The Global Search for Education – Book Creator Unleashes Creativity in the Age of Remote Learning
The Planet Classroom Network is featuring Book Creator’s Create a Story in One Page on its YouTube channel and website.
Book Creator’s story begins with a child reluctant to read. The year was 2011, and Dan Amos and his wife, children’s author Ally Kennen, were concerned. Their 4-year-old son, later diagnosed as dyslexic, was making slow progress with the school reading scheme. They wondered if it would be better to make their own books about the things their son loved. At the same time, an iPad had entered the family’s household. Fast forward a few months and the Book Creator app was nearly ready. From day one of launching the app in 2011, teachers started using it in their classrooms, praising its simplicity and suggesting ways it could be improved.
Today, Book Creator is No.1 on the iTunes App Store in 90+ countries. Over 100 million ebooks have been created with this app worldwide. It’s one of the essential apps for schools using iPads. In 2017, Book Creator launched in the Chrome browser and found a new audience among Chromebook schools and those not using iPads. The web version of Book Creator is used by 2 million teachers across all the platforms each month, creating over 20 million books per year.
The Global Search for Education is pleased to welcome the Co-Founder of Book Creator, Dan Amos.
Dan, what do you believe makes Book Creator unique to other creation platforms?
There are a myriad of creativity apps available to schools these days. Book Creator stands out because of its ease of use, and because it offers a familiar paradigm to teachers and students alike: the opportunity to become a published author. Everyone knows what a book is, and can easily identify what the parameters are when it comes to creating one. Obviously, we push the boundaries of that by including video, audio and other multimedia. The chance to author your own book is incredibly engaging and motivating to students.
What are the most important lessons you learned building Book Creator?
The number one most important lesson – listen to the community. As our story shows – Book Creator wasn’t even designed for use in schools originally, but listening to the education community is the one thing that helped us most in terms of working out how to develop Book Creator to meet the needs of teachers and students.
That said, the caveat here is that we get asked for all kinds of features but we have to balance that against the number one reason teachers turn to Book Creator – simplicity. If we added too many features, the app would be more complicated and that would jeopardize one of our main USPs.
The last thing to acknowledge is that we know that teachers hope and wish for the edtech tools they use to be free. We would love Book Creator to be free too! We’ve had to learn to keep the balance between charging enough to keep Book Creator online and with the ability to keep developing, against ever-tightening budgets of schools. We have always made a free version of Book Creator available and try to make that as generous as we can.
Can you speak about some of the books youth have created? What are the main themes and topics that interest them as young authors?
Book Creator is used across the curriculum, for both fiction and non-fiction. So we see math textbooks, science journals, poetry, comic books – you name it. What we particularly like to see is when collaboration takes place – for example, when classrooms across the world come together to create a book and share culture, or when older students make books for younger grades. A fascinating example of this is this sign language book, where a high school class wrote a story for a 1st grade class at a school for the deaf. The 1st graders illustrated the book, then the high school class recorded themselves signing the story so the youngsters could enjoy the book!
If you’re looking for a fiction example, my personal favourite is this bonkers story from a 9-year old girl, who wrote to us to tell us how proud she was of her book. There’s also an inspirational story from a young illustrator from Indonesia who was able to realise her dream of publishing her own original creation.
Do you help youth to publish their books after they’re complete?
Book Creator has evolved to become a publishing platform in its own right. With a couple of clicks, students can publish their books online (with their teacher’s permission, of course) and get a secure link to an online version of their book that can be read on any device.
Teachers are rightly concerned about student privacy. At the moment, students can see each other’s books in Book Creator, but only in their class library and only if the teacher turns on permission for that. That said, we actively encourage good digital citizenship and definitely recommend that teachers enable students the option of critiquing each other’s books.
What can we expect from Book Creator in the next 5 years?
No one expected 5 months ago that we’d be facing a scenario where remote learning has become a focus and day-to-day life would be completely disrupted! That said, I think if we looked back to 2015, I would say we are where we hoped we’d be 5 years later.
We’d love to keep adding more creative elements. We’d also like to explore the possibility of creating printed versions of Book Creator books with fully immersive Augmented Reality!
We’re thinking more widely about tools that schools can use to focus on 21st century skills – particularly creativity, communication and collaboration, and preparing students for a future where the jobs they will have do not even exist today.
Book Creator’s Create a Story in One Page is featured on the Planet Classroom Network.