If you use an iPad in your class, then spending €4.49 on the Book Creator App will be the best money you will spend. You should be warned that this will be a very enthusiastic review of an amazing app. Many schools I have spoken to about buying iPads are under a mistaken belief that iPads need to be filled with apps to be useful. I can honestly say that there are about 4 or 5 I use on a regular basis and Book Creator is used on a daily basis in my classroom. It is a simple to use app which allows for the creation of a digital book which can include text, images, video, sounds and music and with the latest update the opportunity to actually freehand draw or write on the page.
When I first started using the iPad I had 33 children and two iPads I owned myself. Some of the children said they were tired of simply creating books on paper which were placed in the class library and then forgotten about only to turn up a few years later when the library was being given a spring clean. The proudest moment we had in that first year was the creation of 5 books detailing the life of the Antarctic explorer Tom Crean by the children in 1st and 2nd classes. The class was split into 5 groups with each group responsible for a segment of his extraordinary life. The kids were delighted with how their books looked when I displayed them on the Interactive Whiteboard. They were so excited that the project exploded to include a website, an animated lego movie and even video book reviews of the book The Iceman. We were then able to include these videos in the book. When we exported the book to iBooks and the children could see their work they were delighted. Even the fancy page turning effects in iBooks were something which just added to their enjoyment.
I am now working in an Autism Unit and I have three iPads between six children. When I first began teaching in the unit the children were struggling to write. It wasn’t through a lack of imagination or ideas. They just found the process of putting their ideas on paper slow and difficult. One child (who I can safely say is the most imaginative writer I have ever met) was using a process which involved him telling his story to an SNA who would write it down for him. He speaks as he writes – a flow of ideas from his imagination which was sometimes difficult to decipher. He would then trace over what the SNA wrote. This was a slow and tedious process and I felt that his stories were being restricted as a result. The SNAs, along with many other people including myself, corrected what we felt were errors. I felt he had much more to give and I handed him the iPad, opened Book Creator, showed him the basics and asked him to write me a story. What I got back was amazing. Sure, his aversion to full stops, capital letters and his phonetically spelled words were still there (a budding James Joyce?) but he had a fully formed story written entirely on his own for the first time .
What Book Creator allowed him to do was to simply start writing. He did not have to worry about staying on the blue line. The spellchecker kicked in when he needed it. His humour, sometimes slightly inappropriate for a 9 year old was hilarious. His turn of phrase was amazing. I envied him. It might be a bit much to say it but I feel that this simple app set him free and since then I have been receiving stories from him on a weekly basis if not daily sometimes. His success has resulted in the children in the unit bombarding me with stories every week. Just today I was handed what I can only describe as a novel by one of the girls in the unit. 32 pages of a story with illustrations also made by the child and a cover designed by an artist in the UK who she had emailed. He also did the illustration on an iPad for her. I am currently encouraging her to enter it in a competition. The amazing thing is that this is a child in 2nd class. The children are also writing their own autobiographies using this app and if nothing else it has meant that they are giving me far more to correct than I ever would have on paper. I’m even creating my own autobiography as they work on theirs complete with embarrassing childhood photos.
We are currently working on a year long project which we hope to publish to the iBookstore at the end of the year. Each week we undertake a cooking or baking activity. The children have been using the iPad to video the steps involved each week and write up the ingredients, items needed, etc. We then add a narration over the edited video (edited using iMovie on the iPad) and add this to our Book Creator Digital Book. By the end of the year we hope to have approximately 25 different baking activities. The following week one of the resource teachers in the school borrows our iPad when she is baking with the children. She follows our recipes and videos and has said the children love using our book. They can pause the video when they need to. There are no text heavy steps to follow. They can actually see what to do. The children in the unit love the fact that their book is getting an audience. We hope to get a celebrity chef to possibly write a foreword for the book before we publish to the iBookstore. If anyone knows of a celebrity chef who might be willing to help us please let me know. Then children all over the world will be able to follow our recipes. We tell children to write with an audience in mind. You can’t get a much bigger audience than that.
I also use book Creator to create books myself. We recently did a lesson on the Titanic. Prior to this I had been using Powerpoints and teacher designed activity sheets. This time I was able to create a number of books. These were aimed at the different levels of reading ability I have within my class. I was also able to make the text larger for a child who finds the small print in textbooks difficult to read. I was able to break up the text with videos (and even include that damn Celine Dion song). Over the coming months and years I hope to be able to transfer a lot of my resources to this format. A few years ago I taught a child who could only read something if it was black writing on a yellow background. My classroom posters made my room look like a bumblebee. What I wouldn’t do to go back and hand him an iPad with a book specifically designed for him.
But enough of what I have been using it for. The app itself is very basic and easy to use. As it is on a touch screen device there are no hidden menus. Everything is available by touch. The children can draw their own illustrations, photograph and edit these on the iPad and then include these in their book or use images they have found on the internet. They add their text using the onscreen keyboard or an external one if needed. What they also love is the ability to record themselves reading their own book. Another child can then read their book or choose to have it read to them by the author. Videos related to the story can be added and maybe even a little relaxing music.
The final product is then sent to iBooks where it can be read. Not everyone has an iPhone, iPod or an iPad at home but there is also an option to save the book as a PDF so that it can be placed in the class library or sent home. These can also be shared on a class or school website. Another option is to publish it to the iBookstore and make it available to a worldwide audience. Can you imagine how much it would mean to a child to see their book downloaded and read in another country or for a relation abroad to be able to see their finished masterpiece?
The creators of the app are Red Jumper Studios. I have emailed them with queries or suggestions over the past year or two and love to see how these are taken on board. Queries about the app are also answered quickly. All updates are given free so there are no extra costs. There are also no annoying ads appearing in the app which is always a plus. When you first open the app there is already a book available with an easy to follow tutorial. Their website also contains links to books created using the app including lots by adult authors.
As you can probably tell I am very enthusiastic about this app (perhaps overly so) but I do honestly see this app as having encouraged and fostering a love of writing in my classroom. From the child who writes a one page book about their favourite animal to a 32 page epic, this app has opened up the world of storytelling for them. The app is available to download on the iPad at
So get out there and try this amazing app. You are limited only by your imagination…or the children’s.
Having spent the past 7 years in a mainstream classroom, Cormac Cahill is currently teaching in the Autism Unit of Carrigaline Educate Together National School in Cork. He is also an Apple Distinguished Educator and a passionate advocate for the use of technology in schools. He regularly gives presentations and courses on using the iPad in the classroom. You can follow him on Twitter @cosmiccork