Originally created for students who are blind and dyslexic, Learning Ally has expanded to include support for students below grade level and those with other disabilities and special needs.
In short, Learning Ally is meant to be beneficial for any student who needs a reading accommodation.
For a look at how Learning Ally has helped students in the classroom, the video below shares an account of how the app was used to support the needs of struggling readers at an elementary school in Texas.
In general, Learning Ally is designed to serve at least 20% of the typical student population, as one in five students are classified as struggling readers on average. Learning Ally can serve students on IEP and 504 plans, but can also serve RTI and MTSS students who may not be diagnosed but who need additional support and accommodations.
Within Learning Ally, students have access to 80,000 high quality, human-read audio books. These audio books can be listened to on any internet-enabled device. The books cover a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction topics, and can be paired with print books that students in the classroom are reading. Students using these digital books from Learning Ally can even have matching page numbers as the print copies (making classroom management much easier), provided you have the same ISBN for the print and digital copies.
The overall design of Learning Ally’s mobile reading app is centered around simplicity. Symbols are used instead of words, and the interface is meant to be one where even early elementary students would be able to navigate without difficulty.
Additionally, Learning Ally is based on AAA accessibility standards. Students can modify the reading speed, and the highlight and background colors can all be customized. Plus, students can change spacing, margins, and color of text as well. In short, students have lots of control over presentation and experience.
In addition to these design elements, students can also take notes, and add bookmarks throughout the books they are reading. There is a built in dictionary, and students can create automatic notes around dictionary definitions they find helpful.
After a student has taken notes, or made bookmarks, it’s easy to go back and see those notes and bookmarks across the whole book, or across their entire library. Since Learning Ally also integrates with Google, everything a student takes notes on can automatically be pushed back to their Google Drive. Plus, teachers are also able to see the notes students have made in order to better monitor progress and understanding.
Finally, in addition to the online collection of books, Learning Ally includes online teacher training with the purchase price for all schools. In-person training is available as well for those schools who have a need. In terms of, Learning Ally is a very low cost solution. They offer a per school rate (not per student) that is generally less than the cost of 10 hardcover literature books for a school library.
Overall, I’m a big fan of Learning Ally. They offer an incredibly beneficial service not only for students with special needs and disabilities, but for any student who may need additional support with their reading.
The overall design and interface is easy to use, and I especially love the ability to track notes and bookmarks across a student’s entire library. It’s great that teachers are able to monitor student notes and progress as well, and I am happy to see the inclusion of online professional development. In short, if you’re looking for a tool to help struggling readers of any kind including English Language Learners, I absolutely recommend contacting Learning Ally to setup a demo of their services.
I was not compensated for writing this review.