Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Elementary Adventures with Macbooks and iBooks Author

As a result of campus based decision making regarding the purchase of shared digital devices, our district purchased macbook air carts for each campus. One of the tools we were most excited about is iBooks Author. We feel that this easy to use program has the potential to create transformative learning opportunities for students of all ages. The experience of authoring and publishing a book for a real audience rather than just the teacher is a powerful motivation for students to bring their writing "A" game. When you put your words out there for the world to read (and possibly critique) you want it to be good.

The Why
Teachers sometime see a cool tool and think" wow that looks fun. Let's do a project." Its my job to help them focus on the "Why" first. What is the learning that you as a teacher want to reinforce? After identifying the learning objective, we can then look at other variables such as time allotment, engagement, relevancy and ease of use to pick the best tool.

In this particular case, two 5th grade teachers wanted students to conduct research on subjects in social studies (World War II and the Civil Rights movement), demonstrate writing and editing skills and present information to an audience. iBooks was a tool they had seen demonstrated and felt that it would engage students in relevant work and get them excited about research and writing while learning the social studies concepts.

The Set Up
The three of us met to discuss the learning objectives and how iBooks Author could be a tool to which students would respond positively. We discussed our timeframe for the project and what pre-requisite instruction would need to take place. Teachers designed a rubric to identify the level of achievement students would need to demonstrate for each of the learning expectations. They then planned lessons around the research including the collection of copyright free images and videos to add visual interest to their writing. Citing sources was one of the language arts and technology application TEKS included in their learning expectations.

Once the research was complete, students created rough drafts and completed an initial editing process.  Teachers then had students use Google Docs to type text and check spelling and punctuation. Next, I was invited in to demonstrate iBooks Author.  Because this was an introduction, we kept choice to a minimum. The template and book structure was predetermined and included five chapters and 2 pages of bibliography. The chapters consisted of an introduction, three main idea chapters and a conclusion. To prepare for the day's work, students downloaded the folder from their Google Drive that contained their images, videos, bibliography citations and the text for the book. Downloading the folder to the desktop made dragging and dropping images into their iBook placeholders very easy. They were then able to copy and paste text previously created in their Google Doc and paste it over the placeholder text in the iBook. Additionally, students selected key vocabulary within their text to highlight and add to their glossary. This process required them to evaluate vocabulary important for their readers comprehension while reinforcing their own understanding. Students who finished this process rather quickly were given the option to add a review widget to check the readers understanding of the text.

The Surprises
Although I expect it in Kindergarten and First grade, I really did not think snot would be a problem in 5th grade. In case you are wondering, a trackpad covered with a wet, slimy substance does not track well. Frequent hand washing and the application of sanitizer employed during the lesson. The other surprise was how smoothly the workflow functioned with the use of Google Drive. The technology worked and the students were able to easily follow the directions.
The Successes
I was very pleased with how well the 1st class successfully completed the process. Students were highly motivated and fully engaged in the 2 hour activity. Nearly all students completed their book components including adding cover and page images, video, glossary items, text formatting and bibliography pages. I attribute this to the preparation on the part of the teacher and the scaffolding of the instruction for each phase of the project. Although less focused than the 1st group, the 2nd group got it done with additional support and modeling.

The Next Steps
I will be working with the 2nd class this week and will post my reflection and comparison in the comments. Once books have been graded by the teacher, students will have the opportunity to make improvements should they decide to and those who met the requirements of the rubric will have their books published on the teachers website for home downloading. This project was an introduction to iBooks Author as a tool for writing and publishing for an audience. It is my hope that by year's end students will have the opportunity to create their own book with various choices under their control with a goal to publish quality work to the iTunes Store. I would also like these students to showcase this tool to other teachers and demonstrate the ease of use and instructional benefits.