Self-Publishing: A How-To For Students and Teachers

Publishing with PowerPoint is a new book that guides teachers and students through the process of creating and publishing their own books. It’s written by three dear friends and former colleagues – Patricia Martin, MaryAnn McAlpin and Suzanne Meyer. For a few years I had the chance to collaborate with them on some student publishing projects. They’ve continued to hone their skills on broad array of innovative projects. Recently they compiled all they’ve learned into an easy to use guide to using PowerPoint as a book design tool and how to team PPT with the exciting new technology of on-demand printing. Publishing with PowerPoint – available at Amazon

Here’s their guest post detailing the book:

Publishing is an effective tool for getting students engaged and writing. The new book, Publishing with PowerPoint, walks the reader through a process of self-publishing that can be used in any classroom. PowerPoint is an effective book design software – it’s already on your computer and everyone know how to use it. Students find it easy to use PowerPoint templates and position a wide range of text and images on a PPT slide. Powerpoint slides can be quickly grouped and rearranged into book pages. Finally, converting PowerPoint slides into pdfs for publishing can be done with the “Save As” function. Visit Amazon Books / Publishing with PowerPoint to see the use of templates and layouts on the sample pages.

The teacher with a limited budget can print just one copy for the classroom. Parents can order their own copies online.

Publishing with PowerPoint was published through Createspace, an Amazon company, using the process detailed in the book. Once the slides were created, the authors merely converted the slides to PDF’s and sent the result to Createspace. For example, a 32 page, 8.5”X11” color book would cost its authors about $4.00 a copy plus $3.59 shipping and handling. (The shipping and handling costs are calculated at $3.00 per order and $.59 per item). Lulu, another popular on-demand publisher, would price a similar book at $13.42 plus shipping and handling.

The magic of on-demand printing is that the teacher with a limited budget can print just a single copy for the classroom. Both Createspace and Lulu offer options for easy distribution. PTAs or families who want copies can log in and order their own. No need for teachers to take book orders.

The thought of publishing with students might seem daunting - I’ve got too much on my plate as it is! But if you believe in the power of PBL and motivation of writing for an authentic audience, you’ll appreciate this detailed guide book.  It offers an overview of the resources necessary for successful publishing. Readers learn how to use PowerPoint’s built-in tools for template design, layout or page design, creating facing pages, and inserting images. The book is organized to walk the reader through the process, detail-by-detail, in the exact order in which the publishing process happens.



The second half of the book is devoted to content. Teachers will realize that content is actually the initial consideration whether looking at writing process or traits of writing. But, it seemed important to the authors that the book present the techniques of publishing (the new information) before reviewing the writing and organization of content for publishing (the prior learning). Using examples from our publishing experiences, the book includes a wide range of samples representing different grade levels, fiction or non-fiction, single-author or anthology that the teachers can use as models.

The book exemplifies the ease with which students can complete the writing process by publishing their work to a wide audience with tools available in a classroom. Hopefully the book will illustrate to its readers the versatility and creativity that PowerPoint can bring to the self-, or on-demand, publishing process. For the teacher who wants to publish electronically the book is an equally invaluable resource to enable students to produce a quality final product. Formatting pages through PowerPoint and creating pdfs work equally well for that application.

Teachers inexperienced with publishing and limited resources do not have to eliminate student publishing options. Publishing with PowerPoint and the use of economical self-publishing can bring this opportunity to any classroom.

Podcast: How to Use iBooks Author in the Classroom

My second podcast with Mark Hofer and David Carpenter for their series Ed Tech Co-Op was just posted. Go to Show 27: Peter Pappas and iBook Publishing (Dec 23, 2012) via Web | iTunes.

We focused on getting started with using iBooks Author (iBA) in the classroom. Here’s a synopsis of our discussion with some time markers to guide your listening.

We began with some comments on my iBook Why We Fight: WWII and the Art of Public Persuasion (screenshot above from iBook Author). (1:30) Mark noted how the book exemplified three key elements of universal design for learning – multiple representations of content, active learning strategies for students, and relevance for the learner. (5:30)

We discussed how an iBook can be designed to guide students in examining essential questions. (7:17) David noted content-curation advantages of teacher-produced iBooks over other learning management systems. (11:02) Then our discussion turned to iBA workflow specifics. (12:42) We discussed how to guide students in producing their own iBooks (17:30) and how student can find a more authentic audience beyond the classroom by sharing their book with their community and the world via iTunes. (19:32).

iBooks author projects are more than writing. They offer students the chance to create video, audio and visual content used in the iBook. (21:07) They also exemplify the best aspects of project-based learning and put a premium on preplanning and production-oriented decisions (25:40)

For tech specifics on using iBA see my collection of “how-to’s” - Publishing with iBooks Author 

My first podcast with Mark and David: Reflections on Teaching Strategies That Work.

How to Motivate Students: Researched-Based Strategies

The student feels in control by seeing a direct link between his or her actions and an outcome and retains autonomy by having some choice about whether or how to undertake the task.

A new Center on Education Policy report, Student Motivation—An Overlooked Piece of School Reform, pulls together findings about student motivation from decades of major research conducted by scholars, organizations, and practitioners. The six accompanying background papers examine a range of themes and approaches, from the motivational power of video games and social media to the promise and pitfalls of paying students for good grades.

Researchers generally agree on four major dimensions that contribute to student motivation (below). At least one of these dimensions must be satisfied for a student to be motivated. The more dimensions that are met, and the more strongly they are met, the greater the motivation will be.

Four Dimensions of Motivation

  1. Competence — The student believes he or she has the ability to complete the task.
  2. Control / Autonomy — The student feels in control by seeing a direct link between his or her actions and an outcome and retains autonomy by having some choice about whether or how to undertake the task.
  3. Interest / Value — The student has some interest in the task or sees the value of completing 
  4. Relatedness — Completing the task brings the student social rewards, such as a sense of belonging to a classroom or other desired social group or approval from a person of social importance to the student.

As the report authors note: The interplay of these dimensions—along with other dynamics such as school climate and home environment—is quite complex and varies not only among different students but also within the same student in different situations. Still, this basic framework can be helpful in designing or analyzing the impact of various strategies to increase students’ motivation.

The report singles out a number of approaches that can motivate unenthusiastic students including inquiry-based learning, service learning, extracurricular programs (like chess leagues) and creative use of technology.

I think increase motivations begins with giving students more responsibility for critical decisions about what and how they learn. I detailed these in my post The Four Negotiables of Student Centered Learning and they are summarized in this table. Teachers need to consider the extent to which they are asking students to manage the four central elements of any lesson – content, process, product and assessment. Any or all can be decided by the teacher, by the students, or some of both. All will assist in building Common Core skills in deeper thinking and analysis.

Students also need guided practice in reflection. Reflection can be a challenging endeavor. It’s not something that’s fostered in school – typically someone else tells you how you’re doing! At best, students can narrate what they did, but have trouble thinking abstractly about their learning – patterns, connections and progress. One place to start is with the reflective prompts I developed in my Taxonomy of Reflection.

The CEP’s summary report and accompanying papers highlight actions that teachers, school leaders, parents, and communities can take to foster student motivation. The following are just a few of the many ideas included in the report:

  1. Programs that reward academic accomplishments are most effective when they reward students for mastering certain skills or increasing their understanding rather than rewarding them for reaching a performance target or outperforming others.
  2. Tests are more motivating when students have an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge through low-stakes tests, performance tasks, or frequent assessments that gradually increase in difficulty before they take a high-stakes test.
  3. Professional development can help teachers encourage student motivation by sharing ideas for increasing student autonomy, emphasizing mastery over performance, and creating classroom environments where students can take risks without fear of failure
  4. Parents can foster their children’s motivation by emphasizing effort over ability and praising children when they’ve mastered new skills or knowledge instead of praising their innate intelligence.

Many aspects of motivation are not fully understood, the report and background papers caution, and most programs or studies that have shown some positive results have been small or geographically concentrated. “Because much about motivation is not known, this series of papers should be viewed as a springboard for discussion by policymakers, educators, and parents rather than a conclusive research review,” said Nancy Kober, CEP consultant and co­author of the summary report. “This series can also give an important context to media stories about student achievement, school improvement, or other key education reform issues.”

Black Friday: Will Teachers Be Shopping or Working at the Mall?

American Teacher Poster
American Teacher Poster

Throughout my teaching career I had a second job. For the first decade, I spent my summers painting houses. My non-teaching friends joked that I had “summers off.” No, I just had a different job. As the superintendent gave the the opening day pep talk at the start of the school year, I was thinking about the dormers that I still needed to finish.

Ten years into my career, I couldn’t afford to own a home in the community I taught in. I frequently ran into former students. “Hey Mr. Pappas … great to see you … remember me? … are you still a teacher?” I would think – would you ask a doctor that question? …  or don’t you consider teaching a real job?

What’s your kid’s teacher doing tonight – home working on lesson plans, or selling cell phones at the mall?

Eventually, I realized I could align my second job with my teaching career – so I turned to academic writing and adjunct teaching. By supplementing my income with summer and evening work, I figured out a way to stay in the classroom for 25 years.

So much for the personal backstory. This post is about American Teacher, a film that follows four teachers who struggle to make ends meet while trying to stay in the profession they love. With narration by Matt Damon, it tells their stories through a mixture of footage and interviews with students, families, and colleagues, as well as the teachers themselves. By following these teachers as they reach different milestones in their careers, it uncovers a deeper story of the teaching profession in America today.

“American Teacher” is waiting for a major theatrical release. I plan on attending the Portland Ore premiere of the film on Thursday Dec 8 at the Hollywood Theater. The film’s producer Ninive Calegari will be hosting the screening.
(I wonder if she’ll bring Matt??) For more information on national screenings of “American Teacher” or to arrange a screening in your area click here.

Statistics show that nearly half of all teachers leave within the first five years. Low salaries and high stress are among the top reasons teachers “burnout” and quit the profession. Sixty-two percent of our nation’s teachers have second jobs outside of the classroom. What’s your kid’s teacher doing tonight – home working on lesson plans, or selling cell phones at the mall?

In countries known for superior student performance (Singapore, South Korea and Finland) top college students are drawn into teaching by competitive salaries and high respect for their contribution to society. In contrast, US teachers are underpaid, relative to other skilled professionals, and they have to listen to politicians accuse them of being lazy and undeserving of collective bargaining rights.

Nearly half of the American teaching profession is eligible for retirement in the next ten years. Will that be seen as a opportunity to hire low-paid replacements? Or do our kids deserve something better? 

PS. Need some inspiration? Read my recent post Why I Teach? A Voice from StoryCorps

The Future of Schools – Three Design Scenarios

Richard Elmore and Elizabeth City of Harvard Graduate School of Education wrote a powerful piece in Education Week Using Technology to Move Beyond Schools (May, 16, 2011).

Since it’s behind a subscription paywall, I thought I’d quote it broadly to help spread its powerful message. For my thoughts on the subject please see my post What Happens in Schools When Life Has become an Open-book Test?

“What proportion of the activity called ‘learning’ will be located in the institution called ‘school’?” The availability of relatively cheap technologies offering direct access to knowledge of all types creates opportunities for students to experience a dramatic increase in the choice of what they learn, with whom they choose to learn, and how they choose to learn. How will the institution called “school” survive in this environment, in what form will it survive, and what would schools look like if they chose not just to “survive” but to find a productive place in this new environment?

With rare exceptions, schools currently treat the digital revolution as if it never happened. Computers, more often than not, still sit in dedicated rooms, accessible only with adult supervision.

… When students step out the door of the institution called school today, they step into a learning environment … in which one is free to follow a line of inquiry wherever it takes one, without the direction and control of someone called a teacher… If you were a healthy, self-actualizing young person, in which of these environments would you choose to spend most of your time?

… The more accessible learning becomes through unmediated relationships and broad-based social networks, the less clear it is why schools, and the people who work in them, should have such a large claim on the lives of children and young adults…

Consider three possible school scenarios for the next generation or so.

The first might be called “fighting for survival,” or “turtle gets a laptop.” Schools continue to be organized and run in much the same way as they are today. …Teachers and schools continue to control access to content and learning. In this instance, schools will increasingly become custodial institutions, isolated from the lives of their students and the learning environment beyond their walls.

The second scenario might be called “controlled engagement,” or “frog gets a GPS device.” In this case, schools make some nonincremental leaps in the way they are organized and run. Schools set the learning destinations and map out the best pathways to those destinations. … Teachers are less gatekeepers of knowledge, and more knowledge brokers. … Schools become less places where students go to learn from adults, and more places where adults and students get together to enter a broader learning environment

The third scenario might be called “open access to learning,” or “caterpillar learns to fly.” Here schools cease to play the determining role in what constitutes knowledge and learning. …Schools are on their own, competing with other types of service providers and learning modalities for the interest and loyalty of students and their parents. A family might combine services from two or three different organizations into a learning plan …Schools, as we presently know them, would gradually cease to exist and be replaced by social networks organized around the learning goals of students and their families.

I imagine that many educators will dismiss this commentary as being too far-fetched. Perhaps schools need be reminded of the growing irrelevance of information gatekeepers (record companies, book publishers, newspapers) in the lives of their students.

Image credit flickr

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