It’s as if Steve Jobs had homeschoolers in mind when the folks at Apple created the newest version of iBooks. It certainly keeps in step with their mission of magic. iBooks 2 includes the iBooks Author app which may be the coolest thing I’ve seen this year. Granted, it’s barely Spring, but you get the idea. With the iBooks Author app, anyone can create dynamic ebooks, publish to the iBookstore, and easily integrate multimedia options like video, audio, and interactive diagrams and graphics.
What does this mean for homeschoolers? Well, it’s going to change the way you write, think, and express yourself. Research papers aren’t going to be done in Microsoft Word. That’s so 1994. Instead, your papers (or short stories, poems, and novels) can be done in a vibrant way that makes them interesting for you to write, but also for others to read. Wouldn’t it be cool to read the Harry Potter series with live Quidditch matches or battles with Voldemort integrated into the text? Homeschoolers have all this extra time on their hands since they’re not twiddling their thumbs through an 8-hour school day. Many of them use this to pursue a passion, writing perhaps.
Malcolm Gladwell says the key to success is to practice a certain skill for 10,000 hours. Homeschoolers have a unique opportunity to get there faster and with iBooks, you don’t need to worry about publishers getting in your way. You can be a published author with the click of your track pad (or mouse, for you old-schoolers). Isn’t that cool? One young author, Amanda Hocking, has already written and published over 17 novels, self-publishing electronically through Amazon. By March 2011, she had sold over one million copies of her ebooks! She didn’t need a publisher, just a computer and imagination.
So you can choose to be a published author at 16 (or just an efficient writing fanatic). You can do your journaling or poetry in a way that not only captures your thoughts, but also presents them in an attractive way. And it’s mobile like you. Homeschoolers don’t just sit at the kitchen table. They drive to the ocean, bop around town between their myriad activities, go on hikes, and volunteer with their community. Bring your laptop, or better yet, your iPad, and you can take a 5-minute break if inspiration hits you. A glorious benefit of homeschool is the ability to optimize these spontaneous learning opportunities or flashes of revelation. iBooks Author blends perfectly with that lifestyle.
Another perk is that it’s electronic! This makes it even easier to store and save in your homeschool porfolio. Rather than have a stack of binders busting with old papers from 4 years ago, consider an electronic portfolio, at least for the writing component. This is a great assessment tool for parents and putting the child in charge of the e-portfolio helps them develop several skills at once: organization and content management, application knowledge, and long-term planning. When thinking about the college application process, how many of their applicants have a plethora of aesthetically appealing and interactive ebooks to review? If they really want to get a feel for who you are and how you would add to the tapestry of their university, this app gives you all the tools you need to represent your writing style, interests, and personality.
Parents: as you have probably noticed, there are so many sources of media that we’re expected to keep up with these days. Blogs, podcasts, videos, new books, and social media (Facebook? Pinterest? It never ends.). As your child dives into the research process for papers, wouldn’t it be nice to actually funnel the sources they find into one program that could stream it all together? You don’t need to reference a hyperlink that will take you to this cool interactive graphic; you just include the graphic. Incorporating various branches of media is one way the writing world is changing and helping your kids learn early to manage and demonstrate different types of research is an invaluable skill.
Finally, it’s painless! If you have any experience with Keynote or Pages (and if you don’t, you really should), they take the misery out of formatting and incorporating files. With their delightfully diverse and appealing templates, you pick your theme and start writing away. Now I dread going back to Powerpoint and Word because the Mac applications allow me to focus on what I’m trying to write about, rather than fighting with the program.
Like everything else Apple does, iBooks just works. It’s easy, gets out of your way and makes integrating layout, graphics, and other files simple so you can just create. This app is the next phase in arming anyone with the impetus of creativity to share their work with the world. You don’t have to be Malcolm Gladwell to be an author. And just like this father is noticing in his child, literature is not meant to be static words on paper. Now, the way you express yourself can be as vibrant as you can choose to be.
Will your kids use iBooks Author to write their first novel? Book of short stories? Journal? Share your thoughts below!
About the Author: Christa Johnson is all about homeschooling and helping parents get started. She writes about homeschooling strategies, hot topics in homeschool today, as well as major research in the field. She is the founder of No Agenda Homeschool, which provides practical tools to get started homeschooling with confidence and security.