iPad apps I’d recommend for an SEN Department – Secondary School

I am often asked to recommend iPad apps and there are hundreds.  This is a list I quickly put together for a secondary school who has recently purchased a number of iPads for their SEN department.  I have included paid for, free and those that should already be on the iPad.

Would love to have any additions.  Please add in the comments if you know of any.

Paid for apps (in order of priority with a budget)

Writeonline – This is a word processing package with text-to-speech so students can hear any word spoken, the sentence after a full stop has been added or the whole lot by selecting ‘speak all’.  There is also predictive text and word banks for subject specific key words. Students can toggle between generic prediction and keypad and word bank. Students can also change the voice, speed of voice and the background colour (this is made by Clicker but designed for older students). http://www.cricksoft.com/uk/products/writeonline-app/writeonline-app.aspx

Voicedream – this app provides text-to-speech from all documents and online material – it also has a range of voices, various fonts and you can change the background colour http://www.voicedream.com/


iReadWrite – has predictive text and text to speech, various voices and background colour change.  You do have to cut and paste text in to have it read as opposed to VoiceDream.  It can sync with Dropbox which is useful. http://www.texthelp.com/north-america/ireadwrite/

Notability –note-taker to annotate documents, sketch ideas, record lectures – students can handwrite or type notes on PDFs, documents etc http://gingerlabs.com/

Spellboard – a brilliant way to learn spellings – can include photos, recording (including in a sentence) and once spellings loaded there are games to play to learn them including scrambled letters and word searches.
SpellBoard by PalaSoftware Inc.

Dexteria suite of apps – for fine motor skills linked to handwriting package -LetterReflex for reversals/Dexteria – writing numbers, letters and crab squishing – Dexteria Junior says for pre-school but some of my older students enjoy (and need) this one. http://www.dexteria.net/

Mr Thorne’s Grammar School – games for all things grammar and punctuation Mr Thorne’s phonics pairs – pelmanism game which goes through phonic code http://www.mrthorne.com/?s=grammar

Mr Thorne’s Maths Universe – times tables, division, subtraction and addition games (link as above)

Phraseology – a word processing package but good for SPAG as you can colour code verbs, adverbs, nouns and adjectives. Also good for organising essays (being able to move paragraphs around).  Has a SMOG Index, tells you average words per sentence, average syllables, how many nouns, verbs etc – can analyse parts of speech and root words. http://agiletortoise.com/phraseology/

Reading Champion – reading passages where students can record themselves reading, hear it read and mark – there’s a video explaining on texthelp website  http://www.texthelp.com/uk/reading-champion

I can animate – this allows recording films for animation  http://www.kudlian.net/products/icananimate/

I can present – this allows students to use camera and script to record a presentation  http://www.kudlian.net/products/icanpresent/Home.html

Halftone – you can make a photo  look like a comic and add a speech bubble – good for social communication – https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/halftone/id419957803?mt=8

Free apps

Explain Everything – makes interactive screencasts – a must  https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/explain-everything/id431493086?mt=8

Dragon dictate – speech-to-text – similar to siri on new ipads https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/dragon-dictation/id341446764

Cambugs 1 & 2 – useful for monitoring phonic recognition of letter sounds and digraphs and trigraphs in 2 – I always apologise to older students that it looks a bit childish but it’s so useful – http://www.cambugs.co.uk/

Paper53 – great for comic strip conversations and useful for letter formation/rainbow writing – a paid for version comes with more colours and pens but I’ve never required more than the free version allows https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/paper-by-fiftythree/id506003812

AudioBoom – for creating podcasts – http://audioboom.com/

Jumbled Sentences –this has three levels where students have to build sentences with words provided – good for language difficulties http://bestappsforkids.com/2013/07/jumbled-sentences-3/

OhNo Fractions – fractions app https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/oh-no-fractions!-curious-hat/id593418681?mt=8

Khan Academy – a set of videos to learn anything – maths, science etc –

Inspiration and Popplet – mind mapping apps (Inspiration turns from concept map to linear format too)

Toontastic – can make stories using story arc with pictures and voice

Adobe Voice – can record a voice over pictures – good for social stories or rants (http://wp.me/p4sUgv-Z)

Duolingo – a foreign languages app to practise French, German or Spanish

Phrasal Verbs machine – another one for MFL

Paintsparkle – another one for rainbow writing, handwriting and spellings – https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/paint-sparkles-draw-my-first/id435539858?mt=8

Merriam Webster Dictionary – a free dictionary where you can say the word into the ipad and it will find it for you

Cargo-Bot/Hopscotch/SketchNation/Scratch – all coding apps for the new curriculum

The HW app – can put homework on to this like an online planner – this may not be useful for students sharing ipads though

GoogleDrive – think about keeping all files, photos etc for sharing – depends on how school want to use ipad

Showbie – a good way for students to share work with teachers  paperfree

Socrative teacher – a place to create quizzes etc and teacher can see students’ scores

Might want to have a look at Nearpod for similar – some free resources for whole class to share

Apps which should be on iPad but if not can download for free

Book Creator – an absolute must for all types of creations – alternative assessments etc




Itunes U – this will be where electronic versions of school text books from Load2learn can be kept (for visually impaired and dyslexic students to use text-to-speech) https://load2learn.org.uk/


My ResearchEd


Firstly, in this blog http://wp.me/p4sUgv-Z I moaned about all male panels at education conferences.  ResearchEd however had a great mix of male and female contributors and even provided a crèche. Top marks.

During the lunch break at ResearchEd, I took my kids to the Park and reflected on balance.



Balancing what I learn from research with practicalities of my job. Balancing work and life.  Balancing my experience and intuition with counter-intuitive evidence.  Then my daughter needed a wee and I found myself crouching behind a bush attempting not to get urine on my shoes.

Adventures in pseudoscience
Nick Rose’s talk dissected myths like a Ghostbuster – no mercy but it was energetic and amusing.  @prettyvacant has watched fads come and go in the staff room and this was his platform to let off steam. He can rest easy now can’t he?  Maybe not…

Nick reminds us that we need ‘a herd immunity to new ideas’ and we should be asking impertinent questions – I think this reflects ResearchED’s vision – to have a healthy dollop of cynicism.

How policy is made
I stayed in one room for the afternoon so ended up in @samfr’s session which I hadn’t planned. I’m glad though as this was one of my surprise favourites of the day. Getting an insider’s view of making policy was fabulously gossipy if not a little concerning.

The whimsical politician affecting education policy came across strongly – Charles Clarke wanting to make Chess compulsory because he liked Chess; Gove deciding every school needed a Bible: I wonder what we’d introduce if given the chance?

Politics has to be involved in education, says Sam Freedman, as governments are voted in.  But there should be no top down edicts to schools on an operational level – I was nodding my head furiously on this.

A Teacher’s Guide to the good, the bad and the irrelevant
If we could find a part of the brain which indicated dyslexia would we send our 30 reception kids for MRI scans? No, of course not, especially as we can pretty much anticipate reading difficulties from an early age via other behaviours.

@deevybee believes researching behaviour can tell us so much and that spending money on expensive technologies in neuroscience for similar results is therefore questionable. She showed us a quadrant to clearly explain the type of research teachers should be concerned with and others which are less relevant.


I was also pleased to hear Professor Bishop’s views on reading comprehension; that it has been neglected and the ability to decode words is not always sufficient. @deevybee cited Professor Margaret Snowling’s research on this.

Nature and Nurture – the genetics of Education
I really struggle to ‘get’ the genes stuff and come back to @deevybee’s premise of what is relevant to education? That genetics are 50% heritable, OK but to ignore the environmental factors?

Is IQ overrated for predicting achievement? Is it fixed? I don’t know: Tracey Alloway-Packham argues working memory is a better indicator…

@andrewsabisky is delightful however and if there was ever a scientist to persuade me about behavioural genetics it will be him.  He’s hunting for a PHD and funding – I think he’s worth it.

Links between out of school activities and attainment in classroom
More exciting for me was the NatSen Social Research which examines the education gap of disadvantaged students via out of school activities. This seems more worthwhile than behavioural genetics for educators. Rather than asking if IQ is predetermined through heritability, concentrating on environment and its impact seems more relevant.

The research asks whether out of school activities raise a child’s information capital and normalise learning. Is this where students really learn? Where they make connections? Where they learn to take risks? Where they learn to socialise?

How journalists get it wrong and right about education research
I finish with my first session and return to balance. TES journos Ann Mroz and Michael Shaw took us through a funny and irreverent journey on how they write about research. It’s got to be brief, interesting and the unusual findings get attention.

They also told us when reporting on research contradictory articles turn up – effectiveness of Teaching Assistants is a great example.  And I am mindful of this – how do we as teachers decide which research to listen to and act upon? How can we, when faced with three piles of books to mark discover which research to believe? This is why I quite like the idea of in-house ‘research champions’ in schools (although hate the name). They can assimilate the material and report findings in an unbiased way to the rest of us.

Dr Bronwyn Hemsley shared this poster on twitter and it is one for the ‘ champions’ to live by I think.



Thank you Tom and Helene (I can’t use accents on iPad sorry)