EC&I 834 - Designing for Online and Blended Learning

Setting a Purpose with #BookCreator

“…the aim here is not to provide a cast-iron categorization of educational media, but to provide a framework for teachers in deciding which tools and media are most likely to suit a particular teaching approach.” – Tony Bates 

At times during the readings this week I found myself feeling like I didn’t completely agree with what Bates was suggesting. As I read further I appreciated that he highlighted that this reading was intended to provide a framework for pedagogy. Although, I still had some questions.

I often feel that in education we can get caught up in the specifics. In reality though, teaching and learning is not black and white. One educator may view one resource or tool one way and another may view it completely different. Without understanding each persons rationale behind their choices, I don’t believe we can make a judgement on whether they are using that tool in the ‘right way’. I think this is where my questions around the points Bates made came from.

Is there really a right way?

I definitely think that we can get too caught up in the hype of teaching in a digital age and this at time can lead to some perhaps misguided decisions around how technology is integrated into our classrooms. If our students are not hands on and learning is not the main focus of the integration then I think we have a problem. When we have a problem whether it be at work or in our personal lives we strive to find solutions. In terms of education and technology integration I think one of the best things we can to avoid such problems is to set a purpose and be intentional before we integrate technology into our classrooms.

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Photo Credit: mariagraziaarevalo Flickr via Compfight cc

While doing some further reading and trying to understand why I was maybe disagreeing with some of the points Bates made in our reading this week I came across the article 7 Characteristics Of Teachers Who Effectively Use Technology. I felt the infographic in this article would provide any educator an opportunity to set their purpose and be intentional when integrating technology into their practice. However, as I tweeted the article out I did feel that there was one critical piece missing so I added a #8 to the list!

Although I found myself having questions about the readings, I also felt that it was perfect for this week. We have been asked to look at a list of creation tools and discuss the specific strengths and weaknesses of one of our own choosing. This is perfect timing not only for our project as we begin to create our modules but also for an app I have on my classroom iPads that I have been wanting to check out more in-depth.

A colleague had told be about the Book Creator app but prior to this week I had only made it as far as downloading the app! I had intentions of creating a screencast to highlight the app but as I began researching it I realized there were multiple videos already doing the same thing. After watching several how to and getting started videos I’ve created a list of the highlights:

  • Students can create their own stories in many different formats
  • Stories can be created using a combination of pictures, words and voice overs
  • Sound and video can be embedded
  • Students can take their own pictures to use in their stories
  • Published books can be added to the iBooks app and students can read classmates books once they have been published
  • It appears to be very user-friendly
  • The website for the app provides a section for teacher training
  • They have a #BookCreator chat where you can join in for ideas, tips and tricks
  • Provides students with a voice
  • Books can be downloaded as a PDF and then shared onto Seesaw for parents to see
  • Students can export a comic book from the app to create an animated video in Explain Everything (how to video)
  • Students can collaborate on a story

I have yet to find one downside to this app! I presently have my grade 2 class working on a fiction story and will be having them use this tool to share their stories. I am really looking forward to seeing what they create and learning along side them as we discover this app. I plan to share a blog post about the experience in a couple of weeks once they have finished up their stories. If you’re curious about the app, check out this video as a beginner’s guide to getting started!

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10 thoughts on “Setting a Purpose with #BookCreator

  1. I like your question, “Is there really a right way?” I was feeling paralyzed because I was worried that I needed to use the “right” platform, the “right” tools, the “right” content. Now, as I play around with more platforms and apps, I think the right thing to do is continually experiment with technology. Also, thanks for sharing Book Creator. I think I could use this within the next month in my ELA 9 class!

    1. I was feeling a lot of that worry as well. As I dig deeper into the project though, I am finding that worry is going away. Would love to hear what you think of the app once you have tried it out!

  2. Hey Nicole! I appreciate your thoughts on Bates. I’m curious which parts specifically you disagree with. Primarily the idea that some formats work better for some content than others? Although I do agree that different instructors can have different success with different tech or approaches, I do think that Bates is right that some things aren’t as flexible. Describing an experiment with a microscope in text or audio vs a video demonstration or a simulation offer very different experiences and I’d suggest that when done well, the video or simulation will be much richer experiences. Maybe the key is “when done well.” If a teacher isn’t using the tech well, it won’t have a good impact. And if a teacher is very adept with tech, they might be able to make a medium work even if it isn’t the ideal.

    I wholeheartedly agree that intentional use of tech matters. I’ve seen lots of people use tech to “fix a problem” and then create all new problems.

    With Book Creator, it looks interesting. I would note that it is an app and looks like it requires downloading the app. So you have to have permission to download and install it. Is that something you ever have an issue with? It doesn’t look like it can be done on a phone so it requires access to a tablet, desktop or laptop. Also, how do files save, aside from exporting as a PDF? Is it saved to that device or in the cloud? I’m glad there is a pdf output although PDFs aren’t always that awesome. I definitely have issues with iBooks since that’s proprietary stuff and it’s Apple-based. Lots of people don’t necessarily have Apple. Has that become available on other devices now? And is anything lost by using the PDF instead of iBooks? I know that can be the case with the iBook authoring tool, since it includes more animated features, etc.

  3. I think what I disagreed with or maybe questioned was the better word most was that through his discussion there was very little conversation around what the students can do to be part of the process. I certainly know and understand that as teachers we are the guide and make the overall decisions about what is taught in the classroom. However, in today’s classrooms I think we should be seeing the students being part of that decision making and part of the creation of information shared. I felt like the readings this week looked at more of the teacher as a “sage on the stage” instead of looking at learning as a combined conversation and effort between teacher and student.

    From a quick search it does look like Book Creator is available for download on Android Devices: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=net.redjumper.bookcreator&hl=en
    I am certainly still learning about the finer details of the app but think it offers a lot of great possibilities for both learners and teachers. I will definitely highlight that more once I have used it with my class and share that experience.

    1. That makes sense, Nicole. Part of your issue stems from his orientation in higher ed (and the fact that he is somewhat oldschool). He is writing for college or university instructors who want to know more about teaching with tech but may need some convincing or may need help convincing their colleagues. That doesn’t excuse his focus on instructor down model but it does explain it. But you’re right. It’s too bad he’s so focused on the instructor and doesn’t put much into the students.

      And yes, from what I could see, you can use the app on Android, iOS, and Windows but only tablets and computers. So even though it’s on Android and iOS, it doesn’t work on a phone. I can understand it, but that definitely limits how accessible it is. I know not everyone can download and install applications to computers (the labs on U of R campus are pretty locked down, for example) and not everyone has a tablet. I’ll be interested to hear whether a book in progress is stuck on a device until it’s complete too. That would mean if you don’t finish it in one go, a student has to work on the same computer or tablet every time which could be a pain if you have to use school iPads and track which one is which.

  4. Really enjoying the conversation here this week!

    Nicole, it sounds like you are taking the time to consider how students are able to somewhat have choice and autonomy in their learning, while still making solid technology integrations without inserting tech for the sake of tech. I really think these are key considerations while working with children as young as you do.

    As for “Book Creator” I cannot believe I haven’t come across this app before, this seems like it would be right up my alley, and I will have to download it!

    I do agree with what Kirsten says, a potential downfall could be getting the ‘permissions’ to download the app to multiple devices within a school system (while not really an issue with the app), if it could somehow be created with out requiring a download, that management aspect could be easier. That is often a consideration I make when I am looking at tools to utilize!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts this week!

  5. Is Book Creator the same as Story Creator? I have used the story creator and really like it. We don’t have problems in our division with apps we want downloaded actually. It can be done fairly simply with just an email to our admin for approval.

    1. I haven’t heard of story creator but I’ll have to check it out! Starting to find the book creator does have some features that are a little limiting but manageable in my current classroom situation. We also don’t have any major problems with being able to download apps either. I am the tech team at our school so requests come to me and then I touch base with my principal for final decision. We do have a google spreadsheet that teachers have to fill out specific categories in order to set their purpose prior to downloading. Pretty easy process!

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