This post discusses some of the ideas (and apps) that we shared on the Inclusive Classroom podcast on January 10th, 2014.
Access the full podcast here.
1. What are some of the challenges that face teachers and parents when selecting apps for their student or for their child?
In today’s classrooms we have a wide variety of student abilities; the challenge is to utilize technology to enhance and transform learning in order to meet the needs of our diverse student populations (for more information on this concept, see a brief introduction to the SAMR model here). To begin this process, the challenge is for teachers to develop expertise in facilitiating the use of content-creation apps. The teacher’s role is the selection and integration of these apps in order for students to be able to explore and control their own learning. As there is no prescribed method of using content-creation apps, they can be manipulated and used in many different ways, for many purposes.
Many of the parents that we work with might find that they receive recommendations from other parents, or from websites, only to find that the app does not meet their child’s needs. An additional difficulty for parents is that using the app store to find appropriate educational apps can be unreliable. To get the most out of assistive mobile technologies, parents need to be able to understand their child’s learning profile and to define the challenges that their child is experiencing. Then, the next step is to make a match between their child’s learning profile and a specific app that can assist with remediation and support.
2. As a teacher, how do you effectively select apps for your inclusive classroom? Is there a way to frame and think about those choices?
In inclusive classrooms, many teachers are increasingly using an approach in line with the Universal Design for Learning framework, in which we say, “How can we use a few “universal” apps to address the needs of many different learning profiles in the classroom?” Essentially, teachers are using apps that are learner-centred, in which their students can manipulate or create novel content or products of learning. The ability to create content is what will transform student learning-especially for students with special needs.
We often recommend to teachers that they have 8-10 content creation apps on their device, and that they learn to explore (and share) the many uses of these apps. Creativity is unlimited.
3. As a parent, how do you choose apps to best support your child?
First, define the challenge that your child is having in detail. For example, if your child is having difficulty with reading, what component of reading is causing him/her to struggle? Is your child having difficulty understanding what was read? Difficulty following or tracking the text? Or is your child having trouble sounding out the words? Then, look for effective apps through educational websites (a few good ones are appitic and iear) or from professionals working with your child that can address this specific area. If you are comfortable creating your own content (and many parents are highly skilled at doing this) there are many apps that can be used to create customized learning activities and support for your child.
4. What broad categories of apps can be used in the inclusive classroom or the home environment?
For both home and school it is helpful to think of apps in two specific categories: support and content creation.
Apps used for curriculum support are those that might support a specific area, such as literacy. For a student struggling with decoding, an app that provides text-to-speech could be considered a support in the classroom or for home. Many students, with many different learning profiles, can benefit from using text to speech apps as a support in the classroom.
Apps used for content creation are learner-centred; students can create or manipulate their own content with these apps. For example, apps that allow students to enter photos and record their voices on top of the photos can be used to create all kinds of learning products for many different purposes; digital stories, social stories, homework journals, or for a personal art project.
The combination of both of these categories of apps in the inclusive classroom or in the home environment creates a wide range of support and creative opportunities for students, with the use of new technologies.
Now for our recommendations in each category…
5. What apps can be recommended in the area of support for the curriculum?
Here are a few that we highlighted:
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iReadWrite: iReadWrite is an app for reading and writing support that features clear text to speech, highlighting, phonetic spell checker, word prediction and dictionary. There are also many import and export options. Although it is not as extensive as Text Help’s Read and Write GOLD software, it is a good option for those who are using mobile devices.
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Skitch-Skitch is an app that allows a student to take a photo; then annotate on top of the photo. Mark up the photo with text, shapes, emoticons, anything! This app can also be included in the content creation section as there is a huge variety of ways to use the app. We have used Skitch for homework assignments, memory aids, notetaking, learning activities. The possibilities are endless.
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Inspiration Maps-This mindmapping app comes with templates that allow the student to chose from existing maps. Or, create one from scratch. What differentiates this app from the rest of the mindmapping apps it offers increased support for the writing process, if needed-the visual mindmap can switch to a writing outline with the tap of a button.
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6. What apps can be recommended in the area of content creation to enhance creativity?
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ShowMe, Explain Everything, Educreations, or Screenchomp: There are so many good screencasting tools out there. Some have a few different features (like multiple export possibilities, or online collborative communities to share screencasts), but whatever screencasting tool you use, there are multiple uses for them. Make visual tutorials. Have students create tutorials and share them with one another (peer tutoring just got easier and more effective!) Record homework assignments with visual explanations. Create social stories. Use them for evaluation purposes. Use them instead of oral presentations for students who are hesitant to speak in class. The list goes on and on…
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Notability: Originally designed as a notetaking app, we’ve also used this app for project planning and annotation as well. Students can write or type, record audio as you go, integrate personal photos or photos from the web, and take notes in a non-linear way. The app organizes your notes or projects into notebooks for you. Importing and exporting possibilities are extensive. For example, you can export your notes to other notetaking applications (ex. Evernote, Papernotes, Skitch, etc.) or screencasting applications as well (ex. Doodlecast Pro). Or import a powerpoint slide, photo, or text into Notability and annotate on top of it. Simply great.
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Pictello: Our #1 app that we recommend to families, we use Pictello for digital storytelling, social stories, video modeling, digital portfolios, vernissages, and job coaching. The app comes with a “wizard” mode which walks you through the steps to create your product. There are free apps that can do similar things, but Pictello is worth the money as it is a quality app that is intuitive and simple to use.
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Scene Speak: Originally designed for creating visual scene displays for augmentative communication purposes, this app can be used for other purposes as well. This app allows the user to add “hotspots” onto the photo that the user has selected. We’ve used it in inclusive classrooms to enhance picture books for younger students. After taking a photo of a page in a picture book, we add vocabulary and comprehension questions to create an interactive experience. This app is also great for social stories or for collaborative or inquiry-based multimedia projects.
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Bitsboard: Bitsboard allows the teacher or student to take content and integrate it into fun learning activities like bingo, match up, true or false, and flashcards. Everything is customizable and highly visual. Great for young students who are learning to read, or use the app to reinforce vocabulary, or to teach a second language.
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Please feel free to send us feedback on how you are using content creation apps!