iPads in Class. Meaningless fun or meaningful learning?

In the article ‘iPads and Kindergarten’ by Matthew Jones, key issues of technology and multi-literacies are discussed particularly regarding students of NESB. Research into childhood development has shown that ‘play vastly enhance[s] language development’ (Miller & Almon, 2009 in Jones, 2012, p.32) and Jones uses tried examples of how he has implemented play based learning, technology and literacy in cross-curricula learning. By drawing on the familiar world of children, that of popular culture (in particular Play School), Jones has demonstrated that this type of learning has the added element of engagement.

Using the ‘Play School Art Maker’ iPad app allowed children to use familiar representations of character and interactively produce characters in different settings and costumes that reflect a particular studied text and retell the story. Using the iPad to do so, the kindergarten children learned how to bring the core of texts to life by discussing key points in the text with their peers (which allows for development in summarising and recognising the main structure of a text).

Jones did this by having rotations in which ‘three or four students at a time…were explicitly shown how to create a scene using the characters and props from the app and how to make the characters move and talk to tell a story’ (Jones, 2012, p. 35). He claims that it was effective to get children to visualise what is happening in order to represent it using a graphic organiser and scaffold before presenting it on the iPad.

Eye-opening video clips of the progression of Jones’ students were referred to in the article, illustrating the extent of the benefit this app and apps like it can have in class when used effectively. The way children progress from unstructured incoherent talk to the simplistic, coherent linear story telling demonstrates this and shows how children from various backgrounds can grow in confidence through using a familiar and exciting tool with encouragement.

In the classroom I would definitely implement this to develop speaking and listening outcomes and reading/text comprehension. Proficient readers are able to vary their tone and expression in reading, which is important in conveying text meaning to allow for text comprehension both in terms of the teller of the story and the listener/reader, which is fostered in story-telling apps, like ‘Play School Art Maker’ because in play, children naturally vary their expressions because they feel like they are ‘in character’ in a non-threatening environment. Moreover, using story-telling apps and technologies has the added benefit of being able to introduce young children or consolidate in older children, the way size and colour or other visuals affect the intended meaning in a story.

This is the case with the iPad app ‘Toontastic’, which seems to be targeted at older children. This app is absolutely genius! In it, you can manipulate the colour and size of characters with the benefit of having a vast range to choose from, which, as mentioned above, enhances student understanding of visual literacy in terms of size, angle and colour schemes.

While relatively easy to use, it may require a bit of an introduction since it has so much to play around with. Before students begin making their stories, they are confronted with a story structure template that includes an climax, resolution etc. This encourages them to recognise that stories are thought out in a particular way to engage an audience and convey meaning. Additionally, there are the added elements of setting choice, vocal overlays and intricate character manipulation. Further differentiating ‘Toontastic’ from other apps,  character movement is more intricate with limb manipulation! It’s fantastic and unlike some other apps, students can overlay music. Depending where they place the music affects it’s volume demonstrating that musical scores in film, which is also storytelling, has meaning behind it and is used to make us feel a particular way in a scene and empathise with a particular character.

Overall, it would effectively complement teaching about story structure and techniques in both written and film texts.



Jones, M. (2012), ipads and kindergarten- students literacy development, SCAN31(4), 31-40.

Play School iPad App:  https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/play-school-art-maker/id473900831?mt=8

Toontastic iPad App: https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/toontastic/id404693282?mt=8






Interactive White Board Lesson- The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan

This is the IWB activity developed by Lauren T. and me.


Develop visual literacy. Students will be able to interpret the sequence of emotion in a text from different perspectives by ‘reading’ angles, vectors, colour, character proximity and salience.


The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan

IWB Notebook file.


  • Reading the text with the whole class and use think-alouds to draw attention to visual features.
  • Model dragging and dropping adjectives that reflect emotion to match appropriate image in the book.
  • Select students to do the same with the emotions/adjectives and ask the class why they think the student has made this choice. Student then drags and drops the technique used as identified by the class.


Model Blogs for Classroom Use

Here are some blogs that can be used as good examples when teaching students how to blog. They are quite different to each other demonstrating different ways of getting a point across. 



This blog demonstrates the effective use of personal perspective and photographs of the experience for those who are more visual. It can be used as a model for year 3 children because it’s simplicity and conventional structure.



This one could be used to demonstrate that an effective blog can include links and references to other sites to get even more ideas. It does not follow the traditional linear structure of archives, which is good because students can see that blogs can be arranged in a multitude of ways. This blog would be a useful model for year 5 and/or 6 children because it is slightly more complex and the comments on the blog could lead into a discussion of internet collaboration. 




Incorporating Technology in the Classroom

Kim Pericles’ article, ‘Happily Blogging @ Belmore South’ as well Diane Barone and Todd E. Wright’s ‘Literacy Instruction with Digital and Media Technologies’ provide insight into engaging ways technology can be implemented in the primary classroom. 

  • Regarding blogging, Pericles mentions that she gets her students to blog about a myriad of topics to cover a variety of KLAs. She states that students incorporate story maps for different texts to ‘present in a Bubbleshare slideshow’ (Pericles, 2008, p.4) on their blog. This incorporates English content knowledge, sequencing skills and technological knowledge in a way that has an authentic purpose because students from around the globe can compare and share ideas. Pericles states that blogging is interactive and allows students to publish their work for an audience and communicate with the people who read it in a dynamic feedback environment. In this way, effective joint and collaboratively can naturally take place.


Additionally, the Barone and Wright article mentions effective ways to get students familiar with technology and develop ‘New Literacy’ in an authentic and meaningful sense. Provided schools have the funding for personal laptops or there are regularly scheduled computer lab times that are significantly long enough, these can be very effective activities. 

  •  Creating activities revolving around different types of programs for one task is a good way to get children familiar with the fact that computers are not simply for games or one thing. Barone and Wright (2009) talk about using the computer to display the program agenda to students, so they can individually use a thesaurus to ‘learn about related words (p.295), then word processor to use the word in a sentence and finally using programs such as paint to present a visual representation of the new word.
  • Instant messenger for collaborative work is another way to incorporate technological skills in the classroom while working towards curriculum goals. 

Work on computers and the internet can be very novel and engaging in a way that allows students to interact with things they will need in the future. Good luck to all future teachers trying to implement this in the classroom! Just remember that all work done on the internet conducted by students needs to be monitored and have a set of guidelines and rules. 


Barone, D., & Wright, T. E. (2008). Literacy instruction with digital and media technologies. The Reading Teacher, 62(4), 292-302

Pericles, K. (2008). Happily blogging @ Belmore South. SCAN, 27(2), 4-6

Greenwashing- The Media Show

This short clip discusses the issue of greenwashing in the media and the way big companies spend millions of dollars to invest in the appearance of environmental sustainability. It achieves this by employing the same tactics used by these companies and turning them on their heads by showing the distractions, such as ‘Helvetica! Negative space! Brown ink! Beige paper with little flecks! Letterpressed art! Bird silhouettes! Pen and ink illustrations of bees!’ (comment made by YouTube user ‘Librarianavengers’) used by marketing teams to prevent already somewhat passive media watchers from asking questions. Hence, by setting the first scene in the ‘dark’ the figurative is made literal, because we, as consumers, are not shown the truth.

Importantly, it teaches students to be critical of everything they see or hear and this is ultimately what we need students to do in order to become analytical, critical thinkers.The fact that it questions media content and advertisements while using the same medium invites the viewer to question the motives of the critical video itself and demonstrates that anyone can post things on the internet without them being legitimate or factual. Moreover, it  would be effective to show to primary school students the video because they are exposed to these notions through engaging puppets that they may also use to voice controversial opinions in a non-threatening way.

‘New Literacies’

‘New Literacies’ is a term used to describe the dynamic process of being able to interpret and communicate across new evolving contexts and cultures that are becoming more and more intertwined in a technologically globalised world. It encompasses the shift and blurred boundaries between digital media of the New Age and the traditionally understood literacy of concrete texts such as books and film.

However, the traditional is not being replaced, but immersed in a new culture where the old and new are superimposed onto one another and turned on their head in a postmodern sense. This debunking occurs most frequently in internet culture, which has provided a thoroughfare for creativity that comments on and reflects society by building on the creativity of the past.

According to Lankshear and Knowbel, 2012, ‘postmodernity is not a displacement of modernity…It is more like a transcendence, in which elements of an earlier state of affairs are carried over and reshaped to become parts of new configurations’ (p.47). Much like this rejection of one or the other, ‘New Literacies’ rejects the interpretation of a singular meaning that comes from a single self or one creator. Much rather, it refers to communities (whether they be online, gaming, classroom, ethnic, cultural and social etc) interacting with one another as a collective. It is this collective mind that negotiates, shares ideas and creates together.

All considered, ‘New Literacies’ is all about ‘bridg[ing] and connect[ing] past, preset and, hopefully, future modalities.’ (Houtman, 2013) and we, as future teachers, will need to reexamine the rigidity of their teaching and understandings of ‘literacy’, ‘text’ and ‘author’ because we are in a world that is ‘deictic…and multifaceted.’ (Houtman, 2013).


Houtman, E. (2013). New literacies, learning, and libraries: How can frameworks from other fields help us think about the issues? In the Library   with the Lead Pipe.  Retrieved fromhttp://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2013/new-literacies-learning-and-libraries-how-can frameworks-from-other-fields-help-us-think-about-the-issues/ Accessed February 14th, 2014

Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. (2012). ‘New’literacies: technologies and values. Teknokultura. Revista de Cultura Digital y Movimientos Sociales, 9(1), 45-71.  Retrieved from http://everydayliteracies.net/files/RemixTeknokulturaEnglish.pdf Accessed February, 2014