Since the introduction of the iPad almost two years ago, the education world has changed. Everyone seems to want an iPad. Administrators have them; teachers have or want them; students have or want them. Amidst all this hoopla, who really needs one? For what are they being used in education? Are they improving student learning?
Let me start by saying that the prerequisite for the acquisition of any piece of assistive technology is to follow the SETT process. (S=student; E= environment; T= tasks; T= tools) In this process, the question is what we know about the student’s abilities/disabilities. The next question to ask is in what environment is this technology to be used. Third, what tasks do we want the student to be able to accomplish/complete? And lastly, what tool(s) would accomplish those needs. AT never starts with the technology and everything that is out there; it starts with the student.
That being said, how are the iPads/iPods being used? Is there an app for that?
As the owner of 574 individual apps, I can tell you that not all apps are created equal. Cost is not necessarily an indicator of an excellent app either. I have free apps that are fantastic and pricey apps that I wish I had not purchased. I will share with you some that I feel have educational potential as well as versatility. With the addition of the camera in iPad2s, it is easier to use videos and pictures without having to connect to download. Many students benefit from visuals.
Assistive technology: For assistive technology, communication is one main area of iPad usage. iPads are checked out regularly from our SNAP site for this purpose. (Popular communication apps are mentioned under speech language below.) I like the apps that allow for multiple uses such as Story Kit (free). It can be used as a speech app for determining the correct preposition. Pictures are imported and the student has to select the correct preposition according to the picture. The app can also be used for making a story using student pictures (student can draw or import pictures). The story can be typed in or recorded with student’s voice. Other apps are eReaders, note taking (SoundNote, Notability), speech to text (Dragon), text-to-speech (Write & Say), record keeping (Percentally) – scheduling (First Then Visual Schedule, Scheduler, Todo List), timers (Visual Timer, Clock) word prediction (Verbally, I Mean) writing, graphic organizers (Idea Sketch, Popplet, Outliner Free) and how to use an iPad (Slide2Unlock, Touch Trainer).
Scheduling/Cueing: Another area of app usage is for scheduling and/or cueing. There are several good apps for this purpose, but unfortunately none of them is free. One of the best is Scheduler. In this app videos can be imported according to what tasks need to be completed. For instance, the steps in brushing teeth are presented in order. The down side of this app is that the step does not disappear when completed. Other good scheduling apps are First Then Visual Schedule, Visules, and Todo List. The last three allow user to check off as they do the desired activity.
Switch Accessibility: The iPad has some apps that are switch accessible. Unfortunately, most of the switches that are out there only work with a few apps. App makers have to build in the switch usage component which at this point in time is not being done. Once the apps are universally accessible by switches, many more students will be able to take advantage of the iPads. Currently there are two switch apps: RJ Cooper Switch Interface, Attainment Switch and Tornado.
Speech: Speech language pathologists are using apps designed specifically for communication. Apps in this category start at free and go as high as to $299.00. Proloquo2Go is a popular app and costs $189.00. Wow! One might say. However, a dedicated communication device such as a Dynavox or Vanguard cost from $7000.00-$18,000.00. Granted, the P2G app does not support an environmental control option, but if it is just communication that we want the student to be able to do, then this app is a good deal. Other apps being used by SLPs are the Talking Tom, Choice Making, Lingraphica, ArtikPix, Expresssive, Voice4U, and autism apps. ArtikPix, an articulation set of apps, is also popular with SLPs. Story telling (Story Builder, Puppet Pals, Picturebook), scene building (Playtime), sentence completion apps (Sentence Builder) can provide valuable information about a student’s speech and speech patterns.
Special education consultants are using the iPads for determining what a student can and cannot do educationally. App choice for them is determined by the grade level and abilities of student. Also, the consultants are using them for data collection. Many students are unable to read material that other students have access to. Districts are responsible for providing accessible instructional materials to the students in a timely manner – when everyone else has access to the material. iPads can help this happen. There are now many apps which will read the material to the students: Read2Go (Bookshare books); vBookz; Audiobooks, eReader to name a few of the most popular. The iPad has a built-in reader in Voice Over. Voice Over reads anything on the iPad. Special education consultants are always looking for ways for students who write poorly or cannot spell to take notes in class. Soundnote and Notability allow recording, typing, and writing in the same document. There is also a choice of paper (lined, blank, graph). AudioNote also has recording as well as typing and writing. Dragon apps – dictation, recorder, search – are also popular for students to record answers, save to notes, and then either print or email to the teacher.
Occupational Therapists have specific apps to help determine OT needs as well as practice for improving areas of need. Dexteria, Helicopter Taxi, Touch Trainer, Draw Stars, and Letter Reflex are popular ones. Some apps are used as rewards for a good work session.
Administrators: Recently, I was asked to present bout iPads at the superintendents’ monthly meeting. Part of the time was spent on basic iPad usage. Productivity apps such as Pages, Docs2Go, Dropbox, Dragon Dictation/Recorder were demonstrated to show how they could be used. Administrators currently are using the iPads for eWalk evaluations and data collection.
Teachers: Note taking apps, Splashtop (turn the iPad into a remote device that can control anything on the computer), Flashcard Builder, Pencasts (send lectures with notes and drawings to students) in conjunction with the Livescribe Pulse Pen, word prediction, text-to-speech, rewards, Dropbox pages, iMovie, Docs2Go are just some of the apps of choice for teachers. Students in the classes are using the iPads for remediation of skills not mastered. DoodleBuddy and WhiteBoard both allow simultaneous drawing on the iPad that I think is great for developing joint attention. Collaboration can occur on the same drawing from two different devices and each see in real-time the other screen.
1:1 Schools: Recently our technology team did breakout sessions for teacher professional development in four 1:1 school districts. iPad usage and apps were offered as one of the sessions. The focus of the session was elementary but offered tips and uses for everyone whether there is one iPad, five, or twenty. Some schools are assessing whether to have the iPads as the 1:1 device rather than a laptop.
Attention needs to be paid on how to find apps which really do what they say they will. Many apps look interesting, but upon closer inspection, they do not produce. One can always go to the App Store and read about the app. At the end of the app summary, there are customer reviews. It is a good idea to read through those. Word of mouth and app sharing are very good. People who already have the app know if it is worth the money and possibly have found new ways to use the app. I suggest that an app purchase rubric such as the one below be used to determine the purpose and usefulness of the app. iPads and apps need to be updated regularly to work at optimum efficiency.
Here is a closing thought: Not all apps are created equal. Do your research before purchase!
Listed below are web links to sites for seeing the apps by category and what they can do.
Marge Nash, Assistive Technology Specialist
641-682-8591 ext. 5391