In this age of unprecedented media saturation, students are accustomed to consuming vast quantities of professionally-designed, media-rich and interactive content on screen every day.
Worksheets created with Microsoft Word just can’t compete.
Thankfully, long gone are the days when Word (or Publisher, for enthusiasts) was the best available digital tool with which teachers could design educational resources.
Among the best programs for design and publication is iBooks Author, which was launched in 2012 and is freely available on the OSX App Store.
Within iBooks Author, teachers can curate an enormous range of media into one digital file that can be read on Mac, iPad or iPhone.
The possibilities afforded by iBooks Author are ostensibly endless.
Within any page, teachers can combine text boxes, pop-up texts, images, videos, audio files, quizzes, interactive image galleries, 3D rotational objects, keynote presentations and any HTML widget.
The extraordinary versatility of iBooks Author means that no longer does content simply need to be displayed in text form.
Rather, material can be audiorecorded and added to an animation that visualises thinking, or storyboarded into a video, or hidden within images that open popup text boxes.
All of the above can be arranged anywhere on chapters, sections or pages, and it can be combined with a huge range of shapes or fonts, which gives teachers total control over the design of the resource.
Unique to iBooks Author is how it combines multi-touch gestures (those which we use on iPhones, iPads or trackpads) to the reading experience.
Students could press a questionmark icon to open a quiz, the responses to which can be emailed to their teacher; or press pindrops on a map to reveal more about the highlighted locations; or rotate a 3D object to view its rear aspect.
The level of interaction made possible is unprecedented. When used well, iBooks Author is wonderfully engaging for students.
This is most evident in world-class resources such as EO Wilson’s Life on Earth.
But even individual teachers and students are producing iBooks of sufficient quality to be published globally on the iBookstore.
Among the best are those authored by teachers at Field of Mars Edu(Victoria), Christ Church Grammar School (Perth), St Peter’s College (Adelaide) and Stephen Perse Foundation (Cambridge).
Even exam boards are taking note. The SACE Board was the first to accept Year 12 student iBooks for external assessment, leading the way in what promises to be an exciting future for this program and its role in education.
A good place for teachers to start learning how to use iBooks Author is my book, Instructional Design for Teachers, which is freely available on the iBookstore.