September 25, 2012

How Students Can Create Their Own e-Textbooks – from Beth on Edudemic

As a follow up to my post, Whatever Happened to iBooks????, I thought a lot about how iBooks and the Camera may be two of the most powerful apps on the iPad, and yet the most under appreciated. In many ways, they are essentially “invisible apps.”


Two of the most powerful apps on the iPad may be completely invisible: iBooks and the Camera Roll. However, when used together, they have the potential to create powerful learning experiences and dynamic projects.

Dynamic Math Portfolios

In July, Greg Kulowiec and I taught a workshop on Creating Digital Course Content. One of our participants, a high school math teacher, initially set out to create his own textbook. However, as we started exploring BookCreator, he realized that the real value may be in the students creating their own collection of books over the course of the year.

For each chapter covered in the text book, his students could create an eBook. This publication would then be broken down into units much like the paper version. Because BookCreator pulls from the Camera roll, any images or video that can be exported to that location could then be incorporated into the final product. Consider adding labels to photos of the text with Skitch, screen captures of graphs created with GeometryPad, or videos exported out of ExplainEverything. Combine this with text boxes that include relevant theorems or vocabulary, and students could essentially create documentation of their own problem solving and learning. Completed books can then be sent to iBooks and placed in a specific collection.


We then discussed workflow and how the students could “turn in” their books. However, we decided that rather than a technical solution such as sending to DropBox or Google Drive, the value would be in conferencing with the student before each chapter assessment to review their work. At the end of the year, a final conference would provide a holistic view of their work over entire course. By creating a math portfolio in iBooks, the students also gain a customized exam review system in addition to the documentation of their learning process.

Science Lab Book Collection

In August, I worked with a middle school science teacher at Ascension Episcopal School in Lafayette, LA. She explained that during the course of the year, despite the amount of time that she spent setting up hands-on labs, her students often give her blank looks when she asked, “remember that lab???” As we worked with ScribblePress, adding photos from the Camera roll and then sending completed projects to iBooks, she had an epiphany.

This year, since her students would be 1:1 with iPads, she would have them create their own collection of lab books. Each one would include typed and illustrated definitions of key vocabulary terms, photos of the lab procedures and completed lab reports, as well as photo documentation to accompany observations. With the drawing tools native to ScribblePress, students could add annotations to all of these images or even create their own diagrams to explain concepts. Completed eBooks can then be shelved in iBooks as well as posted to a class ScribblePress account on the web.

Moving forward, when the teacher asks her class if they remember a particular lab, they will be able to look in their science collection in iBooks.

Books of Books

Towards the end of one of our three-day iPad workshops, I had an interesting conversation with a wonderful teacher from Sandy Springs Friends School in Maryland. It started out with a seemingly innocuous question: which app should I use for my students to fill in their literature review sheets?

At first glance, that seems pretty straight forward – either save your Word docs as a PDF and then have the students annotate them with something like Notability, or let them type directly into the Word doc with CloudOn or Pages. However, instead, I asked, “Why have them use the iPad for something that works on paper?” After a long conversation, the real learning goal that this teacher wanted to achieve was for her students to take ownership in the process of learning about the literature and to really connect with it. The iPad really could be the tool of choice for this larger goal in creating books of books.

To start the process, the teacher can still use her literature sheets. Students could then choose whether they would like to hand-write their responses or type them from the iPads. However, rather than being the end of the project, the sheets become the scaffolding for the larger endeavor. For each literature book read, the students would create an eBook using BookCreator. Students could incorporate photos, diagrams, and screencasts as well as iMovie trailers and their own narrations to demonstrate their understanding of vocabulary, character, setting, and theme. Upon completion and final review, the final eBook can once again get shelved in iBooks.

Seeing the Invisible

Imagine the end of the school year for students whose teachers fully leveraged the potential of iBooks and the Camera. Perusing through their iBooks collections, they could have documentation of their learning for each of their courses as well as their research materials and reading assignments. As these students prepare for final exams, they could share eBooks for virtual study groups using Subtext. Imagine a review conversation occurring directly inside of student-generated content….

I will be elaborating on this concept in the pre-conference workshop as well as my presentation session at the November 6-8 EdTechTeacher iPad Summit.