Working on Multiple Windows on iPads through Side by Side

One of the challenges of iPads users experience is the inability to work on multiple windows. However, there is an App which overcomes this challenge. Side by Side (with Dropbox Support) is a multiple window reader / browser App available on the App Store for free.

We have recently attended Maria Brewster’s session at iCelebrate Finale where she successfully demonstrated how she uses Side by Side App with her students for timed-reading practice. Having been inspired by her work, we have looked into other ways we can use this App with our students for practising other skills, as well. Thus, in this entry, we would like to provide some examples for teachers teaching with iPads on how they can set tasks for their students using Side by Side App and hope that we can also inspire our colleagues to explore further uses of the App.

Side by Side for Writing Practice

Edmodo and Google Drive

Edmodo and Google Drive



For writing tasks with picture prompts, Side by Side enables users to look at the pictures and type at the same time on iPads. As you can see in the picture on the left, the students open Google Drive or Google Docs in one window and Edmodo on the other. They open access the shared Pdf file with picture prompts in one window and create a new google docs document for writing in the other window.




The prompts and the writing window

The prompts and the writing window




Once the students tap on the Pdf file, they can view the picture prompts for ‘John’s Daily Routine’ on the right hand side and type on the left hand side of the screen.





Add Timer for Timed Writing Practice

Add Timer for Timed Writing Practice




It is also possible to add a third window with an online count-down timer for timed-writing practice.





Side by Side for Listening Practice

Side by Side App can also be used for listening practice and typing practice through dictation activities.

Audioboo and Socrative

Audioboo and Socrative


Describing friends‘ is one theme that is covered in our level 1 course. We have recorded a description of a person on the Audiboo App and shared it with our students on Edmodo. Thus, the students can access the audio file ‘My Good Friend Claire‘ in one window of the Side by Side app. In the other window, they can access teacher-created questions about this podcast on Socrative Student on the web by typing the room number their teacher gives them. Once they access the quiz, students can start playing the Audio file and answering the multiple-choice questions on Socrative. It is also possible for students to pause and replay the audio file while answering the questions. For those who would like to use this activity in their classes, you can import the Socrative questions from SOC-456975.




Another theme we cover in our course is ‘Describing Countries, Cities and Towns‘ . It is possible to set a dictation task to students in Side by Side App by asking them to open the audio file shared on Edmodo, a google docs document and provide a QR code as Answer Key for Independent Learning. As you can see in the picture, the students can listen to the teacher-created podcast  ‘Dictation about Other Countries‘  and type what they hear in a new Google document that they have created. Once they finish the activity, they can scan the QR code using their mobile phones to access the Answer Key. Providing an Answer Key is especially useful for students completing this task as independent study.


Side by Side for Reading

In her presentation, Maria Brewster demonstrated that she uses Side by Side with her students for timed reading practice, where she asks students to have 3 windows: reading text from Google Docs, questions on Socrative and an online countdown timer.

Edmodo, Google Docs, Dictionary

Edmodo, Google Docs, Dictionary



Another possibility is asking students to complete questions on Edmodo and open an online dictionary in the other window.






We also looked into Speaking practice with Side by Side, where students could record their voice online while reading a description they had written. However, the various websites we have tried, such as Audioboo, Podomatic, Vocaroo, Podbean, Soundcloud, Chribit, have not worked in Side by Side App due to lack of Flash plugin. We have checked the settings to see whether it was possible to open the App through Puffin Browser but could not see this as a possibility. We would love to hear from those who have been able to create a podcast on a website on the iPad through Side by Side App.

Two features the App lacks are the inability to open Apps and the lack of Flash support. We hope that the next updates of the App will present solutions to these two particular challenges. Being able to use websites with Flash plug-in and being able to open Apps within Side by Side would make this App a must-have for all iPad users.



Working With Graded Readers and iPads

There is a lot of evidence to prove that sustained silent reading is exceedingly beneficial both inside and outside the classroom and a key advantage of  mobile devices is the  ease with which students can have access to rich reading resources. Additionally, it is also possible to follow the written word on the page, whilst listening to an oral rendition of the text. This is particularly important to students whose mother tongue is written in a script that is not the Roman Alphabet and as in the case of Arabic, does follow the same spelling rules. Vowels are often not represented in written Arabic,: and thus students forget to incorporate them into their written English.

Our institution subscribes to the Oxford Bookworms Series of Graded Readers for EFL students. I would like to share some of the activities I have done with my students using this online reading resource and other digital programmes.

Conventional Pre and Post Reading Activities

I listed and used the conventional pre and post reading activities frequently employed to test comprehension, enrich vocabulary acquisition and foster prediction skills when a class set of readers is used. These included:

. Saving pictures from the book onto the Camera Roll and using the slideshow function to present them to students.  During the slide show students predicted the genre,possible plot, and the role certain characters would play. I also elicited target vocabulary.

. Playing snippets of conversation of the story to the students and asking them to predict the next few scenes. I did the by playing the audio on one iPad and recording the excerpts with another iPad using Sound Note.

. Creating vocabulary reinforcement exercises in Spelling City, Quizlet and Socrative.

. Creating follow up comprehension questions in Socrative.

. Playing You Tube videos connected to a key theme or event in the book. For example, after listening to a description of the skies darkening before a volcanic explosion in ‘Last Chance’, we stopped the audio and quickly switched to a volcanic eruption on You Tube which caught the students imagination and enhanced their understanding of the dangers the protagonist was facing.

. Saving several pictures from the online book into the Camera Roll and then inserting them into a Pages document as visual prompts  which scaffolded the students  recapping of  the story.

These were all effective activities, but I wanted to utilize the social networking possibilities of m-learning and engage students in tasks they normally do outside of the classroom in their real lives. So I turned to

This site allows you to make realistic counterfeits of documents such as SMS texts and Facebook accounts.

The Facebook Account of Police Woman Sue Parker from Police TV ( OUP) .

I created a Facebook Account which situated Sue Parker in central London. It was easy to add photos saved and cropped from Camera Roll and to enter the key events in the story as events in her calendar. I then wrote an open comment saying that she was worried about the number of thefts that had recently occurred in North Street and asking her Facebook friends for suggestions on how to catch the thief.













Students logged into Sue’s page as User Name: SueParker, Password:english because I felt this was a safe way to proceed. I did not want students to use their own authentic Facebook accounts and disclose personal information. However, several students decided to do so and others who had not previously owned an account, felt motivated to open one. The task was simply to read several pages of comments, photo albums and event recordings and to feedback to the class the information they had gathered about the police officer. Each group took it in turn to reveal more information and not to repeat the information provided by other groups. This gave students a reason to listen carefully to their peers. Afterwards, students chose the comments or pictures they wished to reply to. Whilst moving around the class, I was able to post answers to student comments, encouraging further reading and writing.

There was a strange blurring of fiction and reality. Although I had created the account using and the character was obviously from the storybook, the verisimilitude of the Facebook text and the authenticity of the tasks set,  led to some students questioning whether or not  they were corresponding with a real person.

Warning: A good activity goes wrong. 

I used a fake document website, rather than the actual Facebook site so that the information posted was not in the public domain and to substantiate the point that this was a classroom based simulation type activity. I used my own email address to create the document, but had to add a fictitious gmail address for the protagonist.  I did not need to create an authentic gmail account before creating the Facebook account. However, during the activity someone must have changed the class shared password for Sue Parker and once I had exited the account, I could no longer log back in. I tried to rectify the situation by creating the make believe email address, but a genuine exists and so I have not been able to get the security code to change the password and now need to create the bogus account again. It would therefore be prudent to register an email account under the book character’s name before developing their webpage. This really does blur reality and educational exercises!

SMS Texts also helps you produce text messages. I created one from the police officer to the class. I could not get this sent properly and so I took a photo shot of it and emailed it to students, who opened it in Skitch and typed in their responses. Sue Parker asked them a personal response question about how things were going in Abu Dhabi first, and then asked them questions referring to the plot of the book, asking them to infer who the thief was. This started students asking how they could contact an English speaker abroad with whom they could genuinely text.









A Puppet Pals Interview Between the Police Officer and a Suspect

As the target language at present includes simple past question forms, students worked in pairs to write, rehearse and then record a dialogue in the form of a police interview that took place between Sue Parker and a character from the book who many students believed was the thief. An advantage of Puppet Pals is that photos saved from an online book can be turned into the background and characters of the puppet show. Hats off to technology, photos can be manipulated in such a way that a character who is looking left in the original photo, can be made to look right on stage and during a three person dialogue characters can actually change the way they are facing to look at the speaker!






Students uploaded their dialogues onto eBackpack from where they were viewed via Apple TV. The whole class discussed the merits of a dialogue, awarding points for the variety of questions asked, the usefulness of questions asked to the police investigation and the accuracy of the grammar and vocabulary. eBackpack has a review function into which grades and comments are entered, and saved by the teacher(as a representative of the class) and viewed by the material’s creators.

In conclusion, students interacted with the content of the short stories in creative,mobile, social, visual, gaming and story telling ways, meeting all five educational materials criteria recommended by Dr Ruben Puentedura,Founder and President of Hippasus, and designer of the SAMR model of change and innovative implementation.


Their language use, especially in the Facebook activity was meaning focused and not simply for display purposes. In the last three  e-learning activities outlined here, students not only used language communicatively,  but also developed many digital literacies.




The Socrative Quiz Building  Programme comprises two apps: Socrative Teacher and Socrative Student. Teachers create quizzes on a laptop via On enrolling educators are given a room number which is the passkey by which students can access their quizzes. Quizzes fall into three response categories: open ended, true/false and multiple choice. Quizzes can be teacher paced: moving on to the next question when they teacher wishes to; or student paced: progressing at the pace of individual learners.

Real Time Feedback Systems

The real value of a Socrative Quiz is that it provides detailed reports of all student answers, allowing for targeted feedback and personalized student tracking, which are both keystones of m-learning (John Couch, Vice President, Worldwide Apple Education, First Annual Global Mobile Learning Congress 2012, Al Ain, United Arab Emirates).  Reports can be live: illustrating how many students chose which answer in bar chart form, and post activity, documenting the discrete decisions of each student. If instructors design tests so that the same item tests the same linguistic phenomenon over a series of quizzes, it will be easy to discern if a student is making progress in a certain area or not. For example, if every grammar test item five targets third person ‘s’ and a student always gets question five incorrect, then both the student and teacher knows that remedial work is necessary in this area. Even if quiz design is carried out in a laissez faire fashion, students benefit from an analysis of their results.


An Element of Fun

Dr. Reuben Puentedura, creator of the SAMR model of change and innovative implementation, says that the gaming element of e-learning engages students and this seems to be the case in Space Race, a quiz set up that pits teams against each other in their attempt to drive their rockets the furthest, the fastest. Rocket fuel equates with getting all members of the team to answer a set of questions correctly, developing student interdependence and promoting student to student teaching.


Many Cooks Make Light Work


Socrative Teacher is generative in that quizzes created by one teacher can also be used by others through an invited share system. Student designed quizzes can also be created on a Socrative Teacher platform, encouraging lessons from the learners. For example, groups of students can decide upon the questions that should go into a quiz and whilst classmates work on alternative tasks, group secretaries can take it in turn to enter test items. The quiz is then used with the class as a whole. Such quizzes are often deemed to test what has been taught, and students report that they learn more from reviewing the learning items covered to decide what merits entry into the evaluative task, than from taking the test itself.

A Survey Tool and a Brainstorming Tool.

As answers are collated, the Socrative quiz is an ideal information gathering tool. For example, at the beginning of a semester students can write down important information, email addresses, learner preferences etc. and this is all stored in one sheet in the quiz report. Teachers can elicit information on which aspects of the lesson learners find most useful or least useful using an Exit Quiz. Similarly repeated questions, to which students have to provide different answers can be a fertile brainstorming device. For instance, students may be required to voice different reasons for becoming a vegetarian or for switching to alternative energy sources etc. The ensuing report provides all students with a comprehensive record of all ideas put forward, ready for selection and use in a writing or speaking activity.

In conclusion, I believe that Socrative can meet a range of classroom needs, whilst varying the interactive focus, and pace of a lesson. It seals students into a here and now virtual world, which they find motivating and the immediate feedback facility makes the learning experience very personal for them.

This review first appeared in Perspectives Volume 19 No.3 produced by TESOL Arabia and was published here with their permission.


Something old, something new – marrying the two.

Some lesson material works again and again regardless of its age and for me, one of my golden oldies for practicing the simple past and simple past question forms is Willie the Kid from Streamline Departures by Bernard Hartley &Peter Vinney, OUP (






The wild west theme works well with male students and also matches a character set and background from the Puppet Pal App.  Thus, we have language input in the form of a story and output in the form of an interview between a journalist from The Dodge City News and the sheriff delivered via a puppet show.


This is a brief summary of how we worked through the lesson.

This comic strip was projected on the board and used to elicit the setting and possible scenarios. Students then worked on vocabulary in Spelling City.









As students had newly been introduced to the simple past, their work mainly concentrated on learning the endings of regular past verbs.  Students then listened to the story and filled in a gapped text which again focused on regular past verb forms. This can be done with a pencil and paper or if a digital copy is preferred,  words can be blanked out using the white pen  in Skitch by the teacher, and the worksheet sent to the students as an image . Students then use an annotation app such as Neu Annotate to fill in the words, then listen to check their answers. An alternative is to send students the original text and get them to highlight all simple past verbs using an annotation tool.








This is an old fashioned form focused,  consciousness raising activity which students enjoy because  it helps them manipulate the target language at an early stage of learning it and it is achievable.  Whilst doing this kind of activity essentially constitutes substituting the iPad for the book, I think it still has a place in iPadagogy because it is a scaffolding step on the way to potentially public, student generated digital product centering on the use of language they are acquiring.

Students next asked and answered questions about the story orally. All prompts came from the online teacher’s book found at the  


These questions help students automatize simple past question and answer forms, so that when they come to analyze the language, they have a visual and audio memory of form. Simple past question formation was then elicited onto the board using ‘Write and Slide’ sheets.




This language structure work was left on the board for peripheral learning and as a resource whilst students produced their own questions during the communicative language activity.




Students worked in groups of three to produce their interview puppet shows. so that they had three screens were available to them at once: one student had the original text, another wrote up the interview dialogue and a third prepared the characters and background for the show. Each student contributed to every production stage.









Once students had written and practiced their interviews, they found a quiet spot outside the classroom to record them. Finally, we had a class screening of different productions.

The puppet show interviews varied both in the questions they asked and in the way they began and ended their dialogues. Some groups even had the sheriff’s horse or Willie the Kid’s horse speaking. All groups used simple past question forms and answers, although they did not all use them correctly.  The results were much the same as when I first used this activity in 1985. However, I feel that students had a more personalized, sustainable experience of my Willie the Kid lesson now that it is delivered with the  iPad.  This springs from our using the Spelling City App which enables students to work on vocabulary at their own pace and to be able to repeat an activity as they see fit. Each time students open an exercise they have a clean slate. A variety of games focus on different features of the target lexis including pronunciation, spelling, meaning and the sentence grammar of the word. The competitive gaming element encourages students to concentrate and they appear to learn words more deeply, than if they were doing paper based vocabulary exercises. Secondly, students take their recorded interview away with them. It is no longer transient as it was in 1985. In the past, students took away a written version of the dialogue, but now they have both the written and spoken versions and they are accessible where ever they are. They can share them with pride, revise from them and use them to evaluate their own performance. The Puppet Pal interviews can also be stored in an e-portfolio as evidence of  progress.  Thirdly, the prefabricated characters and background scenery encouraged student creativity. I have done this activity many times, but have never had a talking horse giving his opinion before.