Apps as Assistive Technology

Apps as Assistive Technology

Emily C. Bouck (Michigan State University, USA), Sara M. Flanagan (University of Kentucky, USA) and Missy D. Cosby (Michigan State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2255-3.ch024

Abstract

Apps can serve as assistive technology to support students with disabilities. Yet, there is little support for educators in determining the most effective and efficient apps to support students with disabilities. The objectives of this article include: (a) examining how apps can serve as assistive technology for students with disabilities, (b) discussing the importance of educators not being arbitrary in their decision to select and implement apps to serve as assistive technology, such as relying on reviews, ratings, app lists, app databases, or the inclusion on a categorization on iTunes or Google Play; and (c) presenting options for educators evaluating apps, which can assist educators in making more informed decisions for apps as assistive technology. Although some app evaluation rubrics exist specifically for students with disabilities, there is little research as to the impact of the rubrics on educators' selecting apps or the impact on student learning.
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Introduction

Teachers and students are increasingly using mobile devices in and out of school for education and entertainment (Molnar, 2015; Nagel, 2014; Rodríguez, Strnadová, & Cumming, 2014). And along with the use of mobile technologies comes apps. Apps can support instruction for all students as well as specifically students with disabilities (Rodríguez et al., 2014; Stephenson & Limbrick, 2013). Apps can serve as assistive technology to support students with disabilities in a variety of ways, including in such areas as academics, organization, access, daily living, and communication (Bouck, 2016). The objectives of this article include:

  • 1.

    Examining how apps can serve as assistive technology for students with disabilities,

  • 2.

    Discussing the importance of educators not being arbitrary in their decision to select and implement apps to serve as assistive technology, such as relying on reviews, ratings, app lists, app databases, or the inclusion on a categorization on iTunes or Google Play; and

  • 3.

    Presenting options for educators evaluating apps, which can assist educators in making more informed decisions for apps as assistive technology.

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Background

Mobile applications, or “apps” as they are more commonly known, are software programs specifically designed to operate on mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones; apps extend the basic capabilities of a device (Purcell, Entner, & Henderson, 2010). Apps are available pre-installed on a mobile device or are available to download through the Apple iTunes App store, Amazon Appstore, Google Play (formerly, Android Market), and Windows Store. Apps, like more traditional computer software, serve a variety of purposes for productivity (e.g., email, word processing), lifestyle (e.g., travel, fitness), gaming, entertainment (e.g., photos), social networking, education (e.g., basic math facts), and general educational topics (e.g., reference apps).

As apps and mobile devices continue to be a mainstay of daily lives, they are increasingly integrated into education. The majority of K-12 students has access to a some type of mobile device at home and/or school (Grunwald Associates LLC, 2013; Nagel, 2014). The commonly heard phrase, “there’s an app for that,” references that an app exists for any purpose imaginable in education – let alone individual’s daily lives – from learning to write the letter A to experimenting with chemical reactions. Of all of the available apps in iTunes, an estimated 80,000 are targeted specifically to K-12 education (Apple, 2015).

While the exact number of schools with specific 1:1 mobile device program or consistent access to mobile devices is unknown, it is estimated that almost half of all K-12 students have 1:1 computing or access to a device for regular use. In 2012, this number was only 23% (Molnar, 2015). While research is limited on the benefits of apps on mobile devices in education due to the newness and ever-changing nature of technology, apps can provide benefits for all students (Cayton-Hodges, Feng, & Pan, 2015; Mehdipour & Zerehkafi, 2013).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Computer Access: The way in which an individual accesses or uses a computer or computer-like device.

Assistive Technology Device: Any technology that benefits or supports a student with a disability.

Mobile Device: Handheld computer-like devices, including tablets and smartphones.

Rubric: A method of evaluation that assesses quality.

Apps: Applications or software for mobile devices.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication Device: A piece of assistive technology specifically focused on communication; it supplements or replaces a student’s verbal communication.

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