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The Necessity of the Connected Text – Why Just Switching to E-reading Isn’t Enough


Subtext is a powerful free app that can help connect digital reading materials to a wider context, and more.

Experienced teachers know that learning does not hinge solely on students reading a text, nor on the medium by which they consume it.  Young people, despite our assumptions, are not intrinsically and indefinitely drawn to anything on an LCD screen.  Content still matters, perhaps more now than ever when an escape from boredom is just a finger-swipe away.

Good teachers continue to be a decisive factor in student learning.   These teachers select a text with a specific purpose in mind, ask students to engage with the text, and provide the appropriate context to that text.  The transition to technology affords us innumerable tools for this purpose, but therein lies the challenge: how do we know when we’re using the right technology, and that we’re not just wasting time figuring out a program only until the next best thing comes along?  Well, for that we rely on what teachers have done for years: we share our successes and failures.

One app that is working for me in the high school English classroom is Subtext. Subtext (free on iTunes) is an e-reader that incorporates the benefits of social media into the classroom and amplifies, not diminishes, teachers’ abilities to do all of the things that encourage authentic learning. Teachers are no longer bound to the textbook and are able to bring in texts that they want to teach.  Students are no longer limited to a teacher’s knowledge to gain the appropriate context that is essential to understanding a text.  Definitions for words or names are provided as in any e-reader, but Subtext also searches Google and Wikipedia and allows teachers to link to specific articles, videos, or webpages.  In this way, teachers can safely construct situations where students are seekers of knowledge and still ensure that the information they find is valid and useful.

This video provides a quick look some of the things Subtext lets you do

By embedding discussion questions and informal assessments in the text, students can see and learn from each other’s responses.  Teachers also have the ability to see how far students have read, how much time they have spent reading, and how their responses measure up to their peers’.  This connection created between students, teacher, text, and web makes Subtext an invaluable tool in a participatory classroom.  

Educators who have embraced the benefits of 21st Century education don’t use technology for the sake of using technology, but for the function it serves.  Having a classroom that is no longer bound to the textbook doesn’t mean entirely letting loose of the reins and it doesn’t mean that a teacher is no longer necessary.  It does not have to be the hindrance we often allow it to become, but can allow us the freedom and control for which we’ve longed.

Learning More

Alison Edwards is one of several Franklin Academy teachers that will be delivering presentations at the upcoming Teaching and Learning with the iPad Conference in Raleigh, NC on Friday and Saturday, November 15 & 16. Come and join us in this unique learning opportunity! Click over to www.techsummit-ipad.com and check out the agenda and complete details.

Teaching and Learning with the iPad Conference
Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Chronicle – A Transformative Multi-Media Assessment Tool for Teachers
iPad Educator Professional Development – The Three R’s
15 Favorite iPad Apps As Selected By Teachers



  1. […] English: The flipped English classroom provides an opportunity to read and review reading materials together. Subtext can help engage students while reading digital materials outside of the classroom or in it. Students in English can also access a wealth of research and other materials related to works of literature, poetry, and other writing, using the endless resources available via the Internet. Read how Alison Edwards uses the app Subtext in her English classroom in this article. […]

  2. […] EmergingEdTech is proud to team with the Franklin Academy in offering this conference. Regular readers of EmergingEdTech will recall some of the excellent articles David Mahaley has published here such as, “Apple TV In The Classroom – The New Smart Board” (a consistent top 10 traffic draw since it was published a year a half ago) and the 3 part series, “Teaching and Learning with the iPad – a 3 Year Review“. Several teachers from Franklin have also written some insightful pieces for the site, including last week’s, “The Necessity of the Connected Text – Why Just Switching to E-reading Isn’t Enough”. […]


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