Jon Smith, or @theipodteacher as I’ve come to know him, caught my attention on Twitter this week. Students in Mr. Smith’s sixth grade classroom at Gibbs Elementary in Ohio’s Canton City Schools just published their own math textbook, released just days ago on iTunes!
Mr. Smith’s entrance into the world of e-book publishing started with his 5th grade special education students whose children’s book The Two Kids & Desert Town has been downloaded from iTunes more than 1300+ times in the U.S. and “across the pond.” The students also wrote Reflections on Our 5th Grade Year as a way to reflect on the highs and lows of their school year and connect with the fourth graders who would be moving up to their classroom.
The student-produced Math Our Way textbook was a collaborative effort of the sixth grade students who wanted in on the e-book action after seeing how much fun the other students were having with it. These students, who were not fans of writing, were really motivated by the possibility that their work would be widely viewed and widely shared.
Completed over about a month, these sixth graders were grouped by topic and worked together to complete chapters on topics including order of operations, exponents, graphing coordinates and probability. The chapters include student-produced screencasts, videos, illustrations and sample problems.
Having students publish a textbook is a win-win. The students doing the creating get deep engagement with the content, practice their writing and editing skills, and strengthen collaboration and group-process skills—all while gaining proficiency with technology! The students who download the books get to learn from their own peers, and that is a powerful thing.
While Mr. Smith will be moving on to new challenges at a high school in a neighboring district next year, his work with the students of Canton shows the world that multi-disciplinary, technologically-rich, project-based learning can be the rule rather than the exception. No excuses. Mr. Smith notes that it doesn’t take much to get started. Canton City Schools, one of Ohio’s largest urban districts, isn’t exactly overflowing with resources. It was Mr. Smith’s own personal iPad, elbow grease, and little moxie that set the ball rolling.