Adaptation of the Species: iBooks Author in the Classroom

I once overheard a colleague state that textbooks are outdated; that flat images on paper are going the way of the dinosaur—extinct.


Okay, so admittedly, that educator was me, and perhaps the statement is a bit premature, as many students do not yet own laptops or tablets.  But the revolution is coming! I’ve got my “end of the world as we know it” sign ready to display.


Our students need interactive textbooks with images and words that can be manipulated, books that encourage them to be active participants in their own education.  Just think what Google has done for homework help.  If you can name a subject, chances are that somewhere on the internet is a website or even a tutor to help. Students can Facebook, Tweet, or Skype with anyone, anywhere. This new generation is permanently connected to media, growing up with their digital devices as additional appendages.  Even preschoolers are now learning on tablets. If there is any doubt, just take a look at the new Disney’s AppMATes  or Mattel’s Apptivity.—these new apps allow partnered toys to be moved about on the face of the iPad while the app interacts with those toys.


So, the question is:  shouldn’t our textbooks allow the same interaction with content?


With iBooks Author and iPad, educators are able to create their own textbooks for their courses, to make those books interactive by adding pictures, graphs, links to websites and activities; we can add lecture files and videos, even reading checks and quizzes at the end of each section. For the first time, a teacher can step away from what the textbook companies think her students need and explore what she knows her students need.  And perhaps the most impressive feature—iBooks Author and the iBooks app are FREE.


In August, I had my first experience with iBooks Author.  I co-authored an iBook for a conference–#Reaching the Tweeps- The Role of Social Media in Education.  As with any new endeavor, I worried about the difficulty of using the iBooks Author software, but it is much like Pages or Microsoft Word.  With just a few clicks, teachers are able to copy, paste, and insert from documents that they’ve already made and load everything into an iBook template. Pictures, videos, and audio clips can also be added with a few swipes of the mouse.  Author software is so intuitive, your inserted passages and objects will be automatically positioned for you.  The end result will be a professional ebook.


Use iBooks Author to publish your own course materials:

  1.  curate a variety of content—websites, documents, pdfs, pictures, sound clips, or videos
  2.  share your content with students, parents, and co-workers for free—even publishing with a password requirement
  3. embed interactive models for students to turn, twist, spin, and manipulate
  4. include links for any websites—e-magazines, e-newspapers, online quizzes, and games
  5. content can be made available anywhere for students on-the-go
  6. publish quickly and easily, and update your book after it is published

While iBooks Author is a great tool for teachers to create content, it is also an excellent way for students to publish their own work.  For example, one of my classes is currently writing a novel.  Each student is composing one chapter of a fictional story. We will be publishing this work as an iBook when we’ve finished, and to say that my class is excited is an understatement! The quality of work that is being produced is far superior to assignments I’ve received in the past. Why? Because their story will be published—officially “purchasable” by others as an ebook.  It gives their effort meaning; their hard work, reward.

Use iBooks Author for student publications:

  1. Your students can create an iBook of their coursework and publish it as a portfolio or final project.
  2. Your students can collaborate to create study guides for other students.
  3. Your students can publish a literary or arts magazine for your school with no publication costs.
  4. Your students can work together to create their own novel or anthology of original short stories.

As with any new software or device, there are drawbacks. Your students must have iPads to view the books; the iTunes processing time can vary (our #Reaching the Tweeps ebook took less than 24 hours), and your content must be original or royalty free.


For my own courses, it is the juggling of online videos, YouTube clips, ancillary reading, newspaper and magazine articles, art, and other media and text that creates confusion in class.  As I work on my iBook for next year – to use as the “textbook” for the course—I begin to realize that my students will be able to locate everything in one place.  The balancing act will be a bit easier.


Isn’t that what technology is really meant to do: make our lives easier and better organized? I’ve spoken with a lot of people who disdain ebooks and iBooks—vowing that the paper versions will always be their choice. But as a teacher today, I know I need to reach my students where they live.


And many of them have never even stepped foot inside a library.

Nikki Morrell

Educator at Lake Mary Preparatory School

Nikki Morrell is a freelance writer, poet, and black belt. She holds a B.A. in English from King College and a Masters of Humanities from Tiffin University. Morrell teaches at both a small private college preparatory school in Orlando, FL, and at Tiffin University. Over the past twelve years, she has taught English literature and writing, dance, cheer, and drama. Her childhood was spent in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Northeast Tennessee reading everything she could get her hands on and telling ghost stories around a campfire. These days, most of the telling takes place in the virtual world.