Socratic: A Companion App for Learning

a student using headphones while working on her laptop and writing in a notebook

With the advent of the internet, our ability to independently learn and research has grown immeasurably. It’s almost hard to imagine today that students once had to rely solely on textbooks, books, or encyclopedias for research. And while that method might have worked fine for the majority of students, what about individuals with disabilities related to reading, learning, vision, or even mobility? These days we have the technology to ensure that these different learning styles can be appropriately addressed, and with a world-wide shift towards universally designed education and products, learning and studying has never more accessible.

The app that we’re looking at today is a culmination of accessibility and universal design philosophy. Socratic, a top-5-rated education app by Google is the ultimate homework and learning companion for students. Built around the idea of “If you have a question, Google it”, Socratic not only gives users the ability to find information, it also gives users the ability to choose how they find that information, making it a great choice for students who struggle with traditional means of learning and research.

The concept behind Socratic is incredibly simple: ask a question, and Google will attempt to find the answer. But what makes Socratic unique is that the app allows you to choose your preferred method of input. Users can choose between typing, speaking, or photographing the question simply by selecting the appropriate symbol from the bottom of the screen.

The photography option is especially helpful when working from textbooks or worksheets as it allows users to skip the step of re- typing the question being asked. And, from the photography tab, users can choose from a library of pre-made learning content that covers everything from Chemistry to World History.  The voice-to-text option is great for hands free research, and users need only tap the microphone symbol once, speak their question, and as soon as the user is done talking the app will start searching.

After a question has been asked, Socratic will search the web, and display the answer for the user to review. The layout of each answer will differ slightly depending on the complexity of the question being asked, but the app does a great job of putting the most relevant data at the top. For example, if you ask: “What is 2 + 2?”, the top result takes you to, where the answer is broken down and answered instantly. As you scroll down, the results typically get less and less relevant, but still very much related to the question being asked. For a more involved question such as: “What is pathetic fallacy?”, the definition is given at the very top of the page, but this time, YouTube videos are being suggested directly underneath. We tested a wide variety of questions across a few different disciplines, and in each case, Google was able to identify and display the correct answer.  

Socratic is a free app, and it’s available for both Android and iOS. To learn more, click here.

Tags: apps, assistive technology, AT HelpDesk

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