I have difficulty writing numbers and mathematical symbols legibly if I’m required to use pen or pencil, and am not able to make the characters very large. I know that I’m not alone in this regard. Now there is a way for anyone to use finger or stylus to enter handwritten numbers and symbols into a calculator on an Android or iOS handheld device. On a tablet, I can make the figures large enough to be almost legible!
MyScript Calculator is a free app for both Android and iOS devices from VisionObjects. It offers a “handwriting calculator” that works remarkably well. I’ve only tested it with my finger, not a stylus, but the app has no difficulty understanding my rather large and somewhat messy scrawl. The calculator works just as well for basic computation as it does for more complex mathematics.
I’ve embedded a video below that does a nice job of illustrating what this app can do. The video shows the app on Android. When I tried it on my iPad, it functioned identically. Numerical expressions can be copied easily and used in other apps.
In my view, Android stands head and shoulders above iOS in terms of options for text input on handheld devices. On my Android tablet or phone, I can choose the default keyboard from a helpful range of choices. I’m a pretty good touch typer, but I can enter text most efficiently with a keyboard that allows me to trace my fingers, without lifting them, from one letter to the next in a word on the keyboard. This is illustrated below on the Path Input keyboard. Apple doesn’t allow alternatives to its default keyboard, so this keyboard is available only within the app, but it’s easy to move text entered in Path Input to other apps.
Since each learner is unique, I believe it is imperative that each be introduced to a wide a range of learning tools and possibilities. There are many who struggle with written output, and this kind of text input would probably be helpful for some.
Path Input is currently available as a free app for iPad. There’s also a free Lite Version, as well as a Pro Version at $3.99, for iPhone and iPod Touch. The app does a good job of suggesting the word you might have meant, in case you didn’t get it quite right. Spaces are automatically inserted after words. The Shift key enables you to capitalize a word or to enter the word in all-caps, by tapping the key more than once.
On the iPad version of the app, I think it’s a major bonus to have the number keypad available, alongside the letters, as shown above. Path Input is available for several languages, and this list appears to be growing.
Shown below is a screenshot of Path Input Pro for the iPhone or iPod Touch.
I’ve explored numerous options for voice recognition, some free and others quite expensive. I’ve tried these applications myself, and I’ve used them with learners ranging in age from 8 to 68. In my experience, the free voice-to-text options available in the Google Chrome web browser are more effective than any of the others, especially for children. There are several Chrome alternatives, and I’ve already written here about Speech Recognizer, Online Dictation, andTalkTyper. Thanks to a helpful tip from Thomas Keown, I’m sharing yet another powerful option here.
VoiceNoteoffers excellent voice-to-text. It is a free app for Google Chrome that can be added to the browser simply by going to the Chrome Web Store and installing it. (A Google/GMail account is required.) VoiceNote opens as a dictation window, as pictured below. This can be a small window that sits on top of a document that is being written. Or, it can occupy the entire screen.
Some positive features of VoiceNote…
dictating directly into a text box facilitates creating paragraphs or longer selections of text
on-screen buttons for adding punctuation
floating window that can be positioned directly on any page where dictated text will be used
onscreen buttons for adding punctuation
desktop shortcut is available convewniently for opening VoiceNote
no advertising or other onscreen clutter
support for multiple languages
Perhaps the biggest drawback to VoiceNote is that only one font is available. The app’s developer has indicated that he is open to improving VoiceNote, so this may change. [Update: the font issue has been resolved.]
At $14.99, the app I’m highlighting here isn’t free, nor is it what I would normally refer to as low-cost. For the user who really needs it, it’s probably a bargain! I like TYP-O’s slogan: “Writing is for Everybody!“
TYP-O HD is an iOS app that works on all three Apple devices–iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad. In my view, it functions best on the iPad’s larger screen. It is a versatile set of four tools that support written output.
First, there is excellent word prediction with text-to-speech. This means that the writer can hear what a suggested word sounds like before selecting it. Secondly, the user has the option of entering text with voice recognition. There is also an effective spell checker. Finally, the writer can review his work by listening to it with the built-in text-to-speech.
Written work created in TYP-O can be sent to the clipboard and then copied into another app. Or, it can be shared via email. If hard copy is required, it can also be printed directly from the app.
The developers continue to improve TYP-O. The app has evolved and improved considerably since I first became aware of it. The only downside I’ve discovered is that it takes up a large amount of memory on the device–a whopping 1.9 GB. This means that updates take time and require a good Internet connection.
I’ve embedded a screenshot of TYP-O’s interface. Below that is a video that demonstrates the app in action.
Tools are only valuable to the extent that they facilitate tasks that need doing. That being said, here’s an tool that I believe can be valuable to learners and their teachers everywhere!
popplet is more than the online mind mapping application it seems at first glance. It also offers an effective way of sharing and presenting. An important added bonus is the iOS app that makes this tool available on all iDevices.
Take a look at what I just created. I’ve incorporated several images and a video. I could have drawn, or sketched, into any of the nodes if I’d wished to do that. It is worth noting that mind-maps created in Popplet’s browser version can be embedded anywhere with ease.
[I sure wish there wouldn't be a big blank space here if you are viewing on an iPad, but in its misguided wisdom Apple insists. Please scroll down for more about how you can use Popplet on an iDevice.]
Popplet’s presentation mode works well, and sets it apart from other mind mapping applications. It opens as shown below.
Once presentation mode is open, simply click on the ‘record’ button to number the nodes in the order in which you want to present them. Then click on the ‘present’ button, and each node will enlarge to fill the screen. The arrow buttons on the keyboard move forward or backward through the presentation.
There are two versions of the Popplet iOS app. Popplet Lite allows the creation and storage of only one presentation on the iDevice at a time. The full Popplet app ($4.99) allows for storage of as many mind-maps as you wish.
This video from iPadagogy does a nice job of demonstrating how to use Popplet Lite on the iPad. The process for creating mind maps is almost the same in the browser version.