Read how one teacher's vision to create a collaborative iBook led to a 163-page poetry compilation with 35 classes from 22 states/countries worldwide.
At the end of 2014, months of planning and preparation came to fruition when I published the ebook 'The World is My Audience'.
Using the Twitter hashtag #TWIMA, I recruited teachers from around the world to participate. I also created a dedicated website to track the project: thetwimaproject.weebly.com.
— Jon Smith (@theipodteacher) August 15, 2014
So, in the spirit of collaboration, we thought it would be cool to invite some of those teachers who participated to reflect on how the project went and what they learned. Hopefully this will be an inspiration for other teachers looking at collaborative ways to use Book Creator.
What was the inspiration behind this project?
My personal inspiration for the project was my desire to expand on a small collaborative project I did a year ago with 3 schools. We wrote a poetry book and I wanted to step up the game. I also took inspiration from Meg Wilson's Global iBook.
I wanted to see how many classrooms worldwide we could get to work together, so I simply put out the idea on Twitter, and gathered interest via a Google Form.
My reasoning for publishing the finished book was to change the audience for the kids. I believe students produce better work when the audience of their work is greater than just their teacher.
How and why did you get involved?
We were informed about the project by our partner school in New Jersey, The PECK school. I decided to participate because in our school culture, poetry has been an integral part of student expression and it is an art form we love.
We got involved through @theipodteacher. I follow him on Twitter as he is a strong advocate of Book Creator in the classroom. It was the first global project I had ever got involved in. It seemed an easy, simple way to start as my class of Pre-Primary students (5yos) love to use Book Creator in the classroom.
I first heard about the project during a Twitter chat. I moved from teaching 8th grade Reading down to teaching 5th grade. Thought this project would be a great project to try with my talented and gifted students.
When I volunteered to participate in this collaborative Book Creator project, I did not know what to expect; a poetry book about where we live sounded like fun. As the Teacher-Librarian, I see all of the students. I told all of the students that we would represent Georgia in a global collaboration iBook.
The students became excited about the idea of being published in iTunes and started collaborating with one another. They worked in teams to work on the poem, which was great. When the winning poem was selected to be our submission for the book, one of the student authors narrated it to leverage the interactive features available in Book Creator.
What did you learn along the way?
I have done similar projects in the past, so I knew a little about what to expect. The technology was at no time a problem and the kids were very enthusiastic to complete the project.
We chose to do just one class poem because the beginning of the year in kindergarten is quite busy and it can be difficult for 5 year olds to complete the project on their own, but if it was later in the year I would have each child complete their own page.
I learned that I needed to use Book Creator to more of its capacity. I think that is something I could change for next time. To utilise things like the sound recording and hyperlinks that can be embedded into the pages, so that it could become more of a multimedia text.
I found this to be the perfect opportunity to demonstrate to students how Book Creator could be used. The kids couldn't see the bigger picture at first, but now that they have seen the project completed, it was really amazing to see their response to the book when they saw all the other contributions from other classrooms.
I learned that even young students enjoy working together to create something. It was interesting to see my kids working on Google Docs as this was fairly new to them. There was a lot of arguing "you deleted my idea". In the end it was a valuable learning experience for the kids. I have an older group this year and I plan on having them collaborate and share using Gdocs to create our poem.
My students were part of a 1:1 ipad classroom so we were fortunate enough to have minimal issues with access. They created digital landscapes using Doodle Buddy to suit their poem, added their artwork as a background into Tellagami then typed and narrated their poem for the avatar to animate. This was then combined with other poems (their anthology) using iMovie although for the purposes of this side project, only one poetry video was used.
I started the project by doing a brainstorm about everything they knew about Western Australia. We tried a few different poetry styles, before we voted on a Haiku. We wrote the poem as a class. I taught the format but the rest was done by the students. I was merely the typist. It was amazing to see the students all sitting together working out the syllables in words and sentences to see if they fit in and clearly explain to strangers about Western Australia.
I learnt that the students are far more capable of working on harder challenges than I thought. In the beginning, it is hard as the teacher to give over control of the project to the students completely. Once I let them lead the project, it just flowed. The end result is fantastic, better than I had anticipated.
We had no issues with the technology component, as we worked on it as a class, due to their age. They are also very familiar with Book Creator and were very clear in how they wanted to present the page, in regards to colours, picture placement etc. The only problem I saw as I looked at everyone else's page, is that we made our sound buttons hidden and people unfamiliar with Book Creator, probably won't know it has sound. Next time I will make the sound buttons visible.
I found this a great opportunity to talk about expressions of groups and telling a story for more than just yourself. We thought about questions such as "How do you represent the experiences of every student in the class?" and "How do you give a voice to those not in this room?" We recognized that we had the privilege of representing a whole country, of perhaps introducing people to Nepal for the first time.
We tried to include big and small ideas, traditional and non-traditional, silly and serious. Students often struggled with translating their own personal experiences into ideas that could represent everyone in the room. It was an exciting and challenging process.
This project has given me an opportunity to collaborate with a parent in my building, Elyse McCool. She is a professional artist and worked on interpreting the TWIMA concept to produce our book cover. I think parents and community members like to get involved and many enjoy using their skills and interests to make our school a better place and Mrs McCool's participation is a great example.
There are a couple of things I would change to tighten up the process, the first being that I would mandate that all teachers use the Book Creator app exclusively. It wasn't too difficult importing text from other files, but not as easy as just adding Book Creator pages. It required me to have to format pages and add pictures myself.
I would also make sure that everyone knew to use the same page layout for their book. Some teachers had to re-submit their pages as they'd created portrait books, but you can only combine books when they are the same page format.
Did you think the project was a success? What were the outcomes?
The project was a great success for my students! It was a very easy way for me to try something very new tech-wise! The success encouraged me to try some other different types of collaboration that I have been afraid to try before now. For me that is truly one of the best outcomes!
I absolutely think the project was a success! Our students loved knowing they were the only ones from Iowa writing a poem, and enjoyed collaborating to produce the final product. Once the book came out, we tweeted the link, and have enjoyed watching the number of downloads increase weekly!
I think the project was successful because my kids were so proud to see their work published. The excitement on their faces to see the final product in a book with kids from around the world was a definite source of pride. Our local newspaper ran a story about the experience and our division website featured us on the homepage.
Sacred Heart poets find an international 'Audience'
(The Moose Jaw Times Herald, 5 December 2014).
As I was showing the book to the students, we started learning about Saskatchewan, which is the poem sent in by Lindsay Mohart’s class. This acrostic poem really got our attention because when we looked closely, we noticed that there were a lot of details jam packed into a short poem! It never occurred to the students that a lot of information could be presented in such a brief format.
The students learned a lot of things about Canada. They learned that the CFL is the Canadian Football League, that Eyebrow Elbow, Primate, and Moosejaw are names of places. The most amazing fact that the students learned is that Northern Saskatchewan has more than 100,000 lakes!
We will be connecting with this Canada class on Skype soon. It will be fun for our students to be able to continue to learn about Saskatchewan from Lindsay Mohart’s class. She and I are acquainted from Discovery Education PLN but this project goes beyond us connecting as professionals; it has connected our students, which is awesome. Whenever we can break down the walls and make the world feel a little bit smaller it’s an exciting day!
The students were super excited to be published authors, and the morning the book was available we had a viewing. We also emailed our parents immediately, so they could download at home. The links are also featured on our school website, for others to see and download.
We live in Western Australia, when we tweeted @theipodteacher a thank you, I explained to the class that he wouldn't reply until tomorrow as he would be asleep. They found that strange and this led into an impromptu lesson about the sun, earth and moon - day and night.
When we listened to the other students reading their poems, we had discussions about their accents and how people talk differently over the world. These two things I hadn't anticipated and were a great real life lessons to explore in the classroom.
I remember that when we finally put the final piece together I took my class outside into the field and sat them down in a circle. I read them their work. When I reached the final line, they let out a collective sigh. The pride and astonishment in what they had accomplished together was tangible.
And the more I think about it the more remarkable it is. 5 years ago some of these students were still learning their ABCs. For some they are the first in their family to be able to write their name. They work hard. They are bright and kind and driven. Writing like this reminds me how far they have come. 8th graders and already published writers, the first ever at our school. Do I consider this project a success? Wholeheartedly yes.
We were so excited about writing the poem that as a class we decided to take it a step further and perform the poem at our biggest school event of the year. The students performed in front of over 800 students, family and community members.
It was a wonderful experience to participate in the #TWIMA poetry project. What a wonderful way to get teachers and students excited about writing poetry.
What next for #TWIMA?
The amount of positive feedback I've received from the teachers and their classes has been awesome. That's the biggest part for me. I love hearing how the project has impacted the teachers and students in a positive way.
Overall, the project was a huge success. The fact that we got 35 classes involved was amazing. Originally 180 classes committed but they didn't all follow through - the requirement to do a poem was a challenge for content area teachers. We'll have to think about how to fix that for the next time.
We've had around 300 downloads of the book so far - which is fine but I was hoping for more! Here's the link if you want to help out...
Jon Smith is a Technology Integration Specialist for Alliance City Schools. He was a special education teacher for 12 years and continues to have a desire to allow special education students to create wonderful content to enhance their learning.
Jon, an Apple Distinguished Educator and Book Creator Ambassador, has published dozens of books on iTunes with his students.