Assistive Technology for Notetaking & Organization

The goal of assistive technology is to increase the "functional capabilities" of a child and that includes help with organization and note taking!

About Assistive Technology for Note Taking and Organization

According to IDEA, the federal law that governs special education, assistive technology is, “any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability.” (300.5

While assistive technology is often thought of as programs for communication, it includes any program that can improve the capabilities of a child with disabilities. That includes for academic skills like organization or note taking! 

I had a student with a traumatic brain injury once who had short term memory challenges. To be successful, she needed a homework planner and a tool to take photos of notes because she couldn’t write fast enough. Because her need was related to her disability, she qualified for tools for each of these– assistive technology doesn’t just mean a speech tool! It includes the tools that children need, because of their disabilities, to succeed at school. 

Districts vary in how students qualify for assistive technology. Larger districts often have a formal assessment process that includes an application. Smaller districts often handle the process more informally. No matter what, what happens is that the assistive technology gets written into the student’s IEP!

In the IEP, most districts include a check box in Special Factors that asks, “Does the child need assistive technology?” If a child needs homework organizers, iPad apps for notes, photos of notes, or any other tools for organization, check yes! Write in the type of program that helps the student. Note that you don’t want to write in the name of a program– write in the TYPE of program (like the name of an app). Programs are always changing and you want to be able to give the student the latest and greatest!

The answer is that some of these programs are free, some are cheap, and some are pricy. Every time you put an appointment in your google calendar so you don’t forget it, you are using assistive technology to supplement your faulty memory. Google calendar can be assistive technology– and it is free! However, other programs do carry a cost. 

If programs cost money and a student needs them as part of their disability, the district NOT the family or the teacher needs to buy them. That is why it is incredibly important to write AT into students’ IEPs! When you do, the district and not the teacher or parent has to pay! And districts are good about billing out the Medicaid so don’t feel too bad 🙂

I include under AT for reading any tool that helps a student access texts. Here are some of the things that I think of as counting as AT for reading (and have gotten written into IEPs!):

  • Magnifying glasses and sheets for students who are low vision (note that I have also used big magnification machines and my students HATED them– but they liked the super cheap magnifying sheets!)
  • Audiobooks and books on tape
  • Text to speech programs. These are programs that read texts to students either because the student has difficulty seeing the text or because they have difficulty decoding the text

Note that I don’t have anything here for comprehension– I use AT to make the decoding part of reading easier but don’t have anything to make the understanding of text easier (I put graphic organizers elsewhere in IEPs!)

Example Assistive Technology Programs for Note Taking and Organization

I wasn’t kidding! You can use a traditional homework planner with a student or bust out Google Calendar! Many students need supports with remembering what homework they have– you don’t have to spend money or reinvent the wheel! Use what works for YOU to remember what you need to do!

For kids without Google, there are to-do list apps and calendars built into every iPad and computer. They let kids keep track of what they need to do and when things are due. All tests and assignment deadlines should be in their calendars to make sure deadlines don’t get missed.

iPad Note Taking:

  • Students can take photos, draw, handwrite, and type on their notes. Noteability is one of the apps that lets you write/draw your notes.

Computer Note Taking:

  • Google Presentations or Google Docs are good places for students to type their notes and add photos. The problem is that they can’t really draw on either and that makes taking math or science notes a lot harder.
  • Students can  also write or dictate their notes using the Read & Write extension .


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