Student-Created iBook About Books

COETAIL Course 4 Final Project:

After checking with the 3rd grade teacher, I am cleared for revamping the 3rd grade library unit, “The History of Books and Libraries” for the 2012 – 2013 school year. I have designed tech-friendly unit that will create an end product which will be helpful as a teaching resource for not only our own school, but other schools as well.

The unit will incorporate several tools which we have explored in Course 4 of our CoETaIL cohort and will put into practice some of the things which we have learned so far in our pursuit towards a Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy. The end product will be a student-produced iBooks Author textbook that will be offered for free through our website or given away through the iTunes bookstore.

ISTE NETS for Students:

In designing this unit for our 3rd graders, here are the standards that I hope to address:

Creativity and Innovation
 1 Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology. Students:
a.apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products, or processes.b.create original works as a means of personal or group expression.
Communication and Collaboration
 2 Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others. Students:
a.interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital environments and media.b.communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats.


contribute to project teams to produce original works or solve problems.

Research and Information Fluency
3 Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information. Students:
a.plan strategies to guide inquiry.b.locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media.


evaluate and select information sources and digital tools based on the appropriateness to specific tasks.


process data and report results.

Digital Citizenship
5 Students understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior. Students:
a.advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology.b.exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity.
Technology Operations and Concepts
6 Students demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems, and operations. Students:
a.understand and use technology and use applications effectively and productively.

The unit will begin with the use of the “Flipped Classroom” model…

Flipped Classroom:

Students will work in pairs to study in depth one section of the “History of Books and Libraries” unit. As homework, all students will be required to watch an overview video and will answer questions related to the content while they watch. Students will be able to replay the video or pause it long enough to record their answers. This will be especially helpful to the ELL students who sometimes have trouble understanding all of the content the first time through.

Possible Videos:

As I looked for resources before teaching the books unit this year, I found that there really wasn’t a lot out there geared to the elementary age level. What I really needed was an interactive textbook that a 3rd grade student could understand. The resource did not yet exist, so it would have to be created. The need for resources is part of the impetus behind this project.

 Technology Integration:

As technology should be integrated when and where it is most applicable and relevant, creating a digital book about the evolution of books themselves seems an appropriate application. The iBooks Author tool is designed to be easy to use and intuitive. In researching this option, I have experimented with creating some books of my own, but I was very impressed by one example of a student-produced book on the flora and fauna of Florida that I recently came across. I downloaded the book and will use it with my class to show what can be done with this book-authoring tool. Creatures, Plants and More! by Andrea Santilli and her 7th grade students is available for free download at the iTunes store. Their project was recently highlighted in an article for MacLife.

As you can see, this is a chance for reaching the Transformation level of the SAMR model as the task of creating an eBook allows the students to do something previously inconceivable.

I can’t wait to see what the students create and hear about all that they learn through the process of creation.

The Encyclopedic Impulse

No, it is not the uncontrollable urge to grab an encyclopedia for whatever purpose. It is the desire to dig deeper into content, something that is much easier now with embedded links and the internet at our fingertips. You don’t have to hunt and peck for information. You don’t have to comb through feathery haystacks for the proverbial pin; no chickening out at the prospect of trying to find exactly what you are looking for… your every encyclopedic impulse can now be satisfied. (Yes, I am egging you on.)

The term, “encyclopedic impulse” in Henry Jenkins’ blog post, “Transmedia Storytelling 101” struck me as being very evocative. I can imagine a student reading a text and telescoping individual words and phrases out of that flat page into the three-dimensional world of deeper understanding. This is, after all, what each of us does when we read. We usually have some background knowledge which we apply to help us make sense of what we read. We add bits of personal information which helps to deepen our understanding of the text and connect it to our lives. We collect a few assumptions about parts that we are not sure about and wade through the rest of the reading hoping to solve the mysteries with which the text might be complicating our final understanding of the content.

Now, with digital texts, we can literally embed into the reading a veritable encyclopedia of information: definitions, pertinent links, deeper explanations, pictures, maps, related stories, etc. Whatever we don’t know or fail to understand at first glance, can be dug up to increase our understanding.

This works wonderfully with non-fiction readings. We can indulge our encyclopedic impulses until we are sated with information. But the possibilities of adventure and depth of meaning are also waiting to be plumbed in the world of fiction as well. Students  at our school are beginning to have a renewed interest in “Choose Your Own Adventure” books where, depending upon the choice you make at the end of a section, you are directed to one page or another to continue the adventure, or possibly to meet an early demise. The book is a bit like a precursor to the now-ubiquitous adventure games (like “Adventure Quest“) where one’s avatar roams through a fantasy world on a quest.

How would we apply the modern capacity for creating an encyclopedic story with a web of storyline possibilities or a depth of background information? This type of project seems perfectly suited for collaborative storytelling where a whole class works together to build a rich literary experience.

The 4th graders at our school are beginning a unit on story writing and will produce a digital story with illustrations, using the simple presentation tools embedded in Google Docs. Initially, the student and teacher will be the only collaborators, but once the students master the tools and hone their storytelling skills, there is the possibility of creating a story authored by the whole class since Google Docs works well collaboratively. The story could be tied to a curriculum unit, such as the “Arctic Regions” where each student would be responsible for creating depth and detail for certain animals or environments that enter into the story. Along with the storyline, information, photos, maps and even videos could be worked into the project. It would be interesting to see what a class could produce using this encyclopedic writing type of approach.

Collecting the Collective

by Kalexanderson

I have often wondered, as our world becomes more complex and global knowledge is added at an exponentially increasing rate, how a student will ever manage to have, even a reasonably basic overview of all that they should know by the time they complete their degree. It is even more impossible now, to know everything that there is to know. It seems that a student who has specialized in one area of knowledge early on, and has thus been able to dive deeper into its complexities, has an advantage in the job market over a student who has a shallower but wider range of knowledge. In each area of expertise, one has to learn such a vast amount of material before one can go further and become a pioneer in new and crucial findings and discoveries.

The idea of a “collective intelligence” as outlined in the MacArthur white paper, “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century” has very important ramifications for how we prepare our students for their higher education experience and their eventual participation in the work force. Understanding that shared knowledge from a base of varied expertise can accomplish so much more than trying to progress on the acquired knowledge of just one or few individuals allows us to structure learning where students can become an expert in one area of their studies. If we can let go of the insistence that all students learn exactly the same thing (and in exactly the same way), we can allow students the thrill and edification of being responsible for teaching his or her peers. This approach has been successfully enacted in history classes, for example, where each student takes on a persona of a historical character, researching their possible actions, motives and background so that they can participate in a writing or role-playing exercise that uses actual historical events to guide the classroom action. 

This “collective intelligence” is clearly valued as students search online for resources relating to school assignments, artistic searches for music or images and for purposes of pure entertainment. We learn to sort through the vast ocean of material to find the very best or exactly what we need for our purposes. We use what is already out there for our own individualized purposes. Artists and scholars have always borrowed and built on the work of their predecessors. The issue of copyright and correct attribution, however, has never been more important than it is now.

The richness of a collective intelligence has a parallel in the collective creativity of an increasingly accessible and digitized world. We all benefit from being able to access material from so many sources, both contemporary and historical. There has to be a happy medium somewhere between completely free “borrowing” of material and copyright fossilization. The Disney company, for example, although it has borrowed freely and often without attribution is constantly pushing back the copyright cutoff date to protect access by the public to creatively borrow Mickey Mouse. Ironically, Mickey’s debut film “Steamboat Willie” was a parody of an early Buster Keaton film, “Steamboat Bill, Jr.” and thus, Mickey began his ascent to stardom by building on the works of others and referencing the popular culture of his day. Interesting that the Disney company does not think this sort of thing should continue when it begins to be applied to the company’s own proprietary material.

Copyright Disney; this low-res. screen shot qualifies as fair use under United States copyright law.

Despite my indignation over Disney’s apparent hypocrisy and although I am still a bit confused about all of the rules and regulations attached to what materials we can use and for which purposes, I know that it is essential to teach students to properly attribute all media used in reports and presentations. We carefully teach MLA format and run submitted papers through various plagiarism checks, and we should be as thorough when scrutinizing borrowed images, music and video clips as well. We should not, however, discourage incorporation of such a vast store of resources for fear of an error in attribution. For the most part, students, who are not out to make money from someone else’s creativity, are not targets of the copyright police. We can guide them to sites like Creative Commons that provide images with a more relaxed attitude about sharing and make sure that they do give credit where credit is due. The better students are prepared to collaborate with the collective intelligence and the collective creativity of their world, the better they will be prepared to craft new and compelling ideas, inventions and art to grace our collective consciousness.