iOS Apps to Support Learners Who Struggle with Reading and/or Writing – Updated Annotated List

My most visited posts ever was 10 Apps for Learners Who Struggle with Reading and/or Writing (Feb. 2012). Since then, my list of iOS Apps has been expanding. When I’ve shared these apps in person, as I did this week on an ISTE webinar, the presentation has been well received. So, here’s my updated list of iOS apps, with point-form annotation. The same information is available on my UDL Resource website, and that’s where I will continue to update the list.

I don’t claim that the apps shared here are the only solution or even the best solution. I have spent considerable time and money exploring apps to support reading and writing, and these are apps that I have found to be effective. The 24 apps listed below are organized under the following headings: 1) Supports for Reading; 2) Supports for Writing; 3) Alternatives to Writing; 4) Research Supports; 5) Visual Supports; 6) Supports for Written Math Work.

Supports for Reading

vBookz PDF Voice Reader ($4.99)

  • Text-to-speech for PDF files 
  • Files retain original page formatting with images, diagrams, etc.
  • High quality voices–male or female
  • Text tracked as read  
  • Import PDFs from Safari, email attachments, or DropBox
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch

iBooks (Free)

  • Text-to-speech (with iOS Speak Selection) for eBooks created in ePUB format
  • [Speak Selection must be turned on in Settings under Accessibility]
  • Works not only with books purchased from iBookstore, but with material created on the iDevice or imported from other sources
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch

 

ClaroSpeak US/UK ($5.99)

  • High quality text to speech reader with 5 built in voices
  • Imports and reads doc, docx, pages, pptx, epub files, but does not retain original formatting of the page
  • Visual highlighting of text as read
  • Also functions as text editor, will echo word or sentence
  • Creates audio files from text files
  • Customizable reading rate, font size, color contrast, etc.
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch

Readability (Free)

  • Re-formats web pages to reduce clutter
  • Adjust font-size, contrast and margins
  • Save articles in Readability to read later, whether online or not
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch (FREE)

 

 

TextGrabber + Translator ($2.99)

  • Take an image of text and convert it to editable/readable digital text
  • ABBY OCR is relatively fast
  • Works with cameras on iPhone 4+, iPod 5+, iPad 3+
  • Option for importing images taken with other cameras/other devices
  • Offers translation to multiple languages
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch

Supports for Writing

TYP-O HD ($14.99)

  • Writing app with multiple supports
  • Word prediction with text-to-speech
  • Built in option for text input with voice recognition
  • Text-to-speech for listening to written work
  • Spell-checker
  • Video demo and tutorial
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch

Nebulous Notes ($4.99)

  • Text editor that works well for anyone, and especially for individuals with low vision
  • Large font and variable contrast between text and background are available
  • Text to speech available with Speak Selection
  • Integrates with DropBox, prints, emails
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch

 

PaperPort Notes (Free)

  • versatile note-taking app, with multiple options for text input
  • keyboard/voice recognition/stylus inputs available
  • audio recordings can be attached to note pages
  • notes can be shared via email, Google Docs, DropBox, etc.
  • notes may be opened as PDF files by other iPad apps
  • iPad only

Dragon Dictation (Free)

  • easy to  use voice recognition, no training necessary
  • Use Speak Selection to read back dictated text aloud
  • Copy work to clipboard for use in other apps
  • Share dictated text via email, send directly to Facebook/Twitter
  • Internet connection required
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch

 

Alternatives to Writing

Audio Memos ($0.99)

  • Use device mic to create audio voice recordings
  • Options for editing and bookmarking recordings
  • Share easily via email, Wi-Fi, or online file storage services
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch ($0.99)
  • In-App purchases available to increase functionality, including voice activation

 

AudioNote ($4.99)

  • Record a talk, lesson, lecture, or your own thoughts while taking notes
  • Use keyboard or stylus to take notes, or use stylus to add drawings, diagrams, etc.
  • Notes are synchronized with audio, and audio can be “searched” by clicking on word or drawing
  • Export notes and audio via email, over wi-fi, or via iTunes
  • Also available for PC, Mac and Android
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch

Audioboo (Free)

  • Create audio recordings up to three minutes in length
  • Add image, tags, and location
  • Share on device, to Twitter/Facebook, or by email, 
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch (Free) – not optimized for iPad

 

 

fotobabble

  • Attach audio recording to image
  • Extensive range of options for editing image in app, including opportunity to add text
  • Share via Facebook, Twitter, or email
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch (not optimized for iPad)

 

 

Book Creator ($1.99)

  • Intuitive app for creating ebooks in ePUB format
  • Books can incorporate images, video, text, recorded audio, music
  • Completed books are published to iBooks on the iPad
  • Books can be printed or shared via email, iTunes, or Dropbox
  • iPad only

 

Animoto (Free)

  • Create multimedia presentation videos
  • Combine images/video clips/text with music
  • User interface is intuitive, videos are quick and easy to create
  • Also available for desktop and Android
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch

 

Research Supports

Google Search (FREE)

  • Voice recognition works well for entering search terms
  • Many search results offer text-to-speech responses
  • Also offers opportunity to enter images as “search terms”
  • Video demo
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch

Qwiki (FREE)

  • Search tool that yields results in multiple formats–images and videos, text (with accompanying text-to-speech)
  • A quintessential UDL tool
  • iPad only

 

Side by Side (FREE)

  • Split iPad screen into up to 4 customizable windows
  • Built in web browser and text editor for note-taking
  • Import text files or pdf’s
  • Integrates with DropBox
  • iPad only

 

Visual Supports

Idea Sketch (FREE)

  • Create mind map and turn it into an outline or  vice versa
  • Import text from other apps
  • Share work via email, or copy into other apps
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch

 

 

Mindomo (FREE)

  • Powerful and versatile mind mapping app
  • Mind maps can include images, hyperlinks, icons, notes, etc.
  • Export mind maps as images or as PDF files
  • Cross-platform desktop clients and Android versions available
  • iPad only

 

Corkulous Pro ($4.99)

  • Mind mapping “cork board” for collecting, organizing and sharing ideas
  • Arrange notes, images, labels, etc. visually with colour code potential
  • Link multiple boards
  • Share/sync via iCloud or Dropbox, or export as PDF files
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch

 

Tools 4 Students ($0.99)

  • Set of 15 graphic organizers to support visual organization of thoughts and concepts (cause/effect, pro/con, story elements, KWL, etc.)
  • Save work for future reference, or share via email
  • iPad only

 

 

Supports for Written Math Output

Panther Math Paper ($19.99)

  • Do math work on iPad (beginning and advanced)
  • Mathematical notation and symbols available and easily accessible
  • Learners are able to show their work
  • iPad only

Smart Spell Checker in Google Docs Provides Awesome Support

I’ve said it here before, and I think it’s worth repeating. I LOVE GOOGLE because it keeps working to make the Internet more accessible for individuals who struggle with text. I wrote recently about the helpful equation editor that Google has built into Google Docs. Now the new spell checker in Google Docs offers powerful additional support to anyone who struggles with spelling.

     

The Spell Checker for Google Docs has recently become way more intelligent, and therefore much more helpful. The spell checker for documents and presentations is no longer based on a fixed dictionary. Instead, it has become completely contextual. The developer illustrates this by showing how it distinguishes between Iceland and island when both are misspelled in the same sentence.

   

A common problem with spell checkers is that they don’t catch mistakes when the error is a real word. For example ‘here’ is written when it’s supposed to be ‘hear’. Google’s new spell checker looks at the context and offers suggestions accordingly.

Better yet, the new spell checker in Google Docs is constantly evolving and becoming better. That’s because it is fed by Google’s search bots as they comb the web! Among other things, this means the spell checker recognizes relatively new words and knows how they are spelled.

For now, Google Doc’s new spell checker is available only for English, but Google is promising to make it available for other languages as well.

FlexT9: Android App That Offers Multiple Text Input Options

My Asus Transformer Prime arrived last Friday, and my first Android tablet is truly a thing of beauty. After two years of using iOS on an iPhone and iPad 2, getting up to speed with Android 4.0 is going to involve some adjustments and a significant learning curve. The app I’m sharing here suggests that the investment in learning will pay rich dividends! Unfortunately, it’s an app that is not available for iOS.


FlexT9 is a powerful and versatile keyboard app for anyone who needs alternative text input methods on a phone or tablet. It’s a four-in-one keyboard that offers speech-to-text, handwriting recognition, and tracing, in addition to ordinary touch typing. There is also very good word completion, as well as word prediction.

FlexT9 is beautifully designed, and it can be set as the default keyboard on an Android device so that it is available whenever writing of any kind is required. At $4.99, FlexT9 is not free, but this is by far the best option I have seen and tested for anyone who finds conventional text input challenging. It is noteworthy that a writer can combine text input methods.

Now here’s a quick video overview of FlexT9 in action. It’s especially worth watching if you’re not sure what I mean by “tracing” for text input. This is an input meth0d that significantly increases the speed of my own text input.

PaperPort Notes: Voice Recognition Built into Versatile Note-Taking App for iPad


There are people everywhere, and learners in every classroom, who struggle with written output. Here’s a free iPad app with tremendous potential to help.

PaperPort Notes stands head and shoulders above any other iPad app I’ve tried, in terms of its potential to support individuals who struggle with writing. Text can be written with the keyboard, with a stylus, or dictated by voice. As well, audio recordings can be attached to any note.

It is the speech-to-text that sets this app apart. Whenever the keyboard is called up, the user has the option of dictating by voice. Using only the built-in iPad mic, I found the accuracy to be almost flawless, even when dictating with low levels of background noise present.

As is the case with Dragon Dictation, the iPad must be connected to the Internet for speech-to-text to function. PaperPort Notes is from Nuance, who are also responsible for Dragon Dictation. As is the case with the Dragon app, text-to-speech is only available via Speak Selection when the keyboard is visible. The opportunity to hear what has been dictated is important for anyone who struggles with both reading and writing.

There are numerous other features that make PaperPort useful. These inlude the ability to create text boxes and sticky notes, to incorporate images, and to conveniently import and annotate files and web pages, or even cropped parts of web pages. Notes can be created on a yellow or white lined page, a blank page, or on a graphing page. The image below illustrates just a few of these possibilities.

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There are multiple options for sharing notes–via email, into Google Docs, DropBox, etc. Notes can also be printed directly to an AirPrint printer. Or, notes can be opened in other iPad apps as PDF files.

A 20 page User Guide is made available by clicking on the ‘Help’ tab. This can be viewed within the app or downloaded as a PDF file.

Storybird: Anyone Can Write Beautifully Illustrated Stories!

I’m writing today about an online application that can be used by learners of any age to create engaging stories. This tool can be just as effective for learners with limited ability to write as it is for skilled authors. It therefore lends itself well to a UDL approach to learning. This is among my all time favourite online applications!

Storybird offers an extensive collection of beautiful artwork in a wide variety of styles, and writers are invited to build stories around this art.  Storybird calls this ‘visual storytelling’.  This is ideal for authors with limited ability to write text, but it also works well for writers and poets who are proficient with text.

Storybird’s user interface is straightforward, easy to navigate, and easy to learn.  In essence, the author selects the illustration for a page, and then adds accompanying text. The author can create a cover for the book, or let Storybird create it. In its tagline, Stoyrbird bills itself as a forum for ‘collaborative storytelling’, and the Storybird platform is well suited to creating stories with others–with others in the same classroom or with collaborators anywhere else on the planet.

Storybird also makes it easy to share finished work in multiple ways. The engagement factor is multiplied exponentially whenever work can be shared easily with friends or with a global audience. To this end, links to stories can be shared, and Storybird’s can be  embedded on student or class blogs and on classroom websites.

I find it hugely frustrating that Apple’s refusal to support Flash makes it impossible to view Storybirds directly online on the iPad. The iPad is ideally suited for viewing Storybirds, and there is a way of doing so for individual stories. This involves paying $1.99 to download a pdf version of a story.  The pdf version can then be opened in iBooks. The pdf files can also be printed to hard copy. Or, you can purchase a soft or hard cover book version of any story from Storybird.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The Storybird website is a virtual library that can be visited just to enjoy fabulous stories! I’ve embedded three sample Storybirds below. I’m pretty sure the third was a collaborative effort by Miss D’s class. The Storybirds are followed by Storybird’s ‘Quick Tour’ of Storybird and a video entitled ‘Learn to Use Storybird’. It may be better to view the Storybirds by going directly to Storybird, depending on which browser you are using.

Why I wanted to be a Teacher by klmatt05 on Storybird
A Trip To My Heart by Chloe5A-1 on Storybird
Friends. by missd28-1 on Storybird

Storybird Quick Tour from Storybird on Vimeo.

[This is a revision of a post I wrote in June, 2011. For reasons that remain mysterious to me, the post had to be removed because something in it was messing up my entire blog. That's ok because it has given me the chance to remind readers about Sorybird again!]