With the appearance of tons of more and more entertaining activities nowadays, many children (and even adults) have simply put aside reading. Although many books are still released on a regular basis, it just doesn’t seem to catch the children or teenagers’ attention; many of them preferring video games, social networking or any more “technological” activities. Lucky for the desperate parents and teachers, LightSail is an app available on iPads and Android that is very interactive and suggests to increase the interest of younger ones towards reading! Does it really work? We’ll take a little deeper look into that together.

LightSail is an application offering independent reading; a little like an e-book, but a lot more interactive. Like an e-book, it is used to read books on an electronic-device. It is a paid-subscription app and it is usually linked with the teacher’s school digital library. That can be a little more complicated to set-up, since it is required to contact the company of LightSail to get the library linked and to get the monthly subscription price. In other words, if your school does not agree to give you a hand and to pay for the subscription, you will hardly be able to use the app. However, if you can use it, it has a lot to offer. First, students begin by picking a book they think they will like. All of the books are rated with a Lexile measure; students also have a lexile measure, which is updated in real-time as they are reading. When students pick books, they see other ones alike that are recommended and they can browse through them. Also, teachers can view their students’ data in real-time. Students can write notes on the book, to which the teachers can respond; so both can have a conversation. That way, it adds a whole interactive content to reading and can definitely arise a keen interest in students.

Graphite gave a 100% rating to the app, and all the 19 teachers commenting on it approved the review, also giving a 100% rating. They say it is a great tool because it is very responsive. The fact that a list of recommendations is made just for you feels valorizing and motivating for the students. Also, to know that the more you read, the harder the texts get is also a big factor of motivation since it means that you are getting better as a reader. All assessments are interesting and the fact that they answer correctly is a proof that they are getting engaged in the texts. Another great feature is that when students give an answer to the comprehension questions, they are given a standard of how the answer should be given. Moreover, they give a lot of credit to the developers’ team for their commitment. In conclusion, they mention that in the future updates, the app will have some more efficient dictionary features; which means that the app is only going to get better.

Another review by Lora Kolodny reminded first that LightSail helped raising 3.5 million in order to make education with applications better. They add that for children, the app is a lot similar by the look to iTunes or Kindle, which are applications they are used to work with. Also, questions asked are not only interesting, but they help comprehension. Teachers can look at either individual performance, or at group performances, if there are any trends in their learning. Schools pay around 75$ per year per student to use LightSail, which is expensive, but is also around the price it costs if they use paper books and other non-electronic stuff. On the other hand, they do not generate revenue from content sale or lead generation fees from publishers. In the end, they think the app is a lot of investment, but is definitely worth it.

As an ESL teacher, I already know it would be a real struggle to get this program established in non-English schools. The reason is that it is fairly expensive, especially when few students would use it. In fact, the majority of the schools in Quebec city don’t have iPads for each student; and the amount of English classes are fairly limited to make the app worth using. In addition, many libraries still don’t have e-books. However, if there would be at least three or four English classes a week, I am convinced it could be popular amongst students. The fact that students are always supported through their readings is a very important feature for them to stick to the reading. Children nowadays are surrounded with technological devices that allow them to be constantly in touch with the world. Some of them need to feel supported to be efficient in their work. Since it is impossible for teachers to watch over all of their students’ in real time, I really feel that this app would allow them to do so; that is when the app doesn’t take care by itself of supporting students. Since it is so engaging, I would probably leave some reading as homework so it leaves more time for actual speaking in class. Moreover, oral presentations could be done on the students’ favourite reading. I would really like to give it a try in a classroom in Quebec city.

To conclude, LightSail is an amazing tool that can build a strong interest towards reading into students. However, it is not the kind of app that is designed for ESL teaching in a French province like Quebec city because of its price and the lack of time to make it worth buying.

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