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Best Apps For Teaching Media Literacy

As the definition of literacy evolves to meet 21st century demand, introducing students to ways of learning and comprehension via technology is vital to your curriculum. Using apps and tablets can enhance the teaching and learning experience in a variety of subjects, and build your students’ technology fluency, giving them the confidence to pursue knowledge and information in the ever-changing virtual realm.

Rebecca Alber at contributed this blog post answering the question of what it means to be literate in today’s world. “When it comes to effective communicator, we can no longer consider college and career ready as simply sending students out as good readers and writers,” she writes. Being digital media literate means being able to use technology efficiently to gain new knowledge, and be able to communicate and share it with equal proficiency.

Four principles of digital literacy, as outlined by are:

  • Comprehension: “... the ability to extract implicit and explicit ideas from a media.”
  • Interdependence: “how one media form connects with another ... Due to the sheer abundance of media, it is necessary that media forms not simply co-exist, but supplement one another.”
  • Social Factors: “Sharing is no longer just a method of personal identity or distribution, but rather can create messages of its own. Who shares what to whom through what channels can not only determine the long-term success of the media, but can create organic ecosystems of sourcing, sharing, storing, and ultimately repackaging media.”
  • Curation: “... the ability to understand the value of information, and keep it in a way that makes it accessible and useful long-term.”

The following tablet and smartphone apps are great tools for teaching students how to think, create and learn in the digital realm.

1. Toontastic

Toontastic sparks the creativity in kids, and gives them all the digital tools they need to create and tell fun, interactive stories. Kids choose a story setting, customize their characters, and can animate the different elements of their story to make it come to life. It's a great way to introduce students to alternative storytelling tools and resources.

2. GameStar Mechanic

This app takes "digital literacy" quite literally. Students engage in quests and game-based courses to learn computer coding and game design. By learning how to design games, kids will be introduced to systems thinking, creative problem solving, and motivation for STEM learning. After they complete their game, they can connect and share with the community of GameStar Mechanics, and play other student-built games.

3. Evernote

Evernote is a fantastic note-taking resource for people of all ages. It's primary use is to be able to take and keep organized, multimedia notes and ideas. Teachers can use Evernote to teach good note-taking practice. Have your students practice by converting their pen-and-paper notes into an Evernote document—complete with diagrams, charts, and images—and have them hand-in their notes as an assignment. Teachers can review their students' notes and see where they could improve their skills, such as key points to pay attention to, or adapting a more comprehensive style.

4. Math Planet

This app is one of the more comprehensive math learning apps available, and was designed with conceptual learning and fluency in mind. It has a built-in learning analytics, so students and teachers can see improvement progress over time, and developers use gameplay information to enhance the learning process for future versions. Bonus: it's free!

5. StoryLines for Schools

StoryLines is a great app. It's described as a "game of telephone with pictures." It's a multiplayer game where students must illustrate a phrase, and another student makes a guess of what the picture represents. While the guess may be different than the prompt, if the picture is well done, the idea will be translated successfully. It's a fun and playful, creative way to enhance communication and collaborative teamwork skills.


By Samantha DiMauro, Education World Contributor