Today I attended a presentation by Apple about using the iPad. The presentation was nicely done, and while it wasn’t necessarily a hands-on workshop, I still learned a lot about the iPad and using it in education. One thing I learned more about was creating ePubs using Pages for Mac and then viewing them in the iBooks app.
An ePub is the format for many ebooks, typical to what you would buy in the Kindle Store. I have dabbled with ePubs in the past and we are using them with the TQP pilot project some, but here’s what struck me today: If I’m in a school with an iPad 1:1 deployment and I’m trying to find ways to have my students create and publish their own content, with their own voice, then using ePubs is a great way to make that possible.
Here’s how ePubs works, and keep in mind this is just one way to do so as well as the only way I know to create one, you need to open the Pages app for Mac. This app is $10 and can be purchased through the App Store on any newer mac. Pages at first glance looks like most word processors you’ve seen. However, the export function is what makes this a crucial tool for creating ePubs, since Pages can export ePub files, which can then be opened in the iBooks app on the iPad. So to create your ePub, you can type/copy-paste your written content into a new document, but you can also add multimedia files, like video and audio, to the file as well. You insert these files into the document and make them an inline object with the text. You can also create links to places both in the document and to websites on the Internet. Then once you are done creating your document you simply just export the file to an ePub format and make it available to your audience via email, website, or even sync it through iTunes on your computer. This is the creative process students could go through, but more about that in a minute.
Once the ePub document is on the iPad, you use iBooks to view the book. Within iBooks you can copy text, highlight text, create notes for a piece of the text, change the font size, bookmark pages, and do general searches. The app itself isn’t anything too exciting, but it does change the way we think about teaching and content consumption, which is where the power comes into play.
So for example, if I was a teacher and all my students had an iPad, I would structure my course so the students created their own textbooks. I’d likely use a variety of online tools to facilitate the process, but then once we finished a section or chapter or however the course was organized, the culminating activity might be to bring all this content together and organize it in a way that makes sense for readers, create the ePub, and then distribute that ePub the next time the course is taught. Then the next year I’d have my students build on that and keep making updates to the course text.j
There are a number of things you could do with ePubs, but the key is that you can consume the content in a different way than just reading. Students can read about a concept and then watch a video of that concept in action, or they can look up the definition to words they don’t know without changing apps or even getting out the dictionary. Through the iPad and a variety of other tools we are able to think differently about the things we are doing in the classroom with these tools Creating and curating your own is much more powerful than reading a traditional textbook. Both the process of creating the content, as well as how it is consumed is going to change the way students are learning.
So this is both a content creation and content consumption app based on its use. iBooks is free and Pages for Mac is only $10 so the buy-in is pretty low. This is the path that I believe teaching and learning is headed and I hope more and more schools, teachers, and students begin to engage in these kinds of projects. While learning is an activity, there is still a large amount of consumption that takes place that serves as a foundation to build upon and this is one step towards making this happen.
Here are some screenshots from iBooks and here is an ePub on how to use the iPad as a camcorder and sharing that video. Something I’m actually using in the field with TQP.