6 tips for creating student made ebooks in Google Apps

I have long been a fan of the ebook and have often created and distributed them to support my training and teachingLearning how to self-publish ebooks in Google Slides - googleappsaction.com activities. I have also at different times published and sold ebooks (look me up on the iBooks store!). Google Apps for Education makes it easy for both students and teachers to create attractive ebooks that can be shared in a number of formats.

Here are 6 tips to help you (or your class) create your first ebook using Google Apps for Education. These techniques are just as useful to anyone looking to self-publish an ebook, including general users of the free Google Drive and Google Apps for Work users.

1. Why create ebooks, anyway?

Ebooks can fulfil a number of purposes including:

  1. Creating an eportfolio of a student’s work (or a number of students’ work).
  2. Using students to ‘crowd source’ the creation of resources and text books, created for the target audience by the target audience.
  3. Can be used by students of all ability levels.
  4. Developing relevant 21st century skills.
  5. Easily show evidence of learning to a wide audience (including parents) in an environmentally friendly way.
  6. Create your own text books and resources that you can easily update and distribute.

2. What app should I use?

The app that will provide you with maximum flexibility in terms of presentation and layout is Google Slides, particularly if you are combining text and images.

This is not the perfect book publishing solution but allows for a lot of flexibility and creativity without a steep learning curve.

3. What size should my ebook be?

There is no ‘standard’ ebook size. It’s probably a good idea, though, to set-up the pages in portrait orientation and in you standard printer size, i.e., A4 or Letter depending on what part of the world you are in.

Paper sizeDimensions (cm)Dimensions (inches)
A421 x 29.78.3 x 11.7
Letter21.59 x 27.948.5 x 11

Here is a short tutorial showing you how to change the page size in Google Slides.

4. How can I make sure my ebook looks good?

Do your homework. Investigate websites, books, ebooks, posters, etc, that you like the look of and use them as inspiration for your style, fonts and layouts.

There are also lots of online tools to help you select colour schemes that look good together and even give you the hexadecimal colour code to be able to put in your colour choosers in Google Slides.

Whilst you can have multiple page layouts within your ebook (for example, 1 large picture, 1 large column text, 2 smaller pictures with 2 even columns of text, 1 smaller picture with 2 uneven columns of text, etc) use the same basic elements throughout:

  • 1 font style for page headings
  • 1 font style for subheadings
  • 1 font style for your body text
  • 3 to 5 colours for your colour scheme
  • Make sure your inside covers are blank and you have the ‘half page title‘ to make your book look authentic.

Below is a video on how to easily create page layouts for your ebook in Google Slides (note: all images used are either my own photos or public domain imaged from Pixabay):

5. What platform should I use to create my ebook?

Although you can create your ebook on mobile versions of Google Slides (e.g., iPads or Android tablets) you will get the most flexibility and creativity using the full version through Google Chrome (e.g., Windows, Linux, Mac and Chromebook).

That doesn’t mean you can’t ‘mix and match’ devices. For example, do most of your editing using a Windows computer but use the iPad version to take photos and add them straight into the pages of your ebook.

Click here to access a free ebook template I created in Google Slides. To use it, from the FILE menu select MAKE A COPY...

6. In what format should I distribute my ebook?

The great thing is, you don’t have to stick to just one format!

  • Share the actual Google Slides file (view only)
  • Embed the Google Slides file into a website or blog (File > Publish to the web… > Embed)
  • Save the file as a PDF to easily view on most devices and platforms (File > Download as > PDF document)

PDF results in the most attractive ebook (I don’t know why, try it for yourself and see!) and, depending on the size, can be emailed or made available to download from a website or blog.

More resources

Student-Made E-Books: A Beautiful Way to Demonstrate Learning:

http://www.cultofpedagogy.com/student-e-books/

How to Create an Ebook with Google Slides:

http://www.shakeuplearning.com/blog/how-to-create-an-ebook-with-google-slides/

Free, high quality public domain images:

https://pixabay.com/

 

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5 tips for using Google+ Collections at school

Google+ Collections was added to the Google Apps family in May last year.  Google+ CollectioUsing Google+ Collections at school. Curate, collaborate and discuss using #GAFE. Find out more: http://googleappsaction.com/?p=263ns is a bit like Pinterest, and allows you to group posts together and share them publicly, with your circles, particular users, only yourself or, if you are using Google Apps for Education (GAfE) of Google
Apps for Business, just within your domain. As well as the browser based version, you can access Google+ Collections on your Android and iOS devices using the Google+ app.

I’ve kind of played around with it but this school year I plan to use it as an integral tool in my Community and Family Studies (CaFS) class. I’ve already started setting up boards for some topic areas and am planning how I will have students collaborate and contribute using Google+ Collections.

Here is an introductory tutorial on using Google+ Collections:

And now for some tips on using Google+ Collections within an educational environment.

1. Google+ Collections is only for ages 13+

Because it is part of the Google+ suite of products, the Google terms of service means it can only be used by students 13 years and over (unlike many of the other GAfE apps used by schools). Also, Google+ might not automatically be enabled within your GAfE environment – check with your administrator if you are not sure.

2. Think about privacy settings when you are creating Collections

Note: you cannot change the privacy settings once you create a Collection.

Be very cautious when setting privacy to ‘Public’. For example, would it be appropriate for the content to be published in the local paper? If the answer is ‘No’, think about setting the privacy to within the domain or to a particular group of users only.

Also, it’s a great opportunity to teach students about digital citizenship and responsible online behaviour by assisting them with the appropriate privacy levels.

3. Encourage communication using the comments feature

Users with access to a collection can add and respond to comments. This is a great way to encourage a dialogue about a particular topic or issue. For many students, it will have a bit of a ‘Facebook’ feel which would be familiar.

For example, in my CaFS Collection, I have added a link to the article You told us what it’s like being 15 in 2015. I love the black and white image with the article that now appears in the collection. I will ask students to discuss what they feel is similar and different in their experiences and why they think this is.

4. Using Collections as a research tool

When conducting research, students can use a private or shared collection to ‘park’ links of interest for a project. They could also reflect on the quality of the sources curated using comments and share the Collection with the teacher. Or, the assessment of the quality of sources could be crowd-sourced, with other students being able to provide comments.

5. Encourage small group collaboration

Currently, you cannot have multiple contributors to a collection the way you can in Pinterest. However, students can still collaborate on a Collection in small groups by working together on the same computer, iPad or Android tablet. One student account would need to be the owner of the Collection but other contributors could be acknowledged in the Collection tagline or even in a post in the collection (selfie time!)

Interested in exploring Collections? Here is a link to a Google Drawing template I created that you can use to create size optimised Google+ Collection covers:

https://drive.google.com/previewtemplate?id=17_WBfHZqvOkH9q2lurfN5vbAvzJp7yPkZFK4l1J5RrQ&mode=public

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Google Apps & digital literacy

One of the great strengths offered by Google Apps is the opportunity for collaboration and interaction. In many instances, the learning curve is not very steep so teachers and students can be up and running quickly.

Students in particular are quick to grasp the technical aspects but may not necessary have the digital social skills to conduct themselves appropriately. They may need some education around digital citizenship.

“Rule of thumb: If you wouldn’t do or say something in real life, don’t do it online either.”

There are lost of resources and theories around digital literacy. One concept that resonated with me was a poster by Adams12 Five Star Schools that suggested digital literacy consisted of 3 parts:

  1. Technology literacy
  2. Information literacy
  3. Digital citizenship

Often students are confident and jump in with the first but may actually lack skills in the second and third. The poster below “15 Rules of Netiquette for Online Discussion Boards” might specifically be around student forums but a lot of the ideas apply to a wide range of Web 2.0 activities. It’s a great starting point for discussion if you are looking at establishing your own “Code of Conduct” for a Google Apps for Education implementation.

Netiquette in Online Discussion Boards infographic

Thanks to Online Education Blog of Touro College for this graphic.

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