As a Teacher of the Visually Impaired and Assistive Technology Specialist, I regularly evaluate my students on their use of iOS devices with their accessibility features such as Voice Over and Zoom. However, in recent years as most of my secondary students have become versatile in understanding how to use Voice Over and Zoom to text and use social media, it has become aware to me that they do not have a solid understanding in being proficient in using the iPad universal accessibility living in a 21st century society.
According to International Society for Technology in Education’s student’s standards, 21st century students in the general education curriculum should be able to use technology to understand how technology plays a role in the way they access information, problem solve, come up with solutions, etc.
In seeing that my students were getting caught between the cracks of the assistive technology world and the broader picture of the way technology/iOS devices play a larger role in a 21st society for all people, I quickly did some research to see what sort of assessments already exist in helping students with visual impairments learn universal access skills for the iPad. Students should know how to use the iPad outside of text messaging, social media and word processing.
I have been writing IEP goals and creating activities to broaden my student’s understanding of how to use the iPad as a drawing tool, e-book reader, desk top publishing tool, as a multi-purpose e-learning tool and as a student organizer within the context of their regular education curriculum.
Below are the apps I have been using with my students to help us achieve this endeavor of becoming empower 21st Century learners living in a sighted world:
My student’s with low vision love to use SyncSpace as an E-Drawing tool because of its collaborative features. When they are working with other student’s on projects they love to see how collaborative apps work when creating projects. It also has been working well with iOS Zoom features so far. My students especially love using the Apple Pen as a tech accessory.
Voice Dream Reader
My students feel the most comfortable using Voice Dream Reader, an e-reader that supports both digital text and audio recording options for books. on mobile devices.
I have written two blog posts on how my students have used Book Creator to create their own E-Books. You can find them here:
Using VoiceOver with Book Creator: A Blind Student’s Experience
Adapting iBooks for Children with Multiple Disabilities: Book Creator App
Overall, my students love to use E-Book Creator to create their own books for creative writing class, use as a visual aid in place of Google Docs since it syncs with Voice Over and Zoom (Google Docs does not). They also love to self-publish their own books to iBooks and sharing it with other classmates, teachers and parents.
My students who have low vision and quite a bit of functional vision really enjoy using the interactive and collaborative features of Google Classroom. They love being able to turn assignments into their teachers, have access to classroom notes and presentation at their finger tips on their iPads and laptops, etc. Google Classroom is easily accessibly with ZoomText and other magnifying software. However, for my students who are dependent on screen readers to access academic information, Google Classroom is not accessible for them. We are still looking for other systems similar to Google Classroom that are accessible to screen readers.
iStudiez Pro offers my upper elementary and secondary students a dynamic organizer that syncs with Voice Over and Zoom. My students are able to receive reminders on assignments, tests and projects that are due within a week, set reminders, customize their schedule and more. It is by far both my student and I’s favorite organizer app!
By Julie Johnson