In today’s world, the topic of using technology in the classroom can be intimidating. In this monthly column, join one teacher on a quest to discover the best way to meet the needs of her digital-age learners…moving beyond the technology tools to focusing on supporting each student’s learning.
For many of us, this is the last big push before the end of the school year. Not only do many of us face the dreaded days spent administering standardized test to our students, but we are also trying to impart those last lessons that we hope that our students will take with them for a lifetime.
We have spent a fantastic year where the students have been a community of readers, writers, debaters, publishers, communicators, creators, scientists, artists, historians, and mathematicians. Recently, my students have begun asking me, “Will you keep up all of our online work?” I reassure them that I have no intention of taking down any of their fantastic work.
Their question caused me to pause and think upon my own experiences; when my book was released, it was the tangible quality of holding it in my hand that validated all of the hard work that had gone into it. For our students, of any age, it is powerful to write a piece for others to read, discuss and contemplate. Even in our digital world, students still need that tangible quality of a final project that they can hold and share with someone else that will validate their work.
My students use a wide variety of digital tools for publishing their work for a much wider audience. They love all of the different publishing tools that they use (and are constantly finding new ones), but they still crave creating their own hardcover book. They are always creating little paper version with paper folded in half and stapled together. So how do we provide students with publishing options that will meet their digital aesthetic while providing them with the physical copy of the book?
One tool that we stumbled upon several years ago is StoryJumper
. On StoryJumper, the students have the ability to create digital picture books. The creators of this tool did a fantastic job of creating the shadowing and animation of an actual book. One student commented, “Wow, it’s just like a real book.” It is a book; it is just digital. Every year when my new group of eager writers sees a StoryJumper book, they are immediately drawn to it.
Teachers can easily set up an entire class so that each student can create their own book. There is not only a large collection of clipart and backgrounds to choose from, but also a user can create and upload their own illustrations, graphics, or photos, making their book unique and personal. My students love that their book is different from every other book ever published because they can easily customize it to what they envision.
The StoryJumper templates guide students into creating a front cover, title page, dedication page, and each page for their story. Because it is digital, students from different locations can easily collaborate and publish. Once a book is complete, the students can share it through email or they can purchase their hardcopy version to keep and share with others.
The options for this tool are only limited by your writers’ imaginations. My students have created family and regional cookbooks, anthologies of fables and poetry, short stories, expository pieces on habitats, family histories, how-to books, and informational books of their favorite topics. One student even created a joke book.
My learners love the fact that their StoryJumper books are both digital and hardcopies. They can share the digital version with all of their global peers and family members who live a great distance from them. Then they can also have purchase a copy to carry with them to share with all of those important people in their lives.
It still surprises me that with all of the other digital tools that they use, my students thoroughly enjoy—and seek out new opportunities—to publish a hardcover, hardcopy version of one of their pieces of writing.
Sometimes our students enjoy having that tangible book in their hands as evidence of their hard work. They like taking it to share with others. My authors love taking their books to read to younger students and we keep a library of their books for them to be read by everyone in the class. They are shared with anyone who will take time to listen and look at their books. Their books always receive a lot of attention at our Young Authors' Conference because they look so professional, and my students are so proud of and enthusiastic about what they've created. After all, they created it so that others would read it.
So next time your students begin to publish, remember that sometimes students want to have that tangible book in their hands to share with others. It's a way for them to receive validation for all of the hard work that they've done now, and in the future. Julie D. Ramsay is a Nationally Board Certified educator and the author of “CAN WE SKIP LUNCH AND KEEP WRITING?”: COLLABORATING IN CLASS & ONLINE, GRADES 3-8 (Stenhouse, 2011). She travels the country to speak, present, and facilitate workshops in applying technology to support authentic learning. Read her blog at juliedramsay.blogspot.com.
© 2013 Julie D. Ramsay. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.