Last May, my students took Book Creator for a test drive. As the school year came to a close, student-authored review eBooks seemed like a worthwhile task to try. Students learned a lot about working cooperatively, using new apps, and presenting mathematics using unique strategies in ways that would potentially teach someone else. It was a good thing, and you can read about it here.

Since then, I tried firming up the project a bit by structuring my expectations, designing a detailed scoring rubric, and housing necessary resources neatly in an iTunes U course (check back for a direct link – plans for it to be published here are in the works!) This time our purpose was to create multi-media lesson books – study guides, if you will – that collectively address the learning targets we’ve studied in Algebra thus far this year. These guides are to serve as an additional resource to help all algebra students prepare for semester exams, and more importantly, deeply understand mathematics and be able to effectively communicate about it.

This time, I required a specific number of student-created videos, recorded sound clips, and images in each book. I made storyboarding mandatory, which encouraged students to research and review first, making the math content unquestionably the #1 priority of the project. I allowed students to work alone, in pairs, or in groups of three students. I divided up the learning targets, printed the target spreadsheet, chopped and folded up each target slip of paper, and had students randomly draw topics for their books. While some elements of choice were taken from them, they still had plenty of room for creativity and choice through designing the pages, using various apps to create media, and deciding who to work with (if anyone).

As students enrolled in the iTunes U course and began carefully considering the provided resources in their self-chosen groups, I knew the quality of these books would be improved from my first run with Book Creator last year.

With a deadline of 11:59 p.m. tonight, books are still rolling in and as I review them, I’m sharing them through a ThingLink so students also have real-time access to their work and the work of their peers. The eBooks are not perfect, and many have those algebra errors that might make us cringe a bit, but remember this is the first time most of these students have created something like this. This is evidence of their thinking. These books represent my students’ voices in ways they couldn’t necessarily share them in the past.

A highlight you won’t want to miss is a student’s book who (not surprisingly) chose to work alone. I have to bend low to hear her voice at all when she speaks to me in class, but her voice and personality (and artistic illustrations) can certainly be heard (and seen) in her book. Don’t miss her Direct Variation guide listed as #13 on the Linear Functions spot. (scroll down… follow-up below…)

*Follow-Up:

On 12/12/14 as students received their scored rubrics and written feedback comments and suggestions from me, they wanted to continue editing and improving their books. This ThinkLink serves as a “working document” of sorts as students resubmit their books.

Before handing back rubrics, I let students know that some projects may not be embedded in the ThingLink yet. Reasons ranging from too many math mistakes to distracting (think: silly) visuals kept some submissions from being included.

What was interesting to me was how quickly students navigated to the ThingLink to see whether their book had been included. Immediately, buzz ensued and I heard outbursts like “YES! Ours is there!” versus “Oh man, we didn’t make it…”

My observation was that students cared more about whether or not their books made the cut than they cared about their “grades”. I found that to be very interesting. I conferenced with each group as a follow-up to talk through my rubric comments (and interpret my horrible cursive if they couldn’t read it, HA!) and we decided together what changes needed to happen in order to make better books.

I love that they want to improve and correct their projects. Learning. Is. Happening.