When Apple released iOS 8, it marked the first time iPad had support for custom keyboards. As well as now being able to swipe to type, and add all manner of emojis, it also means you can now have lower case keyboards and more, all of which is very beneficial to learning to type.
Our team has been looking into these apps recently, and have picked out the following three to recommend to primary schools: MyScript Stack, Lowercase Keyboard and Keedogo.
What are these apps?
MyScript Stack (MyScript, free) is a keyboard that lets the user input words by hand writing them, rather than using the traditional keyboard, which is obviously great for pupils who are just learning to write – you just use a finger or stylus to write out each character continuously on top of each other. Once downloaded, you can open up the MyScript Stack keyboard in any app too, which is handy.
Lowercase Keyboard (Matthew Thomas, 69p) is, as you could probably figure out, a keyboard that shows characters in lower case (as well as upper case). It also only uses a simplified set of numbers and special characters, to make things less complicated for young learners.
Keedogo (Assistive Software, £1.49) is probably our favourite and most feature-packed out of the keyboard apps we’ve tried so far, but it does come at a price. Like Lowercase Keyboard, it reduces the characters and symbols on offer to reduce any chance of distraction, features lower case letters and colour-coded vowels, and can be used in any app as an alternative to the standard iOS keyboard.
How are they beneficial to the classroom?
A teacher once cited to our education team that the reason they had opted to move to Android devices in the classroom over iPad was purely for the lower case keyboard that comes as standard on Android devices. iOS has always gone with upper case characters on their keyboard, matching their hardware Mac equivalents. This obviously isn’t a problem for adults, who have had the QWERTY keyboard so instilled in them that they probably find it easy to type and locate the shift key without giving much of a glance at the keyboard.
But if you’re a young learner who’s only just getting to grips with the alphabet, the difference between upper and lower case is massive. That’s why iOS 8’s new support for third party keyboards which offer this functionality has been so beneficial to primary education.
What are the best features?
We like how MyScript Stack lets users add breaks, spaces and even erase letters using just touch gestures. Lowercase Keyboard scores points for using the ‘OpenDyslexic’ font, which has been created to increase readability for readers with dyslexia. And Keedogo offers the possibility to choose either a QWERTY or ABC layout, which could be useful for getting very young learners familiar with the alphabet before teaching the now standard keyboard.
Where can I get them?
You can find all three apps by searching on the App Store on your iPad, or alternatively heading to iTunes to download any of MyScript Stack (MyScript, free), Lowercase Keyboard (Matthew Thomas, 69p) or Keedogo (Assistive Software, £1.49).
Want to know more about our favourite apps and Apple iPad for the classroom? Get in touch with the team on 03332 409 333, email learning@Jigsaw24.com, follow @Jigsaw24Edu on Twitter or ‘Like’ our Facebook page for all the latest technology in education news, reviews and articles.