Monday, February 1, 2016


If I were to tell you that I am a published author, would you feel like you were talking to a big shot? After all, not just anyone can publish a book, right? The truth is that I have published a book... albeit a 17-page book on the iBooks store where anyone can publish their work. Still, the process changed me.

Let me rewind a little...
I am a Technology Support Teacher in Dublin City Schools. In this position, I focus on tools and their use in the classroom. I help teachers select appropriate tools for a job, and coach them in integration ideas and logistics. I rely on collaboration with teachers where I am the expert at the tools and their potential, and they are the experts in classroom instruction and content. Many teachers I work with are rock stars in workshop model, and I'm learning so much from them!

A couple of months ago, Franki Sibberson asked me if I could come show her kids the Book Creator app. I gladly accepted the invitation, and worked up an example to share with the kids. My focus was the tool and its bells and assorted whistles.

Fast forward to last week...
My colleague Laura Tucker shared with me that Book Creator had added some comic book layouts and features. I was pretty excited, and immediately grabbed my iPad to take a look. The next sentence out of her mouth is what changed everything... "Have you ever published anything to the iBooks Store?" I was game to give publishing a try so that we could work through the process. In order to do that, I decided that my book had to be publish-worthy. I started from scratch because things just got REAL!

Here was my thinking process:
  1. What should I write about? It had to be something personal so that I had something to say. I decided to write about The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium since that is near and dear to me!
  2. Who was my audience? I decided that children would enjoy a book about the zoo, so I picked primary students as my audience.
  3. What features did I want to include? 
    • Primary students would likely respond to pictures, so I wanted to include photos that I had taken. 
    • Many children have experiences of their own at the zoo, so I wanted to teach them about some of the animals. Text blocks would provide children with some information.
    • Since some of the words may be difficult for young children to read independently, I wanted to have the book read selections aloud.
    • Sound effects would add a fun factor!
    • Links - YouTube playlist of my own zoo videos and interactive activities on the Columbus Zoo website.
  4. What was my voice? Rather than being very formal, I wanted my book to sound like me and have an informal, conversational tone. 
  5. How would the book flow?
    • establish the voice in the role of docent
    • overview of the sections of the zoo - representative animals and the section's logo
    • showcase my favorite area, The Heart of Africa
    • share some interesting facts about a few animals 
    • favorite experience - the LOUD call of the Gibbon
    • some favorite animals
    • credits, why the zoo is important to me
  6. What specifics did I have to do to make the book publish-worthy? I had to be sure to model good digital citizenship by giving credit to pieces of the book that weren't my own. I carefully checked that spelling, grammar, punctuation were correct. Fact checking was important. Ensure that all links worked.
Publishing is a game-changer. Before I was considering publishing this book, I was focused on the tool. Once I shifted to publishing, my focus changed. It became more about the writing. How many students focus too much on the bells and whistles and not enough about the writing? Could publishing be the light switch for them too?
Since I've published this book and shared it with colleagues, friends, and family, I've had some unexpected conversations. Franki Sibberson, my writing workshop hero, asked me to come back and talk with her students about my thinking process. Friends shared with me that they downloaded my book and read it with their child. Twitter was all a-flutter with accolades. My mom thinks I should quit my job and become a writer!

What could publishing do for your students? Could they be transformed, too?

Check out Franki Sibberson's blog this week! She shares her perspective on Book Creator as a writing tool, and her students' writing process in workshop.

Visit Jon Smith's website where he talks a lot about the Book Creator app and his students' publishing to the iBook Store.

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