Monday, September 11, 2017

How Much Can One eBook Project Accomplish?

eBook cover page
The Story of Ishanga
Innovative teachers are always on the lookout for a great new idea, or a better way to do something we’ve always done. It can be easy to get excited about every new thing that comes our way. Before we know it, our students have long, unmanageable lists of usernames and passwords for a myriad of tools and sites. An alternative that allows us to innovate and simplify at the same time, is to dive deeply into something many of our districts already have--our Google Drives. Google Slides has powerful capabilities that many of us haven’t explored in depth. There are endless possibilities beyond the same old title, image, and bullet points that exhaust teachers and students alike.

I had the pleasure of working with Jamie Lora, a fifth grade teacher at Carrillo Elementary in the San Marcos Unified School District, to help her class create beautiful eBooks using Google Slides. Students had read about an elephant in Africa who was rescued after her mother was killed by poachers. The class then took on the task of writing narratives telling the story from the perspective of the baby elephant, named Ishanga by her rescuers. So far, this activity resembled what goes on in classrooms everywhere. Jamie Lora, however, is dedicated to innovation, and she asked me to come introduce her students to eBooks with Google Slides. By the end of the afternoon, classroom magic had occurred.  The students threw themselves into creating beautiful eBooks with incredible attention to detail. Even better, the volume of their writing increased by two and three-fold. Rather than just copying the narrative they had written into the eBook format, they added more rich content and beautiful images (which they properly searched and cited). Click here to scroll through a sample of one student’s work.  

I spent nearly three hours in her classroom, and many students were still planning to continue working on their eBooks from home, as they needed more time.  Even when the eBooks were complete, the students’ increased interest level in the topic persisted. They did more research on the plight of elephants and poaching, and they eventually launched a classroom service project to do what they could as a class to help save the lives of endangered elephants. Through their research and coin drive, Jamie’s class made contact with the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and adopted their own baby elephant, Luggard. Storyworks, where Ishanga’s story was published, has even contacted Jamie to interview her class!

So. . . what can one eBook project accomplish? Big things! These fifth grade students created beautiful narratives from the perspective of Ishanga the baby elephant, produced fantastic eBooks with attention to style and detail, practiced searching for and using appropriate images and citing their sources, persisted and persisted and persisted, and grew to care about a cause. The technology was infused, not an add-on but an integral part of the process.  Finally, it doesn’t hurt that Jamie gets to read a class set of interesting and well-crafted narratives instead of a bunch of bullet points. eBooks can be used across the curriculum and in any grade level, and Google Slides is a free and available platform.

Laura Sugano

Laura Sugano is an Ed Tech TOSA (Teacher on Special Assignment) in the San Marcos Unified School District. Prior to becoming a resident of TOSAtown, Laura taught in 3rd and 5th grades. She is passionate about student use of technology, and committed to integrating technology into the ways we teach and learn. You can reach Laura on Twitter @LauraSugano or via email at