From The ParaEducate Mail Bag 2016

Okay, so we got really distracted this year and our mailbag is overflowing. We plucked one for this week because we’re a little wrapped up here at ParaEducate with baby news (co-worker just became a grandma again within the last few hours so we’re fawning over new baby pictures and important thing: family is doing wonderfully right now).

Dear ParaEducate,

What Apps do you suggest to have an on an iPad for middle school students with disabilities?


Technologically curious

Dear Technology,

Well a few years back we actually learned of a whole campus on iPads but they were so tightly monitored, students couldn’t get apps that hadn’t been batch approved by their district. So that’s a bit of a trip hazard when issuing out technology.

Before we list the apps: we do not receive any compensation from any of the companies that have created these apps. We also have mostly success with iPads, and have very little experience with Androids, most of our Apps are universal, but a few do not have ones available through the Google Play store.

App Why you Want it Notes
Numbers/Pages/Keynote This is an Apple Store specific product. It’s free on all current iPads, and it’s the basic Word/Excel/PowerPoint equivalent. It’s pretty important to getting materials ready quickly especially if your campus internet is spotty. Apple products only
Word/Excel/PowerPoint This is the gold standard. However, without Office 360, it’s a little hard to get your files to transfer. But you still want it! Even if you can’t edit a document, you’ll be able to read the document which is pretty important sometimes. You can get the files through email and make comments back.
Google Docs/Slides/Sheets/Drive This is a very great solution in a pinch and helps to keep the space on your device free and clear. The items save to your Google Drive and are accessible as long as you have internet access. You can share with students and other teachers on campus especially if Google Drive is supported on your campus. No internet = no access and not all features are available (ex: currently you cannot make a graph with Sheets on mobile devices, though you can comment on a graph a student shares with you) Will not work at all without internet access
Adobe Reader Why not? It’s been a go to PDF reader for years. Some things come in as PDFs, this is pretty reliable.
Goodreads We haven’t played too much with Good Reads, but they also provide audio books so we have used this with some of our students with less demanding needs.
iBooks The library of the Apple iBook is pretty accessible. Almost every major book available is on Amazon and on iBook. This is a great way to have an ereader. Will also let you read PDFs. Apple Store only A reliable, free reference. Provides both Dictionary and Thesaurus. There is a free and a paid version. The web one will work through any browser, but the app is more reliable.
Newsela Access the entire collection of news articles written at multiple reading levels. The news does tend to be 2-3 weeks after publication, but the leveled reading makes up for this. Find articles for students to read for current events here.
Periodic Table & Nova Elements Almost every periodic Table app we’ve seen has been great. We like the tie in with Nova Elements, but look for an app with reliable ways of layout and that give Families good contrast.
Easybib This app has evolved a lot in the last two years since its release. It now lets you login and connect to your ongoing projects. Cite sources reliably with this app. We paid for our original app, but most recently at a campus set up when we went through to get iPads ready for staff to use, we found it free. Check before your download!
Evernote This particular app is great. While it encourages writing, it will also record audio while you take notes. It can help students review their notes. The Free version locks up after 1-2 pages. You will want to pay for this. On a plus side, some of the notebooks and pens that belong to Evernote tie into the app and takes back the work that may be involved in transcribing.
SnapType We were introduced to this app two years ago. And we still love it! Take a picture of the worksheet and this lets you zoom in on the section you want to focus and type in yellow boxes where you need to put an answer. When you need to turn it in, you can create a PDF to email to a printer or to the teachers. Free version lets you only have 3 items at a time. If you want to continue to use it, pay for the app or delete a lot.
A specific planner If you can use calendar app to mark up your due dates, that’s great, but we’ve found specific planner apps out there to be much more useful and take advantage of color coding. Free ones exist.
Doceri This is an alternative to a white board app. It would project through wireless or an Apple TV connected to a projector.

Why you need this? Sometimes you just really need to hand write something and save it. This allows a student to even draw or do some digital illustration

The free trial will let you have 1 project. You can add more frames, or even record in free, but it’s nicer to get to many different presentations
Educreation Also a whiteboard app. We found this recently and we liked the limited selection, it’s great for someone just starting to use whiteboard apps. Buying this app allows you to have access to more backgrounds.


That’s a lot, but for middle school and high school students, it’s not all about work. You can have access to games and any other distraction. The importance of teaching a student when and how to use technology is key in integrating the academics and technology. Best of luck!

Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to be a guest blogger? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online herehereherehere, and on our website. Paraeducate is a company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

About paraeducate

ParaEducate is a company run to help reach out to paraeducators or paraprofessionals in public K-12 schools, giving advice, talking about publications that ParaEducate produces, and other useful information regarding working in public school settings.
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