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