Friday, August 30, 2013

Kidspiration Maps: Inspiration Mind Mapping for Kids

Kidspiration Maps is a kid friendly mind-mapping app for the iPad. Kidspiration is similar to the Inspiration Maps, but Kidspiration includes more kid friendly templates and clipart like graphics. Kidspiration allows users to create mind mapping webs to help organize ideas and information visually. Unlike Inspiration Maps, Kidspiration allows users to insert a large variety of clipart images into their maps. Kidspiration also includes the ability to add a recorded voice note; a feature that is unfortunately missing in Inspiration Maps.

Kidspiration Maps includes a large number of pre-loaded templates for reading and writing, social studies, science, and math. These templates are geared for elementary school children and range from an “all about me” web to sorting and matching activities. If no template is applicable there is an option to start a new document. One template contains a number of words and instructions to arrange the words into alphabetical order while another asks kids to match states to their capitals. With the nice visuals these activities can be engaging and easier than using physical manipulative. Teachers can also create actives with text or voice instructions. One negative is when the student is completing the actives there is no way to program the correct responses in order to give the student immediate feedback. Also, when searching for clipart students cannot search for an image by keyword, but instead must scroll through long lists of images.

In addition to web view, there is also list view in which users can view and edit content as well. After completing a document it can be saved to the app, emailed, saved to photos, sent to an app, or saved to Dropbox. Kidspiration Maps is a well-made app that is worth looking into. Kidspiration Maps can be downloaded from the App Store for $9.99. If you would like to try Kidspiration before you buy click here to download the lite version.

Correction: The original post stated that the shape text boxes could not be changed after they were created. The shape of a text box can be changed by selecting the original text box and double tapping the new shape in the menu.

To view screenshots of Kidspiration Maps in action click here.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Back-to-School Guide for Students with Dyslexia: Apps and More

With the school year fast approaching (or already in full swing) here are my favorite apps and products for accessibility. Hopefully these apps and products will help make the school year successful for those needing assistive technology to support their reading and writing. This list is geared toward students with dyslexia but many of the apps and products can also benefit other students. To learn more about any of these products or apps click on the accompanying link.

Kurzweil 3000

Kurzweil 3000 is a versatile reading and writing program for Mac and PC. With Kurzweil students can read scanned and digital documents with high quality text-to-speech and synchronized highlighting. This gives students with reading difficulty the ability to listen to text and improve comprehension. Kurzweil also allows students to annotate documents using text notes, audio notes, highlighting, and circling. Test taking is also a breeze with Kurzweil thanks to its “fill in the blanks” function which allows students to answer test question directly on the digital document. Kurzweil 3000 is not only for reading help but also includes a number of helpful writing features such as mind mapping and word prediction. Click here to learn more about Kurzweil 3000.


Bookshare is an essential service for people with print disabilities. provides accessible e-books for qualified students. Members can choose from over 200,000 downloadable titles including many textbooks. Bookshare books can be downloaded in a DAISY format for use with text-to-speech software or in a Braille format. Similar to Kurzweil, the combination of text-to-speech and highlighted text can greatly speed up and reading and increase comprehension for qualifying students. Thanks to a grant from the United States Department of Education Bookshare is free to U.S. students.  Click here to learn more about Bookshare.

Learning Ally

Learning Ally is another provider of accessible books for the blind and dyslexic. Learning Ally mostly provides human narrated audio books for their members. Learning Ally is also expanding to provide “VOICEtext” books which include human narration and highlighted text. The highlighting of “VOICEtext” books is not word by word like in Bookshare and Kurzweil but rather is paragraph by paragraph. Learning Ally books can be read on iOS and Android devices using the Learning Ally Audio app. Click here to learn more about Learning Ally.

Click read more below for more great apps and products.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Learning Ally Audio App Available for Android in Beta

Learning Ally Audio App is now available in beta for Android devices. Learning Ally is a provider of audio books for the blind and dyslexic. The newly released Android app provides access to Learning Ally’s collection of 75,000 audio books for members with Android devices. From information provided on the apps Google Play page the Android version seems to have features comparable to its iOS counterpart. The app is available for free on the Google Play store and require a Nexus 7, Samsung Galaxy Tab, or Motorola Droid Razr with Android 4.1 or later. Click here to download the Android version from Google Play. To learn more about the iOS version of Learning Ally Audio click here.

To view screenshots of Learning Ally Audio for Android in action click read more below.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Co:Writer for iOS Provides Powerful and Adaptable Word Prediction

Don Johnston’s powerful word prediction software, Co:Writer, has made its way to iOS. The newly released Co:Writer app works with the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. It is important to note that the Co:Writer app has multiple different variations depending on your dialect. For example, there is a separate app for British and United States English.

To start using the powerful word prediction built into the app you can simply start typing. A bar appears on top of the keyboard with five suggested words based on what you are typing. On the iPhone and iPod Touch some longer words are cut off in the predication bar because of the smaller screen. Tapping on a word inserts it into the document. As each word is added it is spoken aloud with text-to-speech. The word prediction is helpful for struggling writers and spellers. The word prediction can help a writer who doesn't know the spelling of a word by spelling the word if you can type the first few letters. Once you have completed your sentence it is spoken back to you. Co:Writer also includes a speak button with reads the entire document with text-to-speech while highlighting the spoken word.

Co:Writer also has one more amazing feature. You can tell the app what you are going to be writing about to receive even better word prediction results. The app includes many topics such as William Shakespeare, Albert Einstein, and Global Warming. If you enable the Einstein topic dictionary it will give you word suggestions based on words related to Einstein. With the Einstein dictionary on, typing it the letter “r” leads to the suggestion of “relativity.” These customizable predictions help to make writing a smother process.

When you are ready to share your writing you have numerous options. You can share it via messages, email, Dropbox, Google Drive, Twitter, or Facebook. In addition you can copy your work to another app.

Co:Writer sells for $17.99 in the App Store. Click read more below to view screenshots of Co:Writer in action.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Inspiration Maps for iPad: Mind Mapping on the iPad

Inspiration Maps is an iPad app that allows you to visually organize information. Inspiration Maps makes it easy to create clear mind maps that can help organize information for an essay or walk a student through a multi-step science experiment. The app comes with number of great looking templates for all different subject areas. If none of the templates meet your needs you can create your own.

To start you can tap on any box or bubble and add text. You can also change the color and shape of the text boxes. To move an object you can simply drag it around the screen. Pretty much all aspects of your mind map are customization from arrow, to text box shape, to text style. Another handy feature is the ability to add images to your documents. These pictures can really add some life to your documents.

In addition to diagram mode there is outline mode which is a text document. The document can include different bullets and numbered lists to help with the writing process. Everything added to the outline mode will be added to appear in the diagram mode and vice versa.

Once you have finish you can export the diagram as a PDF or PNG for use in other apps. You can also send it via email or Dropboxs a Inspiration Maps document. Unfortunately, Inspiration Maps does not include built in text-to-speech but Speech Selection can be used if enabled via the iPad's settings. To learn how to turn on Speech Selection click here.

Click here to download Inspiration Maps for $9.99 from the App Store. The app was provided complimentary to reviewer. Click read more below to see more images of Inspiration Maps in action.