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Case Study Part 1: Apps with Curriculum in Education

Case Study

Apps with Curriculum in Education

Cyndie Sebourn

Sascyn Publishing, Inc.

Part 1


Once upon a time, the words “education” and “technology” did not co-exist in educational conversations.  Now, they are virtually synonymous.  In this era of educational revolution, however, the inclusion of technology with education has become wide open with seemingly limitless possibilities.  With the explosion of apps and with the inclusion of iPad carts and labs at schools, more is needed.  An app alone can entertain and educate, but how do we advance this entertainment to the learning levels that educators are required to teach?  The exploration of this need is the subject of this Case Study: Apps with Curriculum in Education.

Overview of Case Study:

In May of 2012, third grade writing teacher, Katie Wainscott, spent a week teaching custom-designed activities that focused on writing and science, inspired by the storybook app Treasure Kai and the Lost Gold of Shark Island. The Smarty Activities were created by National Board Certified teacher, Cyndie Sebourn, and they involved technology and aligned with Common Core State Standards.


The purpose of this study is to test the influence of technology in the classroom and the need by educators for app  developers to provide curriculum for these apps that engage students with technology and align to Common Core State Standards.


Cyndie Sebourn, educational consultant to other app developers and an app developer herself, selected a storybook app to design a number of activities that meet educational standards. She chose Treasure Kai and the Lost Gold of Shark Island, an award- winning storybook app by Karen Robertson. The app was selected for the study due to its literary merit, its use of rhyming poems, its opportunities to teach science, and its availability of supporting material for teachers.


Treasure Kai and the Lost Gold of Shark Island is an adventurous hunt for gold in a twist on the choose-your-adventure format. One of the few storybook apps to use iPad functionality as part of the story experience (the reader randomly touches treasure chests to progress the story). Treasure Kai was designed to engage kids with reading in a multi-sensory way.


Activity: Clue Poems

Treasure Kai’s clue poems consist of AABB rhyme scheme to set up each adventure story. Using the custom designed Smarty Activity, the teacher prompted the class to write their own AABB clue poems for locating items in the classroom.


Treasure Kai clue poem:  Student’s clue poem
Welcome to this hunt for gold.You will find it if you’re bold.Find a clue within this chest.Use the map, no time to rest! You can color with itOr dye with it  It can stencilBut not a pencilAnswer: marker


To examine the Smarty Activity: Clue Poems, CLICK HERE:

Video of students with Smarty Activity: Clue Poems:

Quicksand and App

In the story, Treasure Kai has to remember a lesson from science class to escape quicksand. Students have their chance to create quicksand, following a Fun Fact Video on the Treasure Kai website (

To examine the Smarty Activity: Researching Quicksand, CLICK HERE:

To examine the Smarty Activity: Making Quicksand,   CLICK HERE:



Using the curriculum designed by Ms. Sebourn, I was able to assess them without using pencil and paper (Katie Wainscott).



YouTube video of students and Smarty Activity: Researching Quicksand:


Students used the app iBrainstorm to research facts about quicksand.



Third graders at Jessieville Elementary School made quicksand and then tested it with action figures to see if they would float.


 Skype with the Author


The team set up a Skype interview with Treasure Kai author, Karen Robertson, who answered students’ questions and then asked them for their ideas on new stories.

When kids meet an author, they realize that we are just real people and if we can write and create, perhaps they can, too. That’s why it’s so important for kids to meet authors and illustrators and why it’s important to encourage kids to share their writing and drawings (Karen Robertson).


Interview with Wainscott, third grade teacher

1.      Apps are readily available for educators. Some are great; some are ok. What do you as a 3rd grade teacher need from apps? How could they better serve teachers?

Apps need to be highly interactive with graphics that catch your attention immediately and make you want to come back. I would like to see more apps geared towards an educational standpoint for different subject areas that directly correlate or parallel to Common Core State Standards.

2.      How do your students respond to reading with technology? What difference has it made in your instructional activities?

When reading with technology, my students are much more engaged and stimulated. The instructional activities I do in the classroom are more interactive, and the students are instantly more interested when I start a lesson. Technology is the world they were born into, and because of that I feel we need to use it to access their minds daily. When doing this, learning can be productive and create independent or project-based learning that really works and prepares their minds for the everyday jobs they will be doing in the future.

3.      Can you describe one lesson using apps?

a.      Describe how you taught it before technology.

We did research on a science term, similar to quicksand, by looking up facts on the Internet and creating a “Fact Page or Chart,” using paper, pencil, and markers. Then they hand it in to me for assessment.

b.      Describe how you teach it now with technology.

Now, when we research a science term, such as quicksand, we still use the Safari search on the school iPads. Then we create the same “Fact Page or Chart,” using the iBrainstorm app with interactive features, after gathering information from Safari.  My students can save and email the project to me for assessment. They can also display their work from the iPad to our Whiteboard screen for the class to view.

4.      How do you feel about Common Core State Standards? Do you feel that nationalizing educational standards is positive or negative? Defend your answer.

I am in favor of the CCSS. I feel that these standards are more explicit and narrow, which allows me to focus and teach more specific skills, rather than having many standards and not enough time to teach them. I feel nationalizing educational standards is a positive step towards providing teachers and students with common learning goals and the ability to be assessed on a more level playing field. I would hope that our accountability for assessment would be more consistent because of CCSS.  I feel CCSS will help narrow the gaps of students who move schools/states and are often behind in their education.

5.      Give a brief biography of your educational experience.

  • 1999- Valedictorian from Jessieville Schools
  • 2002- BSE from Ouachita Baptist University
  • 2003 – (January – May)  Permanent Substitute for Jessieville Elementary
  • 2003 – 2010 – 2nd Grade Teacher at Jessieville Elementary
  • 2010-to Present – 3rd Grade Teacher at Jessieville Elementary

6.      Treasure Kai:

a.      What did you like?

Many aspects of Treasure Kai intrigued me as an educator, who is looking for ways to engage my students. The many interactive features of this app kept my students captivated. The storyline used engaging text and a rhyme scheme, which instantly grasped and held my students’ attention. The app was very comprehensive, and one could develop several reading, English, science, and history lessons to correlate with CCSS.  I was very impressed with Treasure Kai’s website as well. It provided my students and me with background knowledge and multiple videos that could be used for history and science research.

b.      What did you not like?

I loved everything about it!!!

c.       How could they be improved?

I used this app with third Grade students, 9 year olds, and they mastered it pretty quickly. I would like to see the app be more in depth, or have more treasure hunts, so my students would use more critical thinking/problem solving skills.

d.      What other lessons would be appropriate for this app?

English – “hunt” for contraction words throughout the textEnglish – “ hunt” for prepositional phrases throughout the text

Vocabulary – do a word study (definitions, synonyms, antonyms) of interesting vocabulary words such as “greed.”

Writing – create a narrative writing based on another adventure of Treasure Kai or on another dream of Kai’s.

Social Studies – create a Treasure Map with features such as landmarks, a key, and locations so that students must read it to complete the treasure hunt.

7.      Trends: Many app developers feel a “price crunch” because they want to develop quality apps but realize that educators can’t afford the higher priced apps.

a.      What is your opinion about app pricing?

I feel app pricing is a little high.  When you consider the income people bring in and what it is necessary to be used for (food, gas, shelter, bills…) technology that is a recreation should be affordable.

b.      What is your opinion about volume pricing? 

I feel there should be a discount or that apps should be free, or greatly discounted after buying so many copies. Volume pricing for iPads that are being used within a classroom should be lower because ideally each iPad a student uses needs its own app. If the CCSS that we are required to teach are emphasizing the use of daily technology with our students then they should provide us with the resources we need at a price we can afford.

8.      Smarty Activities: These activities align with CCSS, use upper levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, involve technology, and are often cross curricular.  What could be added to the activities to empower educators in their teaching

 Project-based learning activities could be added as a supplement after independent learning to not only empower the educators, but greatly enhance the learning from the students’ perspectives. Students always want to be in charge, so why not let them and give them a project that has to be completed by using teamwork and technology while at the same time aligning with the CCSS? Project based learning is the upcoming trend in our educational world; it is where groups of students are in charge of their own learning, and the teacher is a facilitator. This works great when you combine the innovative technology, such as iPads, that we have access to today. This learning approach is proving to be highly effective because the students are engaged and captivated, and not bored in an “old style” classroom. The results will be that our children are better prepared for the real world as they have learned to work together and solve problems as a team.



Teacher Summary:

I feel that iPad apps are a necessary tool in today’s digital world to engage my students in learning.  App activities make their learning highly interactive and allow them to work independently and project based.  iPad apps like Treasure Kai, iBrainstorm, ShowMe, and others, encourage enhancement of my student learning and make daily activities fun and exciting in the classroom.  Wainscott


Case Study Results:

Part 1 of the Case Study, Apps with Curriculum in Education, reveals that Wainscott believes that

  • Technology changes the way that teachers teach.
  • Common Core State Standards keep students on a level playing field nationally and narrows the gaps.
  • A need in the apps for curriculum is an upcoming trend known as project-based learning, which involves the students completing a project by using teamwork and technology.  It is captivating and prepares students for the future by their working together.
  • Apps should be highly interactive and cover a variety of subjects.
  • Students should use technology in the classroom daily.
  • Treasure Kai and the Lost Gold of Shark Island is highly interactive, has engaging text and rhyme scheme, accommodates various subject activities, and has an excellent website with instructional videos.
  • Treasure Kai and the Lost Gold of Shark Island could be even more in depth so that students could use more critical thinking/problem solving skills.


Part II of this Case Study coming soon!