As a part of my consultation post, I touched on the fact that as school psychologists we don’t have to know all of the best apps, nor do we have the time to be experts on the best apps but we should know where to find reliable information about apps. This is the same skill set as knowing where to find resources to share with parents about depression or anxiety, information about research-based interventions, etc., is applicable to assistive technology resources (low tech to high tech).
I promise I don’t spend hours combing through iTunes finding the latest and greatest apps but I stay tuned in to resources that have proven to me to be reliable sources. Here are some of the places I find great App information.
Screenshot of Tags from iEar.org. Retrieved 4/1/13
I Educational App Reviews (iEAR )- www.iear.org
iEAR provides app reviews written by teachers. Imagine that, educational apps reviewed by teachers. They also have a group of app reviews done by students. I find the reviews to be honest and thus helpful. I also find that the do a great job of “tagging” their posts so they have lists of topics, app content areas, grade levels, etc. to help you find what you’re looking for quickly and easily
iTeach Special Education is a Facebook group so you need to have a Facebook account if you want to subscribe to their group. This is a group of educators and parents working to integrate iDevices in to their work with special education students. Great resources and information is shared within this group. I’ve posted questions about apps in this group and on Twitter and received responses back which helped me decide whether I wanted to purchase an app or not.
Screenshot from AppyMall’s AppyStores. Retrieved on 4/1/2013
Now a word of caution about AppyMall, they promote any and all education apps and sometimes the app they promote are junk. What I do like about AppyMall is that they’ve started putting collections of apps together by professionals such as Speech and Language Pathologists. So while I take each app they discuss with a grain of salt I tend to think the apps they review and promote in their app collections are good sources of information. Another thing AppyMall does well is the share when apps go on sale. AppyMall also has a facebook group which is a great way to keep up on sales and giveaways that are sometimes only available for hours.
So I found an app I like, now I buy it right?
When I’m considering purchasing an app I usually go a step further an read AppStore reviews but a word of caution about AppStore reviews. For better or worse some app developers pay for reviews. I’m typically skeptical when an app has 6 or 11 reviews that say about the same thing and are all 4 or 5 stars. I find value in apps that have a range of reviews because it tells me real people reviewed the app and I also know and value that everyone has different opinions and this would apply to apps as well.
Look for a Part 2 post in the coming days for additional places I find information about Apps and resources.
In the educational realm, most people know that April is Autism Awareness Month. There are many public relation activties going on to raise awareness around autism such as Autism Speaks’ Light It Up Blue campaign. World Autism Day is actually today, April 2nd. I know many of us work very hard every single day to support students with autism by working directly with students, working with parents, improving educator awareness around autism and so today is not that different than every other day. Also, even though I’m on spring break I know that my students at home with autism don’t have a day off from their autism because it is World Autism Day or Autism Awareness Month. I know there are parents, sibling, family members and caretakers at home today that will experience the range of emotions that come every day in the lives of families impacted by autism. So while I know for some families, today is just like any other day, I hope that families and educators can remember and celebrate some of the laughs, joy and smiles that surround working with students with autism. I know I’ve reminisced about a few humorous recent events.
I can personally reflect on my own increased awareness and understanding of Autism just this year. I’ve spent many hours this year in professional development sessions focused on understanding the difference between ASD and Emotional Impairments, or ASD and ADHD or ASD and Cognitive Impairments. Our district also provided us with the great opportunity to be trained in using the ADOS-2 which reinforced a lot of previous knowledge but provided new learning for me. With my new knowledge and reinforced previous knowledge, I’m able to approach tech resources for students, parents and educators better. One such example is in a drafts posts about digital social stories and I’ll make a point to finish and publish that post during April. But for today there are great apps on sale that I’m going to download, check out and see if they are good or not. You should take advantage of these sales now too in case an app that I review later is really good but has gone back up in price. If it isn’t a worthwhile app then I’ll let you know you can and should delete it.
Here are some autism awareness and world autism day resources:
Enjoy looking at all of the apps that are on sale, learning great new information or reaffirming previous knowledge today and throughout the month of April. And if you haven’t turned your facebook, twitter, linkedin account Blue yet, do it now!
Technology and school psychology are not only connected by how we as school psychologists consume or utilize tech, even though that seems like all we have time form. Isn’t one of our greatest strengths as school psychologists consulting with teachers, staff, and parents and problem-solving with the purpose of helping students overcome barriers to their learning? As school psychologists we need to be familiar with tools and resources available to students, teachers, staff and parents so we can be actively engaged in all aspects of the consultation and problem-solving processes. We don’t have to be experts in every little piece of technology but we should be aware of categories of tools and supports. We also should be thinking about tools and resources we hear about that are innovative and exciting for all students and how they could be especially useful for students who are struggling. We can also be thinking about how a tool could be tweaked to be accessible to some students.
Here is an example of what I’m think of. Our district is not a Google App district but many districts around us are and there are many many districts across the country that are Google App schools and districts. Usually there is lots of excitement surrounding new technology and many pieces of technology are great for all students and support universal design for learning and in the initial phases it is difficult to think about how new technology would impact, positively or negatively, smaller groups of students. When teachers and teams get comfortable with the new technology questions start to come up about how to make sure the technology is accessible to each and every student. This post by Richard Byrne on his blog Free Technology for Teachers provides guides to accessibility features to google apps for blind or low-vision students. Knowing about features and supports like this will help you to continue the great consultation work you do every day. I’ll continue to discuss and share resources such as these that will be helpful when consulting with teachers, parents and administrators. What sites do you regularly pull from as resources for technology?