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.

My TypePad to WordPress Conversion

typepad wordpress conversion

If you’re a follower of my blog you’ll notice its new look. Copy / Paste has moved to WordPress.

When I first started blogging back in ’05 I was a bit confused by WordPress, so I opted for TypePad. TypePad has been easy to use, but I’ve enviously watched WordPress evolve into a far superior platform. And I’ve always been a bit nervous wondering what might happen to my blog if TypePad – a paid blogging host – decided to pack up shop. Earlier this year, its parent company, Six Apart, was sold to a new owner. My anxiety level increased. The thought that some new owner of TypePad might one day shut it down was frightening. But so was the idea that in moving to WordPress, I might jeopardize my content and traffic.

Fortunately I found Foliovision – and here’s three reasons why I can highly recommend their work:

My web design skills peaked with FrontPage ’98.

1. I don’t think in html, yet manage to do lots of interesting things with technology with only a veneer of understanding of what’s going on under the hood. Foliovision spent a great deal of time explaining the conversion process before I signed on. (How many times did I make them absolutely promise that a conversion wouldn’t kill off all my links?) Since we started working on the project, they have patiently answered questions that a serious techie must find rather naive. Bottom line – while they wrote the book on TypePad to WordPress conversions – they can discuss it in layman’s terms.

2. They manage project workflow with style and efficiency. Through the conversion process I worked with four specialist via their Foliovision’s Basecamp collaboration tool. Replies were timely and each person seemed well aware of what the rest of the team was doing. Alec, Foliovision’s creative director, would periodically pop into the conversation with a great idea, like merging one of my other domains into my new blog. You never would have guessed I was working with a team based in Bratislava, Slovakia – half a world away from Portland, Ore.

3. It turned out to be an engaging collaborative effort. OK – so I didn’t have much to suggest to Martin about programming or Marieta about CSS. But I did have a bit of synergy with Michala, the lead designer and project manager. We shared loads of design ideas and exchanged screen shots as the look and function of the new blog took shape. We even found out we both admire the work of Barbara Kruger – you’ll recognize her influence in my blog.

So this is my first blog post on my new site. I’m eager to learn more about using WordPress and leveraging the custom Foliovision plugins. And, of course, I checked all my content, links, and data  - they made it over successfully. 

For more on Foliovision’s conversion click here.  BTW, I chose the Gold Service Option. 

Looking at Student Work: Teacher Led Professional Development

For the last few years, I’ve been working with a high school that serves a population of  high-poverty, urban students. In my previous visits we have looked at strategies to get students to function at higher levels of thinking (rigor) and with more responsibility for their learning (relevance) in a workshop setting, make-take sessions, and in classroom walkthroughs. The centerpiece of our third series of sessions is looking at student work. I met with teachers over three days in groups of 5-6 in 2 hour sessions. A rotating pool of subs covered classes. Some groups were structured by content area, others were interdisciplinary. Both configurations gave us interesting perspectives to review samples of student work and use them as a springboard for  collegial  discussion. Most importantly, teachers supported each other in school-embedded professional development.

Teachers were asked to bring two assignments with at least two samples of student work for each task. When possible, teachers brought in copies of the material to share among the team. Many brought writing samples or other assignments that offered students some freedom in how they approach the task. Extended responses or assignments that required students to explain their thinking led to the most rich discussions. Since the school has a major CTE component, some teacher brought in manufacturing projects.

The process

Each teacher began by giving a brief background to their artifacts  – course, students, context of the assignment. We then spent about 45 minutes individually reviewing the sample assignments / responses. Teachers were supplied with sticky notes to make observations on the student work. This provide useful feedback to the originating teacher. Many teachers shared their impression verbally via informal side conversations.

I then guided teachers a discussion using four levels of prompts  We kept our conversations focused on the evidence found  in student work – rather than specific students or teachers.

Level 1: The Details: What details do you see in the student work – voice, content, organization, vocabulary, mechanics?

Level 2: The Student’s Perspective: Looking at the work from the student perspective – what was the student working on? What were they trying to do? What level of thinking were they using? What choices were they making about content, process, product, or evaluation? How much responsibility do they take for – what they learn, the process they use, and how they evaluate it?

Level 3: Patterns and Conclusions: Do you see any patterns across the samples of student work? Did you see anything that was surprising? What did you learn about how a student thinks and learns?

Level 4: What’s Next? What new perspectives did you learn from your colleagues? What questions about teaching and learning did looking at student work raise for you? As a result of looking at student work, are there things you would like to try in your classroom to increase rigor, increase relevance, promote reflection?

Teacher Responses

Teachers were also provided with written version of the prompts so that they could write their feedback. Here are some of the comments / questions raised by teachers. For more on how I used my iPhone Dragon Dictation program to gather comments click here.

  • Choice is motivation!
  • I need to devote more time to students reading and evaluating each others work.
  • We need more sessions like this one. It’s great to hear different perspectives on the same groups of students.
  • Am I making my expectations clear? Can they see the value in the assignments?
  • I’d like to add a student reflection every each day.
  • I’m seeing new ways of looking at / evaluating student work.
  • When students create for themselves, they see greater value in their work.
  • I’ve got ideas how to make learning more independent, interactive – I want to stress more project, inquiry based instruction.
  • We need to reinforce the idea of more “open” solutions to projects and assignments.
  • Students are accustomed to answering questions that require memorization of facts and formulas, but the work that reflected student understanding used higher-level questions and left room for student interpretations.  
  • Incorporating reflection into answers reinforces the fundamental concepts
  • This session helps us develop consistent expectations throughout the school
  • This is a great model for sharing – must be efficient and concise like this so teachers are willing to participate.
  • What are we expecting our students to know and be able to do in preparation for the global society?

The National School Reform Faculty has many resources for looking at student work that helped me in developing my process and questions. Thanks! Additional kudos to dear friend and colleague, Patricia Martin for helping me to frame the workshop.

A Taxonomy of Reflection: Critical Thinking For Students, Teachers, and Principals (Part 1)

Taxonomy of Reflection by Peter Pappas

My approach to staff development (and teaching) borrows from the thinking of Donald Finkel who believed that teaching should be thought of as “providing experience, provoking reflection.” He goes on to write,

… to reflectively experience is to make connections within the details of the work of the problem, to see it through the lens of abstraction or theory, to generate one’s own questions about it, to take more active and conscious control over understanding. ~ From Teaching With Your Mouth Shut

Over the last few years I’ve led many teachers and administrators on classroom walkthroughs designed to foster a collegial conversation about teaching and learning. The walkthroughs served as roving Socratic seminars and a catalyst for reflection. But 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. Likewise teachers and principals need encouragement and opportunities to think more reflectively about their craft.

In an effort to help schools become more reflective learning environments, I’ve developed this “Taxonomy of Reflection.” – modeled on Bloom’s approach.  It’s posted in four installments:

1.  A Taxonomy of  Reflection
2. The Reflective Student
3. The Reflective Teacher
4. The Reflective Principal

Taxonomy of Reflection by Peter Pappas

Educator Larry Ferlazzo writes: “I think Peter Pappas’ Taxonomy of Student Reflection is a brilliant way of looking at developing higher-order thinking skills through a new “lens.” It makes Bloom’s Taxonomy much more relevant and engaging to students than so many other Bloom’s strategies that are out there. And it can be an invaluable and simple tool for formative assessment — something that any teacher can regularly use in their classroom that only takes a few minutes. My students and I have used it for the past three years, I’ve strongly recommended it in two books, and prominently highlight Peter’s work in my blog.”

A Taxonomy of Lower to Higher Order Reflection

Assume an individual has just completed a task. What types of questions might they use to reflect on the experience? How might those questions parallel Bloom’s Taxonomy?

Bloom’s Remembering: Retrieving, recognizing, and recalling relevant knowledge from short- or long-term memory.
Reflection: What did I do?

Bloom’s Understanding: Constructing meaning from oral, written, or graphic messages.
Reflection: What was important about what I did? Did I meet my goals?

Bloom’s Applying: Carrying out or using a procedure through executing, or implementing. Extending the procedure to a new setting.
Reflection: When did I do this before? Where could I use this again?

Bloom’s Analyzing: Breaking material into constituent parts, determining how the parts relate to one another and to an overall structure or purpose.
Reflection: Do I see any patterns or relationships in what I did?

Bloom’s Evaluating: Making judgments based on criteria and standards.
Reflection: How well did I do? What worked? What do I need to improve?

Bloom’s Creating: Combining or reorganizing elements into a new pattern or structure.
Reflection: What should I do next? What’s my plan / design?


Note: A thanks to dear friend and colleague Patricia Martin, for sharing her thoughts on this idea.

 Take my Prezi tour of the Taxonomy

Reluctant Reader as Author

Literacy specialist, Pat Martin,  authored this guest blog on one of publishing projects.
Pat Martin last guest blogged about the Parents’ Literacy Publishing Project

Img_0182_2Cuyler, a winsome first grader, has published his first book.  The experience encouraged him to exclaim, “I’m going to publish more than 1000 books. I have so much more to say.”

Mid-way through his second year of formal schooling, Cuyler should be reading about level 9/10 (guided reading text level as described by Pinnell and Fountas).  He’s not.  However, after reading a text created by MaryAnn McAlpin, a retired Reading Recovery teacher, for her grandson, Cuyler was motivated to create his own text using that model.

“I’m going to publish more than 1000 books. I have so much more to say.” ~ Cuyler, a 1st grader

Writing his personal text benefits Cuyler in so many ways.  His extensive daily vocabulary is supported by actual printed text.  His interests, vehicles of every description and outdoor life, become the basis of his text which further stimulates his daily effort to acquire reading skill.  As such noted advocates for boy literacy as Ralph Fletcher and Michael Gurian note, primary texts and writing prompts seldom deal with the world that interests boys.  There is scant opportunity to connect with the texts, to bring personal experience into the reading/writing or to interact with the text content.

Img_0193_2 Capturing Cuyler’s explanations and descriptions as a book’s text mimics interactive writing or the daily journal writing in the reading Recovery lesson.  And what child wouldn’t read and reread a book of their pictures and writing?  What better way to achieve fluency?  Certainly a more exciting, engaging and authentic method than grappling through Cuyler’s four inch thick stack of Dolch sight words – a practice he he finds less than engaging. Cuyler now sees himself as a literate individual.  He is excited about the growing up as a reader and writer rather than defeated by the challenges that text holds. 

By providing text that supports him as a reader and validates him as a writer, Cuyler is on the path of literacy.  And he is an excited traveler who wants to know “how many days until we go back to that learning lab so I can publish books.”Img_0192_2

For sometime now I’ve been an advocate of new print on demand technologies to give students a chance to publish their learning for an authentic audience and purpose. I’ve partnered with Pat Martin, a literacy specialist and Suzanne Suor, an educational technology consultant, to open a Educational Publishing Learning Lab in Rochester NY. We offer a variety of training packages to assist teachers and districts in taking advantage of the new opportunities in digital publishing. The lab is located at ColorCentric digital publishers, so participants can not only learn how to publish, but tour the facility to see books being made. For more information on how you and your students can publish your own books visit our website Read > Think > Write > Publish