It has begun. Over the past 6 months this moment has been built up, played out, and romanticized in my mind. It is hard to believe that the first of several of these 2 day events has come and gone. This marks the beginning of the summer of an amazing movement by k-12 educators around the nation to make open educational ibooks. This project is described in more detail on our website: http://mibookexchange.wix.com/ibahackathon
If you haven’t heard of Monte Vista Christian Schools it’s because it may be the countries best kept private school secret. This beautiful campus is tucked away in the outskirts of Watsonville, CA and is home to about 800 middle and high school students. Among their many claims to fame is the fact that they were the first school to go one to one iPads in the U.S. And now they are first into this initiative to create a repository of open educational ibooks for k-12 education.
Our relationship began a few months ago when high school principal Steve Woods reached out to me and asked if I’d be willing to come out host a hackathon event on their campus. Here are a few reflections on our time.
There were 25 hackers in all from San Francisco to Santa Cruz to Los Angelos (actually the folks from LA had to drop at the last minute but are still participating virtually). We gathered on the beautiful campus of Monte Vista Christian School in a Mac computer lab perfect the size of group we had.
We spent a few minutes talking about how this project came to be, why it is important to k-12 education, and what the end goals are. The following two hours consisted of learning about iBooks Author as an authoring tool and attendees built their first book using resources that I had gathered for them. Even though most of us didn’t get around to creating our actual books in iBooks Author I think it is best to spend that morning time learning the authoring tool and showing attendees the possibilities of an interactive learning experience.
Right before lunch we were privileged to get a Google hangout chat with the wonderful staff from Bookry.com. If you don’t know what Bookry is all about I encourage you to check them out. In a nutshell they provide complimentary service to educators creating widgets to use in their iBooks. Rhys, the company founder, gave us an overview of their upcoming quiz widget, sure to be a smashing success among educators looking to get student feedback on a variety of question types.
The afternoon consisted of learning about copyright, creative commons, and public domain content. I want to thank Josh Mika (@ijoshmika) and the invaluable resources he has provided in this area. I don’t know if we could have spent enough time on this topic as it is surely a concern when creating digital content. We scoured the resources provided in our iTunesU course in addition to learning a few search techniques for finding creative commons content.
Another good chunk of our afternoon consisted of learning about the collaborative space we will all be working in to access each others work and build our repository. The space we have chosen to do this in is called Box.com. Again, if you haven’t looked into Box I highly recommend them as they offer some amazing services in addition to their cloud storage. This area of the training came to take up more time than I had anticipated as folks needed to see how to function within this platform. So we ended up spending another hour demonstrating how a content area team could work together to create different chapters of the same book. This did prove to be beneficial and I believe Box will help us attain our goals.
In upcoming hackathons I will do this a little differently, including getting folks into this space sooner, stashing content there for them to download and experiment with and model the collaboration process. Furthermore, it became evident that people need to see a workflow modeled for them. Including how to search, find, and attribute open educational resources. They need to be exposed to tools such as Skitch for capturing their screen, Textmate for editing HTML code, and the basic Apple suite such as Quicktime, Keynote, Pages, and iMovie for creating and formatting content.
Overall, it was a success. I consider it so because it’s a first step down a long road of creating high quality multi-touch interactive books that others can download, personalize, and distribute to their students. Without the first step of exposing them to the project, training them in the tools, and bringing them into the collaboration the movement would have not begun. We would have continued to create in isolation. However, the community is forming, the learning is beginning, the content is growing, the ideas are improving, the flywheel is starting to move.