At its best, technology helps us do things we simply couldn’t do otherwise. And technology is very often at its best in the field of education. Students and teachers are using new technologies everyday that promote learning and help students reach their goals in the classroom and in their lives. Still, any given piece of technology is only useful if it matches the needs and preferences of the person using it. In other words, the Hubble Telescope is a wonderful thing, but it’s not going to help a child learn how to construct a written sentence. When choosing educational technology, your job is to find the right match. And it can often take several tries before you find the perfect fit.

With so much technology out there, it can be overwhelming when you start searching for that right technology match. So the Johns Hopkins School of Education, Center for Technology in Education is presenting this Educational Technology Round-Up, the first in a series highlighting some of the amazing new technologies currently on the market. While we have not tried all of the technologies listed here, we know that they are all tools that have generated much conversation and that have great potential for classroom and home use. We hope you will explore the ones that are relevant for your children/students and also invite you to let us know about others with which you’ve already found success.

Camera Mouse is a software program that allows you to move and click a computer mouse simply by moving your head. It’s simple to set up and only requires that you have a web cam that can indeed follow the movements of your head. While it sounds a bit like science fiction, there are lots of videos of this product in action; it really does help people who can’t operate a mouse with their hands. Camera Mouse was developed by researchers at Boston College and Boston University and is available as a free download. This could be a great product for individuals with limited hand motor ability, though as Dan Keplinger, starring subject of the award-winning documentary, King Gimp, notes, it could be problematic for those who suffer from involuntary head movements.

CAST is known far and wide for creating both curricula and tools for implementing Universal Design for Learning (UDL). The CAST UDL Book Builder is a free, online tool that uses UDL principles to enable users to create and publish their own interactive digital books. And because the Book Builder is based in UDL, it offers many avenues for engagement and appeals to students with a wide range of skill levels and learning styles.

The First Calculator Talking Calculator was developed by the St. Madeleine Sophie School in Bellevue, WA. This iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch app features large, colorful calculator buttons and is very simple to use. The multi-sensory approach (sight and sound) is especially appealing to young children, and the voice of the calculator is supplied by one of the second graders at the school. This tool provides auditory feedback that helps students recognize errors that they may otherwise miss.

Edmodo is a secure sharing network used by many schools. It combines some of the functions of Facebook and Twitter but in a controlled environment that is regulated by the classroom teacher. Teachers use Edmodo to reinforce and support classroom learning and to set up learning groups (e.g. reading groups, science project teams, new student groups, and summer learning groups). Edmodo can promote student engagement for those who are too shy to speak in class. It can also help students with dysgraphia who can join work groups without fear of handwriting or spelling mistakes.

Garage Band is a software application for Macintosh computers that allows users to create music or audio recordings, to learn to play instruments such as the guitar or keyboard, and to listen to a variety of instruments. In the classroom, Garage Band can be a valuable tool to help promote fluency (students record readings and review), to promote numeracy (teachers apply music to math concepts) and to offer another mode of learning for the auditory learner (teachers record lectures/lessons for students to listen to at home).

Like Dragon Dictation (iPhone), Google Voice is an app that can be loaded on to any smartphone and will pick up voicemails or other short dictated messages and transcribe the audio into text. Though not 100% accurate, the quality is improving with each new update. Enhancements are released at least annually. As an alternative to written text, this application can improve productivity and efficiency.

The iPhone4s includes a very promising feature with the addition of Siri, the intelligent virtual personal assistant. Siri is a great tool for helping to keep everyone organized by sending messages, making calls and setting reminders. This tool can be especially useful as a prompt for kids with executive functioning difficulties who have trouble remembering where they need to be at a given time.

LG’s Mouse Scanner would be a cool gadget for anyone. But it can be especially helpful when you’d like to turn paper text into digital text. That’s because, in addition to being a mouse, the LSM-100 also functions as a scanner – you mouse over the document you want to scan and it creates a digital replica. The LSM-100 uses Optical Character Recognition so that your scanned document can then be opened in Word (or any other text-reading app) and edited (changing font size, color, etc.) to suit the particular person who’s using it. The conversion of text to a digital format increases the number of ways a student can interact with the material.

Notability is an all-purpose note-taking app for the iPad. While it does include word-processing functionality, its key feature is that you can take notes simply by writing with your finger on the iPad. Notability also provides lots of options in terms of colors you can use, the size of the “pencil” or “pen” you use, and it has audio recording functionality. You can also use Notability to add notes to existing PDF files. This tool can be especially helpful for people who have difficulty using a pen or pencil.

E-readers, such as the Nook and Kindle, are portable, lightweight devices that display digital versions of books, magazines, newspapers and other printed material. Most offer resizable text and adjustable backlighting and include such features as highlighting and virtual bookmarking. E-readers have a long battery life and can store many, many items in one place. Similar devices, such as Classmate Reader, have been demonstrated to improve reading scores in controlled studies. These provide an alternative to standard text that can increase reading comprehension and efficiency.

Sentence Builder is an iPad app that helps children learn how to do exactly what it advertises – build sentences. The app includes over 100 images for children to build sentences around and includes animation and audio that create an interactive experience and provide feedback. In addition, Sentence Builder also includes a module with images designed for older children, including teenagers. While potentially useful for all young children, the app has been especially successful with children with learning disabilities.

A way to make something old new, Shakespeare in Bits is an app for portable devices as well as PCs and Macs. The app makes Shakespeare accessible to all kinds of learners by including animations and audio along with the full text of several of the Bard’s plays. The text itself is presented using UDL principles – it includes all kinds of scaffolding, such as definitions for especially difficult and seldom-used words, plot summaries and a wide range of study notes. You can also experiment some with Shakespeare in Bits before you decide whether to take the plunge – there’s a free, downloadable trial version.

The Social Express is an interactive game app that helps children better understand social keys and build and practice their social skills. Adults can create a profile for children within the app and then follow their progress as they move through the many social scenarios that are included. The Social Express features many printables, including follow-up activities for practice in the real world. This app is available in several versions, for portable devices as well as PCs and Macs. This game was developed for children with autism and is especially useful with them.

Social Skill Builder is another interactive app (for portables and PCs and Macs) to help children build their communication and social skills. This app is somewhat unique in that it uses realistic video scenarios – rather than animation or comic-book scenarios – to teach its various lessons. And the wide range of different scenarios can make Social Skill Builder useful for preschoolers all the way up through teenagers. It can be especially helpful for children with autism and ADD, among other disabilities.

Speech with Milo is a customizable app for iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch/Android that features a cartoon mouse who acts out words as children both hear and see the word as text. Interacting with Milo gives children a more engaging experience than if they did this practice with flash cards or other more traditional tools. Speech with Milo comes with two different sets of directions, one for parents and one for speech therapists. This app was designed for both very young typically-developing children as well as children with various kinds of speech delays.

Developed by the International Children’s Digital Library, StoryKit is an app for the iPhone or iPad that allows young children to create their own media-rich stories. Children can take photos, type text, record their voices and draw pictures to help construct their own narratives. This tool can help teachers differentiate instruction for very diverse learners.

Target Sound ID is an iPad app that helps children learn how to break words into smaller sections/sounds and also recognize those smaller sections/sounds within larger words. Developed by a Pediatric Speech Language Pathologist, the app asks children to point to the letters that represent the sounds that they hear in various words. Target Sound ID features over 300 crisp, colorful images that look especially good on an iPad and increase engagement for children. This app is not meant as a standalone, and most children will require some support from a parent or teacher to benefit from it.

Tapikeo HD is an easy-to-use tool that helps children practice their storytelling using images, audio of their own voices and text. In addition to creating their own email-able storybooks, children (and parents or teachers) can also use Tapikeo to build customized visual schedules and other kinds of memory aids. This app is available for use on the iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch. This multi-modality approach means that the app can appeal to lots of different kinds of learners.

Text Grabber and Translator is an inexpensive app that can actually turn an iPad or iPhone into a scanner. You simply take a picture of a document with your device and the app uses Optical Character Recognition to create an editable text file. Not only that, but it can translate documents from more than 40 different languages. While likely created primarily for the business market, this app can also be very useful for anyone who prefers to read (and manipulate) digital text documents rather than print documents.

by The Johns Hopkins University School of Education Center for Technology in Education

AT in the Cloud

The Internet has been a tremendous resource for people with and without disabilities. But even if you have an Internet connection, the Internet is not always accessible to everyone. That’s why the consortium Raising the Floor has proposed the Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure (GPII), a project to build “an on-demand, personalized, accessible, on-ramp to the Internet.” Learn more about the project here



7 iPad Apps to know about including Voice Dream Reader, Math Squarred and Grammar Wonderland.  Many include UDL design priciples and can be helpful tools for all students including those with disabilities.

Game Based Learning

Game based learning is here to stay.  For tips on how to integrate lots of free interactive resources into your lesson and classroom experience, click here to read Andrew Miller’s blog on Edutopia.

In the News

The number of apps designed to help children with autism is growing exponentially each month.   Apple’s app store classifies over 1600 apps for the iPad and iPhone alone.  Autism Speaks, the national nonprofit, is sponsoring hackathons and offering seed funding to developers to join the creative process.  Read more at the Baltimore Sun.

Setting Tech Goals for 2014

Edutopia blogger Monica Burns offers simple and more challenging tech goals for your 2014 classroom. Give some of them a try.


Technology is more and more an essential part of education.  From teaching children to teaching teachers, technology is critical to how we teach, learn and lead.  The experts at the Johns Hopkins University, School of Education’s Center for Technology in Education have been pushing the boundaries of what is possible for nearly 30 years.  Check out these videos to meet CTE staff members, Chris Swanson and Dave Peloff.