In my son’s school their homework policy is that every teacher sets two ‘projects’ per term. One homework is to be completed during each half term and brought into school just before the half term/end of term break. He’s had homework tasks as simple as designing a poster, as fascinating as researching the history of television, or (in the most recent case) as creative as building a castle.
Suddenly cardboard boxes and plastic bottles were being hoarded like they were made of gold.
He made his castle one rainy Sunday afternoon in November, but a little spark of inspiration gave me an idea, and this blog illustrates how this homework took on a life of its own.
From a teacher’s perspective, I had always liked the idea of constructing something and documenting the process through pictures or video, and then creating a book. This book, in my mind, would be something the learners could use to show how they had created this ‘thing’ without having to write at great length about it. Imagine how proud they would be to send this book home and show off what they’d made and how they’d made it? All I was lacking was a topic, but I knew that would come in time.
It has always been my tactic to test ideas out on my own children before taking them into the classroom, so this seemed a perfect opportunity – we were going to document the creation of this castle and make it into a book, and the app of choice had to be Book Creator.
I can’t say enough good things about Book Creator! From my experience of using it so far, it’s so easy to use, offers almost-endless opportunities for creativity and brings down many barriers that learners associate with writing (i.e. “it’s boring”, “I don’t know what to write” or even learners who struggle with physical barriers to writing).
My belief is simple: not everything has to be written on paper.
My son, Ben, had played with Book Creator before, but hadn’t properly explored its features. I didn’t feel I needed to show him either, I simply gave him my iPad and left him to be creative. He decided he wanted to include a time-lapse video of his castle being built, he wanted to show some photos of our recent trip to Chepstow Castle and he wanted to make a movie (of something?) with Coldplay as the background music.
They were his three objectives, he had decided these without any input from me, and crucially he knew exactly how he was going to do it. He was fully engaged, couldn’t wait to get started and was producing new ideas at an alarming rate!
Remember, from my perspective the point of this exercise was to test out this method before taking it to the classroom. So will I be doing this with my own learners?
Just think for a second: if I’d told him to write about how he made his castle, do you think for one second he’d have been the least bit interested? Yet here he was, taking an entire day to film the process of building his castle and edit the video clips. Then the following Sunday he couldn’t wait to get his hands on my iPad again to add pictures, voice overs and text, decide on his colour scheme and produce his finished book. He’s shown everybody how he built his cardboard castle, but his level of engagement was incomparable to writing his method on paper.
Once the book was made, he wanted to share it with his friends, his teacher and everybody else in the family. Now, it is possible to publish a book to iBooks Store from Book Creator, but to do that you need a Mac and I only have my iPad. So we came up with a solution – I’ll host the file from my Google Drive account and we made a QR code for him to take into school.
I am so proud of the work he’s done to produce this castle and of course the book that goes with it, and I know he was too. But the icing on the cake was when he got called to the Headteacher’s office to receive a special award for his castle, QR code and book.
And guess what?
Now he wants to make another one. And another one. And another one.
It’s going to be a busy couple of months at Hann Publishing!
Feel free to follow this link and download Ben’s book. If you have an Apple device, it should offer you the option to open it in iBooks.
If you haven’t used Book Creator yet, you and your learners are seriously missing out!
Right, pencils down. That’s the end of our time. Until next time – hwyl fawr!