A fantastic new initiative to reach indigenous communities and publish bilingual books about their culture.
It all began in Indonesia
Jane Ross, an Apple Distinguished Educator, introduced me to ebook creation when we were teaching together in Jakarta, Indonesia. She had worked with children in a Batak village in Sumatra to author bilingual ebooks through a project she called The Backpack Classroom.
Her ebook, Inspiring Young Authors, details this project and is available in the iBooks Store along with a collection of gorgeous ebooks collaboratively created by her children and local children. I fell in love with the concept and began thinking about ways to expand it to reach more children and share more stories.
Pilot in the Navajo reservation of New Mexico
I then enrolled in Julie Lindsay’s Flat Connections Global Educator course. This exposed me to the world of connected learning and the power of creating online collaborations between students in different parts of the world.
I made a connection with Dzilth Na O Dith Hle Community School on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico and arranged to pilot our idea with their 5th and 6th graders. The school is located on the edge of an American Indian reservation, so the students are rapidly losing their language and culture due to outside influences.
The school has two Navajo Language and Culture teachers who teach one 45-minute class a day. Otherwise, the rest of the curriculum is delivered in English. Most of their students have only a basic level of Navajo fluency. The teachers are passionate about keeping it alive, but struggle with finding ways to motivate students, as it is only spoken and used by elders in their community.
Introducing Book Creator
The school had iPads, but had never used them for anything but testing. We introduced Book Creator and asked pairs of students to choose some aspect of their culture to write about. They chose the Squaw Dance, the Navajo Code Talkers, Kneel Down Bread, Navajo Jewelry and others.
They loved using technology and were enthralled by the project. The teachers were thrilled as well to learn about Book Creator and immediately put in a request to have it loaded into all their iPads. The school had prioritised technological integration as one of their goals, but with minimal professional development, teachers were unsure about how to incorporate it into their classrooms.
The oral and written language components of ebook creation were ideal for this endeavour. Many of the students knew how to speak and understand their native language, but were still developing their reading and writing skills. Having an authentic project like this to work on gave them a reason to learn.
The crowdfunding campaign
We are running a crowdfunding campaign via Indiegogo. We hope to raise enough funds to be able to build a website to house the ebooks, acquire tablets and deliver sufficient programming this summer to create an initial inventory of 100 ebooks.
Where we’re going next
So far, we have plans to run service learning programming abroad in Cambodia, Brazil and Guatemala as well as locally with refugee and American Indian children.
Through collaborative ebook creation, youth from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds can support one another in learning to use tablets and Book Creator while bilingually creating stories. This process builds meaningful relationships, cross-cultural understanding and literacy skills.
Write Our World also addresses the absence of reading materials available in many minority languages. Our library will give members of small language communities access to books written in their mother tongues.
Eventually, Write Our World hopes to offer a networking space where students can interact and even collaborate on global projects.