You’ve switched from hard copy books to ebooks on your iPad. You’re familiar with apps like Kindle, Kno, Kobo, and iBooks. All of these apps have embedded dictionaries and word search tools, but Subtext is in another league.
Our students share everything – on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat. Finally, there is an ebook reader app that exploits that inclination. As a teacher, you create reading groups and enroll students with a key code. Students can highlight passages in the book and attach a note, just like in other ereader apps. But in Subtext, they have the option to share those notes with everyone else in the group. Other group members can respond, generating a discussion thread in the page margin. For reluctant readers, this is a great way to use social motivation to fuel academic participation.
As a teacher, the ability to embed guided reading questions within the text itself is both convenient and effective. Subtext allows four different forms of sharable comments: true/false, multiple choice, poll, and discussion. The first two types of question will give the student immediate feedback, helping students stay on track with comprehension. The “poll” is a multiple choice question with no wrong answer, like “In this situation, would you (a) hide, (b) fight, (c) run?” Students can see the total group results immediately after selecting an answer. The discussion thread offers the same option: students can see all replies after they respond. That restriction can also be removed for a true discussion thread, in which all responses are visible.
Subtext also offers five highlighting colors, and the option to associate any number of them with a tag, such as “vocabulary word,” “character,” or “theme.” All these tagged words and passages will be collated and accessible on the Subtext dashboard. The teacher’s dashboard has many additional features. A graphical display shows what page each student read last; all of their avatars hover above a horizontal line running from page one to the end of the book. With a touch, the student’s avatar reveals diagnostic information, including how many minutes he/she spent reading each page, how many words he/she looked up, and how many comments he/she made, and his/her quiz score – all compared to the group average.
Subtext has partnered with Edmodo and Google, so the future is wide open for this app. Books are purchased through Google Play, but Subtext can also import any website, PDF, or ePub file. The latest Subtext update allows the teacher to touch the page on his/her screen and have all students jump to that same page! If any of these features might improve your students’ engagement with written material, download the free iPad app.