Chrome Apps and Extensions for Students With Special Needs

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Read Write Pricing Matrix (as of Feb. 7, 2017)

Recently I was asked to talk about Chrome Apps and Extensions for students with special needs, so I’m leaving my ideas here. I do want to say though that these tools are good for any learner.

1. Read Write. What an amazing tool. The free version offers text to speech which, in my opinion, is the best feature. Note that the paid version comes with all sorts of goodies. I do have to, however, note that the paid version is better to be purchased district-wide. The smaller the group, the most costly.

2. Mic Note. Mic note reminds me a Evernote without the frustration. Mic Note is very easy to use, stores to the cloud, and contains multiple features that make note taking easy. Note that the free version only allows for ten minutes of audio per note, so the student will not be able record long lectures.

3. AdBlock. So Adblock isn’t going to help them learn content, but it reduces distraction. I dislike seeing advertisements all over students’ screens. AdBlock reduces those occurrences.

4. Mercury Reader. Formally called Readability. This app clears the clutter from a website you need kids to read. Let’s face it – digital media is busy. If I have to read multiple pages online, my attention is drawn to all the other text and imagery. Mercury Reader flips the page to a distract-free version and allows the user to change color contrast and font size.

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After you launch Mercury, you can make these changes.


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Grammarly Sample

5. Grammarly. This app catches grammar mistakes but goes beyond just spelling errors. As students type, any mistakes or possible mistakes will be highlighted in a coral color. It is, by far, more accurate than just using spell check in Googledocs. Students should be logged into Grammarly for more free features.

There are LOTS of Chrome Apps and Extensions that can be beneficial to students with special needs, anyone actually. I would caution you against installing 15 of them at the same time. 🙂 There are extensions that cause glitches in Chrome, and it would be easier to narrow down the culprit, if you only tried a few at a time.

Just know that there are great Chrome App and Extensions that can assist students in controlling their own learning. Try a few out. Share with students and be ready to support them through the process. Not all students will not use these tools without your reminders or support. And practice what you preach, right? Use them yourself too! And lastly, share your experiences with your colleagues!


Read & Write for Chrome

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This is what the FREE Read Write tool bar looks like.

Read and Write for Chrome offers annotating built right into Chrome. What an awesome tool!

It’s a tool bar that installs in your Chrome browser so you can annotate or utilize speech to text.

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Free and Paid Features of Read Write for Chrome

The free version does NOT offer the ramped up features you are going to want. For example, you will not get the speech to text features, word prediction, highlighting annotations, or even ability to insert pictures.

You WILL get the following goodies:
1. Text read aloud
2. Translator
3. Fluency tool

All three are certainly helpful, but just a carrot to get you to consider the whole package. 🙂 To make matters more tempting, teachers can access the premium version for free.

Chrome Remembers Where You Left Off

I love Chrome, just love it! One of the many features I adore is the fact that Chrome remembers where I left off. It’s common for me to have eight to ten tabs open by the end of the day. Those tabs often become my todo list for the next day. Thankfully, when I close out of Chrome, my tab selections are remembered on that computer. The same goes when I’m in the classroom. Chrome remembers my open tabs for each computer I use. If you want Chrome to do this, click on the three hotdogs in the top right corner, scroll down to “Continue where I left off.” Whaaaalaaaah!

Gliffy Diagram

I was just reviewing how the TPACK model fits in with Google training, and I thought it would be important to take some notes on that matter. I launched a blank document and started writing. I was quickly thwarted when it came to draw TPACK. Sure, I could have turned to a Google search, but I 1.) like making my own stuff, 2.) wanted it Google flavor added to the model. I started using Google Drawing, but man, that was looking ugly. So, I turned to the Gliffy ad-on. What a nice surprise!

Omnibox Searches Drive Too

I am lovin’ the Omnibox in Chrome this morning. Not only can it execute unique searches, you can use it to search Google Drive. This morning I needed to access a syllabus for my course “Ed Media Apps.” I opened a new tab in Chrome and started typing the first few letters. Whaaallaaah!!! Chrome searches my Google Drive account too. If I were to keep typing, Chrome will eventually stop searching in Drive and just conduct a normal search in Chrome.


I love being able to search Drive right from Chrome. How amazing this that?!

Chrome Extensions Every Teacher Can Use

20150911_094012_resizedChrome is a powerful browser that does more than let you surf the web. Apps and Extensions can increase your productivity and allow for a more fluid, networked experience on the web. First, let’s discuss the difference between apps and extensions.

Apps are basically bookmarks to things you use. For example, I’m an Evernote user. Clicking the app takes me to my Evernote account.

Extensions run in the background of your browser and once clicked, execute something in the browser. For example, I love using the Sharaholic extension. If I’m reading a great article in Chrome, and I want to share it to Twitter, I can click my Sharaholic extension. Upon clicking that, Sharaholic takes that URL and offers to send it to Twitter. The extension executes a function while I’m in the browser.

First, open Chrome, and go to the Chrome Webstore: Search for your chosen app or extension. Notice which it is. This blog post just covers extensions.


Here’s a list of my favorite Extensions:

  • Sharaholic: Share links to your favorite networking outlets.
  • Pearl Trees: Bookmark linkwpid-wp-1441982442363.jpgs and share with fellow users.
  • Evernote Web Clipper: Clip material from the web and store it in your notes.uninstall
  • Speakit: Let speakit narrate for you!
  • Pinterest: Need to send a pin to Pinterest?
  • Google URL Shortner: Shorted long, ugly links to a concise url.
  • Adblock: Block ads on Youtube.
  • Snag it: Grab screenshots of your screen for directions, handouts, et cetera.
  • Screencastify: Record screencasts right in your Chrome browser.
  • Push Bullet: Sends messages to your browser from your cellphone, facebook, etc.
  • Panic Button: I don’t use this, but as a teacher, I’d want to know how it works. 😉

If you end up changing your mind, uninstalling is super easy. Just right click on the extension!

Important Notes:

  1. Be patient. When you switch computers and sign into Chrome, all of those apps and extensions need to install. Just step away for 2 minutes and let Chrome do its thing. Of course, it tends to happen right when you’re supposed to give a speech. :-\
  2. Be choosy. The more extensions you install, the slower your browser runs. I have over 15 installed, and I never notice. Despite that, other folks say that certain extensions bog down Chrome.
  3. Retrace your steps. If your browser starts acting goofy and you recently installed an extension, delete the extension. In the 5 years I’ve been using Chrome, I’ve only had an extension interfere once. It’s a rare occurrence, but worth mentioning.



Participate in the #MWGS Conference From Afar!

Midwest Google Summit

The Midwest Google Summit is the premier event for Google workshops. This year the conference sold out in five hours! Many people that wanted to attend, could not. Despite that bad news, teachers all over the globe will still be able to participate thanks to Twitter and Google+.

On Monday and/or Tuesday, visit twitter and search for the #mwgs hashtag. There you will find the top Google teachers in the Midwest talking everything Google. I promise you’ll 1.) find new people to follow, 2.) connect with amazing educators (Yeah, you should talk to them!), and 3.) pick up great ideas for Google integration that you will need!

#MWGS on Twitter

Midwest Google Summit on Google+

Here’s what you have to do for me:

  1. Jump on twitter during Monday or Tuesday during the day and search for the #mwgs hashtag. You’ll be flooded with chatter! Talk to people. Ask questions. Retweet awesome finds. Follow new people. Bookmark cool finds! Tweet discoveries to your followers using the hashtag #SOE2010, #SOEPDS, or #SOE4090.
  2. Make a stash of awesome stuff you find because of your participation. You could just send all of your great finds to Diigo, Pearltrees, or Pinterest.

When I return on Thursday, I’m going to have you share your findings. Your findings have to come from new people tweeting with the #mwgs hashtag. Trust me, you’ll find an amazing amount of information!


Your mind will be flooded with great ideas. 🙂

Atomic Learning — Check it Out

logo_atomic_learning_medium.pngAtomic Learning is a useful tool paid for by UW-Platteville. It hosts a myriad of training videos on hundreds of topics.

Let’s face it — you can’t learn everything weeks before you need it, right? Some times you have to learn on the fly or “just in time” as folks say now. Atomic Learning can be a valuable resource for that purpose.

Atomic Learning on the iPad — Looks Good!

You will most certainly need to utilize Google Apps for collaboration, but you might not necessarily be in a place where you have time to actually be trained. Sound familiar? It’s so common to be thrust into a new tool with the expectation of learning it on the fly. Get use to it! 🙂 Actually, it’s good for you. The skills you learn from one will transfer, don’t worry. Atomic Learning makes the learning process a little faster.

Atomic Learning has hundreds and hundreds of videos on a wide-range of learning topics, but I am specifically suggesting students study Google videos. Each video is short (less than 4 minutes, for the most part) and is chunked into topics. It’s important to have control over the following Google functions:

  • Google Drive (make folders, share content/folders, upload content, download content)
  • Google Docs and Slides (make documents, share content, publish content)
  • Google Chrome (Sign in, Add Apps, Use it a mobile device)

While you might be thinking, “I have to learn this on the side?”, let me reassure you that it will be worth it. Google Apps will travel with you through the rest of your studies; furthermore, you’ll be able to add these skills to your resume. Thousands of schools in the nation have gone “GAFE,” and teachers with those skills have a competitive advantage.

Let Atomic Learning give you a foundation for success. The videos are short and informative. Unfortunately there is not an Android app for Atomic Learning, but I did notice an iOS app. I downloaded and logged into it tonight and it’s very easy to navigate. If your school pays access, take advantage of the resource.

I’ve found my Task Mastering System

I’ve been struggling with organizing my life for years. I had a day planner by my sophomore year of college. Because I have the world’s shortest memory, if it’s not written somewhere, I’m not going to remember. As I’ve moved away from pen and paper, I’ve struggled finding the perfect to-do system.

I tried several solutions. At first I was using the note app on my iPad, but that leashed me to that one device. Contrary to what some people think, I’m not always glued to my iPad. So I shifted to Googledocs in hopes that would free me up, but that wasn’t the right use of that tool either. Then I moved to Evernote. I made a to-do list notebook and set my computer to open Evernote every morning and I set Evernote to default to that note. Sounds promising, right? Not so much. The checkboxes were clumsy and the table I made to house all my to-do lists looked terrible on my Android phone.

Chad Kafka posted about Google Keep earlier this week. At first glance I figured this was my answer. It looks marvelous! So I started feverishly searching and I couldn’t find wherever Keep was hidden at the time. By accident, I stumbled upon Gtasks in the Play Store.

I was thinking this might be Google Keep, so I installed it on the Android. Some time the titles of apps aren’t always labeled appropriately. Even though this wasn’t Google Keep, I was delighted! Gtasks syncs with my tasks in my Google Calendar. I never use that feature in Google Calendar because one list display looks unhelpful. Now I’m revisiting that feature of Google Calendar. As that was downloading, I started searching for it’s equivalent for my iPad. I was happy to find Gtasks HD. After I installed it, I launched it and sure enough, it sync’d with my Google Accounts.

Now I had to test the final requirement. Could I find the equivalent as a Google Chrome App? That’s usually the clincher for me and often the let down of all my searches. I found Google Tasks Offline. Again, I was pleased to see the app sync with my Google account. With a simple verification code, I was able to sync my events between all three devices!

Here are a few reasons why I love the Chrome app:

  • The page is pleasing to read. The font size is appropriate. The item lines are separated effectively.
  • The tool allows you to set due dates. If I’m going to finish projects on time, I need to set due dates pacing me along the way. These due dates are integrated into my Google Calendar! I almost fell off my chair. I’m so easily wooed, I guess.
  • The due dates can be simply just checked off (and still visible) or actually deleted. I like seeing some of the checked off progress. I suppose that just gives me a false sense of accomplishment, but hey, I’ll take what I can get!


I see there is a paid version of this Chrome app where you can view a “done” log of completed tasks and your calendar is integrated in the app. That looks interesting. I would like to see if my completion dates are recorded somewhere. That would help me track how long it takes me to finish my tasks.

If you’re a task-master (or task-slave, like me), these three tools are your answer.

I’m probably years behind other App and Google Junkies, but I still have to share. I’m super happy! 🙂