Partner Spotlight: Parkside Specialist School, New Zealand

Kathleen SwiftCase study, Partner Spotlight, Special Education

Parkside Specialist School
We talked to Becky Banks and her fellow teachers to discover how Book Creator is being used to support students with a range of disabilities.

Parkside Specialist School works with students aged 5-21 in Pukekohe, New Zealand. It is nationally recognised for working with students who fall into the broad categories of profound, severe and moderate disability.

As any educator will know, it’s not easy to make sure every students’ learning needs are met, even when the students don’t live with disabilities.

Parkside educators have dedicated their time and care to support students who have various needs and various obstacles to learning. This is at the centre of what they do, with their curriculum “designed to respond to individual student needs in a holistic way”.

Book Creator has been a part of their toolkit to respond to individual student needs. With Book Creator’s many accessibility features and creative options, students and teachers can easily differentiate learning to suit their needs.

How do Parkside educators use Book Creator?

Linda Van Eeden (WSC 2 Primary Syndicate Teacher), a dedicated teacher at Parkside, has integrated Book Creator into her teaching routine. She has harnessed the platform's capabilities to elevate the learning experience for her students. Here are some of the ways she's leveraging Book Creator:

  • Morning Circle Sessions: Linda uses Book Creator to craft engaging content for her Morning Circle Sessions, ensuring that her students start their day with enthusiasm.
  • Phonics and stories: With the platform, Linda can easily design phonics exercises and interactive stories, including those imported from YouTube. This approach caters to the diverse learning styles of her students.
  • Learning areas: Linda creates various books for different learning areas, such as Art and Craft Ideas, allowing students to explore a wide range of creative activities.
  • Adaptability: Linda underscores the platform's adaptability to suit individual student needs, making learning truly personalized.
  • Student voices: In the future, Linda plans to involve students in creating content and using Book Creator as a communication tool for self-expression.

Fellow teacher Anastasia Brown (HPE Coordinator, High School Teacher) shared her insights on how Book Creator has transformed the teaching and learning process:

  • Classwork integration: Students now use Book Creator for approximately 50% of their classwork, offering a versatile tool for educators and learners alike.
  • IEP goals and data collection: The platform simplifies data collection and supports students in reaching their Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals and SPEC units.
  • Streamlined publishing: Anastasia uses Book Creator for streamlining the publication of newsletters, yearbooks, and other materials, providing students with opportunities for creative expression.
  • Favorite feature: She particularly appreciates the range of writing methods available on the platform.

Anastasia's testimony exemplifies the significant benefits Book Creator brings to special needs students, enabling them to actively participate in their education.


The poetry anthology above was made by students with profound and multiple disabilities. They used AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) to communicate their choices to their communication partner.

Parkside could then easily publish this book to share with parents, which motivates students and encourages family engagement.

Catherine Sherrard (Yrs 1-8 teacher), another passionate educator at Parkside, has been using Book Creator to create tailored learning experiences. Her approach is designed to meet students at their individual levels:

  • Customized storytelling: Catherine created three versions of the story "Jack and the Beanstalk," ranging from simple labels to more complex narratives.
  • Instant personalization (Predictable Chart Writing): She uses Book Creator to create simple templates, allowing her to quickly generate personalized books with students, integrating photos and text in various formats (see the Scary things book below 👇).
  • Enhanced language development: Catherine supports students with speech challenges by appsmashing Book Creator and Audible to record and edit audio, which meant the book comes out with a more fluent sentence narration. This can really encourage the students in their speaking and overall confidence.

“In less than 5 minutes we have a personalised book. Students love reading the books and seeing themselves in the stories”

Scary Things by Room 12

Catherine's journey demonstrates something we often see with Book Creator in Special Education, and it goes to the heart of the tool. Lots of dedicated educators are using Book Creator to support differentiated learning.

Either by creating personalized content, or by giving students freedom to express their learning in various ways. Thus, making learning more accessible to students with diverse needs.

Rolling out Book Creator at Parkside

Becky Banks (Curriculum + ICT Support Specialist) has been using Book Creator for many years, starting when she was in the classroom. Becky highlights the ease of personalising learning:

"Book Creator makes it very easy for us to tailor resources for our students who all have individualized learning. We can produce social stories, personalised readers, and support and scaffolding for learning tasks.

"It supports our literacy approach and can be used for alphabet and phonics work, independent reading, writing etc. The accessibility features increase student engagement and independence. Using it with the iPad makes it portable so it can go where the student goes, allowing for ‘on the spot' activities."

For example, they’ve taken Book Creator with them on ‘Alphabet walks'. As Book Creator is ‘device-agnostic’, it can be used on various devices.

“Many of our students struggle with a pencil so the iPad keyboard removes another barrier, and things like predictive text are also really helpful. Students can use Book Creator with whatever technology best meets their needs.”

Now that Becky works to support Assistive Technology, we wanted to find out how Book Creator became such a staple resource in Parkside Specialist School.

"I have always had a passion for literacy and utilising technology to overcome barriers and raise engagement. It soon became my favourite app, because it was so versatile and had so many features that supported the students I worked with (who all had significant disabilities).

"Even then, it would be one of the main apps I'd recommend when teachers asked about utilizing assistive technology. When I began working on assistive technology across our school I knew how powerful it would be if we could give access to all our teachers and students. Fortunately, school management were on the same page and willing to invest in this. Catherine and I worked together to start utilising Book Creator across the school.

"The first thing we did as a school was to create our school literacy handbook for teachers so they had a place to go to see how we approach literacy teaching. We utilized the collaboration feature so Catherine and I could work on it despite being in different locations."

Becky and her colleagues then worked on sharing other handbooks with Book Creator ideas.

Book Creator Ideas - Parkside School

"This is a collection of ideas we put together of how people have used Book Creator while working for Parkside. I love the ones that put our students in them. Our students love books about them and their friends."

Parent, student and teacher engagement

Becky explained that they picked up Book Creator more widely as a school when they were looking for ways to support distance learning and for students, families and staff to stay connected.

Parkside offered online training, shared templates and collaborative activities that students and families could participate in.

“We saw the potential Book Creator had to allow us connect as a school community (collaborative projects etc.) and empower students to see themselves as writers and authors.”

Parkside Speciaist School’s mission statement highlights that “A core prerequisite for a child’s success at Parkside School is the open, co-operative relationship forged between the Family-whānau and the School”.

Because engaging their wider community is so important, they’ve used Book Creator to create collaborative books, digital newsletters, and their annual school magazine.

15 Science Projects for Book Creator classrooms
Book Creator for the High School Classroom
15 Social Studies Projects
13 Math Projects for Book Creator

Becky continues the story:

"We started using Book Creator as a medium for some whole school projects. In 2021 we used it for the first time to create our school magazine (previously an outside agent produced this).

"Teachers uploaded images and text into a template, which was then formatted so it was cohesive and printed for distribution.

"Our school magazine has always been very popular with students, and often a choice for independent reading time so we were keen to empower them to be more involved in producing it.

"This will be our third year creating the magazine in this way and we are delighted with the outcomes so far. In fact in term 2 this year we started creating termly newsletters in the same way but publishing them online for families.

"We have been actively pushing for student involvement and student voice in these and it is very exciting to see teachers supporting students to step up to the challenge. We love that it gives students opportunities for purposeful and meaningful writing."

Digital portfolios

Parkside have also introduced Student Journey books which teachers are asked to create alongside students each year. Each years pages are combined into one book so that when they graduate students can be gifted a printed copy of their book to celebrate their journey and look back on their time in Parkside.

Learn more about creating digital portfolios

This supported the sharing and training of the tool, as teachers and students were already engaging with Book Creator before they started using it to support the curriculum.

“We found by making Book Creator our vehicle for the School Magazine and Student Journey Books that teachers needed to engage with the programme, and by exposing them to it, some teachers then brought it to their classroom, either by creating resources themselves or by students using Book Creator to create their own books”.

Culturally responsive learning

In alignment with their goals around engaging the wider community, Parkside have also ensured that they are engaging with the culture where their school is based. Parkside responds to their cultural context in many ways, including using Book Creator to do so.

Just south of Auckland, New Zealand, Parkside works with students from various heritages, including the indigenous Māori culture. In this culture, Matariki is the Pleiades star cluster and a celebration of its first rising happens in late June or early July. The rising marks the beginning of the new year in the Māori lunar calendar.

Parkside created a retelling of a story for Matariki where students listened to the story a number of times, and created some artwork which they set up for each page. They took a picture of the artwork and added the text. Students then recorded themselves reading the text for each page.

Matariki 2021 - Parkside School

Parkside's favorite things about Book Creator ❤️

  • "The constant improvements blow me away as well as the passionate community. checking the blog and the website is always very inspirational."
  • "I love the amount of support there is for new users with the webinars, the certification training etc."
  • "I love how versatile it is, it can be used for any subject area and with any student."
  • "It makes it so easy for students to become content creators with all the accessibility features."
  • "The way the final product can be downloaded for a hardcopy or used as a digital ebook means all students can access the texts in the way that best meets their needs."

At Book Creator, we’re proud to work with innovative and inclusive schools like Parkside Specialist School, nationally renowned for its commitment to students with diverse needs.

The open, cooperative environment at Parkside lays the foundation for holistic and effective learning, ensuring the maximization of each student's potential in preparation for life beyond the school's walls.

The collaboration with Book Creator serves as a testament to Parkside's commitment to offering students a dynamic and personalized educational experience, fostering a sense of community, empowerment, and lifelong learning.

And we’re so glad to work with schools with values that align with ours. As the Parkside Whakatauki says ‘What is the most important thing in the world? (He aha te mea nui o te ao)’:

He tangata, he tangata, he tangata

It is the people, it is the people, it is the people

Related posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *