My Grade 3/4 kids had their third e-book lesson. I took advantage of their fascination with Project Gutenberg and let them explore that site further. I showed them how to navigate to it on the class iPads, then find the kids bookshelf, browse, and download an e-pub book into iBooks to read.
As is often the case in classroom situations, it was a mixed bag. A few of them frittered away most of the time clicking around and dealing with technical difficulties such as an iPad smartcover that would not stay put. The student in question resisted my offer to remove the cover altogether, and spend a good ten minutes fiddling with it. Battery/memory issues arose on another child’s iPad. A few kids chose to follow the lead of one student, who found something she liked and turned the others onto it.
The book in question was The Night Before Christmas, by Clement Clarke Moore. She found it on the Christmas bookshelf, loaded it into iBooks with no difficulty, and was quickly absorbed. Several times, I heard her exclaim, ‘I am reading this whole book!’ and ‘this book is really good!’ to her friends. Within a few minutes, several other kids were reading it.
It was hilarious to watch them go at this. One of the other kids got the book all loaded, then because annoyed by the Project Gutenberg front matter. ‘Oh my gosh, does this book ever start?’ she asked her friend. ‘Yes,’ my little leader explained. ‘But you have to flick with your finger a bunch of times first to skip that stuff.’
And then a light-bulb moment came. One of the students said she loved the book so much, she wanted to have a paper copy. I showed her the Amazon listings for picture book editions and she was dissatisfied. One of them had illustrations where all the people were mice. It just wasn’t the same. ‘I want this book,’ she specified. ‘This exact one. If only there was a way we could take this e-book and make it, like, on paper somehow.’
There was, of course. We could print it. Their eyes bugged out. Really? We can do that? I triumphantly explained that the Project Gutenberg legalese, which they all blithely flicked through without a glance, specified that this book was in the public domain and was free for anyone to use, however they wanted it. I wasn’t going to print out a hundred pages of a novel for them, but I certainly thought we could manage a 15-page picture book.
When our class ended, I headed to the computer lab, copied the HTML version into Word, did a few font adjustments and prettied it up a little, and then ten minutes later, it was done. I had a class set of these after just a few minutes with a photocopier and stapler.
Next steps: Time to start putting together our own little eBook! Try printing a paper book from a commercial source like Amazon!