The World Is My Audience: Using iBooks Author and Book Creator to Change Student Writing

The World is my AudienceBackstory: I’ve long been impressed with Jon Smith’s exploration of student publishing. Recently I saw his post at the Ohio Resource Center and asked Jon if he would cross post on my blog. This is his second post on Copy/Paste. Here’s his first guest post which features a video reflection by his students. 

Jon Smith is a technology integration specialist for Alliance City Schools. He was a special education teacher for 12 years and continues to have a desire to allow special education students to create wonderful content to enhance their learning. Jon’s daily duties include teaching students about technology tools, helping them with projects, and giving professional development to teachers and district staff. He is also an instructor for the Communicate Institute. Jon teaches a graduate-level course to teachers on engaging the twenty-first-century learner with technology. You can contact Jon at his website. His student iBooks are available here ~ Peter Pappas

The Beginnings

I was teaching special education students in grades 5 and 6 in an inner-city school in Canton. Time was going by, and students continued to struggle with writing. I was determined to make a difference and change these students for the better. They were going to become great writers if it killed me. While my goals were commendable, they weren’t being achieved to the degree I wanted. Then, two years ago, Apple introduced a software product called iBooks Author, and things would change for me forever.

For the first time, people were given the opportunity to self-publish in an easy manner. I saw this software as an opportunity for students to have a global audience for their writing. Blogs and other means of attracting a global audience have been around for a while, but this was something truly different, and I ran with it. Students were excited to be writing for someone other than their teacher. Engagement increased. Time on task increased, and the energy in the classroom changed to something you can normally only dream of.

Within three months we had written and published three iBooks in Apple’s iBookstore. We were graphing the downloads in the hall on chart paper, estimating how many downloads we would have by the end of the year, and planning our next books. Comments from all over the globe came pouring in, and it meant a great deal to the students. For the first time in their lives, they had a real, authentic audience for their work.

I soon changed jobs and moved to Alliance City Schools. The iBook ideas continued, and my Alliance students soon published two iBooks using iBooks Author. Again, things were going smoothly until one day when I met Pam, a speech and language pathologist for one of the elementary schools in Alliance. This begins the journey of my use with the Book Creator app.

Working with Autistic Students

Pam was referred to me by our district network manager. She was in need of instruction on using iMovie on her iPad. I knew I could help her, and so we met to discuss using the iMovie app. She explained to me that she had a group of fourth grade autistic boys who needed some serious motivation and help. They weren’t interested in doing any kind of work at all, and she thought iMovie would help. I asked her what they were struggling with, and she mentioned social skills. Immediately my mind went from iMovie mode into something else, something more powerful.

I explained to Pam that I had another idea. It was an app I recently learned about. I was looking for a group of guinea pigs, and this was the perfect opportunity for me to try Book Creator out with a group of students. Pam explained to me that this was a tough group of kids. She eyed me cautiously when I explained that we were going to write a book using the Book Creator app. And she looked at me like I was on drugs when I told her that we weren’t only going to write a book but that we were also going to publish this book for the entire world to download.

listen-to-the-driverI began meeting with her and her students once a week. I explained to the students that they would soon be globally published authors. They were so excited about their book, it was contagious. We began using the Book Creator app to make videos of inappropriate social skills interactions (this wasn’t difficult because this is what they did on a daily basis). We also made videos of appropriate interactions (great learning opportunity for the kids). Students started using Pam’s iPad to write down information and create their stories and author bios. The students also realized they could record their voices using the app, and they did. They believed this would help them be better readers. Adding their own pictures was icing on the cake. After a month of work, the book was ready, and we published it in the iBookstore. The downloads started flying in, and this is where the real transformation occurred.

The students in Pam’s group were thrilled about the downloads. They put a map in the hall and began to chart which countries had downloaded their book. This seems like such a small thing, but to these students it was spectacular. These students who were afraid of talking to others, had few friends, and were thought of as outcasts soon became the stars of the school. The students were talking to kids in the hall, explaining why there was a red pin in Japan and Norway and Canada. One student’s parent, who never came to any IEP meetings, showed up for the first time. She was so excited to see what her son had done, that she came to the first meeting at the school in four years. The students couldn’t stop writing and wanted to make more and more books. They had so much fun and learned so much while using this app, that they have started a series of social skills books. As of today, they have written and published three iBooks in the social skills series.

Projects

I plan on using the Book Creator app with more and more schools as the year goes on. I have teamed with other teachers in the district, and we have written and published iBooks using the Book Creator app with kindergarten students, first graders, and of course our fourth and fifth graders. The ideas are endless, and the Book Creator app is the simplest and most robust app for writing books hands down. I would also like to expand the use of the app to the high school, where I spend most of my days. We have a one-to-one iPad program with the freshman class, and this app is ideal for having kids demonstrate their knowledge in a variety of subjects. I would also like to see students become their own self-publishers by using the app.Song about Mississippi

What I’ve Learned

Throughout the process of writing and publishing books, I’ve learned a few things. I would like to share those with you now, because this is such a powerful app and because publishing student work is such a powerful idea that I want every teacher and student to have this opportunity.

  1. Apple is picky. But using the Book Creator app is so easy, it’s nearly impossible not to pass Apple’s strict publishing standards.
  2. Writing and publishing books has enormous potential to change the lives of students and the way they interact with the world around them.
  3. Marketing your book makes a huge difference. I am very active on Twitter, and if it weren’t for all my followers, retweets, and mentions, we would not have had the successes we did. Twitter is a great place for free publicity.
  4. I’ve learned that people like to read what students create. We have had nearly 32,000 downloads of our class-written iBooks. This number keeps climbing daily, and it is very exciting to watch.
  5. I’ve also learned that writing and publishing books with your students is addicting. Currently we have 44 iBooks available in the iBookstore, and this number will continue to grow.

I would like to close this article with a few thoughts and a quote. I think students need to contribute more in the classroom. They need to be creating content as part of the learning experience. They need to show us what they know, and they need to be able to explain it. Using Book Creator has the potential to transform learning for you and your students. Students and teachers need to share what they do. This really makes a difference in the authenticity of the learning. I truly believe that students want to share what they do, and when they have a bigger audience, the work gets better.

When students create for the world they make it good. When students create only for their teachers, they make it good enough. —Rushton Hurley

Images supplied by Jon Smith

Classroom Tech: When Less is More

I recently was a guest on the UP Tech Talk Podcast produced by University of Portland’s Academic Technology Services and hosted by Maria Erb (Instructional Designer) and Sam Williams (Dir of Academic Tech Services). Kudos for the great ATS podcast studio!

We had a lively 18 minute discussion about my UP social studies methods class and technology’s role in instructional design – it opened like this …

What’s the least amount of technology you could use to get the job done?

Maria: Peter, so glad to have you on the podcast. We just had a great conversation … you managed to rattle off probably half a dozen Web 2.0 tools that you’re using just like you were a fish swimming in water; it just seems so easy and natural for you. I’m just wondering, how do you go about choosing which tools you’re going to use for these great projects that you’re working on? What piques your interest?

Peter: I think it really begins with seeing yourself as a designer of a learning experience. You work with the tools you have and with the setting you have. You’ve got X number of students; you’re meeting once a week; you’ve got three hours with them. You think about the instructional goals that you want to achieve, and then from there, you say, okay, so what kind of tools are out there. For example, there was a situation where I wanted them to collaborate and design some lessons. I wanted them to be able to share their work with one another and be able to comment on it. I also think it’s important that there always be a public product, because I think we find our students producing content for their instructor as opposed to … which is kind of a ritualized thing as opposed to real-world content.

And ended with this exchange …

Sam: Are there any words of wisdom around it’s not about the technology that you could leave us at the end of this podcast?

Peter: I would say the big question is what’s the least amount of technology you could use to get the job done. Taking something and making it prettier by putting it on a white board when you could have written it up on the chalk board really doesn’t get you anywhere. I think that the transformative part of technology is getting it in the hands of the students so that they can research and create and produce in ways you couldn’t do without it. For me, those are the essential elements that I’m looking at, not simply just something that’s a bright shiny object.

Text transcript (word file) | Show notes and links | Podcast at iTunes: #12

The University of Portland uses the SmartEval system to gather student feedback on courses and faculty. Here’s a few comments from my UP students that are relevant to this podcast:

  • Peter challenged us to think and be designers of curriculum, instead of just lecturers. We learned how to get students working and thinking critically in the classroom.
  • I liked that the focus of the class was on making a product.
  • He also showed us how to move from the lecture mode to engaging students as architects in their own learning process.
  • Very well connected with other educators on Twitter. He has promoted every student in the class using his connections to help us build professional connections and build a professional online presence.

Exploring History in 10 Interactive Lessons

Exploring-History-VolIII’m very pleased to share a new iBook just published by my Social Studies Methods class at the University of Portland. Free at iTunes. Static pdf version of the iBook.

It features ten engaging questions and historic documents that empower students to be the historian in the classroom. The units draw from a fascinating collection of text and multimedia content – documents, posters, photographs, audio, video, letter and other ephemera. “Stop-and-think” prompts based on CCSS skills guide students through analysis of the primary and secondary sources. Essential questions foster critical thinking. All documents include links back to the original source material so readers can remix the content into their own curated collections.

All of my students assignments had a public audience on our class blog and were designed to meet our three class goals: 

  • Learn to think like a historian.
  • Become a skillful Instructional designer
  • Develop technical skills for production, reflection, growth and professional networking.

The lesson design process began early in the semester when students designed lessons in historical thinking skills based on the work of Sam Wineburg and the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG). They focussed on three key skills – Sourcing, Contextualizing and Corroborating. Then students identified essential questions worth answering and gathered documents to explore the question in an extended DBQ design process.

Exploring History: Vol II was our PBL capstone and is available on iTunes in 51 countries around the world. Here’s a post (from last fall’s class) that describes our project workflow (including how we utilized iBooks Author). Here’s Exploring History: Vol I created by my fall 2013 class.

I’ll be doing a future blog post that features each student’s DBQ, but for now here’s the US and World History lessons in chronological order:

  1. The American Revolution by Scott Deal
  2. The Pig War by Andy Saxton
  3. Cesspool of Savagery by Michelle Murphy
  4. Chemical War by Erik Nelson
  5. Americans’ Perceptions of Immigration in the 1920s by Ceci Brunning and Jenna Bunnell
  6. The New Deal and the Art of Public Persuasion by Kari VanKommer
  7. Combat Soldiers in Context by Kristi Anne McKenzie
  8. The Marshall Plan: Altruism or Pragmatism? by Samuel Kimerling
  9. Little Rock Nine: Evaluating Historical Sources by Christy Thomas
  10. First Ladies as a Political Tool by Emily Strocher  

Get the Word Out: A Social Media Case Study

Police Dog Tess I teach future teachers – secondary social studies teachers. The course has three goals:

  1. Learn to think like a historian. 
  2. Become a skillful instructional designer.
  3. Develop skills for reflection, growth and professional networking.

They begin the course by doing self-audits of their social media use for professional networking – a good starting point to reflect on their expanding professional learning networks. Along the way we use load of tech tools to achieve our course goals. Every activity results in a public product for their growing professional portfolio.

Rather than tell them what to do, I prefer to model it. Here’s a brief Storify that illustrates how to fuse our three course goals and produce content to share with the world. Here’s our first set of student posts. Take a look and leave a comment.

Image credit: Police Dog Tess, 29/1/35 by Sam Hood
State Library of New South Wales

Free iBook: History of Portland’s Japantown

Portland’s Japantown Revealed Cover

Awarded “Best Textbook” and “Best Widget, 2015” More

I’m pleased to introduce my multitouch iBook: Portland’s Japantown Revealed. Free at iTunes.
It’s a collection of historic documents, photographs and interviews that tell the story of Portland’s “Nihonmachi” (Japantown) – a once vibrant community that disappeared with the forced removal and incarceration of its citizens. It’s the fourth title in my Homefront USA series of iBooks.

It’s filled with over a hundred archival photographs and dozens of video interviews with former Japantown residents selected from the collection of the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center. The book details life from the 1890s until the eve of WWII when it had grown to a bustling neighborhood with over 100 businesses. Located within a twelve block area in an area north of Burnside St and west of the Willamette River, it was a home to scores Japanese American families and a regional destination for others who wanted to buy traditional food, receive dental and medical care, find legal assistance, and take care of their banking needs.

One exciting feature of the iBook are interactive “Portland Revealed” widgets that allow the reader to blend historic and contemporary photographs. I created them by seeking out locations of historic photographs where the architecture had been preserved and re-photographing the contemporary setting. The resulting overlay lets the user “paint” the historic figures into modern settings.

ONLC 01856 Morimoto Kawamoto truck

“ … we just didn’t know what was going to happen to us. Were they going to shoot us, or are they going to send us all to Japan, and we can’t even speak Japanese properly.”

The book details the Japanese American reaction to the attack on Pearl Harbor and the uncertainty that swept through Nihonmachi. A Japanese American woman who was nineteen at time recalls “Well, they won’t take us, we’re citizens … “we’re citizens,” that’s all we kept saying, “they wouldn’t take us.” A  man looks back and recalls thinking “ … we just didn’t know what was going to happen to us. Were they going to shoot us, or are they going to send us all to Japan, and we can’t even speak Japanese properly.”

To give the reader historic context for the temper of the times, the book includes pamphlets, posters and movie clips that exemplify the anti-Japanese rhetoric of the era. Portland’s Japantown residents retell the story of the sudden arrests and disappearance of community leaders in the days following Pearl Harbor.

By February of 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 cleared the way for the forced removal and incarceration of Portland’s Nihonmachi.

Japanese-American child who will go with his parents to Owens Valley

Once the exclusion orders were issued, Portland’s Japanese Americans had only a few days to get their business affairs in order before having to report to the Portland Assembly Center. Many were barred by the Alien Land Laws, from owning property, thus their businesses investments were in fixtures and inventory. Limited to only a suitcase of personal possessions, many had to leave everything behind or liquidate possession or properties in quick sales for only pennies on the dollar. Within days Nihonmachi’s residents were stripped of their civil rights, freedom and financial equity.

Their first stop was the Portland Assembly Center operated in the summer of 1942. It was one of the many temporary incarceration centers built in large population centers on the west coast until more permanent centers could be built further inland. The Portland Assembly Center was really the Pacific International Livestock Exposition Pavilion. Plywood construction and rough partitions could not cloak the smell of manure, or deter the swarms of black flies.

Page from Portland’s Japantown RevealedFor four months, over 3,500 evacuees made do in this roughshod temporary housing with minimal plumbing and little privacy. No information was given on how long they would be at the assembly center or where they would go next. See interviews with people incarcerated at that center and contrast them with the cheerful photographs circulated to the US public. Most of Portland’s Nihonmachi was eventually moved from the Portland Assembly Center to more permanent incarceration at the Minidoka War Relocation Center.

But after the war … the Japanese town was not there… I don’t think there was that central feeling of Japantown. ~ Former resident

Released from incarceration in 1945, Portland’s Japanese community faced tough decisions about where to “restart” their lives. Most had lost their livelihoods, homes and possessions in the wartime roundup. Released from incarceration in 1945, Portland’s Japanese community faced tough decisions about where to “restart” their lives. Most had lost their livelihoods, homes and possessions in the wartime roundup.

In the post-war years, some Japanese American businesses were re-established in what had been Portland’s Japantown. Nonetheless, the vitality of a neighborhood that once was a vibrant Nihonmachi never fully recovered from the US government’s forced removal and incarceration of its Japanese American residents during the war years.

Unless otherwise noted images from the Nikkei Legacy Center.
Young girl detainee by Russell Lee. 
U.S. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information.

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