5 Reasons to use ePub with your students

Reason 1 – It’s easier than you think

chinatown epub

Sometimes when new tech initiatives come along, you put off using them because you think they will be too complicated and/or will only make sense to the real tech geeks. I confess to feeling this way about ePub at first, but having had a good old play with them alongside my colleague Wendy Liao, I now think they are easy to create and offer great potential for learning in the classroom. There are a few tricks to know before getting started (see below), but once you know what they are, it’s pretty much smooth sailing from there. Anyone who can make a Pages document, can make an ePub.

Reason 2 – Instant authorship

I know that I’m not the only educator looking for innovative ways to share student work with the wider community. By having students create ePubs, they can share their work with anyone who has a iPod/iPad. Our students can become published authors in a few clicks. This has great potential for all curriculum areas.

Reason 3 – Maximize offline time

Chinatown epub 2

When on a field trip, luxuries like WiFi are not usually available. Students can make notes/observations on a teacher-created ePub while offline, and email the notes to the teacher (or themselves) for later use when they return to a WiFi environment.

Reason 4 – Access multiple literacies

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Images, audio and video can be incorporated into ePubs. This means students can access pre-selected material to support learning using multiple literacies. In the example I refer to below, Wendy embedded audio files of the correct pronunciation of some of the images/vocab she wanted the students to understand (see photo, left).

This format also allows students to show their understanding in a variety of forms, which can be embedded in an ePub. They are not limited to word processing.

Reason 5 – Portability

One of the best things about an ePub is that they are read on devices that are inherently mobile – iPods/iPads. You can read them any time, anywhere, without the need for a wifi connection.

Case Study: ePub for Chinatown Visit

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Chinese teacher Wendy Liao created an ePub for her Grade 6 students to work with when they visited Chinatown during the lead up to Chinese New Year. Here is the link if you would like to try it out for yourself.

Students downloaded it at school (with wifi access), then made notes as they went along (by highlighting a passage, clicking note, then typing their response). When they returned to school, they emailed their group’s notes to Wendy, and she had each group’s feedback instantly.

Trick 1

If you are running Pages 09, then you can turn any word processing document into an ePub. That’s the first trick – it has to be a word processing document to make an ePub.

Trick 2

To make your ePub more visually interesting, use styles & formatting. Click View – Show Styles Drawer while in Pages to enable formats that ePub recognize.

Trick 3

Make use of the master template of ePub Best Practices provided by Apple instead. This way, you can copy and paste the formatting, which will allow you to work within a proven document – much easier than starting from scratch. This Apple Support page has excellent information when and how to use ePub.

I would love to know how you are using them in your schools, so feel free to share your ideas!

Lingt Language

Our Chinese teacher Wendy Liao has been at it again – she’s found another excellent site for language learning – Lingt Language.

Here’s what the website has to say about the potential uses of Lingt Language:

Create online assignments that make engaging and assessing student spoken performance as natural as giving out a worksheet.

Make oral exams that take a fraction of the time to administer and assess. Perfect for IB and AP preparation.
Offer targeted feedback to individual responses to maximize student improvement.
Incorporate video and images to create media and culture-rich exercises.
Archive all your assignments and student responses to reuse next time and track individual improvement.

In our elementary school context, Wendy has come up with a unique way of marrying Lingt Language with Voicethread to create a multimedia reflection and learning experience.

Wendy wanted the students to learn and remember the Chinese Characters for various countries, and do this in a way that helps to contribute to the learning of others.

The students selected a country, then tried to come up with a story to create a mental picture, or visual association, that will help others remember the Characters in that country name. They recorded their explanation on a Voicethread, which included all the countries they were studying.

[As an aside, Kim Cofino has a great blog post explaining how making connections to visual cues helped her when she was learning Japanese, which is worth checking out]

See example below:

Following that, students were then directed Lingt Language to answer some comprehension-style questions. A specific link is created for each class page, so you can link directly to the task. In order to answer the questions, students needed to view  the Voicethread as a whole, and learn the country names that their classmates had investigated.

Students could either type or record their answers in the Lingt Language site. The other great thing was that Wendy could either type or record her feedback to the students – isn’t that fabulous?

Here is a copy of the  Lingt Classroom page that Wendy created for the Grade 4’s:

Lingt_1Lingt_2Lingt_3

Highlights

  1. It is a user-friendly interface which is easy for the students to understand
  2. No log-in is necessary for students to enter responses
  3. The ability to record voice or type – this is fantastic for students and teachers alike.
  4. Teachers can mark and give feedback online, in both oral or written form.
  5. Responses can be organised either by student, or by question, meaning teachers can analyse results and check for group understanding.
  6. The potential for learning becomes 24/7, not just limited to the hours you are in a classroom.
  7. Great way to assess and support children according to their individual needs.
  8. It is an excellent way of collecting evidence of student-learning, particularly for student-led conferences.

Things to think about

  1. It requires the latest version of flash, so school/home computers may need updating
  2. Feedback is emailed to students, so students will require their own email address, or an address of a parent to receive feedback from Lingt Language.

Lingt Language

Our Chinese teacher Wendy Liao has been at it again – she’s found another excellent site for language learning – Lingt Language.

Here’s what the website has to say about the potential uses of Lingt Language:

Create online assignments that make engaging and assessing student spoken performance as natural as giving out a worksheet.

Make oral exams that take a fraction of the time to administer and assess. Perfect for IB and AP preparation.
Offer targeted feedback to individual responses to maximize student improvement.
Incorporate video and images to create media and culture-rich exercises.
Archive all your assignments and student responses to reuse next time and track individual improvement.

In our elementary school context, Wendy has come up with a unique way of marrying Lingt Language with Voicethread to create a multimedia reflection and learning experience.

Wendy wanted the students to learn and remember the Chinese Characters for various countries, and do this in a way that helps to contribute to the learning of others.

The students selected a country, then tried to come up with a story to create a mental picture, or visual association, that will help others remember the Characters in that country name. They recorded their explanation on a Voicethread, which included all the countries they were studying.

[As an aside, Kim Cofino has a great blog post explaining how making connections to visual cues helped her when she was learning Japanese, which is worth checking out]

See example below:

Following that, students were then directed Lingt Language to answer some comprehension-style questions. A specific link is created for each class page, so you can link directly to the task. In order to answer the questions, students needed to view  the Voicethread as a whole, and learn the country names that their classmates had investigated.

Students could either type or record their answers in the Lingt Language site. The other great thing was that Wendy could either type or record her feedback to the students – isn’t that fabulous?

Here is a copy of the  Lingt Classroom page that Wendy created for the Grade 4’s:

Lingt_1Lingt_2Lingt_3

Highlights

  1. It is a user-friendly interface which is easy for the students to understand
  2. No log-in is necessary for students to enter responses
  3. The ability to record voice or type – this is fantastic for students and teachers alike.
  4. Teachers can mark and give feedback online, in both oral or written form.
  5. Responses can be organised either by student, or by question, meaning teachers can analyse results and check for group understanding.
  6. The potential for learning becomes 24/7, not just limited to the hours you are in a classroom.
  7. Great way to assess and support children according to their individual needs.
  8. It is an excellent way of collecting evidence of student-learning, particularly for student-led conferences.

Things to think about

  1. It requires the latest version of flash, so school/home computers may need updating
  2. Feedback is emailed to students, so students will require their own email address, or an address of a parent to receive feedback from Lingt Language.

Radical Chinese

My colleague, Chinese teacher Wendy Liao, has kindly agreed to co-author the following post, detailing her experiences using the iPod Touch for the teaching of Chinese language. I think she has fantastic ideas for the use of technology in Language teaching which need to be shared!

Wendy works with multiple grade levels, but for these lessons she wanted the Grade 3-5’s to learn some new vocabulary – what she describes as ‘simple Chinese characters’, that will help them understand more difficult characters later on. Wendy explained to me about the importance of learning the root of the character – also known as the radical. As this website explains, “The radical usually, but not invariably, gives a name or clue as to the meaning of the character.”

Wendy gave me the following example:

In the same way that we have bi = 2 and tri= 3 in English, Chinese has root words (or radicals) as well, e.g. 木 = tree, 林 = wood, and 森  =  forest. They all have the root word of ‘tree‘.

Learning the order in which the characters are written helps students understand the meaning of characters they are not familiar with – they will know what the character is about, as this example shows:

妈 姐 奶 姨 = Mum, Sister, Grandma, and Aunt, all have the same radical of female 女.

One way Wendy might have previously taught this sort of lesson is to give each child the Chinese characters together with their meanings. She would then show them how to write the character, and try to emphasize the importance of writing each character in a particular order. The trouble was, she tells me, the kids would never remember about writing the character in the right order, meaning they were missing the opportunity to understand more complex characters as the radicals weren’t clear to them.

This is where the iPod Touches came in. She used this free Chinese/English Dictionary app: It is a basic dictionary app which allows you to write the characters, and then provides the pinyin, together with the definition in English.

Wendy gave the list of characters, this time without the definitions. She gave a check sheet showing the stroke order for half of the words, but the rest, students would have to figure out themselves.

Students had to try and use what they knew about the order of the characters (the basic principal when writing Chinese characters is left to right, top to bottom), to try and find the definitions of the characters. Check out the video below to see the students in action:

Using the iPod Touches was particularly motivating for the students – they were absolutely determined to find out the meanings, they were eager to write the characters correctly so the dictionary would be able to find the definitions, and they were great at helping each other and making suggestions for ways of writing the characters.

So where was the learning? I asked Mary van der Heijden, our Vice Principal of Curriculum (who observed one of the lessons), and this is her response:

Every child had hands on experience of drawing the root of the characters. Not just once, but repeatedly. This was because if the characters weren’t  written  fairly well the dictionary couldn’t read it. Therefore the children had plenty of practice in trying to form the  characters correctly.

What empowered children more was that they could keep trying and different characters kept coming up in the dictionary and even at the lower level they look  for patterns and shapes to try and match the correct character with their own attempt.

The language between the children was constantly reinforcing the correct way of writing. For instance they would say, ‘no not like that, top to bottom’, or ‘that’s not straight’.

This application was also very good for hand eye co-ordination and this skill can be transferred to other areas of learning.

In addition, the problem solving skills developed  were very clear. Use of trial and error, looking for patterns to make links with, using prior knowledge were all important strategies.

Collaborating with a partner to assess where each child might be going wrong was very beneficial to improving their attempts and then sharing their findings.

Persisting even when the tool they were using didn’t seem to be able to understand their writing was also a good development.

Knowing how a dictionary works, whether for Chinese or any language was key in the activity and children progressed in their understanding of using it.

Finally the most important aspect was that the children were engaged and motivated. What might have been a tedious dictionary lesson, turned into a very powerful learning situation which would aid children’s memory of characters and vocabulary suitable for various levels of ability.

I hope this approach proves useful to people, and that it sparks some other great ideas. We would be very interested in hearing other ways iPod Touches are being used in Language lessons, so please let us know what is going on in your classroom/school.