Using an iBooks Author Project to Teach Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream to 10th Graders

by Cassie Miller
We started the iBooks Author project as an experiment for our IT director, Chris Miller. None of the kids knew how to use it, as it had been out as an app for just a short time. I couldn’t help them or teach them how to use it – I was clueless! I could help with the content, but the kids had to figure the how-to and ins-and-outs on their own. And they did! They loved creating their chapters and collaborating in their groups to decide what information was necessary to include and what was not. 
iBooks Author project
Click on this image to preview or download the book.
As far as structure goes, I pretty much gave the students the list of requirements for the project and set them free. They were divided into five groups (one for each act); we ran through a summary of major events in the play so they could see how their piece fit into the whole. And off they went!
To my surprise, it took considerably less time to study the unit than I ordinarily would have used. They didn’t need as much time to study one act as we use for reading five aloud… Explicitly teaching the students the content would have taken longer. This project engaged them in a much more immediate and personal way. They got to make their connections on their own instead of with my coaxing. They got to choose (mostly) how to present what they’d learned in a manner that suited their personalities. They got to choose. 

Students create puppet shows.
Students create puppet shows to summarize their act.
Any type of technology brings its own headaches; iBooks Author was the same. We have 1:1 with MacBooks in our high school – which was great! But, at the time, iBooks was not available on their laptops. When we wanted to see our work, preview our progress, we had to hook up to an iPad – and they were in short supply. Some of the kids skipped that step entirely, which didn’t necessarily show up until they’d turned in their completed project. Text and widgets overlapped; effects and spotlights got confused. We analyzed, adjusted, argued a bit, and adapted. 
I’ll do it with this year’s group of kids, too. They get so much more out of the experimentation and the collaboration than I can give them by myself. I’ll make my requirements more specific, and have more checkpoints throughout the work flow. I’ll also require each group to use the same basic template to help ease in compiling all the disparate parts together.

It’s all about the kids: what they need, what they get, and what they can end up doing. This iBooks Author project fits the bill perfectly.