Wednesday, May 7, 2014

#Harmony - Our First E-Book

English - This morning we published our first e-book (found in the right hand column of this blog). I know that plenty of schools around the country have published e-books before and it's nothing revolutionary or cutting edge, but for us, it's a big deal. For years our kids have written incredible stories, poems, essays and plays. In the past we have tried to get authentic readership for those pieces but it was always difficult. Because we use a Writers' Workshop model, we know that publication is the best end product for our writing. Whether it is publishing for a readership inside of class or inside of school, we have always tried to have kids write for a real audience. In the past, we have even had school-wide writing contests where kids could submit some of their best work to be judged by a panel of teachers. All of these are great opportunities for kids to publish their work.

There is something about putting out a book, though, that is especially satisfying. From start to finish, kids were instrumental in creating this book. They wrote the material, they designed cover art and voted on their favorite, and they created the title, #Harmony. Now these kids can look at their work online, download it to their device, read it on a computer, and share it with a worldwide audience. They now can see that the little ideas that they had for writing projects have turned into polished, published pieces. They do not know how many people will read their stories and love them. They don't know who will read their poetry and be moved by it. All they know is that their writing is out there for anyone to pick up, read and enjoy. They are now real published authors.

This morning when I put up the QR code with the URL to their e-book, a dozen kids immediately got out their phones to get the book, many of whom didn't even contribute to the book. Many kids looked to see who contributed and what they wrote. When I told John, a particularly good writer, that one of his stories led off the book, he said, smiling, "Whaaaaaat?" Cool, indeed. I posted the QR code for our book throughout the school so that parents, students, teachers and staff can download it. It is on Google+, Twitter, our blogs and websites. The next step is trying to get it into the Google Play Store and on Amazon. We'll see about that.

The e-book is one example of exactly what Melissa (my teaching partner) and I have been trying to do with the kids all year. We are trying to have kids connect their learning to their lives. We want them to create things that have real applications to the world in which they live. When we make this connection between the kids' learning and the kids' world, we are making the learning so much more relevant than otherwise. Our 20% Time Project blog,, documents our journey with those projects, and each of those projects is absolutely relevant to the kids' lives. The e-book demonstrates the same thing, that their work is for a real audience and relevant to their world.

Today and for many days in the future, we will have students walking around with a bit more spring in their step and their heads held a bit higher because they can point with pride to a physical manifestation of some of their best work. It is out there in the real world and available for anyone to read. They should be very proud of that!

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