Tag Archives: iPad

The Best Special Education Apps for Teachers

by Mary Kate Dempsey

special education apps for teachers

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tablets and phones can be a huge asset for teachers working with students with special needs. Technology allows teachers to work with students at their ability levels. Below are some of our favorite apps for the special education classroom. 

Dragon Dictation (free – iOS only, similar apps are available for Android)

Speech-to-text apps are great for students who struggle with writing or typing. Dragon Dictation is one of the easiest to use and most accurate. All you have to do is open the app and speak into it. Once the app transcribes your words, you can edit it if needed and share through email or paste it into Google Docs.

Pocket Pond 2 (free – iOS and Android)

Have a student who gets overstimulated easily? Try Pocket Pond. Calming music plays while koi fish swim around a virtual pond. Students can play with the fish until they are ready to rejoin the class.

iReward ($2.99 – iOS)

iReward is a useful app that tracks tasks for students to accomplish to earn a set reward. The app supports multiple users, making it perfect for the classroom.

Time Timer ($2.99 – iOS, $0.99 – Android)

An easy to read and highly visual timer that shows how much time is left in the event in red and the time passed in white. This app is great for time management in any setting, classroom or otherwise.

SoundingBoard (free, with in-app purchases – iOS)

SoundingBoard uses symbols to help teachers and students who are nonverbal communicate easily. Crucially for teachers, the app supports multiple boards for use with different people. It comes pre-loaded with 20 symbols, and each in-app purchase after is $0.99.

Nulite Behavior Tracker ($19.99 – iOS)

Yes, this app is expensive, but it has excellent features that make it worth the upfront cost. Nulite is an app made especially for special education teachers that tracks student behaviors with date, duration, and notes for each student. The easily exported generated charts and graphs are great for sharing with parents and administrators.

Do you use apps in the classroom? If so, what apps do you use and would recommend to other special education teachers? Let us know in the comments!

Apps for Students with Special Needs

by Jonathan Laxamana

apps, special needs, iPad, managing behavior

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

All teachers are challenged with meeting the different needs of the students in their classrooms. Perhaps one of the most difficult challenges is crafting effective and engaging activities for students with special needs. At the heart of knowing how to engage students with special needs is knowing not just their particular needs, but also their idiosyncrasies. Knowing a student loves music, for example, might prove helpful when trying to teach him or her new words.

Technology, especially iPads, can provide teachers and paraprofessionals who are aware of their students’ needs, abilities, and idiosyncrasies with more tools to instruct and engage their students. There are number of ways educators can use iPad features and apps to help improve their instruction:

iPad Features

Guided Access ensures that a student can complete an activity within an app without accidentally exiting the app.

Voice Over can help students to navigate the device and its apps with voice assistance.  The typical gestures used with an iPad are modified in this mode, but it can prove helpful for students with visual impairments.

Speak to Text is simpler to use if you simply want a student to hear words that he or she is having trouble pronouncing. The student can select a word or paragraph to hear it read as it is highlighted.

You can also modify the iPad in other ways to suit your students’ needs using its Accessibility features, including changing the font size and reversing its colors.

Modifying Behavior

Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame (Free) includes activities that help students learn how to calm down when they are frustrated and develop a plan to solve their problems by “helping” a monster to do so.

Communicating with Others

Verbal Me (Free) includes letter sounds, numbers, and images of things like seasons, food, and feelings to help students communicate. By tapping an image or even typing a word or sentence, a student can communicate what he or she thinks, wants or feels to others.

Learning the Basics

I See Sam (Free) helps students to develop phonemic awareness. Students practice new sounds and words before reading a simple book. Teachers can have their students listen to a sound or word, record themselves saying the sound or word, and then play it back to hear themselves saying the word.

Articulation Station does precisely what it sounds like it does. It helps students to articulate sounds. However, it does much more than that. It helps students to practice those sounds by practicing words paired with images, in sentences, and in stories.  The free version only includes the one letter. Each additional letter is $2.99.

See.Touch.Learn. helps students learn to recognize a wide range of things—letters, numbers, colors, food, animals, body parts, and emotions.  Some sets of cards are provided for free, but you can buy additional sets of cards for about a dollar or two per set.  You can also create a series of cards to teach the students the skills however you choose.

Bitsboard offers students a number of games that help them to learn many concepts like emotions, actions, jobs, and characteristics. Students can view flashcards, answer true-false questions, play a matching game, or even do a word search to reinforce the meaning and spelling of words.

These are just a few basic (and free) tools you can use to help you put the iPad to good use for your students with special needs. There are many other apps available, some of which can be expensive. You should evaluate the more costly apps’ usefulness knowing the idiosyncrasies of your students.

Jonathan bioJonathan Laxamana is Technology Manager of Green Light Professional Development. He has more than ten years of experience in producing educational software products, video, web-based content, and mobile apps. He writes about new hardware and software, troubleshooting tips, and everything iPad. 

Using the Third and Long Documentary and App for Black History Month

Third and Long documentary app

The Third and Long student app

Baseball may be considered the national pastime, but given the revelry that occurs every year leading up the Super Bowl, it seems that Americans love football just as much. Yet, the story behind the integration of professional football has received less attention in our classrooms. Today, African American players account for more than 60% of the NFL, and the 2013 season featured a record number of Black quarterbacks. But such recognition did not come easily. Most students (and Americans in general) know that Jackie Robinson integrated Major League Baseball in 1947. But many of those same people don’t know that Kenny Washington and Woody Strode integrated professional football the year before. These fine athletes faced many of the same struggles as did the first African American baseball players, so their stories also deserve to be a part of Black History month curricula.

Third and Long documentary app 6

Green Light Learning Tools has partnered with T-Time Productions to create an interactive student workbook for their outstanding documentary, Third and Long: The History of African-Americans in Pro Football. The documentary includes interviews with football legends, such as Jim Brown, Willie Lanier, and Deacon Jones, plus contemporary greats, including Ray Lewis, Ozzie Newsome, and Tony Dungy.

Third and Long documentary app 3

The workbook breaks the documentary into five parts, each of which can easily fit into one class period. Each part of the workbook contains additional images and information to provide context for the film. Features include historical gems ranging from excerpts of  presidential speeches to iconic images from the civil rights movement. The workbook also includes timelines and vocabulary activities to get students involved in the action.

Third and Long documentary app 4

The student app is now available for free on the App Store. An iBook version of the film is available on the iBookstore for $3.99. (Android versions are currently in progress.) For teachers without tablets, a PDF version of the workbook will soon be available for free download at thirdandlong.tv.

How to use the app in your classroom

  • Have students watch each part of Third and Long and then read and complete the workbook at home.
  • After watching the film, have students break into small groups to complete the workbook.
  • Have students complete the workbook as homework to prepare for watching the film.
  • Use the film and workbook as a starting point to discuss the civil rights movement and the role of sports in American society.

For more information on obtaining a copy of the Third and Long documentary, contact T-Time productions.

How to Use Your iPad on Your IWB

by Jonathan Laxamana

Presenting an iPad on IWB

Our consultant Mark Hansen presenting with Reflector

Some schools are lucky enough to have an iPad for each student. What if you have an iPad but your students don’t? It’s still a valuable classroom tool if you have an interactive whiteboard. There are two good, cost-friendly solutions I’ve found to use your iPad with your IWB, and they’re both wireless.

1. Doceri: Control Your IWB on Your iPad 

Doceri allows you to control your computer from your iPad. (And when your computer is displayed on your IWB, this allows you remote control of your IWB.) This can be a game-changer just from the fact that it allows you to move around the classroom untethered to the board while still controlling it—and without having to turn your back to students every time you want to interact with the board. Besides allowing you to control your computer, Doceri includes annotation and screen-recording tools that you can use starting from a blank page or on top of existing documents, web pages, or videos.

Download Instructions and Pricing

To use Doceri, you need to download applications for both your computer and iPad.

Computer: Download a free 30-day evaluation copy (duration is managed by honor code) on Doceri’s website. Both Mac and PC versions are available. Paid versions cost $30.
iPad: Search Doceri in the App store for a free download.


•   Once you have the apps installed on both your computer and iPad, open both.
•   On your iPad, select “Create • Control • Present through a computer running Doceri Desktop.” Then select your computer, and you’re off and running. (The other option here is AirPlay, and, if you have an Apple TV, you can also use Doceri to display your iPad right on an external monitor or IWB—more on that later.)


2. Reflector: Displaying Your iPad on Your IWB

Think of Reflector as Doceri flipped—instead of giving you control of content on your computer through your iPad, Reflector displays your iPad on your computer. And not only can Reflector display an iPad on a computer, it can display multiple iPads on one computer screen. When you connect your computer running Reflector to your IWB, you have the ability to display iPad content—such as apps and iBooks—on the big screen. You can display your iPad, or you can use a split-screen view to toggle quickly between other documents, web pages, and apps (or even between multiple iPads—think gaming applications).

Download Instructions and Pricing

To use Reflector, download the application just for your computer (no iPad app required). Find it here. Both Mac and PC versions are available, it costs $12.99, and there is a trial version available (and they mean trial, it runs a matter of minutes before auto-closing—just long enough to demonstrate whether or not it works for you).


•   Once you have the Reflector application installed on your computer, open it.
•   Then go to your iPad Control Center. In iOS 6, this was the screen you accessed by double tapping the home button to bring up the App history trough and then swiping right. In current iOS 7, this is the screen you access by swiping up from below the dock (bottom row of apps). In both cases, this screen includes volume controls. When Reflector is running on your computer, it opens up an AirPlay signal and the AirPlay icon will appear next to the volume controls in your Control Center. Tap the AirPlay icon, select your computer in the screen that follows, and select Mirroring from the screen that follows. You’re up and running!


Other  Notes

iPad Screen-recording: Reflector includes an iPad screen-recording tool—say if you want to run a demo or film a lesson. Unfortunately, it doesn’t record audio voice-over (just the sounds, if any, from the iPad content). If you want to record a demo or lesson that includes your voice, try using a screen-recording tool on your computer—for example, on a Mac, try the free and native application Quicktime. This is the best option for a flipped day of instruction or a PD or how-to session.

VGA cords: With iPad 2 and newer models, you can also plug your iPad directly into your board using a VGA or HDMI adapter (to 30 pin for iPads and to Lightning for iPad Minis). However, you lack mobility with this setup. And, this just allows you to display an iPad on the IWB—not to also use split-screen views or screen annotation tools on your computer.

AirPlay & Apple TV: When the iPad first came out, there wasn’t a ready option for mirroring an iPad on an external monitor or whiteboard. With iPad 2, Apple introduced AirPlay, allowing a wireless signal between iPad and external monitors and IWBs. To run an AirPlay signal through Apple equipment, you need an Apple TV (a $99 device) that connects to Macs—or external monitors or IWBs. The benefits of Reflector include cheaper price and compatibility with PCs. Beyond the IWB, Reflector has the functionality to display an iPad onto your students’ computers—and this could allow you to model an activity (on part of the screen) while students work along side you in their own document on their computers.

Jonathan LaxamanaJonathan Laxamana is Technology Manager of Green Light Professional Development. He has more than ten years of experience in producing educational software products, video, web-based content, and mobile apps. He writes about new hardware and software, troubleshooting tips, and everything iPad.