Inclusive technology for disabled students: your questions answered

On our recent webinar on 'Free Training on Inclusive Technology for Students' we shared some of our favourite free and low-cost apps that can help students facing barriers to learning related to focus, note-taking and organisation, time management and mental health.

The webinar was well attended and well received with 100% of those in attendance responding 'Yes' to 'Have you found the information shared on this webinar useful?'. There were a lot of great questions asked by the attendees on the day and we were unable to answer them all. In this blog we respond to your questions about inclusive technology for students. A recording of the webinar is also included below if you missed it, hosted on YouTube.

Content blockers - are they for PC?

A content blocker can help students to stay focused and be present by encouraging them to put down their smartphone or stop looking at their computer screen. There are multiple types of content blockers that work across all different platforms. Of the apps mentioned in the webinar Forest is an app based blocker and will work on both Android and iOS devices (currently £1.99 on iOS). Cold Turkey is a website blocker which can be downloaded on both Windows and macOS.

Can Office Lens capture information displayed on a computer screen, such as a database?

Office lens uses your smartphone's camera with advanced settings to help make photographs of whiteboards and printed documents easier to read. Unfortunately it is unlikely to perform well reading detailed information displayed on your screen. However, if you were to use the Snipping Tool on your Windows computer to capture screenshots of your display, you would then be able to drop that image into an app such as OneNote and annotate in the same way. There are macOS alternatives to the Snipping Tool.

I've personally been using Evernote for years but I'm happy to consider recommending OneNote to students. Evernote is multi-platform, but other than that is there much difference?

OneNote and Evernote are both powerful note-taking apps which share a lot of similar features, including optical character recognition, web clipping and tagging. With all of the apps we recommend it is down to personal preference, trial and error, and seeing what works best for the student. However, we usually recommend OneNote as the must-have note-taking app for students because it is free, flexible and user-friendly. OneNote lends itself to more personalisation, both aesthetically and functionally, with each page in OneNote acting more like a piece of paper, allowing for completely free-form note-taking with text boxes and images being able to be placed anywhere on the page.

OneNote is also multi-platform, available on Android, iOS, macOS, web and Windows. The functionality and aesthetic of the app changes platform to platform. Another bonus for OneNote is it’s ease of use with other programmes in Microsoft Office 365, which is free to all students with a university email address.

Check out the great blog by Zapier for more of an in-depth comparison of OneNote and Evernote.

Are there any apps for promoting more sleep, for students who don't have a healthy sleep/study balance?

There are definitely apps out there for promoting healthier sleep patterns, such as Sleep Cycle, Relax + Sleep Well and Pzizz. Meditation features are common amongst all of them, as well as tracking natural sleep cycles in order to encourage the user to wake up at the lightest points of sleep. Although these apps are advertised as free they all appear to have in-app purchases so you have to pay a subscription to access the meditation elements of the apps.

Any app suggestions for planning/tracking progress of a longer project such as a PhD?

We would recommend you have a look at Trello for a longer project, which is a free collaboration tool that organizes your projects into logical progress boards. In one glance, Trello tells you what's being worked on, who's working on what, and where something is within a process. It allows you to add extensive notes and pictures to each board and you can move notes across boards as you work through each section. Trello works on web, Android and iOS.

Does the SAM app signpost towards local human help (presuming location services are turned on)?

The SAM app is an application that can help students to understand and manage their anxiety. The app does signpost to human help available in the UK, for example the Samaritans, but it does not suggest specific organisations local to the individual. Our research has found this is generally the case across many wellbeing apps, possibly due to the fact that they don’t have the ability to source human help organisations across the whole of the country.

How can the students and staff at my institution learn more about these apps and others/alternatives?

A photo of students around a table with pens and markers, working on a projectAll of the apps suggested have their own websites which typically include supporting information. We also run in-person Tech Demo Day sessions for staff and students in higher education institutions across the UK, where we dive deeper into the functionality of the technology we recommend. These sessions are also an opportunity to tailor the information we provide to meet the specific needs of the students at your institution. We also have more in-depth pieces on OneNote and other tools like Google Keep on our website, highlighting the ways they can help make students’ lives easier. You can find links to these blog posts detailed below as further reading.

Further reading

Watch the recording of our webinar on 'Free Training on Inclusive Technology for Students'

Google Keep hacks for students with dyslexia

Note-taking hacks for students with Autism

Four game-changing apps every student needs at university