iPads and Dyslexia (and just good apps!)

Dyslexia is a learning disability that causes students to be poor spellers, lack fluency in reading, have a hard time putting their thoughts down on paper, and have a hard time with names and dates.  Of course, these are just general guidelines that we look for when we suspect a student is dyslexic.  A formal psychological evaluation will lead to a formal diagnosis. 

The iPad is a great tool to help students with ALL of the difficulties associated with dyslexia.  If my son has to be dyslexic, I am so thankful that he is dyslexic in a time when iPads are so widely used and schools are allowing students to bring their own devices to school.  At the beginning of the school year my husband and I met with Eli’s teachers and the 2nd accomodation we put in his 504 plan was to be able to use his iPad in every class.  The 1st accomodation was extra time – we know from research that the single biggest factor that helps level the playing field for students is extra time on tests. 

Eli uses his iPad for every subject!  The best tool for Eli is the voice button on the iPad.  All Eli has to do is press the microphone on the keyboard and the iPad will turn what he says into typed messages.  This is extremely beneficial to students with dyslexia because students with dyslexia have a hard time getting their thoughts down on paper.  Dyslexics have WONDERFUL and CREATIVE ideas, but encoding them is extremely difficult.  Through the use of this feature of the iPad, Eli is able to dictate his ideas and then go back and edit them later.  The iPad will also playback anything that Eli has typed.  This way he can hear what the sentence should sound like.  Dyslexics have a hard time rereading their work and hearing errors because they are so used to compensating when reading for something to make sense, that if something is incorrect in a sentence – they just make it make sense in their mind.  That is one of their coping strategies (I hope that sentence makes sense to the reader – I understand what I am trying to say, but it is difficult to put into words!).

To use the speech to text feature of the iPad you only have to press the microphone on the screen when you are typing.

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To enable the iPad to read text you will need to go to settings – General – Accessibility…

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Then, go to Speak Selection…

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And finally, turn Speak Selection on…

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This one feature of the iPad has changed the way my son works and writes.  Now he can speak his ideas and they will freely flow from his brain to the iPad.  It does take some work getting used to enunciating clearly for the iPad to know what you are saying.  Generally, we have to edit some of his work, but that is easy compared to trying to write his ideas down!  He doesn’t use this feature in class, just when doing homework and working on papers.  I also want him to learn how to overcome his disability, but these features make writing for him much easier!

Another life saver for us is the app Read2go.  This is an amazing app that is supported by the website Bookshare.  Bookshare offers free audio books (newspapers, magazines, textbooks, etc) for anyone with a print disability.  All you have to do is supply a copy of your child’s or your own psychological that proves the disability.  The Read2go app plays all of the content off of the Bookshare site.  We use this app for ALL of Eli’s independent reading and anything he has to read from his textbook.  The app gives visual support as it reads by highlighting the text and the app reads the text.

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Another amazing app is the AppWriter US app.  This app is a word processing app that is specifically designed for dyslexics.  Students can type papers in this app.  The app allows students to take a picture of any text and the app will convert it to text.  The app has context word prediction and will read what has been typed.  If you couple this app with he text to speech function of the iPad, your student will feel significantly less stress about writing!  This app also claims to use a font this is supposed to help dyslexcis, but the research is very mixed on if that claim is true – the font has been around for many years.

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Another app that is a life saver for us is iMovie.  My son uses iMovie to study.  He creates movies about what he is learning.  This method of studying allows him to use his creativity but also is a great review of content.  I have put  couple of his movies below so you can see how he uses them to study.  The WW1 movie helped him study for a test and the Abe Lincoln movie he made in class rather than doing a paper/pencil assignment. 

 

Another app that we use quite often is iThoughts HD.  I find that Eli is extremely visual.  If I can show him how concepts go together rather than tell him, he is more likely to retain that information.  Below is an example of a mindmap that we made to help him write a paper.

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We also use iCard Sort to help him study.  We make decks of vocab words and their definitions.  Then we shake the iPad, which mixes up the cards and he has to match the words to the definitions.  The tactile nature of this method of studying helps him retain the information.   And now iCard sort allows pictures to be put on the cards, which makes it an even better app for studying!

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Finally, the last app we use a lot is Strip Designer.  This app makes comic strips.  Eli loves being creative and studying at the same time.  This app also allows him to use his visual memory by attaching pictures to concepts.

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These are the apps we use most for Eli but, I also use these apps all the time in my classroom and the students LOVE them!

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Do you feel the iPads are making a distinct difference?

Do you feel the iPads are making a distinct difference.  I had a friend ask me this question today, after sending me an article that Bill Gates is featured in discussing why tablets aren’t a good solution for education.  A direct quote from the article is, “Rather than a tablet, Gates envisages “a low-cost PC that’s going to let them be highly interactive” as more effective in education.”.  My first reaction is that, of course Bill gates is going to say that a small pc would be better served in the classroom, but then his above statement reminds me that Bill Gates is not an educator (as much as he has given to education and put himself into education – he hasn’t actually spent time teaching in a classroom) and therefore, really isn’t one to speak about student engagement and tablets.

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My response to my friend was that the response I have seen from students has been amazing!  The students are excited about their iPads or iTouches in class.  They are excited about using the technology that they use every day at home and the results of what they can do is amazing.  In my opinion, student engagement is much higher with the tablets, than with the PC’s.  Our students could pick – do they want to use a PC or their own iPads – all but 3 students chose to use an i-device.  The students want to use the tablets because they can do most of what a pc can do, but it is all in one neat package – they have their music, their camera, their video camera, and the software all in one place!

We read Hatchet in fifth-grade this year and had the students use their devices to make a book trailer about the book.  The students had to figure out the theme of the book and pick music, pictures, etc. that fit the theme.  The results were amazing.  I was able to tell from the book trailers that the students really understood what was happening in the book.  AND – the students repeatedly asked to stay in from recess to work on their book trailers – that is student engagement!  The students were so in to creating something that they didn’t want to leave their task!  Click the below link to go to the website that gives all of the instructions and documentation I used for creating book trailers.

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So, my answer to my friend was that YES, I feel that the iPads are making a distinct difference.  His point to me what that we shouldn’t use technology, just to say we are using technology, which I completely agree with!  I think that the iPads will make a huge difference, but I also think that difference could be made with most any device.  However, the argument for the iPad also has to be, it is our job to prepare our students for the future and the future definitely includes iPads!


Skydrive Vs. Dropbox

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We are having a hard time at my school deciding which cloud service to introduce our teachers to.  I LOVE Dropbox and have been using it for about 1 1/2 years.  However, the problem is that our school uses Windows Live which comes with a free subscription to Skydrive.  We are rolling out iPads to our teachers which further complicates the issue.

Most iPad app’s are fully integrated with Dropbox but not Skydrive.  I have only found ONE wordprocessing application that allows users to link completely (both download and save to) to skydrive.  The app is Office2 HD.  We will be using this app for our teachers to access their documents on their iPads.  However, just having a wordprocessing storage site does not solve the problem in integrating skydrive with the ipad.  So many of the ipad apps do not save to or export to skydrive that the cloud storage is really useless. 

I would like to see the iPad link more with Skydrive in the future.  I am hoping that it is not a competition type situation where Apple won’t let Skydrive be a player because it is the competition.  From what I can tell Skydrive has all of the same bells and whistles as Dropbox. 

Here is a Comparison:

Dropbox Skydrive
Desktop Sync Yes Yes
Ability to Hyperlink Files Yes Yes
Folder Sharing Yes Yes
Price 2GB free 5GB free
Online Document Editing no* yes

*Dropbox files can be edited using iPad apps like CloudOn (free app).

My preferene is Dropbox because of the wonderful iPad integration.  I don’t mind paying $9.99 per month (for 50 gb) for the access and convenience of being able to access my files anywhere I am (using my phone (droid), iPad, or my home or work computer).  I share photo albums with my family and take advantage of extra free storage space every time someone signs up for Dropbox using a link I shared.  I would use Skydrive if the iPad integration were the same, but I would still be out of space, even with what my school would give me for free (I am almost maxed out with Dropbox).

You may notice that I didn’t mention Google Drive.  I am careful what I put on Google because of their privacy policy.  If you don’t mind your data being mined then Google Drive may be the choice for you, however, I do not want my information open to Google (and their advertisers) so I do not use their storage option.

My Favorite Student Apps

Below is a list of my favorite student apps.  When I say “favorite” I am using that term loosely because new apps come out every day that are awesome and there are so many GREAT apps!  These are ones that I love and have used a lot in my classroom!  The pictures are linked to the app store.

1. Puppet Pals $ – I LOVE Puppet Pals. It may be one of my favorite apps! This app can be used in so many different ways. The students can use it to explain a process you have been learning in class, the students can use it to review information before a test, the students can use it to illustrate a process, etc. This app has limitless possibilities!

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2. Page Send (free) – Page send is an online collaboration app. The students can invite each other in to collaborate on documents. The students can also record what they are doing in a document and save it for future reference or send on to friends.

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3. LAZ Leveled Readers ($) – This series of books is a leveled reading series. The book are leveled using Fountas and Pinnell. The app store has levels aa – R. I will be sending out this app based on your grade level.

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4. Doodle Buddy (free) – This is a great drawing app and it is FREE! You can use this to have students illustrate a scene in a book, to make infographics (very cool!), and to illustrate any writing work they have completed. Students can import pictures, add text, and add shapes.

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5. Read2Go ($)– This is an amazing app for our dyslexic students. The students can apply for a free account if they have a qualifying text disability at bookshare.org. The app will link to their book share account and allow students to have access to thousands of free books (textbooks as well), that can be read to the student. The app is pricey, but you may want to recommend the app to students with a learning disability.

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6. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore ($) – An excellent app that tells a wonderful story about the love and care of books!

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7. Scribble Press (free) – This is a free book making app! The students can write a book and illustrate the book all in this app! The book can then be purchased in hardback form and shipped to the student. The students can create a book to be shared or printed. The app comes with story starters or blank books.

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8. Rover (free)– Rover is another browser (like safari), but it will play flash content for education.

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9. Bluster(free) – A vocabulary game that works on adjectives, rhyming words, prefixes, suffixes, and synonyms. You are able to pick the grade level. Free App.

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10. SpellBoard ($) – An awesome spelling app! The app allows you to load in spelling lists and th students work through spelling the words in quizzes and practice. The students can complete a word scramble or word search as part of their studying.

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11. Verses Poetry (free)– refrigerator magnets type poetry mixer! Gives a variety of words to “mix-up” into a poem.

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12. iWrite Words ($) – Handwriting app. The app does not allow the letter to be written the wrong way – i.e. starting at the bottom or going backwards.

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13. Cursive Practice(free) – This app allows cursive practice.

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14. Math Racer ($) – a math fact game.

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15. Splash Math (Grades 1-5) ($) – Math Practice by unit and additional practice.

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16. Google Earth (free)

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17. Star Walk ($) – An awesome app that lets you see exactly what is in the sky above you at any time!

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18. Frog Dissection ($) – I LOVE this app and I hate dissection! This app will allow you to virtually dissect a frog and see the body systems. Also, the app will teach you about each organ and it’s function in the body.

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19. Stack the States and Stack Countries Lite (free) – Great apps that allow students to practice US and World Georgraphy.

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20. iCard Sort – Sorting app ($)– Load in anything and have your students sort – spelling words, vocabulary, math problems, etc.

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21. voice Plus ($)– Have your students practice fluency by recording themselves or practice their spelling patterns by telling stories. The students can change their voices and listen back to the audio file. They can also email the files to the teacher!

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22. iThoughts HD ($) – One of my favorite apps! Use for mindmapping and as a graphic organizer for students!

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23. Strip Designer($) – Comic Strip Maker – have your students create comic strips for any content area! Allow students to use their creative side to show what they know!

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iPad Basics Training

This is the training presentation I made for my teachers on the basics of their iPad.  The teachers had had their ipads for a week before I gave them the basics training.  I think that was a really good plan because the teachers were ready to learn how to use their ipads effectively.  They had been using their ipads, but showing them the shortcuts helped them immensely!  I don’t think the teachers would have been ready for the basics training the same day they got their ipads  they would not have been focused on the training.  HERE is a handout I gave the teachers that goes along with the presentation.

One of the most pressing questions from the teachers was, “How do I use pinterest!”.  I am not a huge fan of the pinterest app so I use pinterest in safari.  I also found a website that gives directions on how to add a “pin it” button to your iPad safari browser.  Also, along those same lines, after I showed the teachers about Evernote in our productivity training (I will post that later), they wanted an Evernote Clipper on their safari and I found a website that gave those instructions as well.

Kindergarten, Butterflies, and the iPad!

A few weeks ago I was in a kindergarten classroom to teach a unit on butterflies!  It is so exciting to be in kindergarten, but also nerve wracking because I taught 5th grade before moving into my current role of curriculum/technology coordinator at my school!  Kindergarten is quite different from 5th grade!

I had the best time teaching these little ones!  The best part about teaching kindergarten is the students are sponges!  They want to learn everything they can and have so many awesome questions!

I knew that I wanted to incorporate a lot of technology into this lesson, but I also wanted to encourage the students to do some hands-on projects so we could work on our writing and our fine motor skills.

I started the week by giving each student a post-it note and had them write or draw a picture about what they knew about butterfly’s.  The students came up with they fly, they have wings, they eat nectar, etc.  Then I gave I put the students into groups and gave each group a non-fiction book.  I wanted the students to discuss with each other what they noticed about the book, hoping we would be able to pull back together as a group and create a list of text features of non-fiction books.  I realize now that I hurried into this process and I should have modeled it with the students prior to putting them into groups.  However, with a LOT of scaffolding, I worked with each group and they found some features of non-fiction text.  Then, used the following anchor chart to describe non-fiction text (this isn’t mine, I found it on pinterest – I don’t know the reference or I would include(here is a link to my kindergarten board on pinterest).  Finally, I read the book Waiting for Wings and we tried to decide if the book was fiction or non-fiction.

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We began the next day reviewing our features on non-fiction text and reviewed while reading a story.  Then, I took all the kindergartners to the computer lab and we worked on a game to put the lifecycle of a butterfly in order.  We used two websites.  The links are here and here.

The next day we did a craft I found on pinterest!  Don’t you love Pinterest!  The students loved this craft!  The picture is linked to the source.

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We also worked on a non-fiction book project about the life of a butterfly.  Again, the picture is linked to the original file location.

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The last project we did was on the iPad.  I wanted the students to somehow illustrate the butterfly lifecycle, but I wanted them to use words and pictures.  So, of course, the iPad was the perfect solution.  I used one of my favorite apps, Puppet Pals HD.  I preloaded in pictures to be used and then I showed the students how to make a puppet show.  I let the students choose from a couple of different backdrops for this experiment AND I had given the students free time the day before to play with the app and get used to how it worked.  Below are a couple of examples of students explaining the life cycle of a butterfly with Puppet Pals. 

Great Tools for Teaching Spelling

I find that when it comes to spelling, most teachers have the students memorize the list, play a few games, do the workbook pages or a tic-tac-toe choice board and then give the test.  I have to admit that when I was a classroom teacher, I did the same thing.  Where in the schedule is there time for spelling?  Truly, do we need to teach the skill of memorizing how to spell words, because really isn’t that what spelling is? 

My son is a terrible speller (as am I!), but when he was diagnosed with dyslexia I realized how important the skill of spelling is!  However, I also know that there is limited time in the school day and is spelling really one of those subjects that I am going to spend an enormous amount of time teaching?  I think the best approach to spelling is one that incorporates spelling into reading and writing.  We know that spelling, reading and writing are very closely tied together!  Show me a student with spelling problems and I will show you a student with reading or writing problems.  If a student cannot spell then that means the student is having trouble encoding words.  If a student can’t encode words, then the student is going to experience extreme frustration with regards to writing.  For my son, he can decode words fairly well, because he has had years of explicit instruction in phonics.  HOWEVER, he cannot encode a word to save his life!  Writing is extremely painful for him and he does not carry over his spelling words from his spelling list to his writing.  I see this exact same model play out in the classroom over and over – I just didn’t realize the link until my son was diagnosed (I had already been teaching 6 years at that point!).

In order to really work on spelling for kids that have significant spelling51D3qQ4ZAdL._SL500_AA300_ issues I highly recommend the book, Words Their Way!  It is a fabulous book, that is labor intensive in the classroom.  This book gives explicit  instruction in spelling patters.  It lays out lessons based on the child’s needs.  This is not a book that I would use in whole class instruction, rather I would use it to remediate students that need extra help.  Additionally, on the Promethean Planet website their are a ton of flipcharts that have already been made that support this program!  I love it when I can find resources already made!

Playing off of ideas in Words Their Way,  there are many iPad resources that can photobe used to help students with spelling difficulties.  One of my favorites is the app icardsort.  I load my son’s words into this app and then have him sort the words based on the phonics of spelling rule that he is learning.   We then have a discussion on why he thinks cards are sorted together.  Adding new words is very easy and the decks can be emailed.  So, you can create one deck for your class and send it to your students (if they have ipads) or you can load it onto a class cart of ipads.  If you do not have ipads, create a center with flashcards.

Another tip for spelling, that really is just rote memorization, but makes the learning fun is to record a story with the spelling words that all follow a specific rule.  For example, my son could NOT memorize the “le” , “el” list.  He could just not remember which word had which ending.  We talked to his Orton-Gillingham tutor about how he could learn these words!  She suggested us making up a story with all of the “le” words and then a different story with the “el” words.  This was AMAZING!  All of the words were learned and he made a 100 on that test!  WE use this strategy each week now.  Also, his carryover to his writing is greatly increasing.  He can  remember the stories and will write some (not all) of his words correctly now in his writing.  We use the app Voice Changer Plus Voice-Changer-Plusto make it fun.  The app allows my son to record his voice but, then change the recording into a bunch of different sounds like mice, or a guitar, or a choir!

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Finally, to study spelling words and learn them in a semi-fun way we use the app SpellBoard.  I LOVE this app.  My son and I load his words in to the app together (you have to record the words).   Then, my son can play games, study his words on his own and take a test (on his own) for the rest of the  week.  We have set benchmarks he must reach each day and he meets those goals every week.  One of the things I love most about this app is the freedom it gives teachers to individualize spelling instruction in her class.  Aphoto (3) teacher could conceivable have MULTIPLE lists going on in her classroom based on her assessments of spelling skills in students.  Students could load their own words (starting in 2nd grade) and then study and work at their own pace through the week.  Finally, students could take the test and then send the results to the teacher!  This would free up spelling time during the day for individualized, explicit instruction on both the high and the low end of the ability range in a classroom!

 

Ipads in School

My school is trying to decide if we are going to starting using IPADs in school and all I have to say is WHY NOT?  I am so impressed with the learning that can be done using an IPAD I can’t wait to get one in the hands of all of my students!  There are so many great apps and great ways to use the ipad.

Some of my favorite apps are spellingboard, puppet pals, math racer, ithoughts HD, noteshelf (I LOVE THIS APP), and read2Go.

Spell Board lets the teacher or parent or student input their spelling list and then practice the list using a practice session or a word search.  The app will also give the student a spelling test!  The best part is the teacher or parent use the app to see how much time has been spent studying!

Puppet Pals lets the students make puppet shows!  My daughter makes a puppet show for every test she has to study for!  You could also use puppet pals for an assessment on the learning that took place during a unit of study.

Math Racer lets students do speed drills of their math facts.  The number of facts and the type of facts can be switched up every time the student plays the game.

ithoughts HD is a mindmapping app!  I love this app!  It has wonderful graphics and is super easy to use.

Noteshelf is by far my favorite app!  It is a note taking app.  The only draw back with noteshelf is it does not offer the ability to mark-up PDF’s (yet!).  I use good reader to mark up my PDFs.

And last Read2Go is an app for the learning disabled.  My son has dyslexia so I use this app to download books for him from bookshare.com