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The Wheel of Android Apps for Dyslexia

by Allan Wilson

on Mon Oct 26, 2015

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Ever since we first produced our wheel of iPad Apps for Learners with Dyslexia / Reading and Writing Difficulties in October 2013, we've had regular requests for a similar wheel for tablets and smartphones that use the Android operating system.

IPads are used much more frequently than Android devices in schools, but over the past few years more educational apps have become available and some schools have started to allow the use of Android tablets. But what apps should they use?

This is the first version of our Android Apps for Learners with Dyslexia / Reading and Writing Difficulties. It attempts to categorise a number of apps that may be useful for people with reading and writing difficulties, such as:

  • text readers;
  • tools to support writing;
  • ebook readers;
  • mindmapping apps;
  • and many more.

This is by no means a comprehensive or definitive list of apps, just a starting point.

We are happy to take on board suggestions for future editions of the wheel. Email your suggestions to call.scotland@ed.ac.uk

The prices of ‘high spec’ Android devices are comparable with those of iPads and iPhones, but it is possible to buy very good devices for a lot less. For example, the Tesco Hudl 2, which will run most Android apps, is available in the UK for only £99.  The greater affordability of Android devices has resulted in many parents buying them for home use.

Android or iOS?

There are advantages and disadvantages to using an Android device compared with using an iPad or iPhone:

Operating System – The Apple iOS is much more tightly ‘locked down’ than the Android operating system. This means that iOS app developers have restricted access to the operating system and are not generally able to introduce features such as high quality voices and screen filters that will work across different apps. If you want a particular voice on an iPad, you will have to purchase and download it for each app that you want to us it with – and the voice you want may not be available for a particular app. In contrast with this, high quality voices such as the Scottish Stuart and Heather voices from Cereproc and similar international voices from Ivona, Acapela and other developers can be downloaded and installed on an Android device and used with almost any app in which you want to read text. Similarly, there are Android apps, like Screen Filters, that allow you to create a coloured screen filter that covers the screen for whatever app you are using, whereas there are very few iOS apps that include a filter – and it will only work within a particular app, e.g. iOverlay adds a colour filter to the iPad camera.

Variation in Android Devices - Different Android devices use different versions of the Android operating system and often can't be upgraded to the latest version. It is particularly frustrating when you find that even a newly purchased device is using an old version of the operating system and cannot be upgraded.  The Google Play Store warns you when you try to download an app that does not work on your device, but it is frustrating to find that the app you want does not work on your newly-purchased device.

Quality Control - Quality control is a significant issue with Android apps.  Some of the apps that we tested for the wheel either did not work at all, or only worked partially, or key features were so obscure that we could not find them.  Because there is less control over the operating system developers often use different techniques for similar tasks on different apps so it is often hard to work out how to perform a task within the app. 

What about the Apps?

There are lots of excellent apps for Android devices, a few of which are better than their iOS equivalents. I particularly like the Dictus speech recognition app, which has a very simple interface - tap one button to dictate a sentence, tap another button to have it read back. However, in general, we found that the Android apps weren't quite as slick or easy to use as their iPad equivalents.

We had to remove a couple of the categories that we used in the iPad App Wheel, Calculators and Mathematics. In the case of calculator apps for the Android, we found lots were available, but none were outstanding and there was little to distinguish one from another. In the case of Mathematics, we were looking for apps to help with laying out arithmetic and mathematical equations, similar to ModMath, MathPaper and similar apps for the iPad, but we couldn't find any equivalent apps for Android.

 

Tags: android, apps, dyslexia

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