There is good news for students who must have tests read aloud (and the staff responsible for this time consuming task). There are a growing number of software supports and apps (iOS and Android) on the market that allow for easy adaptation of tests to offer recorded or digitized speech output. Some programs allow students to respond via keyboarding, but not all. Here are just two of my favorites…
My colleague, Karen Moffatt, CCC-SLP, and I presented an educational session on this topic at the 2016 Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) National Conference earlier this month. As expected, there was a large amount of interest in the subject as educators and administrators across the globe try to figure out how to tap the full potential of this device in the classroom. We feel like everybody should be skilled users, but they’re still relatively new and upgrading all the time. As Karen put it so clearly during our session, ” iPads have only been with us for about six years, but it feels like forever.”
I love Inclusive Technology! This outstanding company creates some of the best software, apps, and accessibility products for children with special needs. Although based in Great Britain, all materials are available through their US partner, Inclusive TLC. Now they’ve gone even further toward offering support to teachers and therapists using assistive technologies in the school setting.
In September, 2014, they launched a quarterly online magazine called Special World and they’ve just released the 3rd edition. The articles and information are well written and informative, offering practical application ideas for supporting the use of AT in the educational process. There are very few resources out there that specifically address the use of AT with children, making this an invaluable resource. All editions are archived, so download a copy today!
Life just keeps getting better for teachers looking to make accommodations in their classrooms! The use of ‘traditional’ assistive technologies involving specialized programs or devices continues to give way to mainstream commercial technologies, making classroom modifications easier and easier. Although the advent of the iPad rocked districts (and teachers in general!) across the country for the first few years, even our least tech savvy educators have since learned to master navigation of a tablet. Note: I say ‘navigate’ rather than use because many of the teachers I meet continue to struggle with how to effectively use the device within the curriculum to support Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Device navigation does not equate integration!
The quest to find appropriate educational apps can be daunting and many are unsure how or where to proceed, leaning on random lists and recommendations of others. Since the device is only as effective as the apps installed on it, choosing the right mix is the key to success! While I continually add my favorites under the toolbar on my homepage, I have found a terrific resource that every teacher should have! UDL Playground, one of my favorite education wikispaces, has created a Placemat of Core Apps designed to support UDL integration with the iPad.
To truly use an iPad as an effective teaching and learning tool, I recommend a range of apps for specific purposes, chosen by their function. I advise teachers to install a mix of apps from three categories: EDUCATION APPS are designed to provide interactive learning of specific educational concepts and these are often the only apps teachers know to search for. But, to truly modify the devices to meet the needs of all students, you’ll need more. PRODUCTIVITY APPS and UTILITY APPS are the real tools we need for providing digital text, annotating and editing documents, organizing our thoughts, creating schedules, facilitating communication, offering specific accessibility features, etc.
The Placemat of Core Apps provides three well organized lists of apps for use with students, arranged according to multi-modal tasks: representation of information, engagement and expression. You may download as a pdf to share, yet clicking on the App icons offers a brief description of the function and how you could use this with your students. Adapting the classroom just keeps getting easier!
Bookshare has always been one of my favorite resources for accessing digital content and I loved it even more after OSEP funding allowed them to offer the service for FREE to our students with disabilities. If you’re unfamiliar with the program, feel free to look over this tutorial from my session Bookshare: Providing Digital Books for Students with Special Needs. This is from an educational session I will be offering at the Partners in Education Conference sponsored by the TN Department of Education in Nashville next month. If you’ll visit their site and click on the ‘Getting Started’ tab, there are terrific links and resources there to answer most all of your questions, as well as a YouTube channel full of quick video tutorials. So, sign up and get those kids the materials they want in the format they need with Bookshare!
I’ll say it again…you just can’t beat the accessibility features offered by Apple. I loved the simple touch screen interface offered from the onset and they just keep adding new tools for our students with physical disabilities through every upgrade. Yesterday’s release of iOS7 is like Christmas for our users with special needs…
With more than 200 changes in this upgrade, there is something for everybody who uses an iPad, iPod Touch or an iPhone. It includes a completely redesigned user interface and some exciting new accessibility supports our disabled students will love. Options specifically designed for those with limited abilities include the ability to adjust fonts system-wide, provide customized captioning and set user controls for switch access. This includes the option for gesture-based controls (including actions such as head movements) to operate the devices. Wow! What a difference these features will make for our more severely involved students who have seen iPads in their schools but have never been able to engage with them or use them to their fullest potential. This upgrade also offers expanded functionality for the already awesome accessibility features such as Zoom, VoiceOver, Speak Selection, Assistive Touch and Guided Access.
There is a wonderful ‘how to’ guide available from the folks at MakeUseOf. Ono of my favorite resource sites, they have created a downloadable guide to all the new iOS7 features.
The upgrade is available for iPhone 4 and newer, iPad 2 and newer, and the 5th generation iPod Touch. To download iOS 7 go to Settings > General > Software Update.
Note: You must have sufficient storage memory available or it will not install.
I am always excited when our trusted special education software manufacturers make a program available in app format. I am REALLY excited this week, as Don Johnston just released an app version of Co:Writer®!!
This is a word prediction tool that reduces the number of keystrokes required to type and that makes it a great tool for students with physical disabilities or just poor typing abilities. Since it provides support for spelling and grammar with writing tasks, it’s an amazing tool for our LD students who know what they want to say but can’t seem to think of the right word or struggle with spelling. As the first letters are typed, Co:Writer predicts the intended word and presents a selection of word choices. The program uses ‘inventive’ spelling to predict words, even if the student misspells the word or omits vowels.
Word suggestions can be read aloud with a swipe; selecting the intended word places it into the document. Built-in text to speech will read letters, words, sentences, and the entire document using the Heather voice. Control settings allow for adjustingt the font, text size and color contrast for improved readability.
Co:Writer has access to a main prediction dictionary (that includes core words) and an endless range of Topic Dictionaries (that includes topic specific words). Available today on iTunes, it will be the best $17.99 you’ve spent in a while!
I already have it and absolutely LOVE it.
We had a terrific turnout for both of our introductory level sessions Using the iPad in Special Education, as part of our new “iPad Summit” series. If you attended either of these presentations this summer or just want to learn more about the iPad, you will want to look at the Livebinder file containing the powerpoint presentation we used. Located under the first tab, titled Instructional Materials, the ppt is broken into Part 1 and Part 2 on the gray sub-tabs, as it was too large for loading in one unit. Valerie Pearce, my good friend and local ‘communication app expert’, offered an individual session during our May 10th event and an earlier post contains the direct links for all of the AAC apps she showcased, as well.
This binder is full of additional resources to help you learn more about using the iPad in the special education setting and is updated regularly as we find other materials that support the use of the iPad in the classroom.
Check out these great apps for Communication that were featured at our iPad Summit on May 10, 2013!! To see more great resources from our training and to learn more about using the iPad in Education, visit our LiveBinder!
Injini – $29.99
You can now access your books on the go through Bookshare’s new app for Apple, Read2Go. This app gives full audio feedback as you navigate through its menu to customize your reading experience. With many different color themes for highlighting, changing backgrounds and text you are able to change each visual feature to suite your needs. It also has several audio options such as reading text out loud, how fast it is read and whether or not you need the menu read out loud. You are also able to increase the text size to a 70pt font! The app is priced at $19.99, which isn’t bad, considering both the membership and online versions are free!
With over 203,000 accessible books, Bookshare is the largest accessible library in the world, and it keeps growing!