Mono, Bi or Multi-Media

A book can now be two-dimensional (just words on a screen), or three-dimensional (visually and in terms of extended content), or even multi-dimensional (and this is where things get really complicated). Multi-dimensional, multi-media books can have extended story lines in movies, television, graphic novels, interactive multi-player game platforms, toys and merchandizing. And the digital books themselves can be animated or enhanced with sound or video, with a wealth of embedded links to make the story richer and more complex.

Now that I am aware of all that could be done with the construction of original written content, I have to intentionally decide what should be done. In the creation of content and in the teaching of creative content, I need to be intentional with the tools that I select for each intended purpose.

Obviously, in teaching students how to create a digital story of their own, I should choose tools that are simple enough to be grasped quickly so that the actual writing and editing process remains at the forefront. Google Docs seems to lend itself well to this process, allowing the teacher to keep track of the students’ progress and to edit directly. If iPads are available in the classroom, then iBooks Author is another easy and intuitive tool for students to create their own polished-looking books that can be shared with other iPad users.

Here is an example of a story created using iBooks Author and presented in a PDF format for ease of viewing:

 Gretel and the String Factory


This story was created during a weekend EARCOS Workshop (Authentic Assessment and Digital Media in the Classroom) taught by Andrew Churches and our COETAIL instructor Kim Cofino. In just a few hours, working together with a team of two other teachers, we created an example to accompany a language arts lesson plan (included below). Students are encouraged to try their hand at writing a new fairytale based on a traditional story line, preserving the basic message of the story, but with their own original twist. The students study the original story, summarize a few of the embedded messages, and then write their own fairytale. They are provided with a large sheet of paper that has been divided into a grid where they can illustrate scenes from their story to accompany the text. Requiring only simple black line drawings can speed the process along. Once the storyboard has been completed, the students can photograph each block, import the illustrations into the book format, add the text and publish.

The advantages to creating a story in digital form include ease of sharing and sending, ability to facilitate collaboration and a wide range of illustrating platforms and sources. The finished book has a very polished look and can be emailed to all the appreciative relatives (without wasting any trees) or even printed out in paper form (if deemed worthy of the pulp).

Lesson Plan:

As an introduction to this unit, I have been sharing with the students my own writing process and struggles in producing a new book designed for the iPad with special attention being paid to the details in order to take full advantage of the high-resolution screen of the newest iPad. The intention is for the viewer to be able to zoom in on the tiniest detail in the story. Sounds will also be built into the story so that certain characters, scenes and areas in the illustration will have unique effects and music to enhance the story experience. It will be a story with deeper dimensions and interactions.

I am excited by the prospects of the varying degrees of interactivity  and dimensionality that literature has taken on. Every type has its place and fitting function. There will always be a place for simple text on paper, but now, the permutations of depth and connections are endless. And our students are just beginning to discover the new publishing tools.

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