Building Collaborative eBooks on an iPad via DropBox and Book Creator App

Right now I’m lucky enough to be collaborating with the amazing educators, Michelle Hiebert and Jason Graham. They’ve invited my class to work on creating a collaborative book. The idea is for one class to write a bit and then pass it on to the next class who in turn adds a bit and then passes it on etc. We’ve decided to use the Book Creator app on the iPad to create our book. My kinder students have had success in creating books with this simple to use app. We have decided to use DropBox as a way to share the book back and forth with each other. (I recently learned this process from @KLirenman, another awesome educator.) What I thought I’d do is provide a simple how-to on this process.

First thing you need is to have the Book Creator and the DropBox app installed on your iPad.  (You will also need a DropBox account, but don’t worry it’s a free cloud based storage app that pretty slick.) Once you have these two things you are all set!

First, someone needs to create a new book in Book Creator.

Tap the “+” box to create a new book.

Next you will be asked to choose a book shape (portait, square, & landscape) this is a personal preference and totally up to you. After you have chosen your book shape you’re ready to start creating your book! To start adding text, audio, and images simply tap the “+” icon in the upper right hand corner as seen in this picture.

Tap “+” to add text, audio and images.

Take some time to play around with the “i” button as that allows you to change font type/size, page color, alignment as well as some other editing features. Once you are at the point you want to send the book to DropBox you can do it one of two ways. You can either do it from the book view screen or from within the book itself. It is my experience that either way is pretty much the same. The below screenshots were taken when I shared the book while I had that particular book open. If you have the book you wish to share open go to the upper right hand corner and look for the box with an arrow coming out the top . This will allow you to open/send this file in DropBox where you can then share with other classes/people.

Click “Open in DropBox” blue and white icon.

After you click on the DropBox icon you you will be taken to the DropBox app where you will be prompted to “Save to DropBox”.

Save to your DropBox.

You are almost done! From here you just need to share this with whomever you are working with. As you can see in the image below you must choose the file you wish to share (right side) and then choose to share it via our friend the square with an arrow poking out of his head icon.

Choose the book you wish to share and choose to share it via email.

Now you have officially shared your book with another person/class. You are on your way to completing a collaborative project that will undoubtedly bring joy and learning to you and your students. The benefits will be far reaching and vastly surpass the creation of book itself.

The person on the other end must simply open DropBox on their iPad and select the book from the list of DropBox items on the left hand side. Once they select the book they must then look to the upper right and choose the blue and white icon of the arrow pointing down into a little tray. As you can see the screen is very similar as to when you shared the book.

Choose to “Open in Book Creator”.

They must simply choose to “Open in Book Creator”. Once they have done this they will automatically be taken to the Book Creator app where they can add/edit the book. They simply follow the steps above to share the book again!

Now of coures this is not the only way to do such a project but it’s a process that we can all commit to. Since the kids can drive an iPad this process provides the possibility to puts the kids in the drivers seat every step of the way. I’m excited to see what the kids come up with!

Do you think this type of project is something worthwhile? What other ways have you found success in doing similar projects?


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Creating a Stop Motion Remix

One of my goals this year was to work with my students to make a stop motion movie out of one of the stories they created. We had a story last fall that I though would be good but it proved too difficult (logistically) to make. With the year starting to wind down we had some time in our schedule to give it a go again. We talked again about stop motion and how it works.  I put a free but basic stop motion app on my students iPads called iMotion HD. It’s a very simple to use app that allows you to create stop motion movies.

The first couple we made didn’t turn out well at all… which is to be expected! As we revisited and revised they got better and better. (This was a perfect opportunity for us to revisit our discussion about “drafts” in writing.) The kids decided they wanted to do something centered around Star Wars. (One of the students just had a Star Wars themed birthday party and they were all about it.) I wanted to ride the excitement so we got right to it and started coming up with ideas for a plot. They came up with a simple story line and started working on story boarding. They then started on set design, as well as character, and prop selection. Once they designed the set they worked out the specific dialoge for each scene. They timed how long it took to deliver the dialoge so they would know how long each scene needed to be. We even went so far as to find out how many frames were needed to make 1 second of video. We then multiplied that by the number by the number of seconds we needed to make the scene. This gave us the number of frames we needed to shoot in order to have the correct scene time. This part was a bit of a stretch for them but I thought I’d throw it out there anyways.

Then came time to film. For this we used iStopMotion 3 by Boinx Software. I really liked this software for a number of reasons. First it has a really cool preview feature that allowed you to see what the next frame will look like before you actually take it. The software leaves the last frame taken up in the window and then superimposes the current frame on top so you can get an idea of what it will look like before you snap the shutter. This is also good if you accidentally bump or move a figure as you can see exactly where it was before and move it back in place.  The other feature that I thought was super cool was the ability to use my iPhone as a remote camera. We could set up the scene and use my phone as the camera as we controlled it remotely from my computer.

This is our workspace.

I think this may have been the most fun they’ve had all year. We worked on this for hours!! They loved every minute of it. As their skills improved throughout the project they scrapped a scene and chose to reshoot it because they felt they could do better. Very cool to see them taking such ownership.

We talked it over when we were done shooting and decided to share it out without adding any audio. They would like other classes to add their own audio and share it back with us. They want to see how many versions of the movie can be made. We even talked about having people remix the video as well but that may be a bit of a stretch. We’ll see if any one take that approach. Here is the movie without sound.

They learned a ton throughout the whole project and they are jazzed  up on story creation. Four or five classes have said they were going to add their own audio and share it back with us. We are very excited to see what they come up with. Please feel free to do the same, any and all ages welcome!

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Publishing Young Authors

Lately I have been more and more impressed with my student’s writing. I decided that it was time for us to think about publishing their work. I shared this with my students and it led to a discussion about what a good topic for a book might be. After some deliberation they decided to write a counting book as we were discussing ordinal counting in math. I thought this was a great idea!

I gave them a short tutorial on how to use the Book Creator for iPad app ($4.99USD) and off they went. The app is so easy to use they literally did everything themselves. Since they were using the app on their iPads they could take pictures and pull these pictures right into their book. We worked on what we should say in the book. Since the writing in the book would follow a pattern they wrote a skeleton sentence on a whiteboard and they filled in the different words each time they came to a new page. I helped them with their spelling but they did everything else on their own. They decided that they wanted the book to have audio as well so I told them to figure out how to add it, and they did.

When they thought they were done they brought their book to me and we talked about it and decided on ways to improve it. Some things we talked about: pictures should not overlap text, text should be relatively the same size on all pages, it should not look sloppy, each page should follow roughly the same format. After a couple revisions they were good to go! It was incredibly simple really, made me wonder why I hadn’t done it earlier in the year. After they finished the final draft they zapped it to my computer and I uploaded it to the iTunes bookstore. The whole process from starting the book, to it going live in the iTunes bookstore took about 2 weeks. I wrote about the actual process involved with publishing to the iTunes bookstore here.

I started thinking of so many cool books the kids could make. I was talking about it with a coworker and we decided we were going to make alphabet books with the 4yr olds. We’ll have them find things that start with each letter, take pictures of these things to use as illustrations for the corresponding letter page. They can then add the matching letter sound as well as the word each picture represents as audio on each page.

As I walk down the halls of my school I wonder why more kids don’t make books. I see their stories stapled together and hanging from bulletin boards outside of classrooms. Most all of these stories are typed and illustrated on a computer, why not take the extra step and make them into a book? I see how proud my students are at seeing their books displayed in the iTunes bookstore. They get so excited to learn that someone took the time to write a review of their book. (Even if it was their mom or dad.) Talk about building excitement and motivation towards writing!

You can download the books my students made, here, here, and here… for free!

Are you making books with your students?

Do you think 5 year olds are too young to be making books like this?

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Goodbye SmartBoard… Hello Apple TV

I’ve finally ditched my SmartBoard. I have to admit that I’ve never been a big fan of my SmartBoard to begin with, so parting ways with it wasn’t particularly difficult. To be fair though I have to say that I have enjoyed certain things it has allowed me to do with my class. I have seen some people doing some cool things with SmartBoards but I think the interface/software isn’t great and it’s never really excited me that much. The proverbial straw that broke the camels back came when I was prompted to update the “notebook software”, which I did, and then the board immediately stopped working. I thought (for about 5 seconds) that I might try to trouble shoot the issue, but (after 6 seconds) decided it was a sign, and after an honorary moment (3 more seconds) of silence came to terms with my loss. The funny thing is I actually don’t feel like I have actually lost anything really worthwhile, just worth a lot of dinero. This year I installed an Apple TV in my classroom. For those who don’t know it’s not an actual TV but rather something quite different. From the Apple Website:

Apple TV gives you access to the best 1080p HD content — including blockbuster movies, your music and photos, and more — right on your widescreen TV. You can even play content from your iOS devices on your TV using AirPlay. Apple TV requires one HDMI cable (sold separately).

The last bit is the most important to me. If you have read some of my other posts you know that I use our class accounts for Twitter, blogs, Instagram, Skypeetc almost daily in my classroom. We are engaged in various projects at any given moment and we use these tools as a way to communicate with other classes and people all over the world. Each student in my class has their own iPad which they use at various times during the day to engage with a variety of tools, apps, people (often times using social media), their environment, and each other. What the Apple TV allows us to do is to share what we are doing on our iPads at any given moment with the whole class. Anyone in the room with an iOS device can choose to “Airplay” their iPad screen at any time. Since I have the Apple TV hooked up to my VGA projector, any student can choose to show the whole class whatever is showing on their iPad screen. Airplay works with both audio and video simultaneously.

Turning on Airplay screen sharing on an iPad.

Before Airplay I was bound to using my computer via projector to show examples to the class but now anyone in the class is free to share anything they have on their iPads. We can tweet, read our blog, add pictures and check our Instagram feed, work through math problems, share documents we are working on, share games we are playing, share movies we are making etc, using this method. Another little gem I’d like to share is the fact that you can sync the Chrome browsers on both your computer and your iPad. For example, if I am looking at something interesting on my computer I can pick up my iPad, open the Chrome browser and it will give me the option open any tab I have open on my computer and share it with the class using Airplay. Here’s a very brief explanation on how to do it.

I always thought the Smartboard was a little too teacher centered for me. I think the ability for any student to share what they are creating on their iPad via Airplay has empowered the students as well as allowed them to express themselves using a variety of tools and mediums.

How are you using Airplay in your classroom?

Are you using your SmartBoard in a way you think you couldn’t live without?

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Skype in the Classroom Google Presentation

I wanted to share this presentation about different ways Skype can be used in the classroom. This presentation came to me by way of (funny enough) a conversation on Skype. I am mostly a lurker in a conversation that goes on 24/7 between 153 educators all over the world. (Mostly by way of written commentary, not actually verbally talking) A woman named Louise Morgan (@mrsmorganslcass) started a shared Google Presentation and asked educators to add slides as to how they used Skype in their classroom. I think this is so cool for two reasons. First I think the presentation give some stellar examples of how Skype is used in different classroom for different reasons. Second I think it shows how powerful collaboration can be. People from all over the world, who have never met before, have come together to share their knowledge on a particular subject. Cool!

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12-12-12 A Moment in Time Google Presentation

Last December I came across a tweet about a collaborative project around 12/12/12. (I think it was a tweet from Anne Mirtschin, @murcha) My class was lucky enough to participate in this very cool global collaboration project. The project was spearheaded by a person named Stefan Åge Nielsen from the Vonsild School in Denmark. You can check out his class blog here. They came up with the brilliant idea of creating a shared Google Presentation that anyone could add to. People from all over the world uploaded pictures from their location on 12/12/12, from Antarctica to Peru to Russia and onward. Check out the finished result:

Very simple but cool little project!

The grade 5 class at Pasir Ridge International School did a cool little video project around the 12/12/12 theme as well. Head over to their blog, Ironwood Inc to see some of the cool things the’ve come up with.

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Using Printopia with iPads to Print and Add Student Work to E-Portfolios

One of my new favorite apps is Printopia! It allows to you print from your iPad or iPhone to any printer you use with your computer. With any knew thing I use it must not complicate or add time to what I already do. We teachers are busy enough! The beauty of this app is that it requires almost no set up and it works amazingly well. It also offers some flexibility as to where you send your content. You can chose to print a document, send it to a folder on your Mac, or send it directly to Evernote.

The first thing I did was go to the ecamm website and download the app. I opted for the free trial to see if it would work for me. Installation was a snap. What trips up most people is that they think it is an app that you install on your iPad or iPhone. That’s not the case. You just need to download it once to your computer and you’re all set to go. After using it for about a day I ponied up and paid the $19.99 for the app. Very worth it!!

As I have written about in previous posts I use Evernote to build e-portfolios with my students. I also talk about how I use Skitch to allow my students to add content directly to their Evernote e-portfolios. Printopia kind of works in the same way. Anything that can be printed on an iPad can now be sent to Evernote using Printopia. Very cool!

There are certain times I’ll have the kids send stuff to a folder I have specified on my computer. That way I can look over their work before adding it to their Evernote portfolios. I can also use this folder as a container to hold stuff that I want to showcase on our class blog. I can easily drag it right into Evernote from this folder if and when I want to add it the students portfolio. Here are some screen shots to help you understand how it works.

Chose to print a document or photo.

Chose a “printer” or destination for your document.

Choose to print, send to Evernote, or a specific folder on your computer.

Tap print and off it goes!

I hope this helps. What tools, tricks or tips can you share? I would love to hear what you find works well for your situation.

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New and Improved!! How I Use Evernote and Skitch In Kindergarten for E-Portofolios

A while ago I wrote a post about how I use Evernote and Skitch to allow my students to have some control over what goes into their digital portfolio. Since I wrote that post I have refined my process a bit and both Skitch and Evernote have gone through some updates.

I was also going to include how to I use Printopia to print, save, and send content created on an iOS device directly to Evernote but decided this post was going to be long enough. I plan to have a post explaining how I use Printopia to do that in the next couple days… stay tuned!

Log in to your Evernote account.

The most significant change since my last post was the update/overhaul Skitch has had. Since Skitch is made by the same people that make Evernote and it seems they felt the two apps should interact in more of a seamless fashion. While this didn’t work well with the way I had things set up, with a little tweaking I was able to get things dialed in. In this post I will be explaining how I have set things up to work for me. It definitely isn’t the only way to make things work, but I have found a way that works for me and thought I’d share it.

To get started I installed Evernote on my MacBook Pro computer as well as the Skitch app on my students iPads. (This will work on any iOS device or computer for that matter).  Both are free but I pay for the premium Evernote service which is 45.00 US per year. This gives you 1GB of uploads per month.

First, the major difference with the latest Skitch update is that Skitch now syncs all notes with every device logged into the same account. With the old Skitch anything created in Skitch would stay on only the iPad on which it was created unless you decided to send it to Evernote. The difference now is that anything that is created and saved in Skitch will show up on any device signed into the same account. So therefore if each student created something in Skitch as soon as they save their work it will show up on every other device logged into the same account, ie all student iPads. That means that everyone can see everyone else’s work. In addition it begins to get unruly very quickly if you use Sktich often to document work. For example if you have a class of 20 and each student creates 5 notes a week that means that each student will have 100 notes in Skitch at the end of the week. Their notes plus every other note created by every other student… not ideal.

Sync with one folder in Evernote.

What I did to make things a bit more manageable was to create one shared folder in Evernote that syncs with Skitch. Since all students are signed into the same account all their work syncs with just this one folder on my computer.  To set this up is a cinch. When you sign into Skitch for the first time it asks you if you want to sync with a “notebook” in Evernote called Skitch. Just say yes! If you have another destination you want the notes to go to you can alway change which folder you want Skitch to sync with in the Skitch settings at any time. Never fear, the developers have made Skitch and Evernote more flexible than ever!

Another change I made was to creat a “stack” of notebooks. This is as easy as grabbing a notebook and dragging it on top of another notebook. Once you do this you have created a “stack” or group of notebooks. You just keep dragging notebooks into this stack until you’ve added all your student notebooks. This is nice as you can collapse or expand the list within a stack which can make viewing your notebook list a bit cleaner. This allows me to keep all portfolio notebooks in one place and organized.

Another change was that I created a stack of “offline/local” notebooks (portfolios) rather than “online/synced” notebooks (portfolios). This is important becuase when I move the synced Skitch notes from the “shared/online” Skitch folder in Evernote to an offline/local notebook in Evernote they disappear from the iPad on which they were created as well as everyone other device synced on the same account. I have found this to be a great way to deal with all notes showing up on all devices. Once I have moved the notes to each students “offline/local” portfolio they no longer show up on the iPads. Nice and clean! I have found when I move the notes to be an ideal time to add “tags” to the notes as well. (more on that in my previous post) If a student wants to see their work all they have to do is ask me and they can view it on my Mac. 

Move all the contents of a notebook at once.

One hiccup I ran into with this is that you can’t change a notebook from a synced/online notebook to an offline/local notebook once you have created it. No worries as it’s very easy to move the entire contents of a notebook in one fell swoop. I simply created a new “offline/local” notebook for each student portfolio. I then opened their “online/synced” notebook/portfolio, selected all the notes at once and shot them as a batch right into their offline/local notebooks/portfolio. Super easy! You can just as easily move things back into a shared notebook/portfolio if you want to at any time.

Kids showing us how it’s done!

So far this has been working well. The kids have got the hang of it and are coming to me with stuff they’ve created on their own and asking if they can add it to their portfolio. Very cool! We even had a grandmother come to visit the other day and the kids showed her how the process worked. They took turns AirPlaying their iPads on the whiteboard using our Apple TV and walked her through the process. She had taught kindergarten at one point and was completely blown away.

My next post will be about using Printopia to print, save and send work to Evernote from an iOS device. In the mean time please share how you are using Evernote in the classroom or any other eportfolio examples.


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