Apps for the Classroom

Utilizing iPad, iPhone and iTouch applications can help students improve skills needed in the academic environment.

The iPod and iPad, and many of the applications designed for them, are ideal for use in the school system. Therapists utilizing these applications can see improvements in fine motor skills, visual motor skills, visual attention and many other skills needed for students to be successful in their academic environment. These improvements can be demonstrated by documentable progress with every day school activities such as handwriting.

There are a multitude of free and inexpensive applications available for use. The iPad , iPod Touch, and iPhone all can support applications (apps). The cost of the iPad starts at $500. It is larger and easier to see for children that may have visual impairments. The iPod Touch starts at around $200. The iPhone can be purchased through a cell phone provider and usually requires an extra fee for a data plan in addition to the contract plan.

These devices have all been on the market for a while now, with the iPad being the latest release. This means that every time a newer version of a device is released, such as the iPod Touch 5th generation or the iPhone 4G, the older generations go on sale and are also available on sites like Craig's List or eBay for low as $50. Check online to learn which generation supports various

applications before purchasing and make sure the product you purchase supports the applications that you intend to use. Generations 3 and up are usually supportive of most applications. The Apple website can provide more information. You will also need a computer that can support iTunes software, which is a free download.

The iPod Touch and iPad can be attached or synced with up to three different computers. One account can be shared by more than one user as well. iTunes gift cards can be purchased and used toward the cost applications. There are easy to follow directions for setting up the iTunes account, which enables users to download applications. Even the most technology-resistant person should be able to understand and use iTunes easily. (Most adults can ask for the assistance of any teenager if needed - my teenage sons were and are very helpful when I have questions!) The Apple site is very supportive and helpful as well and every product comes with one year of free support - just provide a serial number. Extra support can be purchased when this runs out.

With many apps, such as the ones for handwriting, therapists can take a picture of the screen (screenshot) by holding the button down at the top corner and then pushing down the center button at the bottom front of the display, until the device makes a clicking sound much like a camera. These pictures are automatically placed in the device's photo folder and can be emailed, printed and/or saved for future reference of objective, documentable progress of the student's fine motor or visual motor skills as evidenced in a functional school activity.

One exciting application is the Dragon Dictation program that can produce speech-to-text typed work that can then be emailed and/or transferred into a word document for editing and printing. It has very good reliability of voice to text translation. There is a built in microphone on the bottom right corner of the iPad. There is also an add on microphone that can make it record even clearer. These can be purchased for around $5-$10. This application is ideal for use with students that have learning difficulties/disabilities in the areas of spelling and written communication.

I highly reccomend the stylus pen, which can be purchased as an extra tool for use with the iPad Touch, iPad or iPhone. These pens started out at about $15 each, but now are available for $3 each. There are covers that protect the iPad and some even convert to stands that allow use in an upright or slanted position.

There are many free augmentative communication apps that can be used by children with autism or severe speech impairments. Likewise, there are free apps for assistive technology for those with the ability to type in order to communicate their needs through typing text with fingers or a stylus pen held in the hand or mouth.

What is really appealing to therapists about these devices is that each can be carried easily and can contain so many different apps that work on so many different levels - it is just about the only tool needed much of the time. Most of all, the students love these new technology tools and are very excited at the chance to use them. It makes the occupational therapist's job of teaching fine motor and visual motor skills for daily school activities, such as handwriting, fun!

 Angelia Wood, OTR/L, is a therapist with Davie County Schools in Mocksville, NC.


Lasered Pics makes keyguards for many of the aug. com apps that are avaiable. Any configuration of an app will be custom cut for you. We also make a home botton guard to help keep the app that is being worked on from being switched. If there are any apps that you would like us to add just ask. Visit us on the www.laseredpics.biz
Jeannie,OTR Lasered Pics

Jeannie ,  OTRDecember 02, 2011

This is a great resource! Thank you so much for sharing it. It is exactly what I've been looking for.

Alison  Malley May 08, 2011
Carmel , IN

We have begun to use the IPad in our outpatient pediatric therapy setting. Some of our favorite apps are: Trace - good for bilateral hand skills, handwriting prep, problem solving; Doodle Find - good for visual tracking, visual perceptual skills, manual dexterity, form generalization; Gomi - visual memory, upper extremity strength (you have to hold the IPad and manipulate it), problem solving, manual dexterity, vestibular (some people get dizzy playing the game); and InfinitiTrack - created by an OT.

Cheryl  Boop May 06, 2011
Danielsville , GA


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