10 Apps for Learners Who Struggle with Reading and/or Writing

Despite the growing use of multimedia in classrooms, schools remain primarily text oriented. This is a major problem for significant numbers of learners who struggle with text. No matter how capable they may be in other respects, these students are not “academically” oriented in the ways that tend to matter most in the classroom. For many, it’s a processing issue.  Others have difficulty with the physical mechanics of writing.

So, as I’ve explored possibilities with the iPhone and iPad, my most urgent priority has been to discover free and low-cost tools that can be effective in supporting individuals who struggle with text.

In this post, I’m sharing 10 free and low-cost apps that may be especially helpful for individuals who find reading and/or writing challenging. I’ve written previously about some of these resources, but I thought it might be useful to put them together in one place, with information about the apps in point form.

TextGrabber for turning paper hard copy into readable PDF

  • Use iPhone camera to turn paper hard copy into readable PDF
  • OCR is good enough for text-to-speech
  • Only available for iPhone, but PDFs can be exported for use on iPad or iPod Touch
  • iPhone only ($1.99)
  • Click HERE for more information in previous post about Text Grabber

Dragon Dictation for easy to use and accurate voice recognition

  • Easy to use voice recognition, no training required
  • Use ‘Speak Selection’ to read back dictated work (keyboard must  be visible)
  • Copy work to clipboard for use in other apps
  • Share work via email, or send directly to Facebook or Twitter
  • Internet connection required when using
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch (FREE) 

Type on PDF for completing worksheets or tests

  • Complete worksheets or tests on iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch
  • Add text boxes and other annotation to imported PDF files
  • Import PDF’s from DropBox, email, etc.
  • Use iPhone camera with OCR app (eg. Text Grabber) to create PDFs from paper hard copy
  • Share work via email, open into another app, or print
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch ($3.99)
  • Click HERE for more information in previous post about Type on PDF

GoodReader for text to speech on text files

  • Intended as ‘PDF Reader’, and works well for this, but text-to-speech not available on PDFs
  • Use ‘Speak Selection’ in GoodReader for text to speech in text files  (.txt, .doc, .docx. etc.)
  • Works well with DropBox
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch ($4.99)

vBookz PDF Voice Reader for text to speech in PDF files

  • Text-to-speech for reading PDF files
  • Text is highlighted as read
  • Original formatting of PDF file is retained
  • High quality voices–male or female
  • Multiple languages available
  • Import PDFs from Safari, email attachments, or DropBox
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch ($4.99) 
  • Click HERE for more information about vBookz PDF Voice Reader in previous post

Nebulous Notes is a text editor for all that works well for users with low vision

  • Text editor that works well for anyone, and especially valuable for individuals with low vision
  • Large font and variable contrast between text and background available
  • Integrates with DropBox
  • Print or share via email
  • Text-to-speech available via iOS Speak Selection
  • iPad/iPhone/IPod Touch ($4.99)
  • Click HERE for more information about Nebulous notes in previous post

AudioNote combines digital recording with typed or handwritten notes

  •  Use built in mic to record voice of learner or teacher
  • Use stylus for handwritten notes or keyboard for printed notes
  • Share via email or with URL on wireless network
  • iPad/iPhone/IPod Touch ($4.99) 

Cloudon for doing equations and other math on the iPad

  • Create/view/edit MS Word or PowerPoint files on iPad
  • Looks and acts exactly like MS Office programs on computer
  • Equation Editor in MS Word works well for doing math on iPad
  • Works well with DropBox
  • Requires Internet connection
  • for iPad only — FREE
  • Click HERE for more information about Cloudon in previous post

Idea Sketch supports visual thinking

  • Create mind map and turn it into outline or vice versa
  • Import text from other apps
  • Share work via email or copy directly into other apps
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch (FREE)
  • Click HERE for more information about Idea Sketch in previous post  

Side by Side splits iPad screen for online research and note taking

  • Split iPad screen into up to 4 customizable “windows”
  • Good for taking notes while doing online research
  • Built-in browser for viewing websites
  • Built-in text editor for note taking
  • Import text files or PDFs
  • Integrates with DropBox
  • iPad only (FREE)
  • Click HERE for more information   

21 thoughts on “10 Apps for Learners Who Struggle with Reading and/or Writing

  1. Side by Side notes that you must be 17 or older to download, due to frequent/intense/mature/suggestive themes.

  2. That’s just because Side by Side has a built in browser. You get the same message with any browser app you install just because this kind of content is available on the Internet via browser. –Paul

  3. Hi, these are great apps, but do you have posted anywhere these types of applications for reading and writing that are available for use with netbooks as that is what our division is using currently

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  5. Great post…a teacher just asked me the other day how to read back in Dragon and I couldn’t make it work until I saw your tip about the keyboard needing to be on. Thanks!

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  7. Hi Paul – just found your site! Great! I noticed all the apps are for iphone/ipad. Do you know of any for Android or Windows os?


  8. Although I hope to have an Android device soon, I’m not up to speed with Android or Windows OS apps. The best I can do is to refer you to a couple of recent posts which may have helpful info for you: http://goo.gl/gB3YB (about finding apps for multiple platforms with Quixey) and http://goo.gl/iJ9mH about the blog ‘Android 4 Schools’.

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