A colleague of mine recently asked me to share my top ten favorite apps for “Special Education in the Inclusive Classroom”, which is actually something that I am asked to do quite often. Unfortunately, that list does not exist. In the realm of using technology as assistive technology for individuals with special needs, it is extremely important that it be about the individual. What are the student’s strengths, weaknesses, and specific needs? What environment is he/she working in? What task does he/she need to accomplish? And then finally, is there an appropriate technology tool/app to meet these needs?
Over the last few years of working with iPods touches, iPhones and iPads, I have found an extraordinary amount of apps in the App Store that are excellent assistive technology apps for a variety of students with disabilities. But I have also discovered that many of those apps are wonderful for students without disabilities as well. While I certainly can not offer a list of my top ten “favorite” Special Education apps, I can definitely share a few apps that I have found tremendously useful for a variety of students. These are ten apps that I am truly thankful to have available for ALL of my students!
- Dragon Dictation: This app is a voice-to-text application that allows students to easily speak and almost instantly see the text. Dragon Dictation allows you to dictate text that can be sent as an email, SMS message, or pasted into any other application on the device. You can even use it to update your Twitter and Facebook accounts!
- AudioNote: This note taking app lets students record notes (handwritten or typed) that syncs with audio. Each note corresponds directly to what was being said at the time the note was taken. When students play back the audio, text and drawings are highlighted to help them remember the context in which they were taken. Students can also choose to just record while they are listening, and then go back and take notes later.
- Read2Go: This reading app allows students to browse, search, download, and read books from Bookshare.org and DAISY books from other sources. Read2Go has synchronized word-by-word highlighting and text-to-speech, which allows students to see and hear text at the same time. While this app is best used with individuals who have a Bookshare.org account, anyone can download books in the open domain.
- Typ-O HD: Typ-O is a typing app with a word prediction engine and an advanced spelling error model that makes use of text-to-speech. Not only does the app predict words, students can listen to the word before it is selected. Students can also have words and sentences read back to them before emailing or SMS messaging them. Typ-O also suggests words for the most common spelling mistakes using flexible spelling.
- PhatPad: This note taking app allows students to write, type, and draw all kinds of notes and ideas before sharing them via email, WiFi sync, Dropbox, or presentation mode. PhatPad uses handwriting recognition engine to convert handwritten notes to text, and scribble objects into nicely formed shapes. It is a great app for note taking and brainstorming!
- iBooks: Apple’s free e-reader is a great tool for teaching and learning. Students can download books, search text, highlight in multiple colors, takes notes, and discover more about what they are reading through Google or Wikipedia. iBooks will also help them organize PDFs by collections.
- MathBoard: Students can use this app to improve math fluency and practice problems about addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, squares, cubes, and square roots. Quizzes are generated randomly, and teachers can control the number range, the problem set-up, answering options, select multiple types of operations, and whether the student is timed or not. It records data and can even generate a quiz from just the wrong answers.
- iMindMap HD: This mind map app gives students the opportunity to visually spread out and organize their thoughts using color coded options. The Speed Mind Map option allows them to quickly capture their thoughts and ideas. Students can use this app to take notes, brainstorm writing, plan and organize ideas, and even present with this tool.
- Dictionary.com: An easy to use app that allows to students to look up definitions on the go. Students can also use the built-in thesaurus from Thesuarus.com. The app includes phonetic and audio pronunciation, example sentences, and has a voice-to-text search. Students can even learn new words by shaking their device to get a randomly selected word!
- Side by Side: This Internet browser app lets students view multiple windows at the same time, and includes offline reading and note taking options. Students can browse webpages, take screenshots, add bookmarks, extract pictures, download files, and record notes. They can even share and sync files through Dropbox, email, and other selected apps.