Best Apps for Written Expression
Recently I’ve been getting a lot of Assistive Technology evaluation requests for written expression. So many come out of the woodwork at this time – is anybody else swamped? I thought I would share the knowledge I’ve collected with you! In the sea of apps there are many options for reading and writing but I’ve selected the top apps (in my opinion) for students with language delays and writing challenges.
Built in Accessibility Features on the iPad
Before we go any further I want to make sure everyone is aware of the tools that come built in to Apple products. Devices such as the iPad and iPhone come with text-to-speech capability. They will read text on the screen out loud. To turn on these features go to Settings, then select General, then select Accessibility. Click on Speech. Once in Speech toggle the Speak Selection to the on setting (it will turn green once you slide the circle to “on”). Users can also adjust the rate of speech by sliding the scale toward the left side for slower and right side for faster. Highlight Content is another assistive feature that highlights words as they are read. Highlight Content is also found under Speech, within the Accessibility features. To use, toggle to the on position. Now to the apps.
Awesome Written Expression Apps
- Voice Dream Writer is a new app from the makers of Voice Dream Reader. The best features are its text-to-speech capabilities for proofreading and phonetic and meaning search to aid vocabulary and written expression. Another nice tool is the outline creator, which assists with the structure of outlines. This keeps an overview on the screen to serve as a model for structuring paragraphs. Users can easily create outlines by dragging and dropping text. This app is available in the App Store for $9.99.
- Co:Writer from Don Johnston is the mobile application version of the comprehensive assistive software Co:Writer desktop. Features include text-to-speech, word prediction, topic dictionaries, and spelling aids. A unique feature is their topic specific dictionaries. These pull up vocabulary related to the topic typed in. So if students typed in Spongebob Squarepants, they will be given words that relate to the TV show. This can be helpful to give students additional language. The app is available for $19.99 in the App Store.
- Inspiration Maps allows users to create graphic organizers and concept maps of many different varieties. The app converts webs into written outlines which can then be imported into word processing applications or file folders. This app is appropriate for the academic work expected of elementary school students as well as middle to high school. Students can make story maps or brainstorm writing assignments using the visuals. Older students (middle – high school) can create outlines for essays and research papers using the outline features. This app is available in the App Store for $9.99 or as a free trial “lite” version. Also check out Kidspiration Maps for younger students (K-5) which is similar but has visual representations of words as well as text.
- Ginger Keyboard this app is a fancy looking keyboard with smart features such as predictive text, text-to-speech, spell check without auto-correct like the iPhone (which can be frustrating), grammar check, personalized dictionary, translator into multiple language, and synonyms. Another cool feature is advanced rephrasing, which offers additional ways to phrase the sentence you’ve just written. This could be helpful for our learners to have models of new ways to create sentences. They also offer a phrase of the day which is another way to learn new ways to phrase language. Best of all this app is free!
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