iPads in Education

Innovating education with technology.

iBooks Author and Apples ecosystem of interactive content

As a follow up to my last blog I though I would share some of the options that are out there to get even the moderately techno-phobish to consider how easy it is to create the kind of supplemental content iBooks2 can support. Not for publication on iTunes mind, but for creating classroom materials.

Apple already provides the tools for users to create decent quality audio (GarageBand) and video (iMovie) which can be added to an iBook. You can even use Quick Time to create instructional screen casts of your desktop. There are a few other things that are missing from the lineup but are easy to find in low cost 3rd party solutions. There are other options which I'll go over in future blogs but these are what I've found that are so easy that I could (and will be) getting childern to use. The main objective is to interact with computer code as little as possible. All of these programs, except Google Sketchup, are available in the AppStore or already installed on the Mac.

I will go over each of the insertable widgets.

• Images (Fill, Interactive, Gallery): [LiveQuartz, 1.99 USD] Unless you are doing just stock images take from a digital camera, iPad/iPhone/iPod, or other source you will need some way to draw your images. LiveQuartz (1.99 USD) as all the basic tools a user needs to create simple drawings and supplemental art. The ability to work with layers, alpha (transpancey), and Quartz(Apples OSX rendering engine) filters make it robust enough for more talented users to really dig in if the wish.

• HTML (5, JavaScript, CSS): [Hype, 29.99 USD] Almost nothing worse then coding HTML, and HTML is the big ticket to interactive material in iBooks2. Fortunately Hype takes almost all the coding stress off a users back. It is kin other animation programs and allows for "recording" for actions in each of its scenes. It takes virtually no coding skill to quickly throw together a set of animated sequences with interactive buttons. When a user is done the project is exported as a self-contatined folder with the JavaScript code need for it to run. This folder can be easily turned into a widget which can be added to the iBook. It is one of the pricier programs in this lineup, but the most versatile for creating interactive and animated material. Tumult even has a guide walking a user through the process. http://tumultco.com/blog/2012/01/20/easy-html5-animations-in-ibooks...

• Keynote (presentations): [Keynote, 19.99 USD] Now we get back into the Apple's 1st party set. Keynote is Apple's PowerPoint and often seen as a solid alternative for creating presentations. While it is possible to build the same presentation in Hype, Keynote offers a nicer interface and the prebuilt tools specific to making presentations. Please be aware that some effects and autoplay featurers may not be supported in the widget form. http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5067

• Media (video): [iMovie, 14.99 USD] iMovie is a no brainier for creating and sprucing up simple video content. Anyone who has been making home movies with their Macs for nearly a decade now know iMovie. Even if a user is new to Macs iMovie isn't difficult to use for basic video editing. However something to keep in mind for iBooks is that you want to keep the video short, it is a supplement to the text, not a feature length film of exposition. Keep them simple and to the point to keep file size down.

• Media (audio): [GarageBand, 14.99 USD] More then just a program of digitizing garage bands, users can use this program to create rather complex audio narrations to go with written text. GarageBand also goes hand in hand with iMovie and can be used to enhance the soundtrack of a video. Like iMovie I really don't need to go into depth as to the things users can create with GarageBand

• 3D: [Google SketchUp, Free] The term Frienemy really does apply to the Apple/Google relationship and what better place to find it then in iBooks Author. If you have not used Google SketchUp before stop reading this blog and go get it now. Okay first go to iTunes U and look up the SketchUp Skills videos by Craig Van Ham, you will want those as you walk though really learning how to use SketchUp. The free version of SketchUp exports the .dae COLLADA file type iBooks Author uses. I can't think of a more powerful, easy to use, and FREE tool for creating 3D models. It's so easy you'd think Apple made it.

• Special callout to QuickTime Player (audio, video): Do not overlook QuickTime Player as it has two useful features that may be faster to use then loading GarageBand or iMovie. First QuickTime can record audio files, which if a user needs a fast recoding to insert will be far easier then creating a GarageBand just for a few seconds of audio. Second is I'd the Screen Recoding option for making a video of what appears on the user's Mac. Ths allows users to make demonstration videos of software or procedures. A good example would be a video walk through explaining the steps involved in doing Interent based reseach (how to make refined Google searches). Third is the Trim editing option. If a user needs to cut up an already made video into chunks, using Trim and making and saving a new movie from that Trim is a fast way without need to involve iMovie. QuickTime Player is a quite but useful little tool for Mac users trying their hand at multimedia.

So there you go, all the tools you'll need to really dig into iBooks Author with very little skill or training in the areas you need to make the most of this new interactive textbook world. From students to teachers it (mostly) "just works". I intend to follow this up in two areas, the cheap route of being as low cost as possible (for schools/people without a big budget), and the iPad route of doing as much of the content creation on the iPad before going into iBooks Author (for schools going mostly iPad based with few computers for iBA).

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