Layout Image

Case Study Part II: Apps with Curriculum in Education

Case Study

Apps with Curriculum in Education

Cyndie Sebourn

Sascyn Publishing, Inc.

Part 2


Nothing compares to the imagination of first graders.  In their minds lies a wonderland where monsters are real, Fairy Tales occur in their own back yards, and adventures are daily.  Penelope the Purple Pirate encourages them to close their eyes, set sail, and explore a fantasy – while quietly teaching them the acceptance of friendships with others who are different.   All of this is a “given” as students learn from the storybook app, but can we go further as app developers?  Would our providing curriculum that expounds on the “given” enhance further educational opportunities?  Moreover, do educators – teachers, homeschoolers, and parents – need us to help them in this area?  The exploration of this need is the subject of my Case Study Part 2: Apps with Curriculum in Education.

Overview of Case Study:

In May of 2012, first grade teacher, Amanda Bean, taught a custom-designed activity that focused on creative writing, My Nap Time Day Dream, inspired by the storybook app Penelope the Purple Pirate by Melissa Northway.  National Board Certified teacher, Cyndie Sebourn, created the Smarty Activity, and it 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 lesson plan that met educational standards. She chose Penelope the Purple Pirate by Melissa Northway based on its literary merit, its use of special needs characters, and its opportunity to teach creative writing.

“Penelope the Purple Pirate” is an enjoyable story of a charming little girl who thinks she’s too old for a nap. She decides to go on an adventure with her quirky friends: a dolphin, a sea turtle and an octopus. Penelope’s hunt for treasure is full of fun and adventure, and the wonder of exploration. This cute story for young readers touches on independence in an imaginary setting, as the bright illustrations bring the seashore to life.”

-Marilee Crow, author of Down by the Shore


Activity: My Nap Time Day Dream

Penelope the Purple Pirate lends itself to a fantasy world that all first graders treasure: Be what you want to be, where you want to be, when you want to be it – all through day dreams.  Using the custom designed Smarty Activity; Mrs. Bean prepared the class for the lesson by instructing the students how to use a free technological app called Scribble Press, which allows them to write and illustrate.  The students’ objective was to create their own nap time day dream and create a story with Scribble Press.

To examine the Smarty Activity: My Nap Time Day Dream, CLICK HERE:


Student begins writing and illustrating her naptime daydream with the app Scribble Press.


 Another student works on a naptime daydream with Scribble Press.





Smarty Activity designer Cyndie Sebourn discusses Penelope’s love for the color purple.



Skype with the Author

I set up a Skype interview with Penelope the Purple Pirate author, Melissa Northway, who answered students’ questions and then asked them for their ideas on new stories.




I think it is a wonderful experience for children to have the opportunity to converse with an author as it allows them to ask questions about the story they just read.  I really enjoyed the questions and comments from the first grade students at Jessieville Elementary School. Technology has opened up so many doors for us that using Skype will become commonplace for schoolchildren around the world!  I have heard of children in Africa or China with sister schools in the U.S. who are able to communicate with each other via Skype.  It has the ability to bring people together!  Melissa Northway

Mrs. Amanda Bean helps student as she speaks with author Melissa Northway via Skype.


Teacher Comments:

I feel that iPads are a vital resource in today’s vastly changing technological classroom. iPad apps help create a student engaged learning atmosphere through hands on interactive activities.  Apps like Penelope the Purple Pirate and Scribble Press help me in my classroom to enrich lessons and create a fun learning atmosphere for my students daily.  Amanda Bean



Teacher Interview

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


As a teacher, accessibility is a key factor to creating lessons and activities.  Apps are readily available, but great apps are more difficult to find unless you have already been introduced to the name and functions of an app.  Often times after finding apps, the descriptions given may seem great but once downloaded, the app doesn’t function as expected.

Apps that are aligned to CCSS would be very beneficial in creating activities.  Knowing that the app is already aligned would help the “time crunch” I often feel to complete all my tasks and duties.  Finally, for me more educational free apps that allow more than one access would help better serve me during my lessons and planning.

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

In daily discussions, my students are more engaged and focused while reading with technology.  Through the use of technology, my instructional activities are now geared to more visual and auditory activities through apps and instructional internet sites versus paper and pencil activities.

3.      Can you describe one lesson using apps?

Part of the CCSS for First Grade is to teach addition and subtraction facts.  As part of fulfilling these standards, I create flipcharts to introduce the proper terms and symbols for creating addition and subtraction sentences corresponding them with picture icons.

Describe how you taught it before technology.

Before using technology, this lesson was taught using marker boards, pencil and paper, which lost students’ interest and focus quickly.

Describe how you teach it now with technology.

Now through technology and apps, I introduce the lesson through saved flipcharts then I have the students use the app Doodle Buddy to write addition and subtraction problems.  After the introduction and then the process, I have them apply their knowledge by working problems using the app 1st Grade Splash Math.

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

I think the implementation of CCSS will be beneficial to the educational process.  I feel like this can be a positive transition once fully implemented.  As a classroom teacher, I feel as if I will be able to teach each standard in depth instead of just skimming the surface.  I think this will give my students a stronger foundation of basic concepts that are essential to the learning process.

5.      Give brief bio of your educational experience.

This is my fifth year of teaching with my experience being in Kindergarten and First Grade.  I taught three years for the Hot Springs School District teaching Kindergarten.  I am presently employed by the Jessieville School District teaching First Grade.

6.      Activities for Penelope the Purple Pirate: What other lessons would be appropriate for this app?

This app could be used for many elements of reading.  You could use this story to introduce beginning, middle, and end, including the terms problem and solution.  Also, it could be used as an introduction to opinion writing because there are many parts of the story that students could write their opinions about.

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.

What is your opinion about app pricing?

Most apps I feel are reasonably priced, but when purchasing apps it can become pricey to ensure that you get many apps to create lessons and activities.

 What is your opinion about volume pricing?

I think volume pricing is a great accessibility for educators.  It helps educators to get apps at a discounted price for multiple devices, but great prices are needed for single purchases as well.

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?

 After completing the activity My Nap Time Day Dream, I felt that all components were listed and very accessible to help me with my teaching.  The activity was already aligned to the CCSS, directions were clear, and the technology component was incorporated also giving a suggested app.

In regards to making any additions to the activity to help teachers, a suggested app could be added to help with creating a teacher led brainstorming activity.  The timeliest component to incorporating technology is researching and finding valuable apps suitable for the classroom.  If this component were added, it would help teachers with planning and time management issues.

 Case Study Results:

Part 2 of the Case Study, Apps with Curriculum in the Classroom, reveals that Bean believes that

  • Apps aligning to Common Core State Standards would be beneficial for educators.
  • Students are engaged and focused while reading with technology.
  • A teacher’s approach to teaching has changed with technology.
  • Common Core State Standards are beneficial to the educational process.
  • Volume Purchasing is a great asset for educators but discounts for single app purchases would also be helpful.
  • The Smarty Activity My Nap Time Day Dream clearly aligned with CCSS and provided clear instructions and the incorporation of technology.
  • A technological app for brainstorming would have strengthened the Smarty Activity.


 Part III of this Case Study coming soon!