Many of you will know that Apple released an update to the operating system of its mobile and tablet devices last week: iOS 8. For schools, this means that anything from iPad 2 and up can be updated to this new operating system. Unlike the move to iOS 7 last year, this update doesn’t make your iPad look any different, but it does still introduce some powerful new features which can make it more accessible for learners who have additional support needs. Below I have covered what I think are the most useful for you to know about.
Now, when you are using the apple keyboard, predictive text appears in a bar along the top. Apple have branded this QuickType, and it makes current and next word suggestions based on what you’ve written previously and the context of the message. You can hide QuickType by tapping and holding anywhere within the bar and pulling down.
Up until now, you could only use the standard apple keyboard across all your apps, albeit in a range of different languages. Now you can install any number of third-party keyboards, too. From my early investigations, I like Keedogo ($1.49 or $1.99 currently as an introductory price, depending on the version you go for and Kiwi (free). Keedogo (made by AssistiveWare, the people behind Proloquo2Go) features a high-contrast keyboard with vowels in red, and Kiwi allows you to choose the colour and font of your keys. I’m sure there will be many many more of these coming out in the near future – do let me know if you find a good one.
Standard keyboard available in new input languages
Now you can input into your keyboard in Marathi, Bengali, Urdu and English (India) if you so desire. Could be very useful for our bilingual learners.
The zoom function has been revamped – you can now zoom to a part of the screen of your choosing, and you can keep the keyboard at its normal size so that you can keep typing normally and easily see what you’re writing!
This feature allows all the text on a screen, not just what has been selected with “speak selection” to be read out with one easy gesture. It should be noted that this does not include menus, folders etc – that would still be done via the VoiceOver function. This is a very useful feature for those with a visual impairment or a literacy difficulty.
Turns your screen from colour to black and white. It also works in conjunction with “invert colours”. Could be useful for learners who have problems with a colour display due to colour blindness, a visual impairment or visual stress.
A feature well-loved by many, guided access has been updated to include a countdown timer and fingerprint recognition – unfortunately, it’s not working on my iPad currently (I am not alone in this) so I can’t give you more details – hopefully this is a bug Apple will iron out soon.
Apple have already released an update to iOS 8, iOS 8.0.2 – please make sure that you have this version installed for optimum performance. Hope you found this round-up useful – do let me know about any other useful iOS 8 features you discover!