Professor Reyes attended our Tech Tips kick-off workshop, “eBooks, iPads, and Literacy”, and is describing her experience with Subtext, one of the iPad apps covered at the workshop.
“After inviting my Young Adult Literature and Literacy students (a mixed class of undergrads and grads) and having them register on Subtext, I uploaded a short story to my bookshelf, Sandra Cisnero’s “Eleven,” to have them review the text online, and then create 1-2 questions based on the Question-Answer-Relationship strategy that I had taught them. We had gone over Bloom’s Taxonomy and talked about the hierarchy of questions that teachers and students generate about stories and how to support students to ask more critical thinking and complex questions. While the task itself did not quite match the app platform – for example, I thought students could have one, fluid discussion forum sharing their questions somewhere on a blank page, separate from the text, when in fact they could only comment right on the text. After the student commented, you had to click on his/her avatar and a separate discussion that the student began popped open, so that there were several discussions going on throughout the text. Instead, I had students click on and review each other’s comments, and then give each other feedback on the quality of their questions. That seemed to work out better.
- The students really enjoyed the task even though it was a slow start as we figured out the different icons and what they could do and how to get to the bookshelf I had created. Most used the word “fun” or “engaging!” for this lesson.
- A few students who I had observed as quiet at the beginning of the semester seemed to take on a “leadership” role (at least, one of the grad students) as he quickly figured out how the app worked and instructed both me and the other students about how to open up the discussion icon, how to direct the students to the bookshelf, and how to review each other’s comments. On the flip side, I observed a few students who seemed a bit more reticent and nervous about using it. Then I thought it was probably a good idea to have them play around with this new technology, because we would be delving into making book trailers mid semester. Best to have them experience the dissonance a little bit at a time!
- When we talked about how we might use the app with middle grades students, one student described an activity where all the students were reading the text and the teacher would ask them to select and highlight a favorite quote and then students could read each other’s quotations and comment on them. This could also help some of the shy students who might not want to speak up.
- I think you could also use the app for having students identify on their own the different literary elements of a piece of literature especially since it has a “quiz” icon; however, I would be cautious about overusing it as a “testing tool,” and highlighting it more as a social network tool that encourages students to share what they read and fosters a love of reading literature.
As an instructor, I thought it was a cool app and I will use it again especially after I look at all the features. I think it would be a good tool to use with YA literature that is provocative – have a discussion online before making perspectives public.”
Cynthia Reyes is an associate professor in the Education Department at the University of Vermont. Her research interests include identity, literacy, diversity, and foundations.
Our next Tech Tips workshop is scheduled for October 2nd in Montpelier VT, and is an iPad Open House.