As a college student studying data science, I have to have a basic understanding of different subjects and topics so that I can better understand the data I am working with and how to best create a simulation or analyze the data for a given assignment. One of the tools that helps me to learn more about several subjects is the Socratic app, which has become my best friend as I learn more about different topics that I don’t remember or never learned prior to taking some of my college classes. Here is my Socratic app accessibility review, and how to use the Socratic app for learning.
What is Socratic?
The Socratic app is a free app by Google that allows users to ask questions about school work at a high school or university level and get high-quality learning resources from trusted websites in the form of curated search results, detailed explanations, and links to videos. Users can ask questions by taking a picture of the question on paper, using voice search, typing a question/search term, or just browsing through topics. The Socratic app is available for iOS and Android and only requires users to create/sign in to a Google account.
Topics covered in the Socratic app
The Socratic app covers several different topics across core subjects, including:
- Earth Science
- Environmental Science
- US History
- World History
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After users sign in with their Google account, they are taken to the main screen of the Socratic app, which is a live view of the back camera on the device. Users can take a picture of a question by tapping on the center camera icon at the bottom of the screen, or swipe right with one finger to search for information with their voice. Alternatively, users can swipe left to type out a question/search term or swipe down to browse available topics.
After users input a question, Google’s AI technology will display results almost instantly from a variety of sources. If available, Socratic will display a top match at the top of the screen that comes from a trusted source and has a detailed explanation, though if that is not available users will instead first see a question and answer section which shows detailed explanations for questions. Users can also view educational videos from YouTube or other curated results from the web, though it is worth noting that these open within the Socratic app and not the web browser.
One of the other types of content users can browse is Explainers, which give text-based explanations of different concepts, along with illustrations that can learners to better understand the text-based content. While these tend to be very short and to the point, they help me tremendously with being able to better understand equations or concepts, and can also help with refining questions to be more specific if needed.
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Socratic app accessibility for large print and screen magnification
The Socratic app supports Dynamic Text, though there are times when some headings or text is cut off due to the large text size, though this does not affect the usability of the app. All explanations are in large print, however, some equations are not enlarged since they are written in a different font than the text-based explanations. Luckily, these can easily be magnified with the Zoom lens view, along with other graphics, and if needed users can take a screenshot and zoom in to get a better view of the equations.
The Socratic app supports the default system font, though users may need to temporarily shrink the font size when using the app for the first time as the “Sign In” button was cut off due to my large font preferences. Luckily, the rest of the app displays large text well when it comes to explanations, though some headings or equations may get cut off with very large text sizes. Images can be easily magnified with the magnification tool, but I prefer to view images on a larger device such as my iPad.
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Socratic app accessibility for screen readers
I was impressed with the Socratic app accessibility for VoiceOver, as I was able to easily run voice searches and text-based searches and get results in a format that could easily be read by VoiceOver. While the Socratic app does not support alt text for images within its Explainers content, the text captions provide more than enough context for explanations so users aren’t missing out on critical information. Equations are read out loud as well, but for some reason, it didn’t recognize a negative sign in an equation written in an Explainers explanation. However, I was able to figure out based on the rest of the text where the negative sign was supposed to go, and could easily find that information within other sources in the app.
I tested Socratic with TalkBack on a Google Pixel 2, and found that it was nearly identical to the Socratic app accessibility for VoiceOver. All buttons were labeled correctly, and I was able to easily search for information and scroll through results. I had the same problem with negative signs not being read out loud within Explainers, though again this information was easy to figure out from other sources. Since I have low vision, I typically use this app with Select-to-speak instead of TalkBack, as I don’t always need to have a screen reader on, and I have found that this app works very well with Select-to-speak too.
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What I use it for
Some examples of ways I have used the Socratic app for my college classes include:
- Learning more about physics concepts that I will be using for my Python homework
- Getting help with a calculus problem or concept
- Quickly looking up information about a classic book or play that I haven’t read/seen in a while
- Researching a topic that I can use for one of my projects
- Getting definitions for different terms so that I can better get help in an online tutoring session
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The Socratic app is an incredibly helpful tool for students who are in traditional and virtual classrooms, and I am glad that the Socratic app accessibility settings work well with a variety of assistive technologies. While I don’t recommend using Socratic on a test, it’s a great tool for studying and completing homework, as well as gaining a better understanding of different topics.