9 tips for creating effective student ebooks

Sam GliksmanBlog

Here are some expert tips from edtech author and Book Creator Ambassador Sam Gliksman.

We constantly ask students to demonstrate their knowledge and writing is certainly one of the most commonly employed assessment tools. However, the last decade has seen a huge transformation in communication technologies.

Almost 75% of US adults have a smartphone and media creation is skyrocketing. Today we communicate with each other using a hybrid of different media.

One tool that allows students to express themselves by combining text with different media is the ebook.

Ebook creation apps such as Book Creator are increasing in popularity and there are many compelling reasons to create ebooks as a way to express knowledge. Follow some simple guidelines and they can be powerful educational tools.

1. Combine different media

You’ll hear lots of discussion around the theme of personalized learning yet we’ve historically asked students to demonstrate their knowledge in the same manner regardless of their personal preferences or skills. Ebooks give students the framework to create and merge different forms of expression.

For example, wouldn’t many students find it easier to show and comment on video of an experiment than try to describe it? Some students might thrive if given the opportunity to complement text with more visual expressions of their knowledge using media such as animations, narrated slideshows and more.

2. Work collaboratively

Ebooks use a presentation format that blends a variety of different elements. Text, video, audio, images, web resources and more can all be combined to communicate a cohesive message. Ebook projects are excellent vehicles for student collaboration as students break into groups to create the different ebook resources.

3. Link to external resources

Text and images can easily be linked to additional resources on the web. Encourage students to create ebooks that also present readers with a rich environment of resources.

4. Personalize the ebook with audio

We spend countless hours teaching students how to write but we rarely give them any guidance on speaking effectively even though that’s our primary form of communication. Some students simply have the gift of the gab and are most fluent expressing themselves by talking. Adding audio snippets to an ebook is a great opportunity for everyone to learn about how to use inflexion, emphasis, pauses and more. And adding audio in Book Creator is a very simple process.

5. Interact with the reader

A compelling book will cause the reader to think and reflect upon the content. Ebooks can actually prompt the reader to react and respond to content. One way to do that is to pose a question to the reader and then embed the answer in an audio snippet. At the end of the question, ask the reader to tap the audio icon to hear the answer. Record the answer using the Add Audio function and place the audio icon at the end of the question.

6. Learn about design

Graphic design is all around us. Ads, packaging, books, magazines, media – they’ve all passed through the hands of a skilled designer that has creatively manipulated the content to make it look more visually compelling. Creating an ebook is an ideal opportunity to learn a little about basic principles of design and presentation.

Use a limited amount of fonts – maybe one for headings and another for the body text. Make sure colors work together and don’t use too many of them. Make sure the page layouts are consistent. Don’t left align elements on one part of the page and then center align elements on another section.

9 design tips for creating professional-looking ebooks

7. Ensure different elements complement each other

No matter the vehicle you use for communication, you always want to make sure that you create and present a cohesive message. There’s (usually) little point in adding audio that simply reads the text on the page or creating video that duplicates the message presented by the text. Try to create elements that complement the message presented by other elements.

For example, in one class we asked students to write about an explorer and then create a narrated slideshow – in the voice of the explorer – that acted as a diary detailing their personal impressions of the voyage and discovery. In another, students wrote about the culture and history of a South American country and added a green screen video in which they reported “on location” from different landmarks.

8. Add an interactive Table of Contents

Books that are more than a few pages usually benefit from a Table of Contents and it’s relatively simple to make it interactive. Readers can tap on any item in the list and jump directly to the page.

9. Share

Ebooks are designed to be distributed and it’s very empowering for students knowing that they’re creating work for an audience. Export your Book Creator project as an ePub file for sharing through the iBooks app on iPhones, iPads and Mac computers. Export it as a video for use on other devices. The files can then be shared online or through email.

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