Our Blog

November 30, 2018 - Updates for iPad and iPhone

This week we released updates to 5 of our apps on the App Store: Special Words, Special Words Pro, Special Stories, Special Numbers and Match & Find. These all now fully support iOS 12.1 and Apple's latest devices, including the new 11" and 12.9" iPad Pro models, and the iPhone XR, XS and XS Max.

Special Words on iPad in Dark Mode

We have also added "dark mode" support to Special Numbers (already supported by the other apps). Dark mode is where the background is black and text white instead of the other way round, and available on iOS 11 and later via the device's Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations > Invert Colours > Smart Invert.

Dark mode isn't just useful in low light conditions, or as a way to reduce battery drain on newer devices with OLED displays: it can be very beneficial for some children with visual impairment. Our apps automatically detect when dark mode has been enabled, and adjust their colour scheme accordingly, as shown hereabove in Special Words.

November 22, 2018 - Important Updates for Android

We have today released updated versions of our Special Stories and Special Words apps for Android. These address a number of issues, including crashing and inability to take pictures or record sound, as well as printing-related issues in Special Stories. Thank you to those who have reported problems.

We strongly recommend all Android users update to the latest versions of our apps on the Google Play Store.

Download Special Stories

Download Special Words

If you have Android 5 or earlier, your device will prompt you to grant all the permissions any app needs in order to install or upgrade it. On Android 6 and later, you have finer control over the permissions granted to each app, and you can manage this from the device's settings at any time.

In order to add content, both Special Stories and Special Words require permission to use the camera, microphone and storage. The updated versions will now ask you for permission when you take a new photo, choose an existing photo, or record your voice (if you haven't already granted these).

As always, if you have any difficulties or other questions, please let us know.

November 2, 2018 - Bett Awards 2019 Finalist

Bett Awards 2019 Finalist

We are thrilled to announce that our app Match & Find has just been shortlisted as a finalist for the Bett Awards 2019 in the 'Special Educational Needs Solutions' category. We designed Match & Find to help train and improve children's working memory. This is where the brain temporarily holds information while it is processing it - you need a good working memory for lots of aspects of mental development, including literacy and numeracy.

In September we released an update for Match & Find which means it is now available on iPhone and iPod touch. You can now use the fun activities within the app wherever you go, without needing your iPad! Find out more about the main changes in our previous blog post here.

The Bett Awards are a celebration of inspiring creativity and innovation in technology for education. They are an integral part of the annual Bett Show, the world's leading showcase of education technology solutions, held in London.

Our Special Words and Special Stories apps were finalists last time round in the Bett Awards 2018.

The winners of the 2019 awards will be announced on January 23. Keep your fingers crossed for us!

September 25, 2018 - Match & Find - now for iPhone too!

We are pleased to announce the immediate availability of Match & Find version 2. For users of version 1, this is a free update.

View 'Match & Find' on the App Store

We designed Match & Find to help train and improve children's working memory. This is where the brain temporarily holds information while it is processing it - you need a good working memory for lots of aspects of mental development, including literacy and numeracy. Now you can use the fun activities in Match & Find on your iPhone wherever you go, without needing your iPad!

Match & Find running on iPhone
Match & Find running on iPhone

These are the main changes in version 2:

  • A fresh new look, more like our other apps
  • Compatible with iPad and now also iPhone and iPod touch
  • Compatible with iOS 12 (still supporting iOS 8 to 11)
  • Compatible with "Smart Inverse Colours" in iOS 11 and 12
  • Child safety gate (parental lock) for links out of the app
  • Bug fixes (including for issues with audio not playing)

The app includes built-in help, and you can find full details of everything it has to offer in its detailed User Guide on our website. Currently-supported languages are English (UK and US), Catalan, French, German, Norwegian, Polish and Spanish.

Download Match & Find Now

View 'Special Collection' on the App Store

Match & Find is also available as part of our Special Collection bundle, which also includes Special Words, Special Stories and Special Numbers, at a reduced price compared with purchasing individually.

Download Special Collection Now

September 19, 2018 - How schools can purchase apps

We have heard from many teachers and schools who are confused by the process of buying apps. To help make things easy and clear, our Sales and Marketing Manager, Dan, has wrote this simple guide on how you can purchase apps through Apple School Manager.

What is Apple School Manager?

Apple recently introduced Apple School Manager which brings managing your devices and purchasing apps together in one place for your schools. It is the new home for iTunes U which allows you to share content, the Device Enrolment Programme for registering your devices with an mobile device management (MDM) system and the Volume Purchase Program (VPP) for purchasing and downloading apps from the Education Store.

Through VPP, when schools purchase 20 or more copies of an app from a participating developer, they are given a 50% discount of the total cost. This means if you're total spend on 20 apps is £300, you will get those 20 apps for £150.

Apple School Manager should help to keep things simple for stressed and over-stretched teachers and admin staff. It gives your school one central place in which to control everything instead of navigating across multiple different logins and Apple ID’s.

What if my School already has a Volume Purchase Programme (VPP) account?

If your school is already signed up to VPP, that’s great! You can continue to use the existing Volume Store. However, migrating your existing VPP account to Apple School Manager is very quick and straight forward.

Migrating your VPP Account to Apple School Manager

Apple have called this Invite your current VPP Account to Apple School Manager.

  • Sign in to Apple School Manager
  • Click Settings
  • Below Institution Settings, choose Enrollment Information
  • Click Invite VPP Programme Facilitator at the bottom of the page
  • Enter the Apple ID of the VPP Account you want to invite

You will receive an email with a link to join your School and you’ll be asked to upgrade account. Click that link, and you're good to go!

Selecting and purchasing apps

If you've managed to get all set up then this next part is truly easy. Well, once you've decided what to buy out of the two millions apps on offer.

  • Search for an app through Apple School Manager
  • Enter the quantity you'd like to purchase. Remember, if you're buying over 20 you are usually given a 50% discount on your purchase.
  • Choose a way to distribute your apps. Select Managed Distribution to assign, revoke, and reassign apps to devices and users through your MDM solution
  • Enter your payment and billing information and the apps are all yours!

If you're looking for an app from Special iApps, a shortcut is to visit our website at www.specialiapps.org from your PC, Mac or iPad (not iPhone), tap the Download for your School badge near the top, and select the app from the drop-down list. That will take you directly to the Education Store page for the app.

Hopefully this guide has helped to demystify the app purchasing process. We hope to see many more schools around the world downloading our apps and using them to make a difference for your pupil's education. If you have any more technical queries, send us your messages to us by email or on our Facebook or Twitter pages.

September 11, 2018 - Communication is a two-way street

Effective home-school communication is an essential part of any child's development. Having these positive lines of communication enables pupils to receive consistency with their education, care and support both at home and school. It can aid their learning, development and overall wellbeing.

Father and daughter using Special Numbers on iPad

At the end of the day, parents and teachers are on the same team. Be open and honest as it allows both parties to share their ideas and create better opportunities for the child. Let your child's teacher know if things are different at home as it could be affecting their behaviour or work within the classroom. It provides them with a better understanding of their pupil's needs and requirements so they are better equipped to meet them.

The same goes for teachers - let parents know if your pupil seems to be having difficulties within school or there are areas of concern. This transparency is all about what's best for the child, it could be that something is working at school and not at home or vice versa. Likewise, make them aware of their child's achievements! Boosting children's self-esteem through positive communication with their parents is an incredible motivator.

A vital aspect of creating successful opportunities for children with additional needs is to establish, and maintain, strong and effective relationships between schools and families. This allows them to develop their skills and continue their learning, regardless of whether they are at home or in the classroom. This is of particular importance for children who have difficulties communicating as they need the people around them to be their advocates to pass on information for them. A child may not be able to tell their family what happened at school that day, what they had for lunch, how they felt, what they enjoyed or what caused them distress. This means communication between home and school becomes even more significant.

There are a number of ways that you can use our apps to develop your home-school communication. They are all simple, effective and take no time at all to use, a great bonus for busy teachers and parent rushed off their feet.

Create a visual diary of their day:

With our app Special Stories, you can create visual stories of what your pupil did at school that day. Capture photos of them completing their work, taking part in group tasks, or even snap a photo of what they had for their dinner that day. These social stories can provide such valuable insight for parents, allowing them to communicate with their child in ways that may have previously been very limited.

Creating stories within the school environment can also help children deal with the anxiety of starting school or returning to school after a long break. It can help them to prepare for the change and become gradually comfortable with an environment over time, rather than confronting a strange place for several hours one day at the start of term. You can read more about how to achieve this in our blog post from last month here.

Parents can also create stories of their child's home life, their likes and dislikes, and who is in their family. This gives their school teachers a way to understand them better and know more about their life. William has used Special Stories since primary school and now continues to use it within his secondary school education. His teaching assistants send home a story of the work he has completed in each class during the day, and in turn we create social stories over the weekend so they can see what he has done at home and talk with him about it during the week.

Adapt their homework:

Not every child will be able to complete their homework using traditional methods. Pen and paper isn't for everyone! With our Special Words app, you can adapt the homework you are giving for the week by creating a new word list with all the things you want them to learn at home. Perhaps you want them to learn a new set of vocabulary, about the seasons or specific holidays, even about the Romans or Egyptians.

We have a number of free curriculum resources for you to download into Special Words Pro which can help support your curriculum and with adapting homework into the app. Find out more about the resources we offer here.

Email communication:

Did you know that you can email content from Special Words and Special Stories? It's one of the many ways to transfer content and a great way to communicate with your child's teacher or your pupil's family. You could send a weekly story of what they have achieved or email completed homework back to school. Emailing content from the app is a way to keep communication frequent and immediate. It's better to know what your child has been doing that day rather than waiting for parents' evening!

Are there any ways you have used our apps to help support home-school communication? We really value all your feedback so get in touch with us through email (support@specialiapps.org) or find us on social media (@specialiapps). You can even email your Special Stories to us, we'd love to see them!

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