Power of Secondary Educational Apps for Literacy Learning

Literacy is about our ability to read, write, make sense of and engage in communication. It is about inspiring and provoking reactions. It is an ever-evolving concept that changes as our own mediums of expression develop too. The written word, the spoken word and symbol in books, the radio, online video, social media and mobile apps are only a few examples of how we communicate with each other.

Once children learn to read and begin to develop their vocabulary, the development of literacy can take on many different formats. Literacy helps us to relate to the complexities of our world.  The importance of this skill cannot be underestimated as studies demonstrate that societies with poor rates of literacy are linked to poor mental health, criminal acts, lower economic success and well-being in life (Clark and Dugdale, 2008).

In the 21st century, literacy teaching and practise in the traditional format competes with digital screen time. Studies have shown that teenagers engage in as much as six hours of screen time per day (this includes TV, laptops, computers, video games, mobile phones and tablets). The problem is not necessarily the amount of time that is spent looking at the screen. The negative effects are as a result of how that time is spent. Therefore it is very important to understand the importance in the quality of content for mindful interaction and mindful acts of literacy learning on the internet.


Academic researchers have demonstrated that children who use mobile devices for reading and learning show more cooperation skills and retain more information (Korat 2008, Maynard, 2005, Grimshaw 2007). The rationale behind the positive results demonstrate that creating content in a contemporary format and using lively animations, colours, music and videos enhances learning outcomes.

We have identified some of the mobile apps that are available for developing literacy skills in Secondary School children according to the framework of engagement, vocabulary building and social collaboration that we have described above. Have a look and see what you think!


Story Lines

This is a fun app that makes children interact with their peers in order to create a story. The idea is that someone begins by writing a common saying and then the friend or parent grows the game by drawing an illustration that depicts the sentence. Then, the next friend creates another title or saying describing the picture and the process goes on and on… The end result is often funny to read as imaginations run wild in the process

uVocab-Vocabulary Trainer

Every day you can learn a new word. This is a great app that not only explains the meanings of words. there is a recorded voice that teaches how the word is pronounced. One day a word, accounts for 365 new words per year. That is a great benefit to our vocabulary development. The words come from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

A Word a Day for Android is an English Vocabulary widget that is very good at reinforcing the relationship between letters and sounds in order to enhance reading achievement.

Despite the whole range of apps that deal with English language and literature, there are also thousands of apps that have other interesting topics that can also engage children into enhancing their literacy skills.

Jnr Astronaut

This is a great story that follows the adventures of an intrepid astronaut as he prepares to go into Space. The app has interactive scenes, voiceovers and original music. Readers will learn about the development of rockets, gun powder, air resistance, as well as getting the chance to build their own rockets and to test their Physics knowledge at the Rocket Academy! This is definitely, reading, learning, listening and comprehension rolled into one. The illustrations are very pretty too.

MoMA Art Lab App

The app acts as a way for children to explore the artists and to engage with the art that is on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Children can also create art works, sound compositions and discover artists’ processes and inspirations. The great thing about the app is that there are creative prompts for extra inspiration, there are also sharing features for children’s work so that he/she can receive feedback and interact with his/her peers.


Literacy is not only about reading and comprehending, it is also about creating content, writing and expressing one’s own ideas effectively. This is why we have chosen the Makewav.es app. It is an app for blogging on school projects, video sharing and safe social networking. All content is vetted by teachers in order to maximise healthy usage. Another great feature is that schools can interact with each other and compare and contrast their work on specific projects. That’s real 21st century collaboration training!

The apps that we have chosen aim to create a self-aware reading culture that adopts a mindful attitude towards digital interaction. Furthermore, the apps that are available in order to improve literacy are many. Whilst the topics are interdisciplinary, the common aim is to create informed and well structured conversations around topics that are of interest, engaging and that provide value to the intellectual achievement of our children.

Do you have any other apps that you enjoy using for literacy practice and learning or that your children/students enjoy? If so, get in touch via the comments section below. 

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