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Publishing free iBooks

Published on 19/01/15

Will schools in the future be publishing houses? On the face of it this assertion is preposterous. Publishing in its traditional form is potentially a huge undertaking with a myriad of issues involved in the publication of a book.

However, times are changing. We live in a digital age where publishing resources no longer requires printing presses and teams of people to oversee production. We now have digital platforms which open up opportunities for educators to by-pass conventional publishers and their wares.

Our strategy as a school is to harness this opportunity, offering our students enriched digital resources for learning which they can access anytime, anywhere.

The first step in making this happen is to identify the most effective digital platforms. For us, iTunes U and iBooks Textbooks fit the bill. Whilst iTunes U allows the teacher to curate digital resources easily in the form of a virtual filing cabinet – documents, hyperlinks, questions, video, and audio files all held together and sequenced helpfully for the user – iBooks Textbooks is a creative tool which the teacher can author.

The Stephen Perse Foundation iTunes store room

As seamless access to content is our goal, the combination of iTunes U, iBooks Textbooks and a personal device is extremely appealing. It means that the teacher is able to respond to the class discussion and to support the student learning in an even better way that was possible before. As soon as a new resource is uploaded to a course, it is instantly available to all students. The iBooks Textbooks can also be updated and republished with minimal trouble.

Traditional textbooks in many subjects such as sciences, geography and economics struggle to keep up with current information. All this aside from needing to respond to the many and frequent changes in specifications that come from the examination boards. The result is that they are often out of date or certainly expensive to replace.

In order to support our staff as we begin the transition from traditional to digital resources, we have in post a Digital Researcher whose job it is to work with teachers. To date our teachers have curated over 100 iTunes U courses, of which 90 are freely available to the world and have well over 20,000 subscriptions. Now we are focussing on the challenge of authoring iBooks Textbooks and our first foray into this field is the publication of a series of Cambridge IGCSE Biology Textbooks.

Although our digital resources are devised for our learners, a guiding principle for us underlying the creation of digital resources is to share with colleagues and learners outside of our school community.

In an age when the future of conventional publishing is in the balance, we have the technology to support sharing not just nationally but globally. Indeed, the digital world makes the walls of a school invisible as its reach is exponential. In this new order teachers become part of a global staff room where they can share resources digitally, replicating what happens everyday within the walls of a real world staff room. Surely this is the logical next step given the potential for learning is so powerful?

My hope is that schools will continue to share resources, Indeed, we may see a day when colleagues in different schools, in different countries, collaborate to curate and author resources.

As digital technology removes physical barriers, we should seize the opportunities opening up to us and think differently about how we support our learners and how we support each other. The digital age is the age of sharing so let us maximise the possibilities so everyone benefits.