Editing Worksheets on the Ipad: an App Review

Your student’s classroom teacher is handing out a worksheet, and the print is too small for your student to read.  This is a scenario many TSVIs have experienced.  As TSVIs we know of many ways to provide our low vision students access to standard sized materials in the classroom.  Ipad apps that let users edit PDFs and photos are one more tool we can add to our “toolkit”. What is the benefit of apps that allow our students to edit worksheets digitally? These apps can save time and increase independence. The classroom teacher can email a worksheet to the student as a pdf and the student can edit it and send it back to her.  The student could also use the ipad camera to take a photo of a paper worksheet, edit it and send it to the teacher.  These scenarios eliminate the need for someone to enlarge worksheets on a photocopier.  Also, many students may prefer to use an ipad to do worksheets vs. a larger, more cumbersome device like a desktop video magnifier.   

 

So, which ipad apps should we consider for this task?  There are many apps on the market that allow users to edit PDF documents and photos digitally.  The most important factors for our students will be visual considerations and ease of use.  The three apps I looked at were:

  • Adobe Fill & Sign
  • SnapType Pro
  • Notability

The following is a comparison of the pros and cons of each of these apps as they relate to the needs of students with visual impairments.  I provided video demonstrations of SnapType Pro and Notability. Most apps are updated frequently.  Some of the features described below may change with future updates.  Still, this will hopefully provide a useful overview, and help you decide if any of these apps are right for your students.

 

Adobe Fill & sign (Free)

Pros

  • Allows you to edit a pdf document or a photo you took on your ipad
  • Touch anywhere on the screen to start typing
  • Controls to adjust font size appear right away and are simple to use

Cons

  • The zoom feature within the app is very limited. It may not provide enough magnification for many students
  • No “draw” feature

Accessibility

  • You can navigate the app with Zoom turned on   
  • Toolbar is navigable with Voice Over, but pdf/photo is not   

Take Away

Compared to the other apps on this list, Adobe Fill & Sign, is probably not the best option.  SnapType Pro does everything this app does, but is easier to use and provides better magnification.

 

SnapType Pro $4.99

Pros

  • Allows you to edit a pdf document or a photo you took on your ipad
  • Intuitive, simple controls make it good for young users
  • Types black letters on yellow background (high contrast) but the background or text color can’t be changed in settings
  • Easy to erase or move text you’ve already typed
  • Enhanced legibility option under settings allows you to choose from 7 different filter colors

Cons

  • If you are already zoomed in, you can’t move around your document when you have the draw tool selected. You will end up drawing on the screen. (See video)
  • Icons for the draw and text tools are very small (about ⅛ inch tall)
  • There is no erase button for the draw feature, only undo, so if you have to erase something you drew you need to undo repeatedly

Accessibility

  • You can navigate the app with Zoom turned on
  • Toolbar is navigable with Voice Over, but pdf/photo is not

Take Away

This is a great app for students who need to quickly and easily type on a digital worksheet.  This app will be frustrating and challenging for many students who need to draw lines or pictures on a worksheet. In my opinion, this is the best app on the list for most worksheets our students will encounter.

 

The video below is a demonstration of the SnapType Pro app.

 

 

Notability $9.99

Pros

  • Many more features than SnapType Pro: draw, type, highlight, erase, cut and paste text, cut out and paste images, and create audio recordings
  • You are able to zoom in and move around the document using 2 fingers while the draw option is activated, without drawing on your document
  • Erase feature allows you to easily erase drawings/marks you’ve made
  • Allows you to make audio recordings that are linked with a specific note, for example, you could be editing a document during class and make an audio recording of an important part of the teacher’s lecture

Cons

 

  • More features make it more complicated for younger users, or users who need simple controls
  • You may not be able to type in the blanks on certain types of PDFs (See video)
  • When you are moving text you’ve already written, the text disappears while you are moving it so it’s hard to know where you are placing it
  • When using a photo of a worksheet, the photo does not take up the whole page automatically, you have to resize it repeatedly using small icons on the corners of the photo to make it take up the whole screen
  • You are not able to type on a photo so you cannot type on blanks if you are using a photo of a worksheet (but you CAN draw on a photo)

Accessibility

  • You can navigate the app with Zoom turned on   
  • Toolbar is navigable with Voice Over, but pdf/photo is not

Take Away

Notability is the best option if your student needs to draw on PDF documents or photos.  It is also a good option if your student needs the additional features such as the highlighter and audio recordings.  This app will not be useful for students who need to type on photos or on computer-generated PDFs (scanned PDFs are ok).

 

The video below is a demonstration of the Notability app.

Collage of editing worksheets

Comments

Posted by Diane SiravoOct 17, 2017

Smart Forms is another terrific app that allows students to fill in worksheets and e-mail them to their teachers. And it’s free!

Posted by Diane BraunerOct 23, 2017

Yes, there are several annotation apps available - here is a post about Smart Forms. 

SAS Gloss is another option; however, it currently has not been updated to iOS 11. 

I do like how Snap Type Pro allows the user to type directly on the line (typing then moving the text to the desired line/location).

Posted by BOct 27, 2017

Any thoughts on how this is causing increased viewing of a screen (and additional fatigue?) a parent brought this to my attention that she'd rarer gave enlarged worksheets for her daughter for this reason

Posted by BOct 27, 2017

Rather have *

Posted by Diane BraunerOct 30, 2017

Good question!  I personally have not had or heard about a student that fatigues quicker when using screens over large print materials, if the device has the correct accessibility settings for the student.  There are several eye conditions that cause issues with light/glare.  Setting Inverse Colors (light print on dark backgrounds) is beneficial for many students.  Other students prefer to adjust the brightness of the screen - and changing the brightness on-the-fly in different environments.  iOS 11 introduced some new accessibility features such as Color Filters.

It is important to consider the print size.  Can the student read passages by enlarging the print on the screen - using settings and not Zoom?  As a rule of thumb, if the student has to Zoom and scroll across the page, then using auditory (screen reader) is typically the best way to read longer passages.  Zoom is great for spot reading and exploring images, etc. but can be fatiguing (and can be challenging) when reading longer passages!

With all that being said, if the student is young - still learning to read - print and/or braille is critical!  Auditory can be introduced; however, the student should have a solid understanding of reading/writing before auditory becomes a more primary medium.

There are students who do have unique needs and each student should have multiple 'tools in his/her toolbox'.  I'd suggest carefully evaluating your student with different tools for different tasks throughout the day and see what works best in different lighting, time of day (fatigue), for various activities.

 

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