Monthly Archives: May 2014

Special Education iPad Apps for Reading and Writing

Recently I had the distinct privilege of working with Julie Freed, Grant Wood’s Assistive Technology guru, to present a number of iPad apps that can be used to help improve the reading and/or writing skills of students in special education. Interested? Here are some of the apps we talked about, along with the reasons why we picked them.

Reading Apps

1. Prizmo ($9.99) – This innovative app includes powerful OCR software that will scan printed text, turn it into editable digital text, and read it aloud for you. In the classroom this can be great for printed tests, worksheets, and even textbooks that might otherwise need a classroom assistant to read them aloud for a student with reading difficulties.

prizmo app screenshot

2. Pocket (Free) – This might not be the first app you think of when think of special education iPad apps, but it has a lot of potential for the way that it simplifies the layout of web based articles and makes  them easier to read. Annoying ads, distracting sidebars, and pop-up ads are gone when viewed in the Pocket reader app and you can also save and organize articles for future use. Readbility is another great app for this.

3. WritePad ($4.99) – It’s a favorite of OTs, and may be just what you are looking for if you need an innovative notetaking app. WritePad uses handwriting recognition software to convert your handwritten notes and turns them into digital text. The more you use it, the more it learns your handwriting style and the better it becomes at converting your handwriting.

4. PDF Expert 5 ($9.99) – Readdle make amazing apps for the iPad, and PDF Expert is no exception. While you could use it to annotate over digital worksheets, a better use of the app might be as a test taking aid, because PDF Expert allows you to add audio annotations. This means a teacher could record questions on a test for a student with reading difficulties to playback on headphones. Alternatively, students with handwriting or motor difficulties could record their answer to test questions right on the PDF, and then email it to a teacher. iAnnotate is a similar app with many of the same features.

pdf expert screenshot

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Office Mix: It’s PowerPoint, but Not as You Know It!

If you thought you knew the limits of PowerPoint in your classroom, think again, because Microsoft have released an innovative PowerPoint add-on that extends its functionality and usefulness for teachers. It’s called Office Mix, and it’s available as a free download for Windows users who have Office 2013 installed.

office mix

The premise is simple. You take an existing PowerPoint presentation, or create one from scratch, and enhance it with the Office Mix add-on. The add-on appears in the ribbon at the top of the screen in PowerPoint and lets you add additional features like quiz questions, videos, or web content from Khan Academy or CK-12.

office Mix ribbon menu

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The New Adobe Voice: Digital Storytelling With Style!

Adobe launched a new free iPad app today called Adobe Voice, and it has great potential for the classroom due to the way that it lets you effortlessly create digital stories, explanations, or stylish presentations by adding your voice to a variety of images.

adobe voice screenshot

Adobe Voice has several great features for teachers who may be wanting to use this in their classroom. For instance, Adobe has included a wide variety of searchable images and icons that students can use in their projects. This saves having to worry about finding images online because they are all there inside the app. Better still, as model of good digital citizenship, they are all cited correctly as sources in the credits.

When you first create a project, you get prompted to choose the type of story you want to tell. Why would this matter? The app gives prompts at each step of the way in order to help encourage you to develop a well structured tale. Here’s an example of what you will see if you choose the Hero’s Quest template:

  1. Tell us about the hero and their world before the quest begins.
  2. What happens that causes the hero to undertake their quest.
  3. Show the trials or challenges that the hero encounters along the way.
  4. Show how our hero overcomes the odds and accomplishes their goal.
  5. Tell us how the world is better now.

Of course, these prompts are optional, but the fact that they are there as a scaffold for students is a nice touch, and the prompts vary for each template you choose.

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Google’s Classroom LMS App: What We Know So Far

Today, Google took the wraps off a brand new free app for Google Apps for Education users called Classroom. It is designed to meet the needs of teachers and students in the same way that an LMS like Canvas, Haiku or Edmodo might do. Here’s what we know so far.

UPDATE: Google Classroom is now live for all Google Apps for Education domains. Read my hands-on review and step-by-step guide here.

In a press release on their blog, Google listed the following features as part of the new Classroom app for Google Apps for Education users:

  • Create and collect assignments: Classroom weaves together Google Docs, Drive and Gmail to help teachers create and collect assignments paperlessly. They can quickly see who has or hasn’t completed the work, and provide direct, real-time feedback to individual students.
  • Improve class communications: Teachers can make announcements, ask questions and comment with students in real time—improving communication inside and outside of class.
  • Stay organized: Classroom automatically creates Drive folders for each assignment and for each student. Students can easily see what’s due on their Assignments page.

Google Classroom Screenshot

Screenshot of a student dashboard in Classroom

Teachers can add students to a class they create, or issue an enrollment code to students. When teachers create an assignment, they can choose to share it as a single document or create a copy for every student in their class. Teachers can see at a glance who has turned in the assignment, and who hasn’t, as well as send announcements to the whole class. Students can also post questions to a classroom stream for everyone to see or comment on.

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