Mobile Devices as Assistive Technology

By Madalaine Pugliese, Assistive Technology Graduate Program Director at Simmons College; Assistive Technology Consultant, Assistive Learning Technologies, LLC

The role of assistive technology specialists evolves. We do more than recommend physical access to the curriculum. Now we are also curriculum and strategy advisors. We design modifications that maintain the essence of the classroom experience regardless of challenge. The tools and strategies that we recommend put the student and curriculum first.

Integration of mobile devices and appropriate applications (apps) is essential. Resources recommending apps are available, however few seemed to put the student first and offer little information about features within the settings. As the original author, it became clear to me that an update to include strategies for selecting mobile device apps is helpful for the same reasons that software recommendations are beneficial.

Framework for Recommendations

My graduate students decided to use the Stages© Framework (Cambium Learning Technologies, 2008) to organize recommendations for mobile device apps from a developmental perspective. We created a wiki that offers rationale for each recommendation that is supported by features or design found within the app:

We take a developmental approach to language and cognitive milestones.  This framework takes a research-based approach to observable learner characteristics for each Stage and recommends features to look for in apps for learning that match and scaffold student need. This approach has proven very helpful in supporting educators, therapists and families in selecting appropriate learning materials.

I invite you to join the wiki we created and make contributions. Tell us about your favorite app, why you like it, what features you believe are important for making accommodations. Together, just think of the collections of ideas we will create!

Examples: (Please visit the wiki for more recommendations. For the purposes of this blog post, here are samples, one for each Stage.)

  • Stage One: Bebot, by Normalware, $1.99, Touch the Robot to make it move and make sound. Music synthesizer with unique touch control. Students learn they have control of  the program.
  • Stage Two: Zoo Animals Flash Cards, by, Free,  A simple touch on real photos of animals, and the name of the animal is spoken, followed by a musical flourish. Touch the screen again to get a new page. Good vocabulary builder and has enough action, sound, and color to help with visual attention on the screen.

  • Stage Three: Speech with Milo – Verbs, by Doonan Speech Therapy, $2.99,  App for giving meaning to verbs. Children touch Milo, and he does an action. The word for the action pops up on the screen and is said aloud, combining multi-sensory input. There is also a button to hear the verb in a phrase.

  • Stage Four: Apps in my Pocket Ltd.,  FREE or in-app purchase of $2.99 for complete alphabet,  3 apps in 1 that combined address many readiness and assessment activities.
  • Stage Five: Kiwa Media, $2.99 for each book in the series, A series of books with a wide range of features. Stories will read aloud. Users can click to hear individual words. Users can illustrate themselves or use published pages. Users can record themselves reading. Font sizes are adjustable. Stories can be read in 5 languages.

  • Stage Six: The Conover Company, $1.99, Designed to teach and reinforce common signs and words found in the community for independent living. Contains videos and customizable assignments. One of a terrific series.
  • Stage Seven: Dr. Peet’s Software, $6.99, Text to speech support for the writing process. Font size and color are customizable. Information written can be used to text or e-mail a contact in the contact list. Videos and maps can also be searched by accessing an icon that will load the appropriate Google. Talkback settings can be customized to read letter, word, sentence or all the above. Common mispronunciations or abbreviations can be customized to be read in a particular way.

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