Log in

Using iPads to access learning

  • Public
Started by Karen 04 Mar 2013 7:35pm () Replies (12)

At BLENNZ (Blind and Low Vision Education Network, NZ) we have been applying for iPads to use with a range of students on our roll, all who are either blind, deafblind or have low vision.  The arrival of iPads and other tablets has been a huge change for how our students are able to access the curriculum and classroom learning opportunities.  Where once we were limited to large, heavy and expensive equipment to meet their learning needs, we now have light portable devices that are not only much more affordable but also extremely user friendly.

In many cases when making the decision to purchase an iPad it is intended to use it as a capture device.   The camera advances with each new generation iPad makes them more and more appealing when used in this way. Although a few RTVs (Resource Teacher Vision) purchased second gen iPads, many more have made the decision to purchase since the rear facing iSight camera was upgraded to 5 megapixels.  The retina display also has huge appeal for students who have low vision providing much more clarity when necessary.

Most low vision students use the camera in a number of ways to access their learning as follow:

  • Using the iSight camera to take photos of work on the whiteboard and enlarging as necessary.
  • Using apps like Scanner Pro for work on the whiteboard or to capture text from a worksheet, book etc. to enlarge.
  • Prizmo is an OCR app that will read out text that has been scanned in, which is used by some students.
  • AudioLabels helps users to recognize objects through an audio description of barcodes or QR codes.
  • We use iBooks, OverDrive and Bookshareto access reading materials where it is too time consuming to photograph every page.
  • Our students have access to an ever-increasing amount of reading materials through Homai Special Formats Library.  Where digital copies are available these can be sent through to individual students via email and then opened in iBooks or similar.
  • Bookshare is an accessible online library for people for print disabilities that we are using more and more. This is particularly useful for blind and low vision users who can access these books through the Read2Go app, which is a DAISY ebook reader.  Users have the ability to control font size up to 70 pts, control text-to-speech audio and change the background and font colours to meet their individual needs.

Scanner Pro.png                       Prizmo.png

   Figure 1 - Scanner Pro                                                  Figure 2 - Prizmo OCR

There are also options available for our students who are blind.  Such apps that work for them include:

  • Pairing an iPhone or iPad with a BrailleNote Apex to use the iPhone or iPad as a display.
  • aidColours which identifies colours of clothing and other objects.
  • AccessNote which is the official iOS notetaker from the American Foundation for the Blind that makes use of the VoiceOver capabilities of iOS.

In Wellington where I am based we all meet together with our students to have iPad sessions on a termly basis. These are a great chance to come together, see how the students are getting on in class and how they are using their iPads.  These often begin with a sharing session so that each member can share what they have been using their iPad for and how any apps that they have found particularly useful.  At the moment these sessions are mostly for students who have low vision so we always have a data projector set up ready to connect up any iPad in the room to share.  It is also a chance to introduce the students to new apps and ensure that they are aware of what is available and able to make the best choice for their learning needs.  What works and is successful for one learner is not necessarily the right for another.  

Our students use iPads as an everyday part of classroom life so engagement and motivation are imperative. Although these can be issues from time to time, due to the fact that students are using the iPad as capture devices that help them to see what other students can without any help, it becomes a natural extension of themselves. The termly iPad sessions are of huge value and students are always eager to share with their peers about what they are using and how their device is helping them in the classroom.  

At BLENNZ we also have Immersion course which students can attend to further support and extend their learning. These are mostly held in Auckland and involve the students travelling up to stay, usually for three nights.  Our most recent course “Challenge IT” involved the use of iPads.  We also have an iPad Tech Angels course later in the year where our most confident iPad users from around the country will come together to share their knowledge and work together to establish a system where they can support other BLENNZ iPad learners around the country.


  • Leanne Stubbing (View all users posts) 05 Mar 2013 2:14pm ()

    The exciting thing about the iPad and its accessibility it that it isn't something different for our students - it's mainstream, it's acceptable and lets face it - its cool! Cool

  • Chrissie Butler (View all users posts) 05 Mar 2013 2:33pm ()

    Nicely put Leanne.

    Hey have you maybe got a story that might exemplify the above for folk? Just something really simple where a strategy or accessibility feature that is effective for a student with low vision could easily roll out as an option for the whole class?

    If anyone else has a story along those lines, do throw them in.

  • Allanah King (View all users posts) 05 Mar 2013 5:56pm ()

    One of the coolest things I've seen was when I was in the staffroom with a new-to-school non-verbal child and his mother. I had asked his mother what sort of things the young lad was interested in. She said 'dinoasurs'. I knew just the thing- the simplest of apps- Talking Rex. It mimics back to you any sounds that you make.


    As I showed the young boy the app and how it worked he mimicked the sound of the dinosaur's roar! As he did so the caretaker walked by and stopped to see what the noise was all about.

    The boy repeated himself to the amusement of all the people walking by. Everyone was laughing and enjoying the experience and the young boy was at the centre of it all commanding everyone else's attention- being the centre of attention in a really cool way.

    In the end I counted eleven grown-ups all enjoying and sharing the moment with a the young non-verbal lad taking the lead- priceless.


  • Chrissie Butler (View all users posts) 06 Mar 2013 8:14am ()

    That's cool Allanah. Just stretching the thinking around universally designed learning spaces, if we made the app available to a group of students, who knows what they might do with it: they could have a rip roaring conversation or be the first dino choir, or even scare a lot of caretakers.

  • Leanne Stubbing (View all users posts) 05 Mar 2013 6:18pm ()

    Here's some real life examples

    • Being able to take a photo of the spelling words on the whiteboard and then back at your desk toggle between the photo and Pages to write up your spelling words for the week.
    • Quickly being able to use ScannerPro to capture a resource/worksheet/book so that you can enlarge to your hearts content.
    • Using annotative apps like GoodNotes, Skitch and GoodReader to be able to write directly on PDFs
    • Using Panther Math Paper to do your maths calculations but being actually able to see what you are writing Smile

     Most of our students are doing the same work as the other students in the class but how they access that work and respond to that work has now been made accessible.  Actually all students can benefit from the above apps/strategies - they aren't specific to people with low vision.

  • Allanah King (View all users posts) 05 Mar 2013 6:28pm ()

    When I was at Educamp in Greymouth two weekends ago I saw Nearpod in action- 


    The teacher was able to push the presentation out to everyone's iPads at the same time meaning that the children could get an up close view of what was on the teacher's iPad- we were able to respond to questions and it gave displayed reactions to questions.

    It would take a bit of setting up but the idea is great I think.

  • Suzie Vesper (View all users posts) 06 Mar 2013 8:27am ()

    I had a play with Nearpod a few months ago and think it is quite impressive for a free app.

  • Chrissie Butler (View all users posts) 06 Mar 2013 8:19am ()

    So they are all cracking examples of a universal design approach - creating options for all the learners in a group/class, but beginning your thinking with the students who make you think twice about how you are going to make a learning environment work. Cool

  • Catriona Pene (View all users posts) 06 Mar 2013 8:38am ()

    Thank Chrissie, once again you explain it so succinctly. 

    Beginning your thinking with the students who make you think twice about how you are going to make a learning environment work and then creating options for all the learners in a group or class.

    : )

  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 12 Mar 2013 10:21am ()

    Many thanks Karen for sharing how assistive technologies on mobile devices are providing accessibility for your learners (in differing ways). Very valuable resource to read! Cool

  • Nathaniel Louwrens (View all users posts) 13 Mar 2013 4:57pm ()

    My son is one of the low vision students that BLENNZ RTVs have worked with and acquired an iPad for (thanks Leanne Wink) and it really has made a huge difference for him. He doesn't use it all of the time in class, but I think it's helped him keep pace with what's going on around the place.

    The other kids don't even worry about the fact he has one and they don't. It really is normal for him. My wife has mentioned that sometimes when picking up the boys from school some other children will ask her, "Did you know J has an iPad?" Cool

    I think when implemented and integrated thoughtfully these devices can make a huge difference in the lives of these children.

Join this group to contribute to discussions.