One of the biggest challenges of incorporating iPads, iPods, and other touch-screen devices into the classroom is figuring out which apps, among the thousands of available possibilities, are best suited for students. This list of applications related to reading and English/language arts offers a jumping-off point for educators who are just beginning to explore apps in this subject area.
Created by: Launchpad Toys
Designed by the Stanford school of education and Zeum: San Francisco’s Children’s Museum, this app helps students practice storytelling by prompting them to pick a setting, characters, and music to tell their own stories. It guides students through the story arc, asking them to fill in a setup, conflict, challenge, climax, and resolution. Once they’ve chosen their characters and setting, the students animate the scenes and record the story with their own voices. Adding the background music can help them decide the overall tone or feeling they want to convey. Stories can then be uploaded to a Web-based network; their creators can earn “badges” based on other children’s ratings.
Created by: Marco Arment
For: iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, Kindle
This app allows users to bookmark websites and articles on their computers, iPhones, iPads, or Kindles to read later. After creating their accounts, users can add a “Read Later” button to their browsers if they find articles they’d like to read in the future. Pressing the button downloads the content, which can be accessed later. The app syncs the articles to a user’s account; they can be read on whichever device the user may have at a later point. Downloading articles through Instapaper allows students to access the material wherever they may be—on the school bus, after class, at home, or at school—whether or not an Internet connection is available.
Created by: Apple
Cost: Free, but the cost of downloading books varies
For: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad
Through iBooks, users can access the iBookstore, which has a variety of e-books available for downloading for different prices. Users can browse books by title, author, or genre, and they may download free samples of books where applicable. After a user buys a book, it appears on the iBooks bookshelf. The app comes with a built-in dictionary, as well as the ability to highlight text and make notes. Users can also change the font type and size of the text and adjust the brightness of the display. The app includes audio or video with the book if the book has such features attached.
Created by: gdiplus
For: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch
Grades: Pre-K and K
This app aims to help younger students learn how to write. Children use their fingers to trace letters and numbers on the screen. Once all the letters in a word are drawn, the program spells and pronounces the word, and then a drawing of the word appears. The student’s handwritten letters then replace the computerized letters, which the child is prompted to shake into the corner of the screen before moving on to the next level.
Created by: International Children’s Digital Library Foundation
For: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
Using StoryKit, students can create their own stories or modify classic children’s stories such as “The Three Little Pigs.” The students can write their own text; illustrate their stories through their own drawings, photographs, or art they create on the screen; record dialogue and sound effects; lay out stories through text boxes, images, and sound clips; and finally add, reorder, or delete pages from their stories. The app was designed at the University of Maryland’s Human-Computer Interaction Lab to explore how mobile devices can be used for creative and educational activities. When students have completed their stories, they are stored in the device and can be sent electronically to friends and family.
Created by: Duck Duck Moose
For: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad
Word Wagon helps young students practice letters, words, and phonics with two animated characters: Mozzarella, a moose, and Coco, a bird. Children move through four levels of difficulty: learning the names of letters, learning the sounds of letters, spelling words of four letters, and spelling words of six letters. Students earn stickers and stars as they progress through the levels. For instance, they drag and drop letters to spell words, and when the letters are in the correct order, the app sounds out each letter and then pronounces the word in full. A picture of the word then pops on the screen. Words are grouped into categories, such as animals, foods, vehicles, numbers, and colors.
A version of this article appeared in the February 08, 2012 edition of Digital Directions as Reading Apps