A week ago I was surprised to learn that I had been shortlisted for a Naace Impact Award in the Leadership category. As part of the process Naace requires shortlisted nominees to supply supporting evidence of the work for which they have been nominated. Since my work here in Box of Tricks is largely responsible for my nomination in the first place, and since the supporting evidence can come in any format, I thought I should write a blog post. So here it is:
I started teaching in 2002. The cheer of the millennium spirit was still in the air. Good times when we were breathing in hope and exhaling expectation. The 21st century was dawning like the first spring day after a long winter. Mobile phones were becoming smarter, web 1.0 was well on its way to becoming web 2.0 and online social networks were beginning to be bob up (and sometimes sink unceremoniously) like croutons in a primordial soup of new opportunities and possibilities.
Except if you went to school, that is. Because if you went to school, mobile phones had to be switched off, the internet was fire-walled and, apparently, nobody was really who they claimed to be on social networks – woof! I realised immediately that teaching and learning in schools was like inhabiting an alternative reality in which electricity had just been invented and cutting and pasting could only be done with scissors and glue. The proof was displayed proudly all over the walls.
From day one in my teaching career, I was fortunate to work in forward-thinking environments and receive the support of innovative senior leaders who could see that the internet had huge potential and that it would not simply go away by pretending it wasn’t there. I was able to start experimenting with new and innovative ways to use what was then called web 2.0 (today we refer to it as, well, just the web). My pupils and I started creating and publishing content that was instantly available worldwide. This presented us with wonderful new possibilities for communication, content creation, assessment, and independent learning, but it also delivered new challenges.
Apple recently announced the launch of its free iBooks Author desktop application, which – they claim – “allows anyone to create beautiful Multi-Touch textbooks — and just about any other kind of book — for iPad. With galleries, video, interactive diagrams, 3D objects, and more, these books bring content to life in ways the printed page never could.”
This post takes you through my humble first attempt at making my first iBook using iBooks Author. The gallery below contains screen captures of all the aspects I will cover in this review:
When Apple announced the new iBooks Author app, my first reaction was to say about time! The iPad was clearly a powerful tool for content delivery in schools but, prior to the announcement, content creation and sharing was very much the realm of the professionals, which I was clearly not. Yes, you could use Pages to create multimedia documents which you could then export as ePub files, but the results look positively amateurish compared with what iBooks Author can deliver.
Using iBooks Author
iBooks looks very much like a cross between Pages and Keynote (Apple’s answer to Word and Powerpoint respectively). As a regular user of both, I felt I knew my way around iBooks Author instinctively from the word go. Even if you are not familiar with other native Mac applications, the ready-made templates and the intuitive tools and layout allow you to start writing your iBooks straight away.
An important aspect for someone, like me, who has lots of older word documents already saved in my hard drive, is that importing into iBooks author is as easy as dragging a word document into the application. It then automatically creates an iBook with it with the correct titles, chapters and sections. The same process applies to images, video and sound clips. This is a massive time-saver.
Many of us look at schools in which there is 1:1 iPad or Netbook implementation and drool with envy. “If only our schools were as innovative” or, let’s face it, “as rich, as these other schools” we think to ourselves.
However, the other side of the coin is that many teachers also see iPads as nothing more than overrated books that glow. Is there no middle ground?
I think there is. Our department is currently assessing the potential impact of iPads in the classroom and, in order to do that, we have bought one. Just the one. For now. See how it goes.
You see, we feel that iPads are a great idea but we think that we need to develop pedagogically sound strategies and good practice before we consider buying any more. Our only iPad is currently used as part of teacher-centred activities (boring, I know, but there’s more: read on) and as part of a carousel of activities in which students work in groups through a number of activities, one of which includes the use of our iPad.
The comic above, for example, was created in one of these activities using Comic Life, a fantastic and very reasonably priced iPad app.
It’s still very early days and our iPad’s use is obviously limited by its uniqueness, as we only have the one tablet. However it is already showing great promise, not only being used in lessons, but also in allowing us to explore and develop different and innovative ways to provide our students with relevant content.
Voki has featured in my teaching for several years now, having proven itself a very valuable tool to encourage speaking in the foreign languages classroom.
Many other teachers have also realised that Voki can be very valuable, not only to encourage and motivate reluctant learners, but also as an assessment tool. As a result, the people at Voki, in consultation with their users and with specially designated Voki Ambassadors, are building a tool that is specifically designed for use in the classroom: Voki Classroom.
The main features of Voki Classroom will be:
A couple of months months ago I was fortunate to be contacted by Ivy Worldwide acting on behalf of Lenovo. They sent me a brand new Lenovo ThinkCentre M90z for evaluation purposes and agreed to send another computer to one of Box of Tricks’ readers.
The only instructions given to me were to devise and stage a competition on this website.
Well, the competition, in which participants had to suggest a web application ideally suited in their view for use with a multitouch screen, has now come to a close and the lucky winner, selected at random with this tool, is…
Vanessa has already been contacted and a brand new machine is being shipped as we speak directly from the USA. My most sincere congratulations to Vanessa and I wish her and her new Lenovo all the happiness in the world!
I’ll put together a compilation of the tools suggested by the all the entrants in a new post in the near future and I will also add them to Box of Tricks’ internet resources page.