Putting publishing into the hands of students

Jane RossCase study, Elementary / Primary, Publishing, Science

What happens when you give creative tools to students and allow them to use their own voice? Jane Ross found out.

In 2012 her school, Sinarmas World Academy, decided to embark on a huge publishing project with the aim of publishing 1,000 books in 7 months! This is the story of my students who went on to become published authors with an international audience.

Authentic learning at its best

My students are each creating a resource that will be available for download across the world. This is authentic learning at its best. My students have a voice.

The books that they are creating are giving them a platform to share their work as a finished product. Writing a book is a very different experience to writing on a website or blog. The book is created as a finished product – it becomes an artefact.

Writing a book is a fantastic way to make connections in learning and to reflect on learning. Each book in my class has been research-based, includes student-created photos, videos, voice recordings and hand-drawn diagrams. The students have learned about cover design, contents page, how to cite information, layout, font, color, relating pictures to text, creating accurate diagrams and how to put it all into a sequence from the beginning to the end of the book.

I am witnessing some deep thinking and there is such an excitement about the books. I am constantly seeking different ways for students to communicate their learning. I use a LOT of visual learning. In these books the students had to really demonstrate their understanding of their chosen body system by creating diagrams to go along with their text.

What the students did

Each student wrote an explanation about a body system and an information report about a focus part of that body system. To go beyond the text, each student had to draw accurate diagrams to accompany their words. My students are 9 years old but I have taught them a simple referencing style with author, year, book title and page number.

This was all collated into an ebook using Book Creator for iPad.

They also had to create a movie showing an experiment or demonstration that linked to the body system. As well as this they also took their iPads home and took pictures showing how they can actively keep their body system healthy at home.

iPads are so great for this. They are easy to use, capture is so immediate and creating dynamic digital interactivity is very easy to do. It changes the whole way we think about learning. So much of education is text based. I love being able to create opportunities for my students to communicate visually.

Recently my class had the opportunity to share their books with a younger class. They were so excited to show their books and talk about the body system that they had researched. Each of these books averages at about 35 pages. It’s become a very big task but a very interesting one.

The books and their authors

On iTunes:

Preparing the books for publishing

I have read the books many, many times to check for spelling, grammar, factual text, that the facts have been reported correctly and information cited properly. I also have to check the quality of the images (not blurry and connects well to the text), that the font is consistent and easy to read. I also check that the layout is balanced. Even that a good contrast between text and page color has been achieved.

Page from 'The Circulatory System'

Like I said, it is a BIG process but then again we are really publishing these books and putting them online.

As these children are under 13 years old, I invite the parents to come to school where I help them to set up the iTunes and iTunes Connect accounts. This means that the parent becomes the publisher and has full control over the book accounts.

Gaining an international audience

After about 2 months I took a look at the download stats for 6 students who had recently published to the Apple iBookstore. We were thrilled to discover on the US iBookstore that all six of my published students are currently in the top 150 downloads for children’s non-fiction books.

Screenshot of iTunes charts for children's non-fiction books

It was quite awe inspiring to project this screen up in the classroom. We decided to take a small ‘world tour’ of different iBookstores to see just how many countries are featuring these books.

We learned that in the US, Australia, Canada, the UK and the Netherlands, some or even all of these students are ranked in the top 200 downloads. That’s quite an achievement for a group of 9 year old students.

What an exciting time to be a student!!

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3 Comments on “Putting publishing into the hands of students”

  1. Jane, that is such a great project you did with the students. My students are going to inquire into the brain and I hope I’ll motivate them to publish their learning through an eBook. There are already so many good resources on the English spoken market. Let’s see we can create similar resources for the German market. Thanks for the reflection here.

  2. Hello Verena,

    Thanks so much for your comment. That’s wonderful that you will be creating books in German with your students. I hope to see them published on the German iBookstore. My students books continue to be downloaded and used as resources across the world. It’s so empowering that their class work is able to be accessed by so many teachers and other students.

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