish are interesting and thought provoking. I can tell you now, it is quite tricky to make a list of prices interesting or thought provoking, but I think you will be pleasantly surprised with the flexibility and creativity offered.
There are a lot of words used in these descriptions and because we use them every day we are used to them and know what they mean but sometimes we have to just stop and remember that’s not the case for everyone. So here is our Talking Mats Glossary to help.
DTM – Digital Talking Mats. Also referred to as the digital Resource, Digital App or digital V2
Foundation Level training – our training course that can be complete online or face to face (Covid 19 restrictions permitting)
Resource – a collection of symbol sets that has been created to look at a particular area, eg Health and Well Being.
Resource library – all the symbols you have access to on the DTM depending on your subscription level, including on any photos you may upload.
Symbol set – a collection of around 15 symbols looking at a particular topic.
Top scale – symbols that show what a person thinks with a positive point, a mid-point and a negative point.
We are switching to a ‘subscription’ model. This means you choose the level you want, and then how often you pay for it – monthly or yearly. For individuals we have 3 levels that provide increased flexibility and choice. Organisations can buy subscriptions for groups of staff at our most flexible level.
The subscription model for Organisations that want to buy several digital resources can be either a Yearly charge or a 3 yearly charge.
To offer more control over your Organisation’s subscription each Organisation will be able to appoint someone to oversee the account who will be able to switch user emails as staff change.
Finally, for anyone who currently has a digital logon for our V1 app we will ensure the following:
We always recommend people access our Foundation Training course to ensure effective use of our resources. Our training is currently available online – find out more here: https://www.talkingmats.com/training/online-training/
So that’s it, the new Digital Talking Mats, What it’s called, what it costs and what you get. As always, we can be contacted on email@example.com if you have further questions.
Digital Talking Mats was designed in 2012 and was primarily designed to be used as an app on iPad and some Android tablets. The web browser version which uses Flash has never had the full functionality of the app version e.g. automatic reports, ability to add photographs, and unfortunately, Flash became obsolete in December 2020, a matter that was out-with our control. We sought investment funding and brought forward our plans to develop Version 2 of Digital Talking Mats and have been working hard with a tech company, MTC Media, to develop a new version that is responsive and is in line with current technology.
A blog outlining the new Digital Talking Mats was posted in Dec 2020: https://www.talkingmats.com/new_digital_resource/ . You will see it includes many of the features you have been asking for. We were hoping this would be ready for December 2020 but it has taken longer than we expected or wanted. You can still access Digital Talking Mats as an app on iPad or Android and it works as normal. However, Flash ending in December does leave us a gap in remote use and when using from a web browser.
Digital Talking Mats was not designed for remote use; we were not thinking pandemics in those days! When lockdown happened, we worked hard to find a way to support remote use and found that using it as a web browser application and sharing screens through platforms such as Teams or Zoom was the most effective way to make that happen. You can, however, still use it remotely if you have both an iPad/Android tablet and a laptop, by sharing your screen on the iPad with the Talking Mats application open and combining that with running a remote meeting on your laptop. This way you can see the Thinker and the Digital Talking Mats. We attach the detailed instructions and an example of Lois doing the Mat with our Office Manager, Heather Using Talking Mats virtually with two devices update Jan 21. You may find other temporary solutions – if so, let us know.
We will be in touch as soon as we have news of Version 2 and you will be migrated across to the new version (type of access will vary according to what you originally purchased from us). We anticipate this to be in March 2021.
We wanted the transition to be smoother than it is proving to be but hope you will understand that we are doing what we can. We really value your support in these tricky times. The new version is looking great and if you want to be sent information about being an earlier adopter then please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will keep you updated.
We developed our Talking Mats’ digital resource way back in 2012 when the online world was a simpler place. When first launched our technology was cutting edge – we were one of the few applications that worked on both Apple and android devices as well as web browsers. Over the years it has been used in many different settings; schools, hospitals, health centres, social work support and day centres to name a few. Unfortunately, digital development does not stay static and what was cutting edge then is now becoming outdated and so we need to revise and produce Version 2. We are delighted and excited to let you know we are launching our new digital resource early in 2021.
2020 has seen an unprecedented focus on digital communication and our web-based digital resource has proved to be invaluable. Our Talking Mats’ community applied the web-based digital resource in conjunction with Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Attend Anywhere to allow remote contact when it was needed the most. However, technology progresses and recently many of you will have noticed a message from Adobe Flash Player plugin when you access the digital resource from the Google Chrome web browser. This is because Flash Player will become obsolete at the end of 2020, making it very difficult to use our current resource from the web. We began upgrading this year to ensure the stability of the digital resource and we have also taken this opportunity to improve its functionality and include new features. Flash Player will hopefully work on other browsers and it looks like its best to swap to Opera as a web browser but we are still seeking guidance on this and will let you know when advice is clearer. However you can also hare your iPad on teams and zoom and guidance on how to do this is can be found here Using Talking Mats virtually with two devices update Jan 21
Downloaded apps will still work on tablets and iPads but Talking Mats will only offer support for a limited time in 2021.
We have been working with Dundee based media company, MTC Media, over the past few months to design our new digital resource and whilst it is not quite ready, we wanted to share some of the new features.
‘Can I make the mat on the screen bigger and less cluttered?’
‘I’d like to be able to use a card from Health in my mat using the Secondary symbols, but I can’t’
‘Can I upload my own photographs?’
These questions and comments are some of the most common that our digital users ask.
- Our new resource is user friendly and intuitive with bigger text, a larger area to create your mat and the ability to hide symbols until you are ready to use them.
- You can create your own library of topics from across the different bundles.
- Photographs can be easily uploaded and added to your library
This is just a small teaser to whet your whistle and to end 2020 with something to look forward to.
The way we sell this new resource will be changing to a subscription model but we will keep in touch with you about this and all existing digital users will automatically be moved over to our new digital resource. We are sure you will like it and want to stay with it.
Talking Mats have been part of an exciting research project which looked at whether the Digital Talking Mat App could improve health and housing outcomes for social housing tenants.
Working together with tenants and staff from Loretto Housing and Care, Stirling University, Napier University and Age Scotland we have developed and piloted a new Talking Health and Housing set for the Talking Mats App!
The aim of the project was to:
- Develop an App that would support social housing tenants with communication difficulties to say what they thought about their Housing and Health.
- To improve communication between social housing tenants and health professionals.
Researchers were also keen to see whether the App would help to demonstrate the link between tenants’ housing and health solutions.
What we did
The Talking mats team facilitated two focus group sessions with all the partners to decide what topics were needed.
Once the mats had been completed the researchers from Stirling University and Napier University conducted interviews and focus groups with staff from Loretto and related Health professionals and then analysed the data from the mats.
The Talking Health and Housing set
The set has three topics: Home, Wellbeing, Support people
The Top scale for this set is Going well…Going well sometimes…Not going well
- A broken stair door
- Uneven pavement outside the house,
- Poor eyesight
- Poor mobility
This was having a negative impact on tenants’ wellbeing and by doing the mats, actions were identified to address all these concerns and anxieties were reduced.
It was a great partnership and we hope to work together again to further explore how the App can support the Service Integration agenda by facilitating communication between Health, Social and Care and Housing with the tenant at the centre.
Read the summary report 201908 Talking Health and Housing Summary Report
If you are interested in finding out more about the Talking Health and Housing App please email email@example.com
The Symbols are designed and © to Adam Murphy 2015 and assigned to Talking Mats Ltd. in perpetuity. They may not be reproduced without permission
Talking Mats is now used in many countries all over the world. As part of our #TMis21 blog series, we wanted to share this great example of Talking Mats being used in Germany.
In March 2019 Prof. Dr. Norina Lauer (OTH Regensburg) and Elena Maxheimer held a lecture and a workshop about Talking Mats at the “aphasia days” in Wuerzburg, Germany. Many thanks to Norina and Elena for sharing information about the “aphasia days” for this blog post.
The “aphasia days” are a large congress – unique in Europe – for people with aphasia, family members and speech and language therapists (SLT). Every year around 600 people from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Hungary are coming to this event. There are talks, workshops and podium discussions held by participants with aphasia, family members or SLTs. In front of approx. 150 listeners Norina and Elena gave a lecture about Talking Mats and the results of Elena’s bachelor thesis, in which she worked with people with aphasia, who learned to use Talking Mats.
In a three-hour workshop at the “aphasia-days” Norina and Elena taught nine people with moderate to severe aphasia how to use Talking Mats. All persons brought their own tablets and logged into their own account. They where shown how to choose a topic and a top scale and practiced in teams of two. All of them conducted several sessions with different topics and switched partners a couple of times. They had a lot of fun talking about things that matter to them and learn more about their peers. At the end of the workshop they were able to use Talking Mats themselves and are going to use it with their relatives and friends at home. As the workshop was very well received by the participants, it is likely to be repeated at the next “aphasia days” 2020.
If you would like to find out more information about Talking Mats in Germany, and the Digital Talking Mats app which is now available in German, check out https://www.talkingmats.com/talking-mats-in-germany/ and https://www.talkingmats.com/german-digital-talking-mats-with-people-with-aphasia/
Our Talking Mats is 21 Event is in Stirling on Thursday 15th August 2019. Thanks to funding from NHS Forth Valley endowment committee the event is free but you do need to book your space https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/talking-mats-is-21-tickets-62362171935
You can come to the morning only, afternoon only or come for the whole day.
If you can’t come to our event watch out for out blogs and social media celebrating the reach of Talking Mats for 21 days before the 15th of August. Please join in with your contributions using the hashtag #TMis21. For 21 days after our event we will be having a special Birthday offer! Watch this space, more to follow …….
Grateful thanks to Prof. Dr. Norina Lauer, OTH Regensburg – University of Applied Sciences, Germany for this blog.
At the conference of the German Society for Aphasia Research and Treatment (GAB) from the 1st to the 3rd of November Franziska Rau presented a poster – Let pictures talk – about her bachelor thesis on Talking Mats.
Speech and language therapists from German-speaking countries meet at this conference to present their latest research findings. This year’s theme was ” Aphasia Therapy Digital”.
The presented bachelor thesis about Talking Mats was performed at the HAN University of Applied Sciences, Netherlands, and was written by Franziska Rau together with Karoline Bitter and Lara Stobrawe. The students asked 29 people with aphasia and 63 people without aphasia for how representative they rated the images and terms used in the Communication section of the Digital Talking Mats Health & Well-being resource. While the healthy persons judged many items as not clear enough, the people with aphasia estimated significantly more pictures and names as appropriate. For this purpose, various reasons have been discussed, such as the possibility that the persons with aphasia directly perceived the pictures and terms as aids, while healthy persons judged more critically on the basis of the task. But also problems of concentration or comprehension in people with aphasia would be causally conceivable. This should be examined in further studies.
The poster was presented as part of a poster session and was well received by the audience. Thanks to Franziska, Karoline and Lara for their great study and to Holger Grötzbach, Janine Coopmans and Xaver Koch who supported the students.
We are always happy to receive projects and posters from anyone studying how Talking Mats can be used
We are very grateful to Elena Maxheimer, a Speech and Language Therapy student from Germany, for sending us this blog of a summary of her thesis which examined the use of the German Digital Talking Mats with people with aphasia.
In May 2018 I did my bachelor thesis on the German version of the Talking Mats app. Under the consultation of Prof. Dr. Norina Lauer, I delivered two workshops for eight people with aphasia. In these workshops the participants practiced doing Talking Mats and afterwards they evaluated the app by filling out a short questionnaire and taking part in a focus group in which they discussed the app’s content and practical use.
The participants generally rated the app as useful for people with aphasia and in particular, the topics, pictures and terms were rated as suitable for people with aphasia. The two most chosen topics were Health and Communication. Some aspects were difficult for people with aphasia. Some of the group had problems in choosing a suitable scale, writing on an empty card or writing down comments.
Suggestions for modification were
– Showing two sessions of Talking Mats parallel to have a better comparison
– Using the app on the smartphone – however the screen on a smartphone is too small to be manageable
– Saving the login data, so you don’t have to login every time you use the app
– One older participant suggested additional topics about specific diseases such as diabetes
– Another younger participant wanted more about sex, feelings, sympathy and love.
For other information about Talking Mats in Germany click here
Also Joan Murphy and Norina Lauer will be running a Talking Mats workshop in Cologne on May 5th and 6th 2019
Talking Mats received funding from The Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland to look at how using the Digital Talking Mats can help people with long term conditions, including dementia, to manage their health and well-being and to recognise their own strengths and abilities. We also hoped that participants would be able to have more control over their lives and have improved communication with families and professionals.
11 people living with dementia and their partners were involved in the project. Each participant had a tablet device and was given a personal digital Talking Mats licence which gave them access to 13 topics in the Talking Mats Health and Well-being resource. We visited each participant at home, taught them how to use it and asked them to complete at least 1 digital Talking Mat per week for 6 weeks on any topic they wished. The design of the digital Talking Mat allowed them to email their mats directly to us. We visited each participant a second time to discuss how easy it was to use the digital Talking Mats and their views on their completed mats. We asked those who wished to, to continue sending us completed mats beyond the initial 6 weeks and we visited them again in 6 months to discuss how they were managing.
In total we received 94 digital mats across all 13 topics from the participants living with dementia who reported that the use of the Digital Talking Mats during this project gave them a better understanding of their own individual health and social care needs.
A woman with dementia said ‘It (Health mat ) made me realise things are not so bad and made me think I will continue with my exercise classes, carry on walking, socialising and eating well’
As well as helping participants self-manage their lives, an unexpected outcome of this project was that many people found that using the Digital Talking Mats helped them see the positive things in their life and not just the negative. It also highlighted that despite having a deteriorating illness, things were not getting worse.
The following are some of the comments we received throughout the project.
• It helps me sort out my thoughts – very useful
• I get so much out of the process
• I come up with insights which might help me in the future
• I can now talk to (my wife) in a way I couldn’t before
• I’m more relaxed now
• I come up with niggly health things that my partner didn’t know
‘It made me realise things are not so bad’.
If you know of anyone living with dementia would like to obtain the Digital Talking Mats please fill in the attached Personal Digital Licence 161117 DTM personal licence form with explanation and send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Self-management for people with long term conditions (LTC) is now a key government strategy to encourage people to take responsibility for their own health, behaviour and well-being. Talking Mats received funding from The Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland to look how using the Digital Talking Mats (DTM) can help people with LTCs to manage their health and well-being and to recognise their own strengths and abilities.
The overall aim of our project was to empower people with different long term conditions, to manage their own health and well-being. Through using Digital Talking Mats (DTM) we hoped that participants would be able to have more control over their lives and have improved communication with families and professionals.
There were a total of 28 participants in this project living with one of three different long term health conditions – stroke, dementia and learning disability. Each participant had access to a tablet device and was given a personal DTM licence which gave them access to 13 topics in the Talking Mats Health and Well-being resource. We visited each participant at home and taught them how to use it and asked them to complete and send us at least 1 digital mat per week for 6 weeks on any topic they wished. The design of the digital Talking Mat allowed them to email their mats directly to the researchers. We visited each participant a second time to discuss on how easy it was to use the digital Talking Mats and their views on their completed mats. We asked those who wished to, to continue sending us completed mats beyond the initial 6 weeks. We visited them again in 6 months to discuss how they were managing.
15 participants completed all 6 mats and 12 participants continued to complete mats over the length of the project. Participants completed 235 digital mats across all 13 topics
There were 3 particularly significant findings
1. At 18 months the participants living with dementia actually felt their well-being had improved, despite dementia being a progressive illness.
2. For the participants living with stroke the results were even more striking as 95% felt things were going well at the end of the project in comparison with 47% at the beginning.
3. At the end of the project the percentage of people with learning disability who felt things were not going well had reduced from 19% to 10%. Furthermore the percentage of people indicating that they were not sure about their views had increased from 27% to 42%. There can be a tendency for people with learning disability when using Talking Mats, to express their views at either end of the mat and to rarely use the mid- point. However being able to use the unsure mid- point is noteworthy as it indicates that the participants in the project realised that they could express their views not only as black or white but could indicate that they were unsure. This awareness opens up the potential for people to express views more thoughtfully with opportunities for further exploration.
Here are three examples of how using the DTM supported people to self-manage situations in their lives. Click on image to enlarge.
As well as helping participants self-manage their long term conditions, an unexpected outcome of this project is that many people found that using the DTM helped them see the positive things in their life and not just the negative. It also highlighted that despite having a long term condition and, for many also a deteriorating one, that things were not getting worse.
Click here for full report including 6,12 and 18 month reports to the funders 20180717 Alliance full report
Click here for the summary report 20180717 Alliance Final Short Report