iPads for PK12 Unique and Special Learners 

Working with unique populations of students such as ESL, Special Education, Early Education and others requires finding ideas and tools "out of the box" from the standard materials provided for the average learner. They require additional supports and multiple modalities to express their understanding of content area materials. Targeting their areas of weakness and strengths while supporting them in other class or learning settings is also a challenge. Portable tabelet devices such as the iPads and iPods have found to be incredible tools for supporting these unique populations of learners. Here are proposed plans for use, details to consider, activities to try and resources to explore.

How do we use iPads/ iPods?: 

New to using an iPad or working with others new to the iPad? There are lots of tips and trick to better maneuver around the iPad. Here are a couple of places to start:
Or scan this QR code with your device to view on your iPad or iPod.
scan QR code to watch movie

Hands on Activities:
For a PK, K or 1st grade group of students, I would suggest a format that I have seen used both in a NH and a ME public school. This involves devoting time each morning on a regular schedule to using apps to practice and explore both literacy and numeration or math skills. Basically, it works something like for 20 minutes sometime in the morning, the students use up to 5 apps (4-5 minutes per app) that work on literacy skills. In the afternoon, the iPads are revisited again for 20 minutes using 4-5 apps at 4-5 minutes per app (around 20 minutes) that work on math skills. The apps should coincide as best as possible to the skills being taught or in review of past material so it is constantly re-visited and practiced to prevent loss of these skills.  Switch out with 1 new app after so many weeks or a new skill is introduced. 
Suggested Math Apps PK:                            
Tic Toc Color (time teaching app)
Suggested Math Apps K-1:

Language Arts Apps:
Super Why

On occasion, perhaps in the middle of the day later into the year,  have simple explore time with ipads to create digital projects to break up the pace a little.  If you are in a school with more than one class at each level and want to collect data to support use of these devices, have one class doing the scheduled practice and the other can do occasional discovery, play and special projects. 

Suggestions for digital projects:
Scribblepress to create digital books for budding authors and illustrators.  Gives an external link for PC viewing.
Screenchomp or Explain Everything to allow students to record and express both verbally and written a process or idea
StoryKit to create a digital book or digital ePortfolio with text, image and recording support. Also gives an external link for PC viewing.

For Special Education or ESL students grades 1-12:
Working with Special education and ESL students means supporting them in areas of weakness in both your own classroom and in the classrooms of other content area or extra curricular courses. How can iPads help us to support these special populations of students? Through an organized approach of using apps that work both on and off the iPad and easily export or import from programs for access both on and off the iPad as well as through apps that support organizational skills, study skills and areas of specific weakness.
 Here is a suggested plan for working with apps that integrate nicely while supporting specific skills:
  • Apps/tools to Organize student work or data
  • Apps that import from/export to a cloud services for easy access on/off the iPad
  • Apps that provide different modes/ ways for students to express understanding of concepts/content area material
  • Program for file sharing and printing
  • Program to sync content to one shared cloud service accessible on any computer or device as well as edit offline
  • Apps to target student areas of weakness

Supporting Unique Learners on the iPad

Apps to Organize students' work or data and that export/import easily off of the ipad:
Google Docs/Google Drive App
App for desktop publishing and organizing the "cloud" accounts:
QuickOffice (19.99)
CloudOn (free)
GoodReader(4.99 allows for PDF annotation as well)
Choosing apps for specific target areas for students in special populations:
Here is a great chart of apps organized by target weak area. There are many more out there and check out the sites at the top right to find more apps for target areas. One suggestion is to get used to both doing screenshots of work done in any app on the iPad to create a digital portfolio of work and skills addressed and to use a PDF annotating app to turn any worksheet into a hands on activity. Practice working on target areas by giving students "play" time for about 10-20 minutes on a regular basis during the week with apps that have a fun game-like quality that address areas like Futaba or Bluster. Giving them the additional practice in an area that is both individualized as most apps "level up" for each user but also fun taking away some of the anxiety of working in these areas of frustration for them.

Embed gadget

Reflection Questions:
What areas of weakness or target skills am I hoping to address?
Is the app I am choosing going to bring about a specific change or help the students to reach a learning outcome?
Do the apps I choose for my students provide a way to export or import their work?
How will I print or what type of end product am I looking for?