Category Archives: iPad

The Presidency (pre-election) ebook now available!

The History of The Presidency

A limited edition ebook for today’s tech-savvy student

ap-preelection-presidency-cover-092116Contemporary classrooms ought to represent contemporary students—students born of the New Media Age. In the past, students learned dense subjects like science, history, and math from standard textbooks. Today, publishers are creating interactive, educational resources that compliment traditional textbooks and grab students’ interest to encourage learning.

Together the Associated Press and Green Light Learning Tools have created The Presidency (pre-election), a multimedia overview of the U.S. presidency, that does just that—connects students to the content to encourage learning. In an innovative approach to marrying news coverage and curriculum, students can not only read about the executive branch and presidents but also directly hear the words and see video of the presidents as they learn about them. The Presidency (pre-election) features award-winning photos and video culled from AP’s rich historical archive, and it pairs them with clear, succinct, age-level appropriate explanations.

Students have information available at the touch of their fingertips—literally! With the swipe of a finger students can access videos, presidential debates, interactive timelines of the U.S. presidency, quizzes, and slideshows.

The ebook is primarily for students in grades 4–8, but is a valuable resource for anyone interested in the presidency. It also includes a glossary of academic terms and their definitions and three chapters—The Executive Branch, Electing a President, and Election 2016.

The Presidency (pre-election) is available for download on iTunes for $5.99, and is compatible with Android devices, the iPad 2 or later, and the iPad Mini.

Coming Soon!

ap-postelection-presidency-cover-092116Stay connected with Green Light Learning Tools via Twitter and/or Facebook for news about the release of The Presidency (post-election), an updated edition that includes the outcome of the 2016 election as well as the new president’s inauguration speech.


The Best Special Education Apps for Teachers

by Mary Kate Dempsey

special education apps for teachers

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee |

Tablets and phones can be a huge asset for teachers working with students with special needs. Technology allows teachers to work with students at their ability levels. Below are some of our favorite apps for the special education classroom. 

Dragon Dictation (free – iOS only, similar apps are available for Android)

Speech-to-text apps are great for students who struggle with writing or typing. Dragon Dictation is one of the easiest to use and most accurate. All you have to do is open the app and speak into it. Once the app transcribes your words, you can edit it if needed and share through email or paste it into Google Docs.

Pocket Pond 2 (free – iOS and Android)

Have a student who gets overstimulated easily? Try Pocket Pond. Calming music plays while koi fish swim around a virtual pond. Students can play with the fish until they are ready to rejoin the class.

iReward ($2.99 – iOS)

iReward is a useful app that tracks tasks for students to accomplish to earn a set reward. The app supports multiple users, making it perfect for the classroom.

Time Timer ($2.99 – iOS, $0.99 – Android)

An easy to read and highly visual timer that shows how much time is left in the event in red and the time passed in white. This app is great for time management in any setting, classroom or otherwise.

SoundingBoard (free, with in-app purchases – iOS)

SoundingBoard uses symbols to help teachers and students who are nonverbal communicate easily. Crucially for teachers, the app supports multiple boards for use with different people. It comes pre-loaded with 20 symbols, and each in-app purchase after is $0.99.

Nulite Behavior Tracker ($19.99 – iOS)

Yes, this app is expensive, but it has excellent features that make it worth the upfront cost. Nulite is an app made especially for special education teachers that tracks student behaviors with date, duration, and notes for each student. The easily exported generated charts and graphs are great for sharing with parents and administrators.

Do you use apps in the classroom? If so, what apps do you use and would recommend to other special education teachers? Let us know in the comments!

4 Great Vocabulary Apps for ELL Students

by Hope Morley

vocabulary apps for ELL students

Image courtesy Stuart Miles |

Most students (and adults!) acquire new vocabulary through reading, writing, and listening. For many English language learners, that isn’t enough. Direct instruction of vocabulary can make students into better readers, writers, and thinkers. Here are four apps you can use to support vocabulary instruction for your ELL students.


Middle, High School | Website, iOS, Android

Vocabla is available as either a website or a free iOS/Android app. The app allows you to create lists of words you want to learn, has you practice with digital flashcards, and then quizzes you. If you don’t want to create your own lists, the library has many lists ready to go. Students can choose a native language or choose “other” for an English-only experience.


Middle, High School | Website, iOS, Android

Like Vocabla, StudyBlue is primarily an online flashcard creator. Teachers can create flashcards for the class or have students create flashcards from their own reading. There are also collaboration settings for small group work. StudyBlue has public lists of words, but they aren’t as robust as Vocabla’s library. Use StudyBlue if you want the most control over the words your students study. (Bonus: It syncs with Evernote!)

English First High Flyers Vocabulary Game

Elementary, Middle School | iOS

This fun iPad game contains both flashcard levels with audio and testing games. The audio helps students with the pronunciation of new words. The app is easy to navigate, allowing for students to guide themselves through their practice. It unfortunately doesn’t have any user options, which makes it difficult to save progress in a classroom with shared iPads.

My Words American English

Elementary | iOS ($1.99)

This app covers basic vocabulary in categories like body parts, colors, and transportation, which means it’s best for kids just starting out with English. The games and quizzes are fun, and the animations are well done. The design is aimed at younger audiences, so this app is not recommended for beginning ELLs older than fifth grade.

What vocabulary tools do you recommend for ELL students? Tell us in the comments.

Hope bioHope Morley is a consultant and social media coordinator for Green Light Professional Development. She writes about social media, conferences, and anything else on the web that helps both students and teachers learn. Follow her @GreenlightLT

Integrating Multimedia: Drawing and Movie-Making Apps

by Jonathan Laxamana

drawing and movie apps

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap at

An underrated benefit of the Common Core State Standards is their emphasis on using a variety of media and formats to present content. This challenges students to think beyond the written word as they engage with class material in a creative and enjoyable way. Multimedia can be especially valuable for students who struggle with reading and writing, but every student stands to gain from extra visual and auditory elements in the classroom.

For younger students, drawing on paper has numerous benefits, ranging from strengthening hand-eye coordination to learning how to express ideas and feelings. Drawing on a tablet pushes this development to the next level as students also develop technology skills.

For older students, multimedia offers the opportunity to hone presentation skills while simultaneously collaborating with peers. Some video curricula recommend sharing student-made videos on the Internet (with parental permission, of course) so students can engage in a worldwide dialogue as they learn.

We recommend these (free!) apps to help students integrate multimedia drawing and movie-making into their schoolwork. 


Kids Doodle (Android, Apple: Free)

This app is great for younger students because it’s easy to use. Kids Doodle allows users to sketch on a blank canvass, or you can import photos for students to draw on. Kids will especially love this app’s neon and rainbow brushes, which help make their work extra colorful and vibrant. You can also play back students’ drawing steps like a movie, adding an animated element to their drawings.

Drawing Desk (Android, Apple: Free)

Students of all ages can use this app that offers different modes tailored to different projects: Kids Desk, Doodle Desk, Sketch Desk, and Photo Desk. Kids Desk allows younger students to create with a variety of colors, stamps, 3-D brushes, and even a magic wand. Doodle Desk is also great for younger kids because it features stickers and allows you to import images for students to work on. Sketch Desk features more advanced tools for older students, and Photo Desk is designed for photo editing.

SketchBook Express (Android, Apple: Free)

This app offers a variety of different drawing tools, colors, and functions, which make it especially engaging for artistic students. It’s a little less intuitive than other apps, however, which makes it better suited for older students. 


Magisto Video Editor & Maker (Android, Apple: Free)

This fun app turns videos and photos into a movie, complete with music and visual effects. It also can analyze videos and photos, and even splice them together for you, making it a favorite among beginners. Also available as a Chrome extension!

PicPlayPost (Android, Apple: Free)

Kids will love this movie-making app because it allows them to integrate any of their own photos, videos, music, or GIFs into a full multimedia feature. Users can select a template, as well as choose from a number of Instagram-like filters and effects to perfect their images. PicPlayPost is the ideal app for making and editing creative montages that feature both photos and videos.

VivaVideo (Android, Apple: Free)

This app works like a video camera and allows users to turn their videos into professional-looking movies. One noteworthy element of VivaVideo is that it supports multi-capture modes, including normal, widescreen, fast-motion, and slow-motion. It also features stylish video effects, such as themes, filters, and transitions, all of which are completely free.

Do you use these or other media apps in your classroom? Let us know in the comments!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJonathan Laxamana is Technology Manager of Green Light Professional Development. He has more than ten years of experience in producing educational software products, video, web-based content, and mobile apps. He writes about new hardware and software, troubleshooting tips, and everything iPad.

Back to School: Apps Every Student Should Have

by Helen Beyne

back to school best apps

images courtesy digital art/luigi diamanti |

It’s a brand new school year, one that is full of opportunities. It’s time to make use of the best back-to-school apps that not only will make life in the classroom easier but also will help students become more organized and study more effectively.

The following is a list of mobile apps for elementary, middle school, and high school students. Many of these mobile apps are free and can be loaded onto your students’ devices as they head back to school.


iOS, Free

ScratchJr allows young children (ages 5–7) to program their own interactive games and stories. As children are learning how to code, they are simultaneously designing projects and learning how to problem solve.

SlateMath for Kids

iOS, Free

SlateMath for Kids uses engaging activities, which are aligned to the Common Core State Standards, to teach young children foundational math skills so they are prepared for kindergarten and first grade math.

Britannica Kids: Solar System

iOS, $4.99

Britannica Kids: Solar System is part of the Britannica Kids series. It allows students to learn and play as they explore the solar system. The app features stunning images, engaging videos, informative text, and fun games about the solar system. If you want to assess how much students know, you can use the quiz feature to test their knowledge.

National Geographic World Atlas

iOS, $1.99

National Geographic World Atlas delivers stunning, high-resolution map images to give you the best viewing experience. You can spin the interactive 3–D globe and zoom in on different areas of the world. The infographics allow you to see each country’s flag and learn fun facts about different countries. 

PopGeo USA Geography

iOS, $.99 

PopGeo is an engaging way to learn the geography of the United States. You can use this game to learn where the U.S. states, state capitals, major cities, and National Parks are located. The goal of the game is to travel as far as possible by dragging the targets to the correct location.

Google Drive

iOS and Android, Free

Google Drive provides free tools to take notes, write papers, create spreadsheets, and build presentations. It is also perfect for collaborating, since anyone in a group can work on it from any device.


iOS, $2.99

Notability is a great app if you need to write, illustrate, or record. It also allows you to complete worksheets, type an essay, create an outline, and insert pictures and links. One of its best features is the playback option, which allows you to replay your notes, since every note you take or sketch you make is linked to the audio recording. Another useful feature is the search tool, which allows you to quickly find notes by title or content. You can organize your notes by subject and back up all of your work to Google Drive or Dropbox.


iOS and Android, Free

gFlash+ allows you to create, download, and manipulate as many flashcards as you want for free. You can also easily share them with your teachers and classmates, making this app a must-have study tool.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

iOS and Android, Free

Merriam-Webster Dictionary allows you to look up words and their definitions and even teaches you how to say the words correctly. It also includes example sentences, a voice search, and a thesaurus so that you can find better words to use in your papers.

Learner’s Dictionary

iOS, Free

Learner’s Dictionary by Merriam-Webster Dictionary is designed for English language learners. It provides the tools to master both written and spoken English.


iOS, Free

AccelaStudy is award-winning language software that uses spaced repetition to help you master a language in the shortest amount of time. It includes thousands of vocabulary words, flashcards, and quizzes so that you can assess your progress as you learn.


iOS and Android, $2.99

Wolfram Alpha allows you to search for information from thousands of domains. The software, which Siri uses to answer questions, turns any device into a supercomputer.  When you ask it a question, it gathers detailed answers so that you don’t have to do the work. It also includes a problem generator that allows you to practice solving problems.

Khan Academy

iOS and Android, Free

Khan Academy’s app features more than 4,200 videos. Its extensive library contains content for all grade levels and covers a variety of subject areas, including math, science topics, and the humanities. The app also lets you create playlists and tracks your history so that you can easily access previously viewed content.

Literary Analysis Guide

iOS, $2.99

Literary Analysis Guide is a literary reference guide. It arranges literary elements around poetry, prose, and rhetoric to help students better understand the effect of literary elements on style and meaning. Clicking on a literary element reveals its definition, examples from literature, and questions to ask about how the device is used in the literature you are studying.


iOS and Android, Free

This Shakespeare app includes the complete works of Shakespeare. It allows you to customize your reading experience and jump from one scene to another. Each scene is broken down to provide you with a detailed overview of the scene in each play.

Graphing Calculator

iOS, $1.99

Graphing Calculator turns your device into a high-resolution scientific calculator and function plotter, making it a must-have for any high school student.

Helen bioHelen Beyne is a consultant for Green Light Professional Development. She has years of experience in creating innovative curriculum materials in reading, ESL, science, and social studies. She writes about IWBs and free online resources for teachers.

The Best Apps for Learning Spanish

by Jonathan Laxamana

learn spanish iPad app

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

The two main questions you probably ask yourself when considering buying a new app are What does the app do? and Is the app worth the cost? When buying an app to learn Spanish, however, two more important questions should be added: Who is the app for? and How old is that learner?  With these questions in mind, we searched the App Store and chose the best iPad apps for Spanish learners of all ages and experience levels.

For Beginning Readers

Rosetta Stone has a series of apps that help new readers learn English and Spanish at the same time. These apps combine English reading skills with Spanish speaking skills so that children and other beginners can improve literacy on multiple levels while playing colorful, engaging games. You might expect a steep price tag—especially since Rosetta Stone software remains one of the most expensive language programs—but Rosetta Stone Kids apps are free!

For Independent Learners

Mindsnacks has done a great job of creating a game-based app for independent learners. It takes the immersion method to the next level by adding quests, challenges, and achievements to game-based instruction to keep learners motivated. The Spanish version features nine minigames that teach more than 1000 words and phrases. At $4.99, the app is a little pricy, but the games are fun and effective enough to be worth the cost. You can also download a free trial lesson before buying it.

For Adults

Living Language is another big name in the language game. Their Spanish app takes an entire language course and distills it into manageable lessons. This app gives the most formal instruction, helping learners understand the rules of the language in addition to recognizing basic words and phrases. The Living Language app is a lot less flashy than most game-based apps, but it does include some games and other exercises. The cost—$3.99 for one level of instruction, or $9.99 for all three—puts it on the expensive side, but for an app that mimics the instruction of a college-level course without the cost of tuition, it’s more than reasonable.

Best Overall

Of all the languages apps explored, Duolingo is by far the best. An immersion-based app, Duolingo uses games as the primary method of instruction. What sets it apart from the pack is that it includes opportunities to improve reading, speaking, listening, and writing skills. Unlike other language apps that focus on language recognition, Duolingo teaches you how to generate words, phrases, and sentences in your new language. Its website is also a helpful tool; it encourages collaboration and competition with other active learners through message boards, translation activities, and head-to-head duals. The website also syncs with its app, so you can pick up exactly where you left off no matter what device you’re using. Some of the vocabulary might not be appropriate for younger students—for example, one of the sentences I was asked to translate was “El oso bebe cerveza”—but for older kids, teens, and adults, this fun, engaging app cannot be beat. The best part? Duolingo is absolutely free!

Jonathan bioJonathan Laxamana is Technology Manager of Green Light Professional Development. He has more than ten years of experience in producing educational software products, video, web-based content, and mobile apps. He writes about new hardware and software, troubleshooting tips, and everything iPad. 

Apps for Students with Special Needs

by Jonathan Laxamana

apps, special needs, iPad, managing behavior

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici |

All teachers are challenged with meeting the different needs of the students in their classrooms. Perhaps one of the most difficult challenges is crafting effective and engaging activities for students with special needs. At the heart of knowing how to engage students with special needs is knowing not just their particular needs, but also their idiosyncrasies. Knowing a student loves music, for example, might prove helpful when trying to teach him or her new words.

Technology, especially iPads, can provide teachers and paraprofessionals who are aware of their students’ needs, abilities, and idiosyncrasies with more tools to instruct and engage their students. There are number of ways educators can use iPad features and apps to help improve their instruction:

iPad Features

Guided Access ensures that a student can complete an activity within an app without accidentally exiting the app.

Voice Over can help students to navigate the device and its apps with voice assistance.  The typical gestures used with an iPad are modified in this mode, but it can prove helpful for students with visual impairments.

Speak to Text is simpler to use if you simply want a student to hear words that he or she is having trouble pronouncing. The student can select a word or paragraph to hear it read as it is highlighted.

You can also modify the iPad in other ways to suit your students’ needs using its Accessibility features, including changing the font size and reversing its colors.

Modifying Behavior

Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame (Free) includes activities that help students learn how to calm down when they are frustrated and develop a plan to solve their problems by “helping” a monster to do so.

Communicating with Others

Verbal Me (Free) includes letter sounds, numbers, and images of things like seasons, food, and feelings to help students communicate. By tapping an image or even typing a word or sentence, a student can communicate what he or she thinks, wants or feels to others.

Learning the Basics

I See Sam (Free) helps students to develop phonemic awareness. Students practice new sounds and words before reading a simple book. Teachers can have their students listen to a sound or word, record themselves saying the sound or word, and then play it back to hear themselves saying the word.

Articulation Station does precisely what it sounds like it does. It helps students to articulate sounds. However, it does much more than that. It helps students to practice those sounds by practicing words paired with images, in sentences, and in stories.  The free version only includes the one letter. Each additional letter is $2.99.

See.Touch.Learn. helps students learn to recognize a wide range of things—letters, numbers, colors, food, animals, body parts, and emotions.  Some sets of cards are provided for free, but you can buy additional sets of cards for about a dollar or two per set.  You can also create a series of cards to teach the students the skills however you choose.

Bitsboard offers students a number of games that help them to learn many concepts like emotions, actions, jobs, and characteristics. Students can view flashcards, answer true-false questions, play a matching game, or even do a word search to reinforce the meaning and spelling of words.

These are just a few basic (and free) tools you can use to help you put the iPad to good use for your students with special needs. There are many other apps available, some of which can be expensive. You should evaluate the more costly apps’ usefulness knowing the idiosyncrasies of your students.

Jonathan bioJonathan Laxamana is Technology Manager of Green Light Professional Development. He has more than ten years of experience in producing educational software products, video, web-based content, and mobile apps. He writes about new hardware and software, troubleshooting tips, and everything iPad. 

App Review Sites… Reviewed

by Jonathan Laxamana

App Review Sites... Reviewed

Review sites look for five-star apps in a swirling galaxy of content. | Image courtesy Blake Patterson / Flickr

There are a million apps in the Apple App Store (a million!). For busy educators, what’s the best way to find an iPad app that you can trust will meet your needs and be appropriate for your students? Should your first stop be the App Store? Maybe. It does offer an education category with collections of apps clustered by grade and by topic, and it offers featured and best-of lists—but the apps topping those lists are primarily determined by download volume, not reviews. Before you rush headlong into the App Store, check some review websites. Here are our favorite app review sites for K–12 iPad apps. To honor them, we gave each its own review.

1. Graphite (Common Sense Media)

Common Sense Media—a California-based advocacy group for digital safety and media policy for children—produces Graphite.
Pro: The website is well designed and navigable, containing punchy blurbs under an array of headings that make it easy to skim and scan to get the information you want without investing a lot of time reading narrative reviews. Metadata fields for every atomized detail you’d want (platform, grade, standard, etc.) make a trip here immersive once you get searching. This site’s organization, search-ability, and its Field Notes from teachers make it the best site in this space.
Con: I give up looking for one.
Rating: 5 stars
App review site starApp review site starApp review site starApp review site starApp review site star

2. Appo Learning (Appolicious Inc) [web] | [App]

This Yahoo-affiliate produces expert reviews organized by course. In addition to the website, there’s an app (a very good one).
Pro: Subject matter experts write the reviews, which prove a good read. (They are also well contextualized with subject area information and notes comparing similar apps.) The organization is clear and helps you dive deep right away. The website design looks dated, but the app is gorgeous.
Con: Search by standard is lacking, but there’s plenty else to give you a reason to view both the website and app.
Rating: 5 stars
App review site starApp review site starApp review site starApp review site starApp review site star

3. Apps in Education (Greg Swanson)

This Australia-based blog from Greg Swanson, a senior eLearning specialist, features thumbnail reviews of apps as well as topical features.
Pro: Well curated and frequently updated, this blog has a nice tone to the review copy plus being information-rich. Its listing of Speech-to-Text apps is a must-see. In addition to coverage of the subject areas, feature posts on such cross-subject topics as Editing Video on your iPad include excellent how-to videos. Helpful comments from visitors add further value to the site.
Con: You need to dig into the copy to find grade and standard connections, but that’s no reason to skip a trip down under to this blog.
Rating: 4 stars
App review site starApp review site starApp review site starApp review site star

4. iPad Apps for School (Richard Byrne)

This is a blog from Maine-based educator Richard Byrne, who also produces a valuable blog on free edtech resources.
Pro: Visually stimulating, this blog presents as variable-column hypertext that invites you to keep searching and finding resources you may not have first realized you were looking for.
Con: The site is inviting and searchable, but you have to get to know it to find what you need. It’s worth a try to see if the schema matches your searching (i.e. learning) style.
Rating: 4 stars
App review site starApp review site starApp review site starApp review site star

5. APPitic (App Lists for Education)

This resource from a consortium of Apple Distinguished Educators includes a multitude of search pathways and ancillary resources.
Pro: You can search by learning style and Bloom’s Taxonomies, and you can even translate results into 19 languages within the site. This group has a strong presence across the major social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, etc.) with related reviews and content.
Con: Finding reviews takes a bit of wending through drop-down menus with additional curricular resources (although those curricular resources are a plus of this outlet.)
Rating: 3 stars
App review site starApp review site starApp review site star

6. iPads for Education (Victoria, Australia)

This website, maintained by the Victoria, Australia, department of education, contains thumbnail app reviews alongside long-form case studies.
Pro: The reviews are brief and formal and include good cross-references to related apps. The mini-white-paper case studies and ancillary material are a step away and worth reading for apps you want to integrate deeply into your curriculum.
Con: Common Core State Standards and specific grades aren’t logged for the apps, but this Australian site is impressively comprehensive and an important stop in your search to find your go-to search sites.
Rating: 3 stars
App review site starApp review site starApp review site star


In summary, give them all a try! If you want brief capsule reviews, start with Graphite, Apps in Education, and iPad Apps for School. If you want longer-form material and more scholarly grist for your search, start with AppoLearning, Appitic, and iPads for Learning

Are there other review sites focusing on K–12 apps that you’ve found helpful? Please add a comment. I’d like to discuss and continue this thread—you can use the Leave a reply link at the top of this post.

Jonathan LaxamanaJonathan Laxamana is Technology Manager of Green Light Professional Development. He has more than ten years of experience in producing educational software products, video, web-based content, and mobile apps. He writes about new hardware and software, troubleshooting tips, and everything iPad.

Free Apps We Love: Sketch Pad 3

by Jonathan Laxamana

Sketching apps can be valuable visual learning tools in your classroom. For example, students can quickly create and share diagrams and other images in an engaging way on their iPads.

Sketch Pad 3 is a free app with many useful features. The app’s drawing area, or canvas, now has an unlimited writing space thanks to its scrolling capacity. The color swatch includes six basic colors in addition to black, and there are four pen sizes to choose from. Sketch Pad 3 features a toolbar to add emoticons to drawings as well as a track pad to reposition images. As with many other apps, you can use your thumb and a finger to spread or pinch images to change their size. The palm rest, which allows you to rest your palm on the screen without leaving marks, is another appealing option.

Here are some of the toolbars and other features Sketch Pad 3 includes:

Sketch Pad 3

Screenshot of Sketch Pad 3 in action. We covered most of the ad banner with the floating toolbars. The palm rest is in the bottom right, but can be switched for left-handed people.

The app can save images in either .jpg or .png format, and there is an option to email images as well. An autosave feature is another plus. The paid version of Sketch Pad 3 includes additional tools, such as a flashlight, alarm clock, audio recorder, and barcode scanner.

Some ideas for using sketch apps in your classroom:

  • creating graphic organizers
  • taking notes
  • working through math problems
  • listing homework assignments
  • brainstorming with visuals

Below are a couple of helpful tips from

  • To erase the screen more quickly, pinch the image to its minimum size and erase that iteration of the image.
  • Make the advertising banner disappear by turning off WiFi. Or you can cover up the banner with the floating tools palette.

To see the app in action, check out this helpful screencast from the app designer.

Jonathan LaxamanaJonathan Laxamana is Technology Manager of Green Light Professional Development. He has more than ten years of experience in producing educational software products, video, web-based content, and mobile apps. He writes about new hardware and software, troubleshooting tips, and everything iPad. 

3 Must-Haves for Interactive Ebooks

by Luz Chavez

Interactive ebooks on iPad

Image courtesy of adamr /

Trying to practice fluency in a bustling hallway with kids whose ages have yet to reach double digits takes skill. And an iPad. The iPad mini is my hook, a way to keep the kids engaged and give them something to look forward to in our next session.

Choosing the iPad was easy. The kids were already intrigued with my iPhone and Macbook, two tools I used to time their read-alouds and calculate and track their CWPM. What wasn’t easy was finding the right apps worth gobbling a slice of my 16 gigs. As a fluency tutor in a dual language school, I need a variety of ebooks in Spanish and English (preferably both) for second and third graders. The App store has hundreds of them. So to guide me through the haystack, I needed to come up with some strict criteria:

3 Must-Haves for Any Interactive Ebook

1. Storytelling trumps interactivity.

If you wouldn’t read the story in print form, don’t waste time downloading the app. Students need to be engaged because they are reading a compelling story, not poking their way through a shnazzy app.

2. Interactivity has a purpose.

Interactivity either moves the story forward or plays a subtle role in piquing readers’ curiosity without distracting them. That’s a fine line to walk. Think of a good interactive reading app as a digital pop-up book. Creative pop-ups blend in with the story and enhance readers’ comprehension of the story.

3. Students can choose to read aloud or listen to the story.

Having this choice allows you to use the app with a wider range of readers. For example, while more fluent readers can jump in and answer comprehension questions, less fluent readers can hear the story several times before attempting to read it on their own. Watch out for apps that use automated voices; choppy robotic voices are exactly what we don’t want kids to model! Also, find apps with built-in read alouds that highlight the words as they’re read aloud. Having the option to record is a feature kids love!


My Favorite Interactive Ebooks

The pickier you are about sticking to these criteria, the more delighted you’ll be when you find some real gems. Check out a few of mine:

1. Who Stole the Moon? This award-winning app includes 17 languages, a must-have for any teacher with a diverse EL population. The engaging story, vibrant illustrations, and subtle intuitive interactivity make this ebook my all-time fave.

2. The Adventures of Peter Pan This ebook includes 7 languages and has a built-in movie that can be turned on and off, words that are highlighted as they’re read aloud, pop-up images that illustrate vocabulary and characters, and even a font tool that lets you select the font most comfortable for the reader. The developer Chocolapps has a variety of books in a similar format available in multiple languages.

3. The Dog and His Reflection This is another award-winning app based on a popular Aesop fable and includes interactivity that enhances the story. It’s only available in English, but this lovely app is still high on my list. Anything by developer Mindshapes is a winner.

Check out these ebooks and let me know what you think! Share some of your faves as well!

Luz Chavez is a consultant for Green Light Professional Development.