I heard of Abilipad, first as Intellipad, shortly after it's release. It looked interesting, but in the sea of apps, I was focused on interactive books and drill and practice apps, which were the apps that supported my students’ needs at that time. My "app radar" didn't go off for this one at first. Fast forward several months, I noticed several "assistive technology" folks mentioning Abilipad and how they liked it. I thought I would give it a shot. My students had progressed nicely with some basic reading skills to the point that I was ready to begin trials of some simple written expression activities.
I was instantly a fan for a few reasons:
1.Abilipad allows for customized keyboards. Students don't need to spell the words; they can simply combine words to make sentences once the teacher has created the keyboard.
2.Abilipad provides auditory output. The students could hear when they had written AND it could be used as a word based voice output device. And since you can also import pictures (with some work on the teachers part), Abilipad could be used a picture based voice output system as well.
3.Abilipad has word prediction. This feature supports my students who are beginning readers/spellers as well my students who are working on proofreading written work.
Let me start by telling you a little bit about Abilipad. Abilipad allows you to create custom keyboards, using words, pictures, or both. It can be used to take notes, create story starters, provide choices when completing a group activity. How does this differ from other word processing programs? Abilipad will "speak" the text as each word is typed. It also offers a “SPEAK” button that will read the while selection. When using the word prediction, Abilipad allows the user to hear the word with the first tap and insert the word with the second tap. This is a great use of auditory prompts being embedded into the task and giving the students ownership of the learning.
Abilipad has so many educational uses. To me, it is one of the best apps to be used as an "assistive technology" app. There are so many uses for it both within the classroom (general and special education) as well as a way to provide access to the general education curriculum. Abilipad can support IEP goals relating to written expression, such as note taking and story writing. It can be used as a way to adapt curricular content giving students a way to participate in the general education activities more independently. With the ability to create a piece of work and then email that creation, students could use this app to complete and "turn in" classwork or homework by emailing the work to the teacher.
If a student is a reader/speller, but needs alternative communication support, Abilipad could also be used to support this as well. I am current using Abilipad during my calendar routine. It provided me with an avenue to set up one "keyboard", but it allows differentiation between my students. For a few students, I am using it to work on name recognition. Others, I am using it as a verbal model for sentence structure. And for another student, we are using the same keyboard for him to type the sentences and then proofread the sentences for errors.
Lastly, Abilipad incorporates an online “community” of sorts. Through the app, Abilipad offers keyboard sharing. Once someone creates a keyboard, the keyboard can be uploaded so it can be shared with others. I think this component is going to play a large part is the successful implementation of this app. If teachers know that they don't always have to "recreate the wheel" when creating a new keyboard, I think they are more likely to utilize Abilipad as a classroom tool.
One suggestion that I have is I would like to see additional assistance with programming Abilipad, kind of like a more detailed “how to”. The Abilipad website (http://www.abilipad.com/index.html) provides a few video tutorials, but for my learning, a written step-by-step is more helpful. Recently, Abilipad has also provided two you tube video tutorials which will help in the keyboard/notebook creations. They can be found here.
In conclusion, Abilipad is a versatile app that would be a great tool to support literacy development within all classrooms. As an intervention specialist, I am always looking for apps that can support the students’ individual goals as well as provide opportunities to increase access to the general education curriculum. Abilipad fits this description perfectly. I have been able to find multiple ways to incorporate this app into my classroom routine. With the use of the “shared keyboards”, I can only see this app becoming more of an asset to my classroom.
Price at time of review: $19.99