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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Apps to Support Diverse Learners in the Classroom

Dr Chester Goad

Prek-12th Grade & College Admin w/ Public Policy Experience
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Do you like apps? Do you use them in the classroom? Not every district, school, or parent has the ability to support apps in the day-to-day learning environment, but for those that can, there are some fun, effective, tried-and-true apps that can make a tremendous difference in the lives of diverse learners.

Many states now require incorporating technology into standardized testing, so the number of systems with the ability and willingness to support apps and software is also increasing. Many teachers and parents enjoy apps just as much as students. Naturally, the apps that are optimal for student learning are those so engaging that students forget or never know that these things were designed as educational tools. In addition to classroom use, apps are a terrific and effective way to encourage continued exploration and engagement over evenings, weekends, or summer break. There are tons of apps to explore, but here are a few favorites that may benefit your diverse learners!

Staying on Track

EpicWin is an organizational or executive function tool that is great for keeping students on task, keeping them from procrastinating, and using gaming to incentivize their tasks. Homework, projects, and chores become a lot more fun with this gamified role-playing app. The more of your everyday life tasks that you complete, the more your characters grow and develop within the game, leading to better scores and adventure. It's a great work/life balance game that is fun for teachers, parents, and students. Simply set up an avatar, enter tasks to complete, assign "epicness" or priority, finish the task, fight a battle, and earn rewards based on the task's epicness.

Picking Up on Social Cues

Sōsh helps students develop social skills and cope with stress or anxiety. It's ideal for students on the autism spectrum, especially those with Asperger's, but it can benefit any student who struggles socially or with anxiety. Sōsh is a fun interactive coaching app that offers a variety of features geared toward socialization and regulating behaviors. The app focuses on the 5 R's to help users:

  • Relate
  • Relax
  • Reason
  • Regulate
  • Recognize

Students can browse the emotions gallery, set priorities, shred their emotions in the shredder, or pump up the balloon to express their stress level. Sōsh Lite is the free version. While the paid version is pricey, it offers several additional features for enhancing social skills.

Prioritizing Time

Parents, teachers, and older students will appreciate RescueTime's approach to time management. This app is especially effective for older teens, or for anyone who has trouble regulating time. Whether the issue is time spent gaming, on the phone, or on social media, RescueTime helps optimize technology use by identifying wasted time. Students might discover that the time they spend on their choice of digital entertainment borders on addictive. Some may be surprised to learn that they're spending too much time on their phone. RescueTime reveals personal peak times that might be better spent on homework (or grading papers), and it provides visual data of the big picture. There’s also a terrific RescueTime blog that shares how other users maximize their time with video commentary. Download the app, set preferences, goals, and alerts, and you're on your way to developing healthier habits and optimizing your time.

Strengthening Math

Todo will send younger elementary students on fun-filled, multi-leveled missions as they advance or as they show deficiency. It's entertaining and provides reinforcement that doesn't feel like reinforcement -- or even like work. Choose the mode of play, set the practice time for up to 15 minutes per session, and solve math quizzes or play along free style. There are multiple levels, and the content has been aligned to meet math standards. Todo has an educational charm that is appealing to diverse learners and abilities. (You can find a demonstration video on Todo Math's homepage.)

Sharpening Language

DuoLingo remains one of the best apps for teaching languages and is equally usable for English-language learners. The app teaches 16 languages and has earned the App of the Year designation from Apple. The best feature of this app is the cost: absolutely free! Getting started on DuoLingo is straightforward -- download, choose the language you want to learn, and you're ready to practice. They have a pictorial guide that can answer most of your questions. The app offers several methods of learning that will meet diverse learner preferences. You can even set timers to remind you to practice at bedtime or in the car.

When parents, teachers, and students partner to use apps for reinforcement, they can make a world of difference in the everyday lives of diverse learners. Mutual understanding of the apps' purposes and features, as well as consistently using them at home and at school, can be incredibly effective. And for most apps, the big plus is that they're free. If there is a cost involved, check with the creators or developers to see if educator or school district discounts are available. In many cases, they are!

What are your favorite apps for diverse learners? Please tell us about them in the comments below.

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Martin Diaz Alvarez's picture
Martin Diaz Alvarez
Martin Diaz Alvarez EDU Profile Page

Dr Chester, you focused on a very important topic, and you wrote a great article. Thanks

Dr Chester Goad's picture
Dr Chester Goad
Prek-12th Grade & College Admin w/ Public Policy Experience

Thanks so much Martin Diaz Alvarez! Do you have some apps you recommend?

Jessica Ann's picture

Thank you so much for sharing about these apps. I have found multiple apps that I love, but there seems to be a consistent struggle for my students (student's with low-incidence disabilities) to be able to manipulate the apps. I have even found that some apps that are designed for this population do not account for students who are limited with their hands. What is your opinion of the apps you have mentioned and their success with students with low incidence disabilities, specifically Soch. Do you have any that you do believe could be positively used? Thank you for your time and sharing.

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