I was recently asked for the names of some apps to support literacy and letter awareness. Of course there are many ways to help children develop these skills and the iPad is just one method but it is an engaging tool in the toolbox for literacy learning.
My criteria in choosing the list below were:
evidence based theory behind the methods
engaging but not over-stimulating
Hairy Letters (Nessy Learning Ltd) – $5.99 (Anything by Nessy is great!)
Phonics Under the Big Top (Celeste Musgrave ) – $2.99
Phonics Read CVC (Joe Scrivens) – $2.99 or in a bundle with other apps for $5.99
Hairy Words (Nessy Learning Ltd) – $5.99
There are two bundles of phonics and sight word apps which are excellent.
Tools for Teaching Reading (Reading Doctor) – $129.99 for the bundle of 6, $24.99 each
OzPhonics (DSP Learning Pty Ltd) – $7.99 for the bundle, $1.99 or $2.99 each.
School Writing (demografix pty ltd) – $7.99 (Uses Australian states’ handwriting fonts)
iWriteWords (gdiplus) – lite or $4.49
Little Writer Pro (Innovative) – $2.99
Ready to Print (Essare LLC) – $14.99
Most of these have an Australian or English voice which is probably less confusing for Australian children than an American voice.
Photo credit: By Intel Free Press [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Text-prediction is a feature commonly used on tablet devices and smartphones. Many of us without a print disability use it routinely. Imagine how much dyslexics appreciate it!
Text prediction is a built in feature of iOs devices. On an iPad, go to the Settings screen, then go to General, and then Keyboard and enable Predictive. The process is similar on an iPhone and on Android phones and tablet devices.
Spell check and grammar check can be enabled on Mac and PC devices but that’s a bit like bolting the stable door after the horse has bolted. It may be enough for some writers who can mostly express their meaning and just need a bit of help to correct errors but others, especially younger students who are still working on literacy skills, need a lot more help.
Typ-O HD, Spell Better and Ginger Page are iPad apps which specifically target writing, using spell checking and text prediction. These are quite simple apps without a lot of exporting options and extra features but that can be a good thing for younger students and those who are easily distracted by a lot of clutter on the screen.
Ginger Page is free. The pictures below show its features,including options to translate, get a definition or synonyms. Suggestions from Ginger Page for my deliberate mis-spellings are also shown below. I found that sometimes the iPad’s in built text prediction was beating Ginger Page with a suggestion but, I guess as long as you get a suggestion somehow…
There is a free version of Spell Better which allows only one piece of writing and no exporting. The premium version costs $31.99. There are two levels of prediction – the as-you-type level and the search level. Again, the iPad’s spellchecker beat the app to a suggestion. I needed to press the magnifying glass button (i.e. search level prediction) to get any suggestions. See the pictures below.
Typo-HD at the time of writing cost $6.49. It is a little more intuitive than GingerPage in that it offers suggestions about what the coming words might be. This is valuable for a student whose spelling doesn’t approach the spellchecker’s ability to recognise. Pictures below suggestions made and ways the settings can be customised.
All these apps will say a selected word or phrase aloud, Spell Better in an American voice, the other two in an Australian voice.
Another serious contender in the field of text prediction isa the products by texthelp – the iReadWrite app for tablet devices and Read & Write for Google app for Chrome on PCs and Macs. iReadWrite at the time of writing cost $36.99. Read & Write for Google is a Google app. Google products such as GMail and Google+ operate on a subscription basis. Find more information about texthelphere.
Have you used any of these products? I’d love to hear your comments on the pros and cons.