iPad eBooks as Teaching Tools


In May 2012, just before the end of the school year, author JJ Semple used Halloween Ooga-Ooga-Ooum as a pedagogical tool in a three phase classroom reading lesson. As you can see in the photo above, this 2nd. grade class is completely engaged as the book "reads itself." But is that all there is to it? Bring in some audio-visual equipment and an eBook, and have the book read itself? Hardly!

Halloween Ooga-Ooga-Ooum - Véronique Semple, JJ Semple & Suzette Turner

This is just the beginning. An assortment of exercises, each focusing on different reading skills, is not only possible, but fun and instructive. So…

  1. How is this eBook used?
  2. What is the audio-visual setup?
  3. What is the level of interest?

How is this eBook used?
Instruction is divided into three phases:

  1. Using Apple's Read Aloud™ feature, the book reads itself.
  2. Group and individual exercises are performed.
  3. Feedback and suggestions.

Phase 1: The book reads itself
The key component in this phase is the notion of the book reading itself. Normally, in a traditional lesson, when a teacher reads to a class, there is one book for the lesson and the students listen passively as the teacher reads aloud from the one book. The Read Aloud feature brings reading-to-the-class into the digital age. Once the teacher initiates the Read Aloud feature, the book starts reading itself. Pages are turned automatically and each word is highlighted as it is read. How does this affect student participation?

It's as if each student has their own copy of the book; each student's attention is focused on the realtime reading of the book. They are actively engaged; their eyes follow each word as the highlighter moves across the page. What's more, as they watch, they connect each word with its spoken pronunciation. The teacher can scan student eye movement to ascertain how they are coping. These particular 2nd. graders were amazing. They never got lost and were completely absorbed in the lesson from beginning to end.

Nevertheless, the teacher's should assess the overall class reading level. Since the book makes no concessions in terms of grade level, simplified vocabulary, reading tempo (the book does not speed up or slow down), or sentence structure, it is important that the students be able to perform exercises after the book finishes reading itself. Of course, there is no way of knowing what the students are capable of until the exercise phase begins, but the teacher should monitor interest and participation during Phase 1. Successful lessons need to be difficult enough to challenge the students, but not too difficult to accomplish with a reasonable effort.

Phase 2: Exercises
As soon as Phase 1 finishes, a number of specially tailored exercises begin. In this case:

  • Exercise 1: The instructor divided the 20 students into four groups. In turn, each group stood to the side of the screen as the instructor started the Read Aloud. The students read out loud synching their voices with the recorded voice and the highlighted word. Once they get up to speed — which this class did quickly — the instructor turns down the sound. The students must continue reading at the pace of the highlighting, but without the benefit of the recorded voices. It's important to start each group with a different page. This exercise is a challenge. The instructor has no idea how the students will fare. This class not only followed along successfully, one student suggested a contest: Which group could go the farthest without dropping a word or falling behind?
  • Exercise 2: In this exercise, the instructor first hands out pages of text to the student groups. Each group has the same text pages and each page contains the text for one only page. The instructor then projects an illustration without text and the students compete to match a specific text to its illustration. Again, a contest. Three points for matching the correct text with its illustration; one minus point for selecting the wrong text. What's the point of this exercise? The student groups must actually read the text in their possession and decide together as a group whether it goes with the illustration being projected. They must understand the text, eliminate the pages that don't match, discuss the reasons why, and match the correct text to the illustration.
  • Exercise 3: The instructor asks for volunteers to Read Aloud using a funny voice. This allows the most advanced students to show their stuff, as the class, once again, follows the highlighted words.

There are so many possibilities for stimulating exercises: eye-ear coordination, reading pace, and general neuroplastic development in a fun-filled setting. These are but a few. 

Phase 3: Feedback and suggestions
This phase is just what it purports to be: an opportunity for the students to express themselves on the pedagogy, on the story itself, and on the exercises. As an example in this class, after doing Exercise 2, the instructor asked the students if they could come up with a variation on the exercise. One little girl raised her hand and declared, "You could give us the illustrations and project the text." Pretty amazing lateral thinking for a 2nd. grader. Once she made this suggestion, the rest of the class pitched in.

The iPad eBook version of Halloween Ooga-Ooga-Ooum is available on the iBookstore:

Halloween Ooga-Ooga-Ooum - Véronique Semple, JJ Semple & Suzette Turner

What is the audio-visual setup?
For a classroom presentation like the above, you need the following gear, ordered directly from the manufacturer or reseller. Zardoz Press is not a reseller :

An Apple iPad (version 2 or later). You cannot use an iPad 1; it doesn't support the mirroring function which allows the HDMI projector to display exactly what is seen on the iPad. iPad 2, from $399.00.


An HDMI capable projector. This Vivetek model costs about $450.


The Apple Digital AV Adapter cable (shown below). Connect the Apple Digital AV Adapter to your iPad via the 30-pin dock connector and to your HDMI-compatible projector using an HDMI cable (sold separately). A second 30-pin connector built into the AV adapter lets you charge and sync your device while it’s connected to your HDMI-compatible display (projector). Mirroring supported only by iPad 2. Video out supports up to 1080p for iPad 2. Movies play at up to 720p. $39 from Apple.


Stereo speakers. I could not find any reasonably priced projector with an audio out. The work around, which works perfectly, is to run a stereo computer cable from the iPad audio-out port to the audio-in on the stereo speaker set. You want something more than just 1W. These cost $10.


Stereo audio cable The stereo mini-plug is  standard for most computer speakers. $2-5.


An HDMI cable. From $5 up


What is the level of interest?

There are always luddites pooh-poohing new technology. Nevertheless, as you can see from the classroom image, there is a significant degree of interest and participation in presentations and exercises when the proper tools are used in the appropriate manner. The teacher's challenge is finding ways to activate students, to motivate them to participate without sacrificing learning objectives. A toolset like this is expensive, but once purchased, is easily amortized over many lessons that improve teacher productivity while increasing the rate of content assimilation and the degree of student participation.

This setup can also be used to surf the net, watch movies and documentaries, and for delivering student presentations.

© Life Force Books 2012