Joan Tanenhaus looks at some of the exciting subscription-based learning resources now available for children with special educational needsSubscription software is now a common and often used software licensing and delivery model. Taking advantage of cloud computing and iPads and tablets, it allows the subscribed users to access the program at any time from any place, using their desktop or laptop computer, Mac or Windows tablet, or smartphone. Content is no longer static and confined to what is available from the traditional installed CD, DVD or download — it is constantly changing, updating and expanding. Again, being cloud-based, programs have online tracking and record-keeping options, which allow teachers to monitor work done at school or at home, and to individualise student and/or class assignments. Traditional software, as we have been using the past 30 years, is sold as a perpetual license with an up-front cost. In contrast, subscription software has a subscription fee, usually paid monthly and/or annually. Subscriptions can be for a specific software programs (i.e. ChooseIt! Maker 3, Boardmaker Online, etc.) or for a website (i.e. BrainPOP (www.BrainPop.com), abcteach (www.abcteach.com) and for activities or for print materials.
Some of our long-time favourites are now available as subscription-based software and this article will explore just a few of them.
An online subscription service for teachers, therapist and parents with accessible learning games and activities that can be used with Mac and Windows computers and SmartBoards. These activities can be accessed using mouse and keyboard, one or two switches, touch screen, joystick/roller ball and eye-gaze. They are designed for children with severe and complex learning needs at a pre-literacy or early literacy level. There are a wide range of activities including experiential (encouraging look and listen), tracking, early cause and effect, errorless activities, turn taking and much more. They help provide a context for language, teach early timing skills (waiting for something to appear on screen before reacting) and developing mouse skills and the use of a touch screen.
Activities are available in areas such as Early Learning (cause & effect), Games (SNAP, Snakes & Ladders, memory pairs, timing skills, errorless choice making, and more), Stories and Songs (5 Little Ducks, Counting Songs, sequences, etc.), Creative (colouring, painting, facemaker, build a snowman, and much more), and Find Out (matching, scanning, talk to the parrot, follow a shopping list, match letters to letters on the keyboard, use a giant calculator, and more). New activities are constantly being added, with many related to seasonal topics. Annual subscriptions are available for one user, five users, site and district. There is also a free user subscription which provides access to 10 activities. The HKL website is not accessible on iPad or Android tablets but if you are interested in that use, you can purchase the individual activities as Apps (www.inclusive.co.uk/apps) from the Apple App Store or from the Google Play Store. Visit the website to find out more about the wide range and large number of activities.
ChooseIt! Maker 3 (http://www.helpkidzlearn.com/shop/online-software/chooseit-maker-3)
Also available from HelpKidzLearn.com is ChooseIt! Maker 3, online subscription software that lets you create personalised learning activities like cause and effect, question and answer activities, stories, assessment materials, games, quizzes and more with photos, symbols, text and sounds. It includes a library of over 30,000 symbols and pictures including Symbolstix symbols, Widget symbols, and Inclusive Technology pictures and symbols. You can also add your own images from your computer or from the internet. Rewards, which can be individually chosen, are built into the activities and are very motivating. Included also are three sample activities, all usable with Windows, Mac, or downloaded to your iPad and Android tablets using the free ChooseIt! Maker 3 app from the Apple Store or from Google Play.
Your activities can be accessed by touch screens, mouse and keyboard, one or two switches and eye gaze. There is record keeping and tracking of responses. Annual subscriptions are available for one user, five users, site and district. Visit the website for additional information and to see examples of some of the activity types that can be created.
Boardmaker Online (www.boardmakeronline.com)
With the new Boardmaker Online (BMO), users from all disciplines can create, edit, assign, adjust access (mouse, touch, eye-gaze, switch), and print activities from anywhere at any time — no disk or install is required. Just log-in on any computer, tablet, iPad or Tobii Dynavox T-Series device. BMO allows teachers and therapists to share students, collaborate with others in the district, and access all on the iPad. There’s automated Common Core standards and IEP aligned data and usage tracking and reporting. Parents can log-in to their child’s account, extending learning beyond the school day (on weekends, holidays and school vacations, too) and for the students, the activities are fun, motivating and always available.
Most of all, it provides consistency between all. You can upload new activities or those you’ve created with your older version of Boardmaker onto the Boardmaker Online Community and share them with people everywhere. You can also find lots of activities there, including templates and samples, as well as Premium Activities, available only for subscribers. Templates are available for all kinds of activities and learning areas (books, games, language activities, math, etc.), for supported or independent use and all can be customised and individualised. There is also free, live, online training as well as recorded training sessions that can be viewed at any time, along with a Help & Training Center with Tutorials, How-To Videos, Implementation Ideas, and much more. Boardmaker Online is available as Personal, Professional and District subscriptions and there is a free 30-day trial available.
This is an online current events newspaper that was developed and designed specifically for those with special needs, incorporating symbol support for all text. It includes news, world news, enrichment activities, class news, interactive games and cartoons, puzzles, recipes, jokes and adapted storybooks, all related to the news feature of the week. Each weekly issue has hundreds of pages and now uses SymbolStix symbols. Published weekly from September through May and monthly in June, July and August, the subscription includes four levels of difficulty (Simple, Regular, Higher and Advanced), along with speaking versions of each edition. There is also a fifth version specifically designed for individual instructional needs. Each version contains the same concepts but modifies the presentation or format for differentiated learning.
If you go to the website, you are able to view a page of each level on the same topic so that you can see the differences in levels. News-2-You, published for over 17 years, works closely with the Associated Press (AP) so that topics are timely, contemporary and applicable to classrooms nationwide. Not only do students learn about current local, national and world-wide events, they also get valuable experiences in literacy, language, reasoning and thinking and are offered an opportunity to interact in a meaningful way with their peers. Subscriptions are available for individual users with discounts for multiple users. News-2-You subscribers can also access their editions using the free News-2-You app on the iPad (Apple Store).
News-2-You App (www.assistiveware.com/product/news-2-you)
The News-2-You app is a free iPad app available from the Apple Store. It comes with one sample edition which has a main news feature (eight pages), three related features, a related snack recipe, a joke page, a game page, a review page, puzzle page, Sudoku page, and a think page — all related to the main topic. All text is symbol supported and can be read aloud with options for US, UK, Australia and India English pronunciation. Interactive responses to puzzles, Sudoku, etc. require touch access. The app supports all four reading levels with a choice of voices. Progress can be tracked. In-app purchases are available and include individual, weekly versions of News-2-You publications or a one-year subscription. If you have an online subscription to News-2-You (reviewed above), you can also download and use it on your iPad with this app.
Reading A-Z (www.readinga-z.com)
This is a widely used, subscription-based learning program that supplements classroom reading programs. It contains reading lessons, decodable books, reader’s theatre scripts, worksheets, flashcards, fluency passages, phonological awareness and phonics lessons, vocabulary books, graphic organisers, word sorts and assessments for 29 levels of difficulty. There are more than 1,000 levelled books in multiple genres and formats, with guided reading lesson plans, all correlated to State and Common Core Standards. Books are printable and projectable. English, Spanish, French and British English versions are available. Annual subscriptions are available for individual classrooms or for 10+ classrooms. Visit the website for more detailed information and to also learn about related subscription-based programs in other areas (Science, Vocabulary, Writing and more).
Reading A-Z on the iPad (books.readsmart.com/LAZ/free.html)
If you have an iPad, Reading A-Z has a group of 17 free iPad apps, one storybook for each of the first 17 reading levels (aa-p), in addition to hundreds of other books. You can also purchase individual books by reading level as well as Level Libraries. Each book is presented, page by page, with Word Help available. Touch the underlined words and find definitions and examples of word meaning.
Scholastic Storia School Edition (www.scholastic.com/storia-school)
Available only in the United States and to schools only, a Scholastic Storia subscription gives students unlimited access at school to 2,000 quality eBooks for grades PreK-6, including literary classics, modern titles, and non-fiction and informational texts to support Common Core State Standards. Digital enhancements include Reading Challenge quizzes at the end of every eBook that record results; the Storia Dictionary with age-appropriate definitions; Reading tools (highlighter and note-taking features); Read-to-Me books for young readers feature lively narrations and highlighted text; Enriched eBooks have learning activities like puzzles and word games to help build comprehension and retention. Some also have Activity Cards — short digital guides. Annual subscription gives unlimited, simultaneous access to the 2,000 eBooks with individual log-ins for all students to read their assigned eBooks at home on most devices (laptops, computers, tablets, etc.) with an internet connection. No apps are needed — just access to a browser and an individual log-in from classroom teacher or reading specialist.
In addition to these kinds of subscription-based programs, there are many subscription-based websites that provide activities for general education and for print resources for teachers.
Some of these are for online activities and others for printable materials for teaching. They include: BrainPOP (www.brainpop.com), abcteach (www.ABCTeach.com), Enchanted Learning (www.enchantedlearning.com), VocabularySpellingCity (www.spellingcity.com), edHelper (www.edhelper.com), and Teachers Pay Teachers (www.teacherspayteachers.com).