Dec 3, 2011

UDL is for everyone!

This week I have been investigating Universal Design for Learning (UDL).  I believe that is really for everyone.  Many of the changes for those labeled "disabled" make life easier for all of us.  Today's post investigates some of the iPad apps designed to aid us.

There are Apps for communicating, schedule making, tracking data, and education.  Most of the apps are low cost, and some of them are free - making them useful for schools with limited budgets.  Engaging students can require lots of patience, and special needs children require special skills - but having some cool tools may help! 

One app for iPads is called Special Words. It's an interactive game to help children learn to read.  I imagine its being brought into elementary schools and used with literacy programs.  Words can be added to suit a particular unit.   I also think younger students learning foreign languages or those learning English would find this useful.  It comes with 96 words (spoken and written), matching pictures, and eight languages.  Teachers and parents can easily add more words and sounds. There are 3 levels of difficulty, and it was designed with cooperation by teachers and special needs professionals. There are Zombies and cool music, too. Even non-challenged children will enjoy this!

Factor POP is a video game and more!  It is designed to help students master multiplication and division concepts like factors and multiples.  Harder levels can be unlocked by showing mastery of easier ones.  This program reaches those struggling with traditional methods by using kinesthetic responses.  As I visit schools, I am continually surprised by how many kids cannot figure out what goes into any particular number.  I've learned that children with non-verbal learning disorders struggle with these sorts of concepts. Often their condition is not diagnosed.  This game is fun enough and uses repetition enough to help those who struggle and even those with no problems! I think this would be useful in a classroom preparing for learning algebraic concepts - gotta know how to factor!

Another fun way to learn math is through Math Snacks.  I sat in my car in the cold rain playing this for quite awhile.  This site has short games and  animations that present math differently than most programs (how about 14/6ths!).  These are great for classes up through middle school, or even classes for struggling learners.  Those who say they don't like math will get caught up in the Pearl Diving game or empathize with the girl on the Bad Date. This can be used on a variety of platforms. 

An important concept of UDL is presenting information in multiple ways. As a student, I struggled to memorize the Periodic Table; kids with learning disabilities may not be able to do this at all.  An app for the iPad allows learners to see each element in stunning 3D.  This adds some concreteness to an abstract concept.  Many students with LDs are removed out of science and history classes so they miss vital background knowledge in these areas.  Incorporating technology like this can help bridge the gap.  However, this app has considerable overlap between being assistive and instructional.  It provides benefits to both groups, which helps to mainstream LD students.

Visual Dictionary Online helps students who are struggling to grasp a concept (i.e. how a gear works) can go to this site (or use the iPhone app) and type in the term to see it. When you know what something looks like, but not what it's called (or vice versa), you can quickly match the word to the image.  This would be great for any type of class from English to Science.  It's possible to browse the categories as well. 

Also helpful are graphic organizers.  There are several for the iPad: Popplet, IdeaSketch, MindNode, and iThought, to name a few.  Some are free and others cost a few dollars. They are easy to use and many allow users to import and export to a variety of programs - even a desktop word processor.  Below is a preview of iThoughts ($7.99).

1 comment:

  1. Linda - this is a great collection! This is the fourth of our blogs I've visited regarding apps, and I have yet so see a repeat! What a resource this is turning out to be. I think I like the Visual Dictionary Online the best - I could think of about four kids right away that would benefit from it greatly. Thanks for sharing this trove of apps!