Connect. Collaborate. Risk. Innovate.

Connect. Collaborate. Risk. Innovate.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Using iBooks Author: Reflecting on the Evolution of the "Book"

          As part of my ongoing work creating an English 8 course for iTunes University, I began the process of constructing an e-book entitled, Literature Circles: Reigniting a Passion for Reading in the Secondary Classroom, that synthesizes the various activities, projects and rubrics that I have compiled over the years for a Literature Circles unit. This process has caused me to reflect on how the essential concept of the "book" has evolved exponentially with the advent of e-books and new digital mediums. Using the Mac App iBooks Author, I am able to compile a huge range of materials, from basic Word documents, to YouTube videos. Within iBooks Author, and through the complimentary service Bookry, there are seemingly endless interactive widgets available.
Excerpt from Chapter 1 of my  e-book on Literature Circles.

          Coincidentally, while I was in the midst of this process, the CBC radio show Ideas ran the episode, "Opening The Book" which examines the ongoing evolution of the book:

"The book has stayed pretty much the same for over 500 years: a bunch of paper pages between covers. It's been both finite and easily grasped. But our digitally-connected world is forcing us to re-imagine what books could be."

          As I listened to this episode, I thought about my students, and how different their concept of a book might be from mine. I see myself as fairly traditional in that although I do read the occasional e-book, I still yearn for the old "pages between a cover" hard copy version. I love the look of books, I love the smell of books and I love to own books. My over flowing book shelves are a testament to this. But at the same time, both professionally and personally, I have been moving towards integrating digital modes of writing and reading. Inspired by my own foray into the world of blogging, I plan to implement e-portfolios and student websites into my English classes this September to supplement the more traditional "pen and paper" writing that continues to be a necessary component of the class, given that majority of my students are still required to write the paper version, rather than the e-version of the English 10 and 12 Provincial Exam.
Using iBooks Author, I am able to insert YouTube clips of my students' iMovie Trailers for their novels.
          Interestingly, as I compiled my e-book on Literature Circles, I included possible suggestions for high interest novels, and referenced ISBN numbers for hard copy versions. Only in hindsight did I see the irony. Despite immersing myself in new digital mediums, I am still clearly biased in my perception of what constitutes a book. My experience of reading still largely involves the concrete, tangible experience of holding a paperback or hard cover book in my hands, flipping over a page and folding over the edge to mark my spot. My students' experience of reading will be something quite different. It may involve the ability and indeed, the expectation, to be able interact with the text in ways that I am only beginning to understand.
          As I continue to create my iTunes U course for English 8, linking websites, videos, podcasts, blogs, ibooks and Apps, my own perception of what constitutes a learning resource must continue to evolve and expand in order to best serve my students. And so, the overflowing bookshelves in every room of my house and classroom, have now extended to the virtual bookshelf on my iPad.
                                        I may need to get more memory on my next device.

Excerpt from Chapter 3 of my e-book on Literature Circles.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Collaborating with Apple Canada: Creating iTunes University Courses

Before: Pristine Agenda
After: Numerous scribbled notes!
     Typically, as teachers, we are bombarded with a wide variety of prospects for professional development. But recently, one of these numerous emails caught my eye: an opportunity, along with some of my Surrey School District colleagues, to collaborate with Apple Canada to create a course for iTunes University. And so, for the past two days, I have been immersed in learning an entirely new skill set. My experience on Day 1 was analogous to the Kubler-Ross model of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. In other words, the learning didn't initially come easy!

     Overwhelmed and befuddled by the immensity of the task at hand, I couldn't quite wrap my head around the wealth of technical and detailed information that was being presented by the immensely talented and helpful Apple support staff. However, as endless resources and procedures were rattled off, I gradually began to digest and process the information. We were carefully led through the steps to first register as an iTunes U instructor, creating a profile and description of our course. For me, English 8. Then, we began to familiarize ourselves with the features of the iTunes U Course Manager.
     By the end of Day 1, I had begun to construct an Outline for my course, first in a Word Document and then eventually transferring this information onto the Course Manager site. Ultimately, the goal is to link valuable digital resources to each aspect of the Course Outline. As well, each aspect must connect to a specific Prescribed Learning Outcome. Speaking for myself, it has been a good many years since I have taken a close look at the PLOs for Language Arts.
      By Day 2, what began as an insurmountable task, became an exciting and somewhat addicting scavenger hunt for resources and materials to support my course. Luckily, having already begun the journey of integrating digital learning into my classes this year, I had experimented with various Apps, such as iMovie, iBooks, iBook Author, Puppet Pals and Book Creator. I am supplementing these resources with links to sites such as and Quizlet as well as with my own activities and assignments. Fuelled by good food, much coffee and the support of my colleagues, I managed to complete a good chunk of my course by the end of Day 2, and even loaded a preview of my course onto my iTunes U book shelf. What a great feeling of accomplishment!
The lounge at Apple Canada in Richmond.
     I will have the opportunity to meet again, for two additional days, towards the end of August with Apple and Surrey District staff to trouble shoot any issues and continue to build my course. The intention is to submit it for approval and publication on iTunes U by the end of September. Despite the immense amount of work that needs to be done between now and then, I am grateful that through this collaborative Pro D opportunity, I am well on my way to developing a new and exciting set of skills that will not only be of benefit to my students, but ultimately to teachers and students worldwide!
My colleagues hard at work on Day 2.
Below is a video that provides an overview of my English 8 iTunes U course: