Edudemic Magazine built for the iPad Educator

The editors at have released their Edudemic iPad magazine, exclusively dedicated to the world of iPad in education. So far, they have published two issues, with Vol. 2 featuring an article written by us!

Download the latest version and tell us what you think.


The article, which we can’t link here because you have to download the magazine into an iPad, is entitled: Toward Meaningful iPad integration and deals with issues of app proliferation, equal access, and the future of app development in the age of Common Core State Standards.


Good Game!

eLearn Magazine, Education and Technology in Perspective published What Makes a Good Learning Game? Going Beyond Edutainment in February of this year.  The author,  Simon Egenfeldt-Nielsen, outlines components in useful buzz words for non-techie educators and the sleek-edu-geeks alike to quickly evaluate the utility of the tons of “learning games” out there when looking for meaningful ways to integrate technology and curriculum.  The buzz words stay with you, and I can see them crossing my mind as I type ready to shoot them down with my semantic knowledge; ready, set, here we go.

1. Substantives – the signifiers and signified – the nouns that set-up the scene,

2. Verbs – the things learners have to do to meet the challenges and get the rewards,

3. Problem-solving – the challenges have to be interesting, and if I may add my two cents, culturally relevant,

4. Rewards – the rewards must definitely be culturally relevant,

5. Feedback – I remember an old mentor always used to say “Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent.”   So be weary of games that do not offer corrective feedback if the educator is not present., and

6. Alignment – while Egenfeldt-Nielsen doesn’t explicitly say to look for games that are tied to standards or even lesson objectives, I am.  If a game has all the first five components without this last one, you might as well just flush your professionalism down the toilet and admit you’re using gaming to baby-sit your class.

That said, Egenfeldt-Nielsen validates drill-and-practice games describing them as a “sound learning principle”.  I use drill-and-practice games aligned to standards and lesson objectives in order to pull small instructional groups for more support toward mastery. (Boy, o boy, a traveling tablet lab would be nice!)

Both drill-and-practice and mission-based games can be used to get that much closer to the Holy Grail of buzz words in education today individualized and differentiation.  So let the games begin!

Mobile Tech in Classrooms Boost English Learners – New America Media

Mobile Tech in Classrooms Boost English Learners – New America Media.

This past summer  New America Media  featured a zapaTECHISTA classroom in a news piece about the benefits and uses of mobile learning devices in a classroom filled with English Language Learners. Jacob Simas and Vivian Po, two reporters for NAM, the collaborative journalism project that brings together over 2000 ethnic media outlets, visited our Hayward, CA 6th grade classroom as the year was winding down to interview students, teachers, and the principal to get a handle on the issue of whether using mobile devices in classrooms can really begin to bridge the digital divide.

Here is a link to the full article:

iPad Hits All Learning Domains

An article  in T.H.E. Journal recently highlighted the efforts of a “newcomer” school” in Illinois that has successfully implemented an iPad program at their school for the specific purpose of getting their students to improve their English language skills before transerring back to their regular high schools. Every student was provided with an iPad at the beginning of the year and, according to the article, they have had great success in breaking down some barriers that many first year English learners encounter when they move to the U.S. (or any other Anglo-speaking country for that matter).

Students at Newcomer School using iPads

According to teachers and administartors, the program has been highly successful in that students are now able to take their iPads home to build academic bridges between the home and the school.  The conclusion that has been reached is that the iPad (as well as its junior cousin, the iPod Touch) is a hit with students and has boosted engagement and success.

While the article cites no data, the conclusion is clear: iPods are great for educating English Language Learners. Here are just some of the benefits:

1. Students are able to record their own reading using audio recording tools (Voice Memos, Voxie), and then keep a record of their reading attempts to compare over time, thus they can monitor their progress in fluency.

A notable app in this category is Toontastic. Students can make their own digital puppet shows, record narration and animate them. The app also instructs the students on a proper story arc so their shows have conflict and resolution, build -up and climax.

Use Toontastic to create your own shows

Q: “What did students do when they didn’t know what a word meant?”  A: they had to raise their hand and ask the teacher.

2.   On-the-go dictionary: If defining words was all that  the iPads and iPods did, they would still be a significant improvement over the traditional  printed and bound pocket dictionaries, which never have all the words you need, nor do these allow the user to see the words used in different contexts like you can with online tools and dictionary apps. The options for word definition on the iPod/iPad are too numerous to list here, but a good start is which is free and available to anyone with a web browser.

3. Handheld Translation: With apps like Google Translate  and ITranslate they can translate English into their own language, including speech recognition features. And with WorldDictionary, by Penpower Inc, students can now point to text directly and have it translated into English or their home language (from Swahili to Croatian ) by simply pointing their iPod camera to a printed word.

3. Reading: Students can read content from a variety of sources, including the Kindle e-reader app that helps students define, highlight, and take notes on the text they read, then share those notes with others. Other notable apps include Stanza and Google eBooks.

iphone kindle e-reader app

4. Listening: Audio books and podcasts have revolutionized the way students can access language. Primary school teachers are used to books on tape in their listening libraries, but why quit after elementary school? English learners can now download whole audio books and follow along the written version. They can pause and replay. Also, there are a variety of language courses, some free, some charging a fee, in the form of downloadable podcasts available from iTunes. While we can’t fully recommend any one podcast at the moment, there are enough reviews out there to point you in the right direction.  And the podcast format also allows students to create the podcasts and then share them with other listeners.

Music has long been an easy and effective way to introduce and develop language skills with second language learners. With the  iPod, which was originally designed as a music listening device, students can listen to songs in English and then find the corresponding lyrics online for a reading/listening experience that they can later discuss  or write about. This has been written about extensively and lesson ideas abound after a quick Google search.

5. Writing: Let’s face it. The writing functionality of the iPod and the iPad has faced criticism from  people who find it too difficult and unnatural. It’s not just folks with fat fingers who complain, but even the petitely-digited can get frustrated at the lack of a physical response one expects when typing. And while using an external keyboard can solve this problem in most cases, this may not be feasible or even affordable for many students or schools.  Still, there are more than enough conventional writing apps like Pages or Notes.  Text can be auto corrected, saved, shared, and uploaded to the cloud via Dropbox.

But beyond simple text editing apps there are a number of interesting apps that combine writing with images and storytelling, which make for more compelling and engaging writing activities. Moxier Collage, for example lets the student use images from the iPhoto library and add text, captions, banners, much in the manner of a collage, which is perfect for students at the beginning to intermediate level.

Moxier Collage lets you make storyboards, greeting cards and collages

Other apps like Notability, Keynote and a host of others allow for the integration of text and images for presentation purposes or for displaying written content in a variety of ways.

With all of these options, and with the portability of the devices, it is clear why so many schools are choosing to purchase iPads and iPods for their classroom. That is not meant to be a plug for Apple, assuming that there are Android developers out there quickly trying to catch up–as they should–to expand the platform in areas where the iPad is lacking.  But for the time being, we can only wait for more of these apps.

For more Reviews check out and Fun Educationl .

And for more stories on schools using iPads in schools see this post on  Technology Bytes and Nibbles.

Another Digital Divide

Students and school administrators are far apart in judging their school’s success in implementing technology, according to this post by the web-tech bloggers at

While the belief that schools were doing a good job of using technology to enhance learning was in the 72-74% range amongst teachers and administrators, that figure dropped to 47% for students who agreed. Part of the disconnect can arguably be attributed to the annoying content blocking firewalls that filter out the harmless along with the heinous content students might want to access. The other factor is undoubtedly the restrictive attitudes most administrators still have regarding the use of personal mobile devices in the classroom.

The times are definitely a-changing, and expectedly, such changes will never happen without pain and complaint on the part of the old generations.

Mobile Devices for Learning

We’ve been hearing lots of talk on the great potential of mobile devices, ie. cell phones, to bridge the digital divide. Proponents, such as Dr. Elliot Soloway, co-founder of GoKnow, suggest that given the portability, accessiblity, and ease of use of these devices, they are likely to be a major force in education.

In the future, zapaTECHISTA will be focusing on these developments with a critical eye. Yes, we see the great potential, and new ideas are being hatched everyday, but we must also be wary of the power and influence of telecommunications giants who might also be interested in these changes and who might view our students as “new markets”.

See this video from Verizon to see what we mean: click me to see!

It is estimated that about 70% of students now own their own mobile devices. It is unclear if this includes ipod touches, or just cell phones, but the reality is that that number is steadily growing. Already we are seeing a variety of efforts to tap into this phenomenon.  Many educators, tech mavens, and even Arne Duncan, the Education Secretary, have weighed-in on the subject.

Here are some issues to consider, besides the aforementioned:

1. With budget cuts bleeding districts dry, are we now outsourcing our technology to students who, presumably, already possess their own phones? And if so, what does it mean for other forms of technology?

2. Can hand-held and mobile technology be used to strengthen  the information loop between schools and the home?

3. And the obvious, what is TOO MUCH in terms of screen time? Are we willing to give up the old paper and pencil? It’s been suggested that future classrooms will spend less and less time teaching kids how to write, and most writing will take place on a keyboard. What are the implications?

4. Mobile phones are great, but they are still very limited compared to a lap-top. Even the zapaTECHISTA favorite, the ipad, still has some way to go before it can be considered a game changer.  With so much content requiring Flash, when will the mobile market move beyond this limitation? We still can’t see BrainPOP, or Livemocha in the classroom.

We’ll look at others in the future. In the meantime, here are some articles to review:

Mobile Devices in the Classroom by    

November 2009  in District Administration

Why Mobile is a Must by Mary McAffrey,  in T.H.E. Journal 2- 8-11