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iPad Apps for Accessibility and Learning

Posted on Mar 28, 2013

Paper pointing arrows at the words A,B,C, and D.In late February, eSchool News published an article titled “Seven new iPad apps to know about.” Of the seven, four in particular caught my attention as being useful for expanding accessibility on iOS devices, mobile learning, or incorporating technology in the classroom in a novel way.

Voice Dream Reader is “an iOS text-to-speech application that is giving students a more effective way to access text.” Essentially, under current conditions, iOS devices’ built-in text-to-speech technology does not always work. As a result, students may struggle when trying to take advantage of text-to-speech technology, become frustrated, and ultimately disregard what could be, for some of them, an invaluable learning aide. Voice Dream Reader addresses shortcomings in the devices’ text-to-speech technology in order to allow iOS devices to “read out loud an entire novel; pause, rewind, or fast forward when using voice over to take a test; or easily jump to different sections of the text.” Voice Dream Reader appears to be compatible with all of the most modern iOS devices, ranging from the iPhone 3GS to the iPhone 5, all iPod touch generations since the third generation, and the iPad, provided those devices are updated to iOS 5.0. The only downside to this app is the fact that there is a price tag of about $10 attached, although the app does seem to go on sale at times.

iSolveIt: MathSquared is an app that was developed by CAST, “a nonprofit research and development organization that works to expand educational opportunities for all individuals through Universal Design for Learning (UDL).” MathSquared is designed to help users develop mathematical thinking skills. the puzzles included in the app, are, interestingly, “not tied to any particular curriculum or content.” Consequently, the puzzles are suitable for a variety of ages and can help at practically all levels of math. MathSquared is also interesting to the extent that it is a strong demonstration of UDL principles, “which call for flexible, learner-friendly approaches.” MathSquared is to be used with the iPad and users need to have updated to at least iOS 6.0; the app is free to download.

Grammar Wonderland, developed by McGraw-Hill Education, is for grammar what MathSquared is for math. Grammar Wonderland allows users to “practice using nouns, verbs, adjectives, and more.” Like MathSquared, Grammar Wonderland is for the iPad, but it is slightly less restrictive in that your iPad need only be updated to iOS 4.2. McGraw-Hill may be worth watching if you are interested in learning apps, since it looks like they are preparing a “larger suite of educational apps.”

The final app to be discussed is ClassDojo. ClassDojo is apparently “a behavioral development tool helping teachers reinforce positive behaviors like risk-taking, helping others and honesty.” I think this is the first time I have ever seen risk-taking referred to as a positive activity, but I think you can understand what they’re trying to say. The neat thing about ClassDojo is that it is introducing technology into the classroom in a new way and it capitalizes on one of the big ideas behind online learning in that it “captures and generates data on behavior that teachers can share with parents and administrators and can give students real-time feedback while in class.” ClassDojo is compatible with iOS devices updated to iOS 5.1 or later.

Josh Luthi is a computer science student at the University of Kansas and has a penchant for politics.

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