4 English and Social Studies Tools You Should Consider

app 300x228 4 English and Social Studies Tools You Should Consider

One of the questions we hear most often from parents of students with learning disabilities that we tutor is “how can I help my student work independently and with less frustration in an English or Social Studies class?”

Keeping clear notes, maintaining organization and developing strong essays are all critical skills for these subjects, and can be areas where students with learning disabilities struggle the most.

As in previous App reviews, we go over four digital tools we think can help give our students a leg up in their English and Social Studies classes. By tapping into their affinity for technology, these applications can help students with organizing their work, taking notes, and drilling /reviewing a wide variety of materials .

1. Outliner by CarbonFin (Apple)

Writing essays can often be a challenge for students with learning disabilities. Organizing their thoughts, structuring the essay and keeping all their points in order can often be challenging, leading to less than optimal grades  particularly in English class.

Learning to outline an essay before jumping onto the actual writing ahead of time can dramatically improve an LD student’s grade. There are a number of apps that can help with this, although many of them can be complicated and somewhat difficult for students to use. CarbonFin’s Outliner is an app that we have  found to be particularly useful and easy to use.

outliner 4 English and Social Studies Tools You Should Consider


Outliner allows students to create bullet point outlines for themselves, typing in information through headings (“Siblings”) and indented sub-headings (“Children”).
A little blue arrow next to each one allows users to add notes to each heading or sub-heading, making it easier to jot down related ideas for later. Outlines can be uploaded to CarbonFin’s web server, which then allows students to log in and access their documents from anywhere or share them. Alternatively, students can choose to upload their outlines to dropbox instead.

Compared to other outlining tools, Outliner is pretty easy to  learn to use, helped considerably by a streamlined and relatively uncluttered appearance.

Organizing and reorganizing headers and subheaders is easy, students just drag and drop them into place. When writing their essays, students can follow along and keep track of what they’ve written, as Outliner allows them to check off completed sections.

There are some drawbacks, however. It does take time to get used to using the system quickly, like most other outline programs. As yet, there is no ability to change fonts or bold items, which can make it hard to highlight important thoughts or ideas. Finally, there is no Android support  so Outliner is only available on Mac and iOS devices.

Devices supported: iPad, iPhone, iTouch

 Price: $4.99

Great for: Students with organizational difficulties, ADHD/ADD

Find it: Here


2. Notes Plus (Apple)

Many students with learning disabilities have a hard time with their handwriting. These problems can range from poor penmanship to dysgraphia and can often cause them to have difficulties keeping their school notes neat and organized. These note taking problems can make detail-oriented classes, such as History ,Civics etc, more difficult than they need to be.


. notesplus 300x215 4 English and Social Studies Tools You Should Consider

Notes Plus is an app that converts handwriting and drawing into typed notes, making it easier for students to take neater notes in class.
Using an Apple tablet (I pad,I touch or I phone) , students can take notes in class either with their finger or a stylus (electronic pen) and the software automatically converts their handwriting into typed notes. They can then save their notes, upload them to dropbox or google docs, or email it to themselves later as a PDF. Students can also import documents as a PDF and work on them directly.

The app has a number of features that make it an useful  tool in the classroom.
The software itself is impressive, converting handwriting to digital notes fairly well in our test and even has a left-hand mode.The app organizes notes into folders and notebooks, making it easy to store and keep track of your notes. It even picks up and converts drawings using its shape recognition algorithm, letting students copy charts and other drawings off the blackboard into their notes more clearly. For example, it picked up our (admittedly poorly drawn) attempt at a venn diagram, converting it into three nicely drawn circles.

Unfortunately, the software isn’t as user-friendly as it could be . It takes a little time and practice to get used to where things are, and the features and options could be made easier to find.
The handwriting to text tool is also an in-app purchase ($1.99) which, while worthwhile, brings the price up to nearly $10.
Finally, while the authors of the app are planning an Android version, it’s iOS only for now, limiting it to Apple iPads and other iDevices.

Devices supported: iPad, iPhone, iTouch

Price: 7.99 +1.99 for the handwriting to text feature

Great for: Students with handwriting difficulties, students with dysgraphia.

Find it in the Apple Store: Here

Two Flashcards Apps for Your Student

If you have a student who is trying to develop a stronger vocabulary or review before an exam , chances are you’ve tried to use flashcards. Flashcards are based on a technique called practice testing, in which the act of calling specific information to mind (like when you’re suddenly presented with a flashcard) strengthens learning and makes it easier to remember that information later.

These types of apps let students flip flashcards for fast feedback on what they  know, then re-study concepts they have not yet mastered. Students can review class notes or vocabulary and use  flashcards whenever they have a minute to spare.

3. StudyBlue Flashcards & Quizzes (Apple/Android/Desktop)

StudyBlue Flashcards and Quizzes is a subscription-based service that lets students build their own flashcards and review material and gives them access to other StudyBlue users’ flashcards.
With only their name, email and school details, students create an account that lets them access StudyBlue either on the web or through its mobile app. Users can create flashcards or study material based around what they want to learn or scroll through other what other users have shared to enhance their learning through the power of the crowd. Students have the option of sharing what they create, or making it private and can also purchase packages of pre-made study materials. flashcard 300x175 4 English and Social Studies Tools You Should Consider The website is pretty simple, with easy to use search functions for browsing user submissions, and making flashcards was fairly simple and straightforward. There are also a plethora of flashcard topics available, ranging from state capitals to AP physics. Students can create or join “classes” with other students looking to review a certain topic together, creating an interactive study environment.

Once a user creates an account, their information is transmitted across platforms, so that flashcards created on the website can be accessed or edited on the mobile app for when students are on the go. StudyBlue Pro also includes a reminder system on its mobile app so that users can schedule when they would like to review.
Unfortunately, StudyBlue encourages users to join its subscription service, which can get distracting, and, ironically, it will repeatedly remind students to tell their friends on facebook not to distract them (the paid version, of course, is ad free).The mobile app seems a bit better than the desktop website as well, being easier to use and less distracting.
Another issue is that material that is over 6 months old is automatically archived and can be a bit tricky to find. Finally, the software, being online, also requires an internet connection, which can limit the locations where you might be able to review.

Devices supported: iOS, Android, Desktop browsers

Price: Free (limited, with apps), $30/year.

Great for: Students with attention disorders (ADHD, ADD), students with delayed vocabulary, students with memory difficulties, visual learners.

Find itHere

4. Flashcards+ (Apple/Android)

Another popular flashcard app is Flashcards+. This is a very simple  and free flashcard application that allows users to create flashcards, or import them from other programs like Quizlet, StudyStack and Course Hero. The app lets students keep track of which cards they know or don’t know.

flashcards+ 4 English and Social Studies Tools You Should Consider

Flashcards+ is designed to look and feel like a real-life pack of ruled flashcards.
Users can customize the look of their cards, with the simple interface makings the app fast and responsive.

Learning to use the program is made quite easy. The user creates whatever he want in each deck of flashcards – terms, definitions, vocabulary etc. The import function of the app allows users to bring in flashcard decks from other online services (like StudyStack or Google Docs), allowing them to quickly build a library across various different subjects.

Unfortunately, the app doesn’t allow users  to easily share  flashcards with friends as it has no real export or social sharing function, meaning all your cards can only be held within the app.
As well  there is  no randomize function as yet, meaning the flashcards are always in order, making self-quizzing a bit less challenging.

Devices supported: iOS, Android

Price: Free with ads

Great for: Students with attention disorders (ADHD, ADD), students with delayed vocabulary, students with memory difficulties, visual learners.

Find it: Here (Apple) or Here (Android)

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