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Posts from the ‘Education’ Category


iBooks Author: Now Anyone Can Create Multi-Touch Books

A snapshot from "Visiting GSIS", my first try at designing an digital, multi-touch book in Apple's iBooks Author.

Apple has long been involved in revolutionizing a variety of industries such as design, music, and the mobile telephone industry.  They have been rumored to have plans to shake-up the publishing and television broadcast industries.  The release of iBooks in January 2010 was a big step in the revolutionizing of the publishing industry.  Just a few weeks ago they released an additional, free tool which allows anyone to create their own interactive, multi-touch book for the iPad…. iBooks Author.  This authoring tool was released along with a small selection of digital textbooks from McGraw Hill and Pearson (others on the way) and new features in iTunes U. I decided to download the new iBooks Author tool and try it out.

You can download my “first try” at using iBooks Author from the iTunes/iBookstore.  It is entitled, “Visiting GSIS”.  The link is here:

It’s Easy!

Using iBooks Author to design a multi-touch book for the iPad is simple.  I found it to be very similar to working with Pages, yet with some very neat additional features necessary for digital book publishing.  The Inspector is a very important tool as in other Apple applications.  There is a new “widgets” tab in the inspector that allows you to customize the layout and interactions of the various widgets that can be easily added to your book.


When using iBooks Author, you are using your computer to design a book that is intended for a device with a very different user interface, input and control methods.  Though you are designing on the computer, your product will be used on a tablet device in which a touchscreen is used.  Therefore, what you see in iBooks Author does not fully allow you see or “feel” how the book will act on the iPad.  iBooks Author has an amazingly simple “Preview” feature that allows you to interact and test your book on the iPad.  You will need to connect your iPad to your computer and open the iBooks application.  Once you do this, you can use the “Preview” button in iBooks Author and a sample of your book will be transferred to your iPad so that you can see, touch and interact with it.  It works very well.

Here are a few things I learned while working in iBooks Author:

Think Horizontal and Vertical

A page in "Visiting GSIS" using one of the interactive widgets found in iBooks Author

Most of us are used to creating media for use on computers with fixed-orientation screens.  This means that almost all of our media (whether documents, brochures, presentations, spreadsheets, images, videos, etc) are meant for either portrait / vertical or landscape / horizontal viewing.  They are not meant for both portrait and landscape viewing.  Tablets are different.  They are not fixed-orientation devices, they use free-rotation orientation, depending on how the user is holding the device.  iBooks Author allows you to design your book to be used in both orientations.  This means that a person can hold the device in portrait mode or landscape mode and view the same content, though the layouts may look slightly different.

While I knew this when I started the design of my book, I found it difficult to master designing for both orientations.  Because this was a “quick” project and my first try, I decided to stick with only landscape orientation by disabling the portrait orientation (you can do this in the document inspector).

Chapters, Sections & Pages

Prior to creating your book, consider what type of product or outcome you would like at the end of the process (think with the ‘end in mind’).  A little pre-planning will help when you consider how many pages will be given to each chapter and if a chapter needs sections or not.  Because iBooks Author is a “book” creation tool, it assumes that you will be creating chapters, sections and pages.  There is really no way to get around this even if you are creating a short book.  Plan ahead for the organization of your digital book prior to your work in iBooks Author.

When I started on my first project, I had no idea how long it would be.  I decided to take a brochure that I had designed in Pages (which our school distributes in pdf format) and re-create in iBooks Author format.  It was not originally written with “chapter” or “section” organization.  I had to change the organization several times because I did ont consider my product’s organization prior to design.

Importing from Pages:  Documents

The original brochure that I began with, created in Pages, would not import into iBooks Author.  When Apple says that you can drag and drop a Pages or Microsoft Word “document” into iBooks Author, it means only documents.  You cannot import newsletters, brochures, etc.

File Formats and Sharing

Once you’ve created your book in iBooks Author, you can export it in text, pdf or iBooks format.  Obviously, using the text or pdf format causes the loss of interactive features that you may have included.

At this point, Apple has said that you can distribute your creations in the iBookstore (iTunes) or elsewhere if it is free.  However, if you are planning to sell it, you must use the iBookstore (iTunes).  I tried uploading the iBooks file format to an online location and opening it with the iPad (using Safari), but the iPad would not recognize that the file needed to be opened in iBooks.  Therefore, the only way currently to distribute the book to others is by email or by syncing your iPad after downloading the iBooks file to your computer.  This makes distribution to students or multiple iPads very difficult if your iBooks file size is larger than what your email client can handle.


I am super excited about the potential of iBooks Author!  In its first release, it is already a powerful, simple tool for digital book creation.  Anyone can do it!  I hope to take this first draft of “Visiting GSIS”, expand and improve it so that an iPad can be placed in our admissions office for potential families can see our school.  Additionally, I can imagine administrators taking several iPads with them when recruiting, allowing potential teachers to read/explore our school through an interactive book.  And, the possibilities for student learning are endless!

iBooks Author Support


International School Rankings 2010 | Wandering Academic

International School Rankings 2010 | Wandering Academic.

Wandering Academic has put together some interesting school ranking information for a group of international schools.  These types of comparisons seem to be more and more unavailable as the word “ranking” has gotten a bad name.  In any case, it is fun to peruse.


Aesthetics are Changing in a 1-to-1 Environment

The school I work in is changing.  Technology is playing a considerable role.  Laptops have been a part of the school culture since the beginning, but a change to Apple over the last 2 years has changed things even more dramatically.  One of the significant changes I’ve seen is that faculty and students are creating much more digital media.  Now that curriculum is “catching up” with the skills of faculty and students, there are more digital media products being developed than physical media products.  While there are many reasons that this is terrific, one of the implications is that there are less examples of student work to be displayed throughout the building (there are exceptions such as visual arts).

The result of the changing school culture is that our display boards (bulletin boards) are left lacking.

  • Faculty are having to reconsider how to create physical representations of digital work so that they can be displayed and celebrated
  • The school needs to consider the support/products that are available to create physical representation
  • The school needs to investigate and implement various forms of digital signage to effectively display digital products

What is your school doing to present and celebrate digital student work?


Tech Teams – Students Changing the School Culture

Two weeks ago our high school student tech team met for the first time this school year. I was surprised that so many students wanted to participate. The group will keep the same president as last year, but will be adding either 2 or 3 additional leadership positions. We will be building on the reasonable momentum that was started last year and there is a lot of potential to utilize technology positively to change our school community.

Last week four students from middle school met to begin planning for the launch of our 2010-2011 middle school student tech team (SWATms). I spent about 20 minutes vision casting to them and then listened to their ideas for the team. This week we will hold our first full meeting and I am expecting around 12 to 15 students.

Our student written mission is to lead and serve a modern GSIS community by integrating technology into our learning and environment inside and outside of the classroom, connecting to each other and the world.

Throughout the short time that the high school SWAT team (Students Working to Advance Technology) has been operating, I can already see its influence on the school culture. I am looking forward to seeing that continue and thrive this year.


Facebook Groups … Improved?

One of my professional goals for this school year is to become aware of who my students are “virtually” and to build a relationship of trust with them online.  The online social media space that I am focusing on is Facebook.  I have created a separate Facebook account and am “friending” students.  Thus far it has been a positive, enlightening experience.

This week I started Facebook Groups to use with students.  I created a group for our high school student tech team and a group for our middle school tech team.  And then today came the “new” Facebook Groups!  So I re-made my student tech team Facebook groups using the new feature.

A couple of the features that I really like about the new Facebook Groups features are:

  • Group Chat  – s simple, easy-to-use chat feature for the group.  I am not sure exactly why, but it reminds me of Google Wave.
  • Docs – you can  now create a simple document that anyone in the group can edit
  • Email address – your Facebook Group can have an email address and members can post to the group wall by sending an email to the address even when they are not on Facebook

Students are already starting to post to the groups…


Inquiry – is it different now?

Coffee is something that I really enjoy.  While I’ve been drinking coffee for a long time, it has only been in the past year that I’ve really learning about it with rigor.  Almost without fail, I consume some information about making coffee.  Had I tried to develop this level of understanding 10 years ago, it would have been much different.

When people find something that they are curious about, the processes, tools, and environments that they can go to inquire about it are enormously different than just a short time ago.  It is a very interesting time to be alive.

In light of all the information and globalization, how is inquiry different in your classroom than it was 10 years ago?  When your student or class finds something that they are interested in, how do they inquire?  How do they discover?  As teachers, do we engage and empower our students inquire in the same way that happens in everyday life?  Are students stifled by our classrooms?


Digital Portfolios – Positive Feedback

Digital Portfolios - for Parent Coffee.001This week I have given two presentations concerning the digital portfolios that are being launched in our middle school.  My expectation was that there would be some resistance to both the launching of portfolios and that they would be digital (online).  It has been surprising to experience positive reactions from both groups that experienced the presentations.

On Monday, during our middle school faculty professional development meeting, faculty reflected on the value of portfolios from different perspectives (students, parents & faculty), discussed an overview of the implementation of the digital portfolios at our school, and began to build common expectations for the portfolios.  On Wednesday I was able to introduce the digital portfolio idea to a group of middle school parents during our Middle School Principal’s Coffee meeting.  Both groups were very receptive and were overwhelmingly in agreement that making the portfolios digital was the best choice.Digital Portfolios - for Parent Coffee.002

I am looking forward to meeting with small groups of middle school students to introduce them to their portfolio (a Google Site Wiki) and teach them how to use it.  We still have considerable work to do so that we all agree on the responsibilities and expectations that each group in the community should fulfill, but we are off to a good start.

Further, I am confident that our digital portfolio initiative will enhance student learning and lead us to hold successful student led conferences in spring.


950 Attempts to Pass an Exam? How many times is too many times?

I believe that students should have the opportunity to evaluate, re-draft, improve and review their work many times.  Most situations in real life allow for “do-overs”.  Often faculty will ask…, “How many times is too many times?”  Faculty also ask, “Is there ever a final deadline?”  Whereas I have ideas on how these questions and principles operate in schools, here is one real-life example of a lady who tried again and again and again to demonstrate that she could meet the goal…

Screen shot 2009-11-09 at 7.26.49 AM

Click the graphic to read the article

While I admire her perseverance, one question that seems obvious is whether or not the woman demonstrated her inability to meet the learning goal(s) by failing the exam so many times.  How many times is too many times?


BarcampSeoul4 – Anticipation

A month or two ago I was alerted to BarcampSeoul4 by Brian Lockwood (@Brianlockwood).  Although familiar with the BarCamp concept, I’ve never participated in one.  Tomorrow that will change.  I am looking forward to participating in my very first barcamp tomorrow  in Seoul.  It is being sponsored by Daum Communications and hosted in their building in Hannam-dong.

Daum Communications Building, Seoul - Event location of BarcampSeoul4

A barcamp is an “un-conference conference” that is mostly organized on the day of the event.  All participants are expected to present.  All presentations are listed at the beginning of the day and participants vote on which presentations they would like to attend.  The agenda for the day is created on the spot.  Each presentation is generally 20 minutes, including questions.

While I haven’t had much time to put together a presentation, I am considering a discussion entitled, “Death to the Libraries”.  Questions surround concepts of future libraries, digitization of literature worldwide, and how e-readers will change the landscape of libraries.

The BarcampSeoul4 website is here.

I expect to report some very interesting things that I will learn from this experience.  Stay tuned.


Carb Slump

This weekend I am attending my first International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program (DP) workshop.  It is great to be back in Thailand and this is my first experience really spending time in Bangkok.  Flying Asiana Airlines from Korea was nice even though we did not have personal entertainment systems.

Why are you attending a DP workshop?

Last year and a half I spent considerable time developing a good understanding of the IB Middle Years Program (MYP).  However, the more I explore the development of the MYP in grades 9 and 10, I realize that it is important to have a solid understanding of the intricacies of the DP program (grades 11,12).  Because of the “high-stakes” nature of the IB DP exams, it is very important to align the two programs so that students completing the MYP (grade 10) are fully prepared to enter the DP (grade 11).  Whereas we are making some progress in accomplishing this, I am ill-equipped because of my limited understanding of the DP.  Therefore, I am spending some portion of my professional energies learning more about the Diploma Program, the requirements, and especially the assessment system during the 2009-2010 school year.

Therefore, I am currently sitting in a DP English A1 workshop here in Thailand that is being hosted by New International School of Thailand.  There are some striking differences between the MYP workshops that I’ve attended and this DP workshop.  I suppose that it is largely because of the workshop leader, but I have yet to determine if it is limited to only this workshop leader.


First, there is a lot of lecture.  The workshop leader has spent considerable time sitting behind a table with her laptop, lecturing (with a semi-soft voice) to the workshop attendees.  The Powerpoint presentation that she is using is filled with excessive text.  There have been little to no graphics or visuals.  Immediately following lunch the workshop leader started a lecture…  there was some major CARB SLUMPING going on throughout the room.  People were completely disengaged, almost asleep.

Other things that I’ve noticed:

  • Little patience to answer questions and engage in discussion that is not on the agenda
  • Focus on dissemination of information
  • Teacher-centered with great expectation that participants do things the way the workshop leader requires
  • Little attempt to identify or build background understanding and to help people build on what they already know

On another note, there are some fascinating people here.  Overall there are approximately 450 faculty from various countries in the world attending a variety of both MYP and DP workshops.  It is great to see some people that I met over last year and to hear their stories about implementing or growing their programs.  Building a professional learning network in this context is quite exciting.

Interesting Experience

When I walked into the multi-purpose room this morning to attend the large group “welcome”, all of the other faculty from my school were already there, seated together, and working.  Of all the faculty in the room, every GSIS faculty attendee had their laptop out, were online, and were engaged online.  It was quite funny to see…

Our faculty that are in attendance / Engrossed in technology

Our faculty that are in attendance / Engrossed in technology