Yesterday, I co-presented a workshop with a well respected colleague of mine on special education iPad apps that can be used for reading and writing. It was a one-day workshop that was well attended by local educators who were looking to further integrate the iPad into special education classrooms to help further Language Arts goals for their students.
We looked at text to speech apps, digital audio book apps, storytelling apps, test taking apps, note taking apps, handwriting apps, and more. There is a huge number of reading and writing apps for the iPad out there, so narrowing it down to a manageable number was quite the task! However, in my experience, being spoilt for choice is never a bad thing when it comes to good educational iPad apps. You can see the final list if you visit our workshop site.
I learned a lot from my research for this session, but if there was one thing I discovered a shortage of apps for, it was for apps that accurately and efficiently turn printed text into natural, spoken words. Students with reading difficulties need a reliable solution for this. VoiceOver and Speak Selection are great features in many circumstances, but they don’t work very well, if at all, with things like PDFs. (VoiceOver works but there is no way to pause or stop it once it starts, and it changes the touch interface controls on the device). Then there are the students who only have a printed textbook or novel. How can we make that text more accessible for those students with special needs?
There are apps we tried that claim to work in situations like this, but they only did so with mixed success. OCR apps are useful, but again not always as accurate as you might want, and they often involve extra steps or apps to complete the reading process. So, if there are any developers out there looking for a gap in the market, this might just be it. Educational publishers can help out too. What about HTML5 versions of online textbooks with built-in audio voiceovers? Shouldn’t these be available for free with every printed textbook a school buys? Yes please!
Do you have favorite reading or writing apps for special education students in a K-12 learning environment? Which ones do you like best and why?