How to Use iBooks Author as a Teacher

This past January, Apple came out with a slick new FREE app for OSX as part of their initiative to establish themselves permanently (or maybe even marbleize themselves) in the world of Academia.   With the popularity of the iPad selling at a ridiculous rate, Apple followed through with Steve Jobs’ vision of digital interactive textbooks.  The iPad is the device to do it too.

Apple ushers in iBooks Author – an app for MacBooks and iMacs that allows ANYONE to create a textbook formatted for the iPad.  As an educator, you maybe asking, “What’s this have to do with me?”
Good question.  Here is the video that Apple put together to show off their product:

“I Don’t Have Time to Make a Textbook”

Neither do I.  That’s why I don’t recommend making one.  If you want to have an all digital eBook version of your current textbook that you use in your class, I would recommend browsing the iTunes store first.  If you merely took your current hardcover textbook you use and paraphrased it into iBooks Author that’s 1) redundant 2) a waste of your time 3) most likely illegal.  Leave it to the textbook companies to create the textbooks.

So why should you care about iBooks Author?  As an educator, let’s practice what we preach and think outside the box.  How else could I use iBooks Author in my classroom?

Research Papers

Since iBooks Author is free, it should be fairly simple to install on a lab or cart full of computers.  Instead of the same old typed, double-spaced research paper, have students create their own mini iBook with interactive elements that they find.  You can still include MLA formatting as part of the grading criteria, but now their final product is downloadable by the rest of their classmates.  It’s also a possible resource for another curriculum area depending on the topic (a topic on a particular disease might be used in Science or Health class).

Reference Manual

I have been personally working on this one.  There are certain writing concepts that I teach in my classroom throughout middle school (i.e the four sentence types, proper dialoge punctuation, pronoun usage that leads to narratives, verbs forms that lead to how to keep a piece of writing in the same tense, etc.)  Mainly, they are concepts that don’t come from a specific textbook, but rather from reading countless stories, research papers, journals, letters and many other types during my first year or two of teaching and noticing that these were some of the most common areas where grammar was being misused.  They are also concepts that need constant repeating/reviewing with every writing assignment beyond middle school.  Once I have them again in Creative Writing in high school,  I sometimes notice the same mistakes, though fewer.  So rather than rewriting these concept reminders over and over in the margins, it would be nice to just circle the mistakes and say, “See reference manual for reminders on Complex Sentences.”

And because I’m in a school district that is 1:1 with iPads in grades 9-12, students can download the manual and always have it.  They could even use it as a reference in other classes!  But you could have just one iPad in your classroom, and have students ask to see the reference manual, or they can download it on their personal iPod Touch for reference.

It’s just a beginning, but here is what I have so far. CLICK HERE

Unit Organization

This one may be iffy, but I’m going to throw it out there.  Have you ever been told that you are teaching a new class that has been taught by another teacher?  Have you ever gone to get their material for the class only to have it handed over in file folders or even a flash drive with tons of files?  “There you go.  There’s the whole unit.” And now you’re left to figure out in what order the materials were organized in order to effectively teach the unit or class.  If you’re like me, if you don’t know how it fit into the unit, it never got used.  Or maybe you simply modified and recycled in some some way.

Now imagine being able to literary drag and drop all of those resources into iBooks Author and organize it the way you teach it!  This includes your documents, photos, audios, videos, and evn those Keynotes that you have made!  You are not recreating anything; you are simply organizing and maybe adding some explanation.  For you, this may not be that big of a deal.  But maybe there is a student that would like to have a copy of it.  Or better yet, what if (due to changes in staff) you now no longer teach the class and your predecessor is looking for your resources.  You simply give them the iBook file that you created to organize your unit/class along with the flash drive.  Makes their job easier.  Or can you imagine being the one receiving the iBook?  The countless hours of trying to figure out how all of the pieces fit together to form a coherent unit.  It’s pure bliss if you ask me.

What Are You Waiting For?

Allow me to recap:

  1. It’s one of the easiest apps to use that Apple has designed.
  2. Operates on OSX, but exports to iBooks on the iPad and iPod Touch.
  3. IT’S FREE!
Download it to start creating your own book, reference manual, or whatever you deem necessary for you or your students.  
I listed three.  Can you think of other ways to use iBooks Author in your classroom?  Think outside the box.
Mr. Bormann
English Rocks!

P. S. Leave your ideas in the comments below.

P. S. S.  Looking to add more widgets to your iBooks?  Check out this great website – www.classwidgets.com
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