I do find it useful to refer to app lists such as the apps for AAC list (developed by Jane Farrall); and our very own apps for Literacy Support list and apps for Special Education list. However, there are also some other tips and tricks I have picked up along the way when searching for apps, detailed reviews and further support.
- Use the various search features in iTunes to search for new apps: iTunes have a number of ways to search for apps (and anything else for that matter!). You can search by categories in iTunes, probably the most relevant categories I search are Education and Medical, but Entertainment, Books and Productivity are also worth a look. You can then sort these categories further by release date or popularity which helps refine your search. Alternatively, use the “Spotlight Search” feature in the top right hand corner of iTunes to do an overall search for a key word related to your topic area e.g. behaviour, schedule or social – remember, you may need to enter these terms with US spelling depending on where the app was developed.
- Look at the Screenshots: The screenshots included in the iTunes descriptions are a window into what the app looks like. While still being limited, it can help you decide whether the simplicity of the interface, the graphics used and the features displayed may suit the cognitive and physical needs of the people you are working with.
- Look for FREE or LITE versions: Some app developers release FREE or LITE versions of apps. These versions have limited features compared to the full versions but I find it is particularly useful when the app in question is expensive. It gives you a chance to try the app and decide if it is right for the people you are supporting without having to spend any money.
- Look at what else customers bought: Why not see what “like minded” customers have also bought. They may have the same interests as you and may have found an app that you would not have thought to look at.
- Find the Developer’s website: The Developer’s website is usually provided as a link directly from the iTunes store and can give you more detailed information about why the app was developed, what the features are and who it is suitable for. If it is not linked directly from the iTunes store sometimes doing a Google search can help.
- Use video sharing sites: Use video sharing sites like Vimeo or YouTube to search for short video reviews of apps. You can find videos that demonstrate the features of the apps and also sometimes, find reviews of the apps by people who have used them in the classroom. It is a great way of feeling supported in making the right decision for your students.
- Using Social Media: You can also learn about apps, share your discoveries and ask questions using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Doing a search for groups and lists will help you to find information relevant to your area of interest. It is a great way to find out when apps are on sale or free for a limited time too.