Classroom uses of iBook Author

Happy New Year everyone, it’s been a while since my last post on Videoscribe. I thought I would look at potential uses for iBook Author in this particular post, using my own experiences with my year 11 group. At the end of last year during gained time I decided to write an e-book using iBook Author to cover the triple science biology curriculum for my year 11s this year. This allowed me to personalise their book and add in features they would appreciate. This post is going to look at how well it has gone down and how they are using it as well as a quick run through of creating iBooks for those that are not familiar with the process.

A sample contents page from the iBook

A sample contents page from the iBook

iBooks Author is free OS X-only application (i.e. it needs a Mac to use) that is downloadable from the app store. It produces files in the .ibooks format which are only readable on iPads, although it can export to other epub formats with reduced functionality. It produces clear and attractive textbooks, and I was inspired by the E.O. Wilson Foundation iBook “Life on Earth” to attempt something similar. I wrote each chapter from scratch, as well as creating a number of images and video files for use in the book. A number of images were taken from creative commons licenses, but as the book is not for external publication I was bound by the less strict rules for teachers within an educational establishment.

A typical page with some inbuilt exercises

A typical page with some inbuilt exercises

The process was relatively straightforward and the book was created in about three weeks’ worth of free periods (maybe 25 actual hours). iBooks Author allows you to add a number of different “widgets” including questions (which are limited in scope as they as they don’t take text input and are multiple choice or click and drop only), videos (both ones I created using Explain Everything and linked through YouTube), labelled diagrams and image galleries.

A sample page showing an image, table and Explain Everything video.

A sample page showing an image, table and Explain Everything video.

This is a labelled diagram of the excretory system. All labels are clickable and show a definition. All content can be zoomed into.

This is a labelled diagram of the excretory system. All labels are clickable and show a definition. All content can be zoomed into.

I am going to focus the rest of the post on how this has helped my students this year. If anyone has any questions on how to create an iBook, do feel free to contact me (@mravandijk on twitter).

I have often found that textbooks are not perfectly aimed at a particular class and that I (or the students) rarely use them. In general students seem to prefer the CGP revision guides. Producing your own allows you to tailor it to your particular cohort of students. At the recent Consumer Electronic Show a publisher demonstrated the first adaptive textbook (http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2013/01/07/mcgraw-hill-to-debut-adaptive-e-book-for-students/), but with iBooks you can already tailor it to a degree. The intake in my current is well above average ability so I focused on adding extra content into the iBook, including previews of how a particular subject would develop at 6th form level or videos and articles linked to current research on a topic.

An example of a page pushing beyond normal GCSE-level thinking

An example of a page pushing beyond normal GCSE-level thinking

This allowed for extension during lessons when some students might finish a task whilst others were still working their way through it. I found that many of my students would be very keen to access the further information which would be seen as more interesting. One could also imagine that in a school with a more EAL intake you would choose to define the glossary terms in multiple languages to help those students who might not have the necessary command of English.

An example of a glossary definition. You could imagine this in multiple languages.

An example of a glossary definition. You could imagine this in multiple languages.

Where iBooks are really shining in my class is in the annotation and review features that are built-in to the book. Students can highlight any section or add their notes to any area and the book stores all of these in a searchable index allowing students to cross-reference their work and keep their thoughts contained to one medium. Any notes and glossary terms are also added to revision cards which students can use to review the information. As most of my students would make very similar cards anyway this will save some students a significant amount of time.

Any notes added to the text end up here and are ordered by subsection.

Any notes added to the text end up here and are ordered by subsection.

The revision cards give glossary terms and the notes you have added.

Students can test themselves or each other using these cardsSo let’s summarise my findings. Students don’t use textbooks on a day-to-day basis (and they don’t use iBooks either), however they are more open to use the interactive features of an iBook to aid them with revision and review. Using the glossary cards as well as the Explain Everything review videos allow for multiple ways of enhancing revision. Creating your own textbooks allows you to tailor the experience to your own students, enhancing engagement if you target it correctly. The main benefit will come during exam preparations though which we haven’t quite reached yet. Whilst a significant piece of work I think the investment of my time was worth it, and it is something I would consider doing again for other examination classes.

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About alexvandijk

I am a Biology teacher at an independent school in the UK. My main interest is the use of technology in science education, with a specific emphasis on iPads. All views expressed are my own.

One response to “Classroom uses of iBook Author”

  1. 3arn0wl says :

    Thanks for this post! 🙂

    I spent quite a bit of time writing an almanac of flash prose on WordPress. The problem is that a blog (at least with my lack of coding ability) presents the latest entry first. So I decided to export it to ebook format using Calibre. To be honest, it was a bit of a faff, and didn’t come out very well. So perhaps I’ll try iBook!

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