Tuesday, January 12, 2016

I'm not a fan of Apple... but Assistive tech

I have a colleague of mine that firmly believes I am anti-Apple. It may appear so but it's not really the case. It is true that I believe the devices can be restrictive... and it's true I believe that any hardware that makes content for learning should be accessible on more than just Apple products (It's too bad Steve Jobs never truly believed in the concept of universality via html5... but I digress) but boy did Apple ever get it right as it pertains to Assistive Technology.

I believe that we should learn how to use the tech we have REALLY well before purchasing more. So when I was looking for good speech to text and text to speech tools I eventually settled on the iPad with Siri enabled functionality. Why? Because kids owned them and schools had class sets of them. I did not need to encourage more purchasing.

So to enable speech to text on the iPad all one needs to do is to access the keyboard settings and enable dictation. In addition, adding a keyboard in another language, like French, easily enables speech to text in French. And it works well :) And I forgot predictive text...

The text to speech settings are easily enabled under the General settings under speech.  Here you can control things like reading speed, voice gender and reading portions or entire screens. It too works really well.

For students who need assistance with scribing or having text read to them, the iPad with these settings will reduce the need for another person to provision assistance... meaning we make the student much more independent.  As well the skill set we teach here for academic work transfers to social media and networking, something they may not have accessed previously.

The iPad is mobile,  meaning students with needs may not need pulling out during testing but rather could stay in the class with the rest of their classmates.  Sometimes,  being like everyone else is a good thing :)

So, although I think iBooks functionality should prevail completely across all devices,  I believe that the iPad is the device of choice for Assistive Technology needs for students. Now if we could only get a device to easily read math text and symbols properly... that would be something awesome indeed!

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