One of the best parts about having the iPads is that if a new piece of software comes out that interests me and I think would be useful in the classroom, I can very quickly roll it out to our devices. A couple of months ago, a new class of iPad apps started to spring up allowing easy creation of picture books in the ePub format. Thanks to Apple’s iBooks app, it’s possible to read beautiful picture books with exact positions for pictures and text.

Knowing that the second grade would be studying the phases of the moon in December, I suggested making ePub books on the iPads illustrating those phases. After a careful examination of the apps available at the time, I decided that the best app for our purposes would be Book Creator, which has a super-simple interface and easy exporting to iBooks.

As a first step, the students created their illustrations using the Drawing Pad app, just like we did for The Dot Project in art class. This gave me a great opportunity to see what they remembered about using it and to reinforce any gaps in their knowledge. Fortunately, most of the students had no problems creating their images and saving them.

Next we took those illustrations and placed them in the Book Creator app in the proper sequence of New Moon, First Quarter, Full Moon, and Last Quarter. Some students also chose to create an additional page showing the New Moon again to demonstrate how it’s a cycle.

The students then went back through the pages and wrote the book and formatted their text. Some students very simply put the names of the phases. Other students wrote full sentences describing the phase.

Finally we made sure to edit the metadata (title and author) for the book and then export it to iBooks.

Overall, I felt like the students really enjoyed the process of creating their books, and were excited to be able read them on the iPads.A parent told me that her daughter was looking forward to them being posted online so she could read it on her high school sister’s iPad.

Some issues to look at when doing other books in the future:

  • I haven’t found a good PC ePub Reader that can accurately format these documents, so they can only be viewed on the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch in the iBooks app (for now)
  • There’s no way to print the books (for now)
  • Orientation matters. When creating their pictures, how they hold the iPad influences whether the image will be horizontal or vertical.
  • The file name of the ePub is based on the title alone, so it make it hard when looking at filenames to know which student created which book.

I recently spoke with Dan Amos, the developer of Book Creator. Book Creator recently pushed an update that allows students to record audio into their books, which adds some exciting possibilities. In the next update to come, books will be able to be exported to PDF, which will allow for printing. Later this year an update will allow for inclusion of video, which means students will be able to create multimedia books including text, pictures, audio, and video. This opens up a wide range of possibilities, and I look forward to making new kinds of books that can’t exist on paper with my students.

You can find all of the Moon Books here. In order to download one onto your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch, follow that link. Tap on one of the titles. It should give you an option to open the book in iBooks.