iBooks Author, Part 1: Maximizing the Potential of the Tools in Our Students’ Hands

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Cover of a teacher-generated etext for the iPad

In previous posts here, as well as in publications and prior presentations, I have articulated my hope that educators everywhere will embrace the opportunity we have to take advantage of the powerful tools that our students are already carrying around to pursue a much-needed paradigm shift in teaching and learning

Transformational change doesn’t happen overnight, but begins instead with baby steps. Maybe it is teachers having their students voluntarily sign up for remind101.com-pushed text messages to their beloved cell phones, one of the supremely powerful and supremely overlooked learning tools most of our students are carrying around, as I argue in my Educause article

Hopefully, though, it is much more profound (and cost-reducing) than that. 

If we are offering a 1:1 computer/tablet teaching and learning environment, then (perhaps paradoxically given the up-front cost of the tablet purchase) the potential to allow innovation to drive down the cost of education exists, provided we maximize the potential of the tools in our students’ hands. 

Tablets in the hands of our students, for example, mean we simply don’t need those costly clickers to conduct statistical sampling and see if they “got it.” Apps such as Socrative or free Web-based tools such as polleverywhere.com serve the same purpose. 

It means, too, that our students no longer have to pay the high prices publishing houses have traditionally charged them for heavy, outdated textbooks. But, while electronic versions of texts are cheaper, they are not yet available for all titles.

Opportunity knocks. Teachers answer.

If your school offers a 1:1 teaching and learning environment, there are now tools to tap into teachers’ creative instincts and general dissatisfaction with the offerings of textbook publishers. In my next post, I will look at iBooks Author and how it simplifies the process of compiling your own resources into a dynamic etexts for the iPad. 

As a teaser to my next post on this subject, I begin with this overview by a colleague at my school, who says the following of his noble effort to compile paperless reading resources for his Foundational Literature students:

“Of the many things we learned about the iPad in the spring of 2012, as we were laying the groundwork for our 1:1 iPad program, one thing that registered with me was that users could create e-Books of their own, using a piece of free Apple software called iBooks Author. I’ve always been intrigued in various aspects of the writing process, and though I’ve been the editor of a magazine for over a decade, I’d never dabbled in creating a book before. My first project, a reader for a unit on the literature of the Western US, was a huge undertaking– but turned out to be a very useful tool both for me and for students in Foundational Literature. It proved to be great for kids to have all of their readings for the term in a single, portable device–especially since they were already carrying their iPads at school, at home, and on the road with them. This year I added a couple of shorter e-Books to my Foundational Literature curriculum–excerpts from Homer’s Iliad, and some background reading on the Trojan War. Not only are these e-Book editions convenient, but they also allow me to include images, videos, or even hyperlinks in the text!”

Here is a teacher who perceived the potential of the iPad to meet the needs of his highly mobile student population. Beyond perceiving, this teacher acted. Change begets change, and the ball begins to roll in a direction more favorable to the present and future needs of todays’ students. 

Like this particular teacher, let’s find what tools and approaches work, and then work harder to maximize the potential of those tools and approaches. 

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