Review by Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Education | Updated January 2013
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Shakespeare In Bits: Macbeth iPad Edition

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Multimedia shines in this elegant remix of an old classic

Subjects & skills
  • Arts
  • English Language Arts

  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (3 Reviews)

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Pros: Contains a complete teaching plan for "Macbeth," and the animated play is incredible.

Cons: Opportunities for assessment would be a welcome addition.

Bottom Line: Engaging and supporting kids throughout, it breaks down Shakespearean language and brings the play to life.

The subscription service allows teachers to use the full content in class while still giving students access from home. With this flexibility, teachers can choose a variety of ways to use the app in their "Macbeth" unit. What's more, the developer's website outlines how teachers can incorporate it into instruction.

Other ideas: Have teens use it at home as they would an abridged version that might complement the full text and prepare teens for reflection and class discussions. Encourage teens to see the play outside of school or plan an outing to see it as a class. There's nothing like seeing it as a piece of real live theatre! Students could also make a small dictionary page of outdated terms from Shakespeare's era and place them alongside their present-day equivalents.

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Shakespeare in Bits: Macbeth iPad Edition delivers the original play, divided into digestible "bits" with translation, analysis, summaries, and notes. But what really makes it shine is a fully animated version of the tragedy that runs beside the text and features the voices of some top-notch contemporary Shakespearean actors.

Kids will be able to make sense of the advanced words in Shakespeare's language as they read the text, watch the animation, and hear the professional reading. In-text translation is available for some of the Shakespearean language, like hurly-burly to battle or ere to before; kids click on the highlighted term to see the more contemporary word choice. Each scene is brief -- a minute or two -- so individual students or classes can view the whole two-hour-plus play at once or watch scene by scene. Character and text analysis will deepen understanding, for sure.

It does a fabulous job of blending required reading, which can sometimes seem out of touch for teens, with technology -- creating a high-interest, interactive experience. The animated play is well-produced, and the details of summary, analysis, and characters are helpful and insightful. It's especially helpful that kids can read the text alongside the animation, giving them an understanding of the words in context and an appreciation for the beauty of the dialogue. The additional resources are helpful as well -- like having a tutor right there in the iPad. Some discussion prompts or questions would be a nice addition, but the production quality is stellar. Teens will appreciate the supports that bring new meaning to this classical work of literature.

In addition to the animation, text display, synopsis, and analysis, students can add their own notes. There's also the option of adding subtitles to the animation, which is not necessary so much when the full text is displayed to the right of the screen anyway, but would be helpful in full-screen mode. Unfortunately, the subtitles disappear in full-screen mode.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Classically trained actors bring voices to this excellent animated version of Shakespeare, which should draw kids in to the sometimes challenging required study of Macbeth.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Shakespeare in Bits has it all -- informative summaries, thoughtful analysis, detailed character explanations, along with the full text of the play, which appears alongside the animation.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

With a very intuitive interface, all of the data teens could need to understand Macbeth is available here.

Common Sense Reviewer
Amanda Bindel Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Steve T. , Technology coordinator
Technology coordinator
Shakespeare's plays enhanced through tablets and the web

Shakespeare's plays enhanced through the iPad, web, and desktop apps

MindConnex is a Dublin (Ireland) based company that has released five of William Shakespeare's plays Shakespeare in Bits rubric, including A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, and the subject of this review: Macbeth. All of the plays are unabridged. I initially thought that the "bits" aspect of their title was a play on words suggesting computer bits, but the company's web site claims that it refers how the plays are presented "in a way that enables them [students] to read, digest, understand and appreciate the text in bite-sized chunks or 'bits' – either at home or as part of an organized class tutorial."

Each "bit" is no longer than about a 1.5 minutes, with many shorter than that, and presented in a very simple style of animation. The application is used on portrait orientation on an iPad, with animation occupying the left side of the screen and text of the play (with current dialog highlighted in red), or note about the play, a synopsis of the scene, or a place for students to enter their notes on the right. The animation can expanded to occupy the entire screen but in doing so you lost the option for displaying sub-titles, a very useful feature for anyone who may struggle with comprehending accents or the unfamiliar vocabulary and syntax of Elizabethan English. An unobtrusive soundtrack plays in the background, helping to set the mood. Headsets are recommended to be able to hear whispered dialog.

Among the most useful features of the products are the annotations which provide additional information to students about historical context, language, theme, questions for students to consider, and miscellaneous facts. Readers should be encourages to use these guides as they are presented to acquire a more complete understanding of the play.

At $14.99 per title, how does Shakespeare in Bits stand-up against other options in the iTunes store? One can find plenty of free versions of the text of all of Shakespeare's plays. If you're looking for supporting commentary about the plays, iBook versions of Cliff notes (the bane of teachers and savior of many a student) can be had for $1.99. There are also several versions of the film that may be purchased for about the same price as the application, iTunes U has free audio versions of the play as well as relevant lectures from university scholars, and of course there are a multitude of note taking applications for the iPad.

Fortunately, site licenses are available and schools may be able to acquire the software at a steep discount, starting at $5.00 per student per year. There are also desktop versions for Mac and PC (, as well as a browser-based option ( Note that the browser version requires Adobe Flash, with rules out the option for Safari on iOS devices.

The significant advantage afforded by Shakespeare in Bits is that everything the teacher needs for teaching the play are available in one simple application. But as with most all-in-one solutions, there are compromises. The animation and acting lack the power of film versions of the play. The note taking is for individual students, lacking a social component of blogs and wikis for class discussion. The plays are in English only, which may limit their usefulness in some classrooms. Nevertheless, I find that overall I like the product quite a bit and would give it serious consideration if I was teaching Shakespeare in grades 7-12.

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