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Day of the Dead iPad App a Collaborative Effort

Day of the Dead decorations

Grade school and middle school teachers can get a technological boost thanks to the vision and creativity of several Notre Dame students, faculty, and staff affiliated with the Institute for Latino Studies (ILS).

“Day of the Dead: Experience the Tradition” is an iPad app recently created and available to the public that immerses users in a multimedia cultural experience of interactive videos, photos and articles that teach about Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos), a traditional Mexican holiday increasingly celebrated throughout the United States. With its indigenous roots infused with Catholic practices, the holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to remember loved ones who have died.

Unlike many iPad apps developed by other universities, “Day of the Dead” targets one specific tradition.

“Our app differs from others in that it’s about a specific subject area, with the goal of educating the general public, rather than being about the school in general, targeting student users or being student-life centric,” explains Kevin Li ’11, IT Management major and lead developer for the ILS app.

A collaborative brainchild of Tracy Grimm, archivist for the library of the ILS; Joe Segura, ILS visiting faculty fellow, master printmaker, and filmmaker; and Li, Notre Dame’s new app is modeled after the New York Public Library’s Biblion app, which serves both as a complement to the library’s rotating exhibits and as a method of outreach or virtual exhibit for others.

“As an archivist, one of my research interests is to explore how innovative technology can be harnessed to spark students’ engagement in primary source research,” says Grimm. “The New York Public Library’s Biblion app was the perfect model because the iPad format is enormously popular and an easily accepted delivery medium. Both Biblion and our app bring gorgeous samplings of images, voices of everyday people and scholars, and virtual objects to the users.”

The student-driven project tapped the talent and skills of several undergrads from varying disciplines—all of whom were or are employed by the ILS. Students studying business, psychology, Spanish, and painting were able to apply their classroom knowledge to a real-world project that helps bring history to life, with Notre Dame’s Office of Academic Technologies shepherding the process of actually bringing the app to market.

“Working on the iPad app was a great opportunity to connect my areas of academic interest,” Stephanie Aguilera ’13, a film, television, and theatre major who developed multimedia video content for the app.

“I was able to combine the skills I gained as an FTT major with the information I have learned as a Latino Studies minor to contribute to a teaching tool created for students, by students. Hopefully, the iPad app will be a useful tool in educating others about the Latino culture that continues to grow in the United States.”

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