In today’s technology rich environment there are many free technology tools, including numerous apps, which fall within the category of assistive technology. These tools have the potential to help students with disabilities and those that struggle to develop college and career readiness skills by drawing on their strengths and addressing, or compensating for, their areas of need.
With so many available options, the purpose of this blog is to provide you with initial assistance selecting appropriate tools that can meet the needs of your individual students. We’ve explored current websites that offer links to a myriad of assistive tech tools. In each recommended website listed below, we’ve distilled one or two free tools as a starting point for your further exploration.
A speech-to-text app that allows you to speak and instantly see your email and text messages. Available for free from the iTunes store for iPad and iPhone devices.
A free plugin for Microsoft Word (available only for Windows users) that will speak the text of any Word document and highlight as it goes
Quizlet is a free flash card application that students can use to study various types of vocabulary and facts that they may need to memorize for their classes. This free application is easy to use and could definitely be applied starting in the upper elementary grade levels, including third grade and above. The flash card designs are easy-to-use and students can design them in whatever manner makes studying easiest for them. I would definitely consider quizlet as a free, easy-to-access, online flash card application.
Daylio - Journal, Diary, Moods is an absolutely adorable journal for recording moods or emotions. This online daily journal allows you to record you daily mood with simple color-coded smiley designs, take pictures of things that make you smile, create a slideshow of images that make you happy, and chart the changes in your mood over time. This application is free, and is very simple and convenient to use. I think this would be a great tool for teachers and student to use to become familiar with their emotions and what is affecting their day-to-day moods. This application is intended as a school counseling app and I would definitely recommend it.
Tar Heel Reader This is a collection of free, easy-to-read, and accessible books on a wide range of topics. The books may be downloaded as slide shows in PowerPoint, Impress, or Flash format. Each book can be speech-enabled and accessed using multiple interfaces, including touch screens, IntelliKeys with custom overlays, and 1-to-3 switches.
Virtual Manipulatives! Another math-related app, Virtual Manipulatives! uses visuals to effectively teach fractions, decimals and percentages. Virtual Manipulatives! ranks among the top 50 free educational apps and received honors as an Apple staff favorite.
Draw Free for iPad When a school project entails an artistic element, consider Draw Free for iPad. General education teacher and Learn It In Five creator Mark Barnes specifically notes that the Draw Free for iPad works well for students with fine motor skills issues. Barnes has personally seen students with disabilities succeed inside his mainstream classroom using this free app.
Assistive tech tools have the power to help students succeed. But to ensure that these tools are even more powerful, teachers need to surround their use with evidence-based instructional strategies. PowerUp WHAT WORKS (www.powerupwhatworks.org) provides 20 Instructional Strategy Guides, 12 for ELA ad 8 for Math. Aligned to the Common Core State Standards, these Guides include excellent teaching and technology ideas for differentiating instruction; creating a value context for using assistive tech.