Apps to Enhance School Performance

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Do you let your kids use the iPad? Have you ever considered there are apps out there made specifically to enhance school performance? One of our experts shares her favorite apps to help children of any age do even better in school.

 

By Karen Beardsley, OTR

 

Now that school is in full swing again and your child is immersed in the world of learning, you might be wondering how you can help your child learn at home. Your child’s teachers, therapist or friends have probably given you suggestions about activities you can do at home, and some of those activities may involve using an iPad or other tablet computer.

Tablets can be great tools for children who need extra help learning academics, visual motor and fine motor skills. They can also be of great help to older students who need to use assistive technology to complete their schoolwork. If your children own a tablet or use one at home, you can support their learning by providing them with apps to enhance their basic skills or adapt to their functional needs. Here are some recommendations for current apps both for younger children and older students.

Some apps are free and some require a purchase. Some apps also offer a free limited version to allow you to try out the app before purchasing the full version. While these apps are especially useful for children with special needs, any child will have fun and can benefit from the skills highlighted by these apps.

Apps for Younger Children

  • Dexteria Jr. Fine Motor Skill Development for Toddlers and Preschoolers by Binary Labs, Inc. Available for iPhone, iPad, or iPod, $2.99 from the iTunes App Store. This app provides simple, fun, fine motor games for young children. The skills your child will learn include locating and tapping objects, pinching objects, and tracing simple paths. This app is a wonderful tool to help your child develop pre-writing skills as well as fine motor coordination.
  • Letter School by Sanoma Media Netherlands B.V. Available for iPhone and iPad, $4.99 from the iTunes App Store. Also available for Android, $3.64 from Google Play. Letter school is a simple letter tracing and writing app. Both upper and lower case letters are available in three manuscript writing styles: Zaner Bloser, D’Nealian, and Handwriting Without Tears. Each letter is presented in a fun, colorful way that allows your child to see how the letter is formed, trace the letter, and finally write the letter with a few prompts if needed. Children can use this app with or without a stylus. This is one of the best beginning writing apps for young children and will help your child learn how to correctly form letters based on his or her school’s preferred writing curriculum.
  • Fingerpaint Duel by Cribster. Available for iPad from the iTunes App Store. This app is free to download and provides basic features for free. You can upgrade the game through inexpensive in-app purchases. Fingerpaint Duel is a drawing and painting game that requires two players. Children can select pre-made pictures or draw their own pictures. They then compete to see who can reproduce the picture by tracing the fastest and most accurately. This game helps children improve their visual motor skills through guided drawing in a fun and mildly competitive way. Adults who supervise children playing this game have an easy time grading the activities to their children’s skill levels.
  • VisTimer by Mindfultools. Available for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, $1.99 from the iTunes App Store. VisTimer turns your device into a visual timer. If your child benefits from using a visual timer while completing homework, taking breaks, or doing just about anything, you can now provide that timer at home. There is a free version available that has a maximum time limit of 5 minutes. Other visual timer apps are available for Android.

Apps can support learning to help enhance basic skills or help children adapt to their functional needs.

Apps for Older Children and Teenagers

  • Intro to Cursive by Montessorium. Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch,$4.99 from the iTunes App Store. This app provides children with introductory cursive writing practice, including lessons on lower and upper case cursive letters, cursive practice, and free form writing. The guides are clear and easy to follow, so your child will be able to learn cursive writing painlessly.
  • Tap Typing by Flairify LLC. Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Free download from the iTunes App Store. The full curriculum for this app can be purchased for $3.99 as an in-app upgrade, or specific typing lessons can be purchased for lesser amounts. This app provides your child with typing lessons specifically made for learning a tablet keyboard. The lessons are graded from easy to difficult and progress can be saved for multiple users. You can use this app with the touch screen keyboard or with a separate keyboard. This is a great app to help enhance your child’s typing skills.
  • Predictive Typer Lite Text Editor with Smart & Fast Predictive Text by Danijel Lombarovic. Available for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. This is a free download from the iTunes App Store. A full version is available for $4.99. Many children who have learning disabilities or physical limitations use assistive technology with a voice interface to allow them to dictate text or use word prediction to help them with spelling. Most of these programs offer lots of functions at high prices. Predictive Typer Lite is a free version of a simple word prediction program that you might want to try if you are wondering if your child would benefit from this type of adaptation. The program provides word suggestions in a blue bar right below the text as it is typed, so your child can type a few letters and then tap on the word when he or she sees it. The program also works with the dictation program in your device – usually Siri for Apple devices – to allow your child to dictate text into the program. The text to speech function will allow your child to listen to what he or she has typed for editing purposes. While apps with more bells and whistles are out there, this is a good free program to let you child try out adaptive word processing before you purchase something more expensive.
  • Paperport Notes by Nuance. Available for iPad, free from the iTunes App Store. Paperport Notes allows your student to use his or her iPad to take notes by hand, typing, or dictation. This app also allows students to annotate and highlight content, scan documents or pictures into the app, and import content from the web or from other users. Students can combine all materials for a project into one document, making study materials much more accessible. This is a wonderful tool for helping your high school student stay organized.

It seems there is an app for everything these days and just sorting through them can seem like a full time job. This article just names a few. There are many, many more fun and useful apps available for tablets or hand held devices. While most of the apps listed here are for Apple devices, other similar programs are available for Android. If you have an Android device, use some of the terms from this article to search Google Play to locate similar apps.

These and many other apps can allow you to enhance your child’s learning experience at home and hopefully make school work a little easier too.

 

photo by Brad Flickinger CC By 2.0

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