Educators face a common plight, regardless of what they teach: how to inspire their students to be interested in the subject matter. Perhaps it's down to human nature, that anything that must be learnt is immediately dismissed. I'm as guilty as many others, only truly appreciating the works of Shakespeare when it came to having the choice of reading his work. I've got a feeling, though, that if apps such as Explore Shakespeare were around when I was learning, it would have helped.
The Explore Shakespeare series has recently been released by the Cambridge University Press, offering users the chance to read the full play, listen to an audio performance of it (featuring the voices of actors such as Michael Sheen and Kate Beckinsale) as well as explore and analyze the content.
But how does it actually fare with its core market? Headmistress of St. Mary's school, Cambridge, Charlotte Avery explained to us that the students were immediately enthusiastic during their time with the Romeo & Juliet app, she particularly enjoyed "the ease with which the students can find out the meaning of a word or phrase by simply tapping on it as they read," as well as a "diagram of all the characters involved in a particular scene," reducing any confusion that can come from understanding complex fight scenes in the play. The girls themselves explained that they appreciated the color photographs of professional productions "so that you can imagine what is going on" and that it was "fun to use."
Given the school's policy of "Bring Your Own Devices" into school, the Explore Shakespeare series looks set to be quite the hit there and hopefully elsewhere, too. Charlotte Avery explained it best that "bringing iPads into the classroom is the way to go!", pointing out that it helps to "bridge the 'disillusionment gap' between what young people experience with technology inside and outside of school."
It's an interesting move for education and one that I'd heartily recommend. Anything that brings classic literature to life for a new generation has to be a good thing. The Explore Shakespeare apps are available now. They're usually priced at $13.99, but currently on sale at $8.99 each.