A Slight #Engchat Re-Purposing of Widbook (Part 1)

It’s nothing short of amazing when I stop and ponder all the #edtech resources available today to help students showcase their learning in creative and engaging ways. Sometimes all that is needed to be inspired is a simple process of reviewing the intended purpose of a website, app, or gadget. After a solid understanding has been established, I strive to follow up with a limitless, free-thinking session that centers on one essential question: “How can this technological tool be repurposed as an educational instrument?”
Whether using Symbaloo to showcase students’ blogs, Twitter to launch our class high above our brick-and-mortar discussion and into a tweetup covering a presidential debate, or a Google Drive spreadsheet to anonymously critique a set of analytical essays, working collaboratively with students in Studio 113 and now in the E.P.i.C.C. Academy has taught me to always think beyond technology’s original intent in hopes of providing a memorable and unprecedented learning experience.
Although nothing groundbreaking, my recent holiday musings had me contemplating a project that hinges on my American Literature students connecting on personal, cultural, figurative, and thematic levels to a Romantic short story from Washington Irving. My ideas had me hunting for new educational technology that will help me curate my students’ authentic work in one, polished space to share with the world.
And now, thanks to a very informative tweet from a must-follow, my next, experimental #edtech tool of choice is clear. Widbook.

Widbook: A Definition and Overview

According to Richard Byrne of Freetech4teachers.com, “Widbook is a platform designed to help people collaboratively create multimedia books. The service is part multimedia book authoring tool and part social network.”
Here’s a quick overview of Widbook.

A Good Match for an In-Depth, Literary Assignment?

When I first read Mr. Byrne’s definition, I knew Widbook would be a good match for our next project in American Literature. By allowing pictures to be inserted, videos to be embedded, and Word documents to be uploaded, I can confidently ask and expect my students to perform a number of tasks to demonstrate their understanding of Washington Irving’s famous short story and how its message fits into their present world.
Although I am still fleshing out the entire assignment as it relates to the standards, I plan on asking American Literature students in teams of three or four to complete the following:
1. Create a still picture that accurately depicts Irving’s overall purpose for writing the assigned scenes. This picture, which can be easily inserted in Widbook in a matter of seconds, will be used as the front cover for the accompanying team’s section.
2. Write an analytical, literary criticism of assigned excerpts with attention to diction, symbolism, figurative language, style, purpose, tone, mood, and characterization. This criticism can be typed directly into Widbook or added via a Word document. However, to make this step effortlessly collaborative, I may ask students to work together through a shared Google Drive document first. After combining all knowledge into one piece of literary criticism, the Google Drive document can then be downloaded as a Word document and uploaded into Widbook.
3. Summarize assigned excerpts by performing the described scenes in a creative video that will be stored on our E.P.i.C.C. Academy YouTube channel. Teams wishing for an additional challenge will have the option of using our in-class green screen to add special effects. The video will then be embedded into our collaborative e-book.
4. Relate one of Irving’s central themes to a current issue by embedding a video from any reputable news source in Widbook.
5. Although Widbook does not yet allow for the creation of hyperlinks (something I found quite odd in these digital times), I will still ask each team to add a soundtrack to their assigned scenes. Normally, students could easily insert hyperlinks from SoundCloud or other music sharing sites, but I imagine they will choose to embed a musical video or add song lyrics via text.
If you know me, you would surely guess that I have already taken Widbook for a test run. Well, you would be absolutely correct. Click here to view what I created with my experiment or simply view the following video for a quick run-through.

Hopefully, in about two weeks, I will be able to share with you the results of the aforementioned lesson plan. If I know my students well, they will knock it out of the park.
Heck, it may be worthy enough to be bound in a book. A collaborative, multimedia e-book.

John Hardison

John Hardison is an interactive facilitator of learning and blended learning specialist at East Hall High School (Studio 113 & EPiCC).

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