Sunday, September 4, 2011

A happy surprise at the app store

In late July, I had a friend who works in educational publishing contact me asking me for recommendations of reading apps. At that point, all of the reading apps I'd seen seemed to fall into two categories: 1) early literacy apps that help kids learn about letters and letter sounds in an interactive way or 2) crappy or borderline crappy books with crappy or borderline crappy illustrations that a child can read or follow along while it is read to them. The first category seems relevant and appropriate to early childhood educators, which I am not. The second category feels reminiscent of books my mother used to find at the dollar store. Not damaging but not of high literary/educational quality either.

I started to wonder: am I missing something? Is this all there is out there in reading apps? Then one new app caught my eye.

A Shakespeare in Bits app just came out for Midsummer Night's Dream but also have been available for Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet. Each app includes an animated version of the play which you can watch while simultaneously following the text which is highlighted as it scrolls down the right hand side of the screen. There are many other features including a character relationship map, bios for each character, a synopsis for each scene and notes on each scene. Of course a quality app comes at a price; each play is $14.99. Romeo and Juliet is also available in a free lite edition, which I downloaded. The free app has the prologue and first scene of Act 1, so you can get a good sense of the features before deciding to spend $14.99 for the full play. Next year I will be teaching Shakespeare as part of my every other year, multi-age curriculum, and our class will put on one of the Bard's plays in the spring. Once I've chosen which play we are performing, I will consider shelling out for that app.

I hope as I dig around in the app store, I'll keep finding gems like this one. I would love to hear about any reading apps others have found that are worth the time and money.

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