iPDX14 Session Preview: Getting Started with iBooks Author

Getting started with iBooks AuthorI’ll be teaching “Getting Started with iBooks Author” a two hour workshop at the integratEd / #iPDX14 conference in Portland OR.  (Feb 27 – 10:30-12:30) Here’s your chance to see how easy it is for students and teachers to create multi-touch iBooks using iBA. We’ll demonstrate the key steps in designing an iBook that can be published to iTunes or shared as iBooks files. To effectively participate you will need to bring:

  1. A Mac loaded with iBooks Author. If you are running Mavericks, you will be able to preview your iBook on you Mac. If you are not running Mavericks, you may wish to bring an iPad and connector to preview you work.
  2. Content you’d like to work with (text files, images jpg or png, Keynote decks, video m4v, audio m4a).
  3. You’ll learn efficient workflow strategies for creating and sharing your own multi-touch iBook. You’ll leave with a demonstration iBook and the confidence to keep going.

Quick Start: iBooks Author

I’ve created a 20-page guide that will give you a quick start to creating your own interactive iBook using iBooks Author. If you’re attending #iPDX14, download it in advance and we’ll flip my workshop. Free at iTunes Sections include:

  • An interactive tour of the program’s main window.
  • Widget sampler with examples and settings for all native iBooks Author widgets
  • Tips and tricks for designing your iBook and managing your work flow.

My blog posts tagged iBooks Author

Looking for inspiration? Download one of my iBooks at iTunes 

Here’s a few useful links for content:
Library of free interactive widgets at Bookry
Creative Commons Image Search
Internet Archive Search for videos, audio and images.

For more iBooks Author how to tips – see my free guide on Scoop it Publishing with iBooks Author.

Tips for Motivating Student Writers with iBooks Author


I just finished teaching a Social Studies Methods class at the University of Portland.

We took a very hands-on, project-based approach and even worked with a local historical museum where my students served as curriculum consultants.

As someone who has long advocated student publishing, I wanted my students to have the chance to design an iBook.

I’m pleased to announce that our book: “Exploring History” is available free at iTunes

This post will offer a rationale for student publishing, some tips on managing the project as well as student reaction to working with iBooks Author.

It’s about collaboration and content, not the technology.

My goals for the iBook project included:

  • Think like historians – if my pre-service teachers are going to inspire the next generation, they need to learn to behave like a historians and social scientists.
  • Explore technologies that support instruction – some educators are tempted to chase “bright, shiny objects” and forget that it’s about good teaching, not the technology. My students would have a chance to use a variety of tech tools and assess their efficacy.
  • Participate in a multi-stage, project-based learning experience to experience the challenges and opportunities of PBL.
  • Have a publicly shared product for their portfolio.

iBooks Author Lab

Here’s a few tips on student publishing with iBooks Author (iBA). For details on the original assignment see our class blog.

It’s about collaboration and content, not the technology.
Each step of the project involved peer review. For example, long before students even began research, they had to go through a “speed dating” session to “pitch” their research idea to one another for feedback.

Later we used Learnist as a online location for student to post their historic documents and scaffolding questions. Learnist is a web-based curation site with built in social media tools – it can collect and comment on videos, blogs, books, docs, images or anything on the web. Their peers reviewed the drafts and left comments on the site. Since Learnist boards are public, some students received comments from folks outside our class. See their draft Learnist Boards here.

Multi-touch iBA widgets are fun, but do they help tell the story?
Before using iBA, we spent time looking at iBooks and considering how various widgets might be useful. Students thought the scrolling side bar and gallery widgets would be effective design tools. Many students wanted to include YouTube videos.   (Our iBook readers would need wifi to access the videos, but since the actual video file does not reside in the iBook, the iBook file size is kept small.) You can use Bookry to embed a YouTube video. After a free account sign up, you’ll find many other useful widgets there.

The computer lab is for production not planning.
I staged a series of assignments that all folded into the development of a finished iBook. For example, I asked students to write a blog post reflecting on what they learned from developing their DBQ. That reflection later became the concluding section of their iBook chapter. By the time we were heading to the Mac lab to get started with iBA, they had their chapters finalized with all the content for their iBook chapter stored on a drive – including all image / sound / text files, citations and URLs. Students were able to copy / paste all their content into their iBook chapter in only a few hours of lab time. iBA Tip: If you don’t have a Mac / iBA station for each student, you could have a production team transfer the work of their peers into finished form. iBA Tip: It’s easy to copy / paste chapters or sections of chapters from one iBA file to another. Be warned that you cannot copy / paste individual iBA pages – thought you can copy / paste the content elements from one page to another in iBA.

Minimize the need for editorial clean up. Collaborate using a design template.
If you’ve every worked with a group in a computer lab you know how much time can be lost while they explore fonts and other design elements. We discussed some template options while we were looking at other sample iBooks. We arrived at consensus and I pre-loaded a template chapter into each work station. Few design decisions were made in the lab. The template began with a chapter “Photo and Text” page. iBA Tip: it’s easy to mess up iBAs Table of Contents view. Click here for my tip on how to avoid that. 

After the opening chapter text and image the rest of the template chapter consisted of blank pages with a few different text formats that we planned on using. iBA Tip: Unless you’re creating a largely text-only iBook, I find that chapters with flowing text are much more challenging to manage. Inserted widgets and images have a habit of repositioning as text is edited or deleted. Remind students to clean up any of the placeholder font that iBA inserts into widgets. iTunes will not approve an iBook that contains any placeholder text. (“Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, donec ornare vitae…”)

Ibooks author lab 2

Here’s some feedback from my students on the project. BTW – only two of my 12 grad / undergrad students were experienced Mac users.

I liked how simple and hands-on the process was.The iBook making process is something that I definitely see myself using in the future.  I see this as a viable avenue for me and my teaching style. – Tom

iBooks Author is easy to use and the end product looks fantastic. I’m sure students would feel a real sense of accomplishment and pride after creating something with this program. This project gave us a nice taste of what this platform is capable of. Like everyone else, I can see myself using it in the future, for myself and for my students. – Damian


The prospect of an audience always inspires an extra amount of effort – Peter G.


I really enjoyed working on the iBook. It was a very fulfilling experience and I cannot wait until I can show my friends and family my section of the work. Looking back on it now, if my classroom had the resources I think this would make a fine project or lesson as the program itself is easy to use. – Cory

Working with iBook tonight was a great experience! iBooks is actually fairly simple and intuitive. After just a bit of instruction we were on our way. Now that our chapter in the iBook is finished I am excited to see how the whole iBook looks together. It is exciting to think students will be using our work. – Christina

I’m excited to wrap up our work on the iBooks. I’ve been thinking recently about how creating an iBook in the classroom gives students the opportunity to take ownership of their work. The prospect of an audience always inspires an extra amount of effort. – Peter G.

Working on the iBooks was a great experience. It’s actually much easier to work than I previously thought it would be. I thought of a good idea for a DBQ at the end of class today and I want to make it an iBook during winter break now. – Stephen

Text to Text: A Strategy for Common Core Close Reading

The-Scarlet-Letter-1917The NY Times Learning Network has just launched a new series of lesson plans called “Text to Text.” It’s a simple approach that pairs two written texts that “speak to each other.” I think it’s a Common Core close reading strategy that could be easily replicated by teachers across the curriculum – great way to blend nonfiction with fiction and incorporate a variety of media with written text.

Each lesson includes a key question, extension activities and additional resources to expand the basic lesson. Here’s two graphic organizers to help student organize their “Text to Text” thinking. (free PFD downloads)
Comparing Two or More Texts
Double-Entry Chart for Close Reading

The NY TImes plans to continue the series at the Learning Network – tagged Text to Text
To date they have created three sample lessons:

“The Scarlet Letter” and “Sexism and the Single Murderess”
Key Question: To what extent is there still a sexual double standard, and how does that double standard play out in contemporary culture?
It pairs a passage from “The Scarlet Letter” with a recent Op-Ed article that, together, invite discussion on societal attitudes toward female sexuality.

“Where Do Your Genes Come From?” and “DNA Double Take”
Key Question: How are recent advances in science changing our understanding of the genome, and how might this affect fields like forensic science or genetic counseling?
It matches a Times article with often-taught scientific, historic, cultural or literary material. This edition is about new findings in genetics.

“Edward Snowden and Daniel Ellsberg”
Key Question | Is Snowden a Hero, a Traitor or Something Else?
It pairs two Times articles that capture parallel moments in history: Daniel Ellsberg’s surrender to the police in 1971 after leaking the Pentagon Papers, and Edward Snowden’s public admission in June that he leaked classified documents about United States surveillance programs.

Image credit: 1917 Film version of ”The Scarlet Letter” – publicity still (cropped)
L. to R Stuart Holmes, Kittens Reichert & Mary Martin Date

How To Fake a Hyperlink Text Pop-Over in iBooks Author


recruiting rosie cover

I just published my latest iBook Recruiting Rosie: The Sales Pitch That Won a War. iTunes. It’s a multi-touch book that showcases how the American government created a massive media blitz to convince women to take up WWII production and service jobs. One point that I wanted to stress was that while there was great diversity in the women who did war work, the media campaign almost exclusively featured white women. Minority and lower-income women needed little encouragement to move to higher paying war jobs. In contrast, married middle class women who had traditionally avoided work outside the household needed to be coaxed into the workplace. They were the target of a sales pitch filled with themes of patriotism, sacrifice and duty that depicted war work and military service as fashionable and glamorous.

To illustrate this point I selected two photographs from Alfred Palmer’s famous series of color photographs depicting women war workers done for the US Office of War Information.
I offered the reader the chance to guess which became a promotional poster and a Pop-Over was perfect for that interaction. The Pop-Over widget is new in iBA 2 and provides a custom image that acts as a trigger to display a scrolling region similar to the Scrolling Sidebar. The Pop-Over may also contain text and graphics.

While I could have used an image to trigger the pop-over, I preferred a more minimal text anchor. Since you can’t anchor a Pop-Over to text, I made some text look like a hyperlink and then made the Pop-Over placeholder invisible and positioned it over the text. (You can download a free preview of the book to see this the results.)

Here’s how I did it.

1. Layout the page with all images and text. This image below shows a section of the page at that starting point.

Pop-over start

2. Select the text, open my Styles Drawer and use “Hyperlink” character style to make the selected text look like a hyperlink. 

hyperlink style

3. Now I have the same page with what appears to be a hyperlink.

text as hyperlink

3. Use the Widget builder to select the Pop-Over widget. While I could include text in the Pop-Over, I delete the text and drag my poster image in. Next I use the corner handles on both the image and Pop-Over to enlarge both to a corresponding size that I want for final display in the iBook. (the image below show it before I finished adjusting the sizes of the poster and Pop-Over).

pop-over-with image

4. Click on the image placeholder to make it active and open the Inspector. Go to the Metrics Inspector and deselect “Constrain Proportions.” That way I can make the anchor the size and shape I want to fit exactly over my text. (the image show it before deselection)

object constrain proportions

5. Go to the Wrap Inspector and de-select “Object causes image to wrap”  - that keeps the object from pushing text aside. That way I can place it over my text. (the image show it before deselection)

object wrap selector

6. Use the Graphic Inspector to change the opacity of the object to zero – that makes it invisible. (that’s the slider at the bottom of the selector) 

set opacity

7. Drag the invisible Pop-Over to cover over my anchor text. I resize it as needed. It doesn’t have to be exact. But when the user taps on the “hyperlink” text I want to be sure they are actually activating the invisible Pop-Over trigger.

arrange invisible pop-over

8. Last step is to preview the iBooks Author project on my iPad and make sure it works.

PBL in Action: Students Write, Market and Publish

Where the Roses Smell the Best

Portland’s own Roosevelt High School will celebrate the culmination of a year of hard work from students and volunteers in the Writing and Publishing Center and its first publication with a month of readings throughout Portland. Student-led Unique Ink has published Where the Roses Smell the Best, a literary companion to Portland filled with short stories, vignettes, and poems about the places, people, and activities that make Portland unique.

The book includes work from Roosevelt students alongside local authors such as Brian Doyle, Kim Stafford, Steve Duin, Renee Mitchell and Paulann Petersen. Where the Roses Smell the Best is available for purchase at local bookstores and online at Powells.com and Annie Bloom’s Books.

  • The month of readings will kick off at Powell’s on Hawthorne on Thursday, July 11th at 7:30. Oregon State Poet Laureate Paulann Petersen and Renee Mitchell will be accompanied by featured authors reading their pieces from Where the Roses Smell the Best.
  • The Oregonian columnist and author Steve Duin will join authors and student writers at St. Johns Booksellers at 7:00 on Saturday, July 13th for the second reading.
  • On Wednesday, July 17th at 5:00 students, families, and community members will gather at Roosevelt High School for more readings and a celebration of Unique Ink’s first year.
  • The fourth reading, featuring poet Laura Winter and author Emma Oliver, will take place at 7:00 on Wednesday July 24th at Broadway Books.
  • The fifth and final reading, scheduled on Monday July 29th at 7:00 at Annie Bloom’s Books, will bring back Paulann Petersen as well as more student authors and author Sybilla Cook.

Unique Ink is a student-staffed publisher based out of Roosevelt High School’s Writing and Publishing Center that was established in 2012. It’s a great example of project-based learning in action. Volunteers at the center teach publishing to high school students to improve their skills in business, editing, and marketing. Through the center’s unique hands-on approach, students learn about the publishing industry by publishing and selling their own books. Proceeds from the sales of Where the Roses Smell the Best will help the Writing and Publishing Center stay self-sustaining and continue to be a valuable resource to the students at Roosevelt High School. 

Web Marketing team