We live in an age where kids are bombarded by high-tech media devices that deliver images in ways unimaginable, even just a few short years ago. Familiar gadgets like the iTouch, Wii, and PlayStation are reshaping how the youth of today spend their time. And it’s no surprise that spending significant amounts of time interacting with content that moves at a pace faster than what a child would in a classroom, will make the learning experience less interesting. How do we bridge this disconnect that separates the conventional classroom learning experience with the technology and interests of todayʼs children? Answer: Apple iPad.
Twirling elements on the iPad
One of the few technologies of late that offers blanket appeal to both young and old is the post-PC device, iPad. With applications like BusyCal, that offers calendar organization, or iStudiez Pro that simplifies homework schedules and timelines, the versatile iPad offers a multidimensional educational tool that engages uninspired students.
Even more exciting, is the idea of getting kids enthused about reading. While I hope there will always be a place for the traditional bound book, the e-book capability of the iPad offers an experience that may attract otherwise uninterested readers. Titles aimed at teens are selling extremely well. The Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer, Justin Bieberʼs autobiography, and I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore have been near the top of most downloaded lists for OverDrive. Among the Top 150, as published by USA Today, are titles in the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, and Kristin Castʼs vampire books. Seven of the top 25 bestselling e-books last week were books for youth, which doesnʼt take into account the many teens who read adult books as well.
As with any new technology, cost is always a factor. I am old enough to remember when the transition from typewriters to word processors meant a minimum $300 price tag, and that was is the late ’80s. That was a chunk of change for something that pretty much just “processed words.” And letʼs remember when purchasing a home computer meant exploring financing options.
Harry Potter app for the iPad
The iPad offers a multitude of fun, educational applications that can open a window of wonder to a child. Imagine reading exploring Harry Potter, as the pages come to life with color and movement. See in the mindʼs eye how classics like Mary Shelleyʼs Frankenstein, written nearly 200 years ago, can inspire young readers today to turn off the television and jump head first into an e-book.
If we want kids to read more, to have fun organizing their busy school schedules, and learn using a device that is both high-tech and cool—consider the possibilities offered by an iPad.
On Saturday, May 12, a group of Ooligonians attended the Pinwheel Writing Festival, hosted by the Arts & Communication Magnet Academy in Beaverton, OR. According to ACMA’s mission statement, the school challenges all students to achieve academic and artistic excellence by honoring and exciting the human need to create and question through a demanding and interdependent curriculum. The student leader of Pinwheel Writing Festival, an enthusiastic sixteen year-old named Nikki, was certainly striving to uphold this mission by creating and organizing Pinwheel. This is the festival’s third year, with past years having included workshops and presentations from such local businesses as Indigo Editing and our own Design team at Ooligan Press, representatives from PNCA and other local schools and universities, as well as local authors, illustrators and filmmakers. While small in scale this year, the festival included graphic novelist and political cartoonist Matt Bors, local filmmaker and screenwriter Brian Padian, among others.
Presenters facilitated workshops, showed clips of films, passed around screenplays, showed selections of their work from online portfolios, and answered student questions as well as questions from their fellow presenters. Ooligan Press presented later in the day to a small but enthusiastic group of high school students, all interested in writing in some form. We gave an overview of how Ooligan works and its relationship to the graduate program at PSU and the wider Pacific Northwest community, then opened our presentation up to questions from the students. The students were awesome! They asked smart, focused questions and really listened to our responses, and we got into a great discussion towards the end of our presentation about the digital revolution in publishing, what it means to be a good editor, small presses vs. “the Big Six,” and why paper books still matter to readers, both young and old.
Despite the small turnout, we were happy to attend and look forward to doing so again next year.
Even with college tuition rising every year, students are beginning to get a financial break with the new phenomenon of textbook rental. After loans are taken out and tuition is paid, textbooks are the next money-draining expense in a student’s academic life, often costing upwards of $100 per title. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported in 2004 that textbook prices have risen an average of six percent each year since 1988. For college-bound high school students, these books can be a daunting expense that can very much influence class selection on the already meager student budget.
While the books on our bookshelves are often considered to be keepsakes or even prized possessions, textbooks tend to become obsolete once their corresponding class has ended. My $65 Biology textbook, bought for a Gen. Ed. requirement of a single summer course, now sits in a box in my closet, emitting carbon dioxide. However, the frugal (and environmentally-conscious) student now has other options. The rise of the e-book is revolutionizing the way that we think about printing, and each year more and more colleges and universities are offering textbook rental in addition to sales.
Portland State University allows students the option to rent textbooks directly from the campus bookstore, returning the book at the end of the term. Independent rental sources, such as Chegg.com, Ecampus.com, and Barnes and Noble possess hundreds of titles that students can rent for a fraction of the price of purchasing: Chegg.com offers a $65 English Literature textbook for a $25 rental, and a $140 Biology textbook for only $40. Textbook rental websites offer rentals based on demand, so common middle and high-school textbooks, often costing $60 or more, are also available.
Currently, the Portland State Bookstore only offers rentals on textbooks that are used for multiple terms, which brings up another issue in the textbook discussion. Textbooks are very often re-released in new editions, creating more and more discarded copies, each with hundreds of pages or more. As a trade that works exclusively with paper, printing is in essence an unsustainable industry, and even the new phenomenon of textbook rental does not prevent the waste of tons of paper. In addition, the huge market for used books allows companies to make profit from books without the authors or publishers ever seeing a dime from each additional sale of their work. However, there is another option.
Enter the e-textbook.
E-Readers such as Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s NOOK give students the option to download textbooks for even less than the cost of textbook rental. Additionally, the use of e-textbooks reduces paper printing and prevents costly textbooks from sitting unused on a shelf long after they have ceased to be of use. Many companies offer teachers free digital samples of textbooks to encourage purchase for the classroom, and limitations on downloading prevent books from being resold at the expense of the author.
However, all good things come at a price, and the e-reader has its drawbacks as well. Many digital display devices, such as e-readers, are notorious for their relatively brief shelf lives, and discarded electronic devices can be even more detrimental to the environment than paper books—leaking toxins like lead, cadmium, and mercury. Much of the e-reader’s ability to be more sustainable than the traditional book depends on a complete shift from books to electronic devices: Environmentalgraffiti.com suggests that “e-readers have the possibility to offset their carbon emissions in one year, if used as a complete and total replacement of books. But, if people continue to use their e-readers along with traditional books and decide to update after a few years, no real good has been done.” Even so, the e-reader is still a relatively new device, and time will gauge its environmental worth.
The college student of today has in most instances (and with more possibilities to come) the option of purchasing hardcopy textbooks, renting hardcopy textbooks, purchasing e-textbooks, or renting e-textbooks. It is up to the student to weigh the pros and cons of each option, considering value, fair business practices, and environmental impact. Whatever the choice, today’s students are witness to the revolutionizing of the publishing industry, a revolution that will bring sustainability and practicality, in addition to affordability.
A great idea for a collaborative communication assignment was given by a teacher in Mocksville, North Carolina. He assigned his class of middle-schoolers the task of creating comic books. Students had to write a script, being mindful of description and illustrated action, and then switch with another student to have it illustrated. This project was a wonderful challenge for the students—they were not allowed to discuss any details with the illustrator, but had to rely completely on written communication.
This assignment exposed the class to a real-life work experience, incorporating creative writing, drawing, cooperation, and imagination into a medium that is not often identified with education. It also allowed each student to experience being both leader and follower. The follow-up discussions to such an involved project are almost limitless. Teachers can discuss how important strong communication skills are, or continue dialogue on script-interpretation, strong character development, or creating visual art.
One great example of a comic that was written and illustated by a student.
And because the platform is so simple—create a comic book—it is easily adjusted for the needs of any classroom. This assignment can be completed in one day with limited editing, or it could be a term project cumulating with bound copies that can be shared with the school library and presented at parent-teacher night. It could be an assignment done early in the school year, serving as an icebreaker, and then again toward the end of year, using the first experience as a learning model for what to do differently the second time through.
Alternately, a group of students can work on one comic together, each being responsible for a different part of the final product: plot and writing, illustrations and color, editing, binding, presenting, and so on. It gives the students an opportunity to use their skills and take pride in a finished product. The content can even be subject specific; the assignment could be to research a science topic, and then create a science-comic book based on the research.
The applications are vast. What is so inspiring is that students are exposed to a real-world experience that encourages them to problem-solve within a group, and work towards a common solution. Teachers are able to take on the role of collaborators, and allow their students to assert different skills, from leadership to editing to illustration.
Classroom Publishing is full of ideas like the classroom comic book; check it out for more ideas on how publishing can enhance your classroom full of eager minds.
The increasing availability of Print On Demand (POD) services is making book design in the classroom a much more gratifying experience. The Book Design class in the PSU Publishing program had traditionally only printed out a limited number of pages from the book that the grad students designed over the course of the class. But with POD available right on campus, Abbey Gaterud, Assistant Publisher and Instructor at Ooligan Press decided to have her students use the new facility, and she had this to say about her experience:
Having access to the Odin Ink POD machine at the PSU Bookstore was a huge step forward for my Book Design & Production students. Seeing a book bound and trimmed is one of the most rewarding and instructional moments in a designer’s education. It’s just so different from the proof pages we print on our office printers because the book is an actual 3-D object that has weight and personality. This new technology has allowed PSU’s publishing students to make that final step and bring their classroom projects into the real world. It gives them a tremendous advantage to be able to hand over a real book to a potential employer or client. The proof of their abilities is right there for all to see.
While students at professional schools and universities are using POD to develop more sophisticated portfolios, any student of classroom publishing can take advantage of this technology to see their hard work realized in actual book form. Traditionally, one would have to spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on print set-up before even one copy could be produced, but with POD a single copy can be printed for under ten dollars.
Offset Printing Machine (5-color)
In traditional printing, there is a substantial investment of time and energy to set up the print run. In order to make it cost effective, it is usually necessary to print a thousand copies or more. POD technology allows publishers to print as few copies as necessary, even if it’s just one. Preparation costs in off-set printing usually start around six hundred dollars, in addition to a per-unit cost. Before POD, the idea of printing a single copy, or even a hundred, made no economic sense. This is what makes classroom publishing now such an exciting adventure. With POD, classroom publishing is not just an academic exercise—it’s a real world, hands-on experience, giving students from elementary, middle school, and high-school the opportunity to produce a few copies of a book to keep in their school library, or make a hundred and sell them for a fundraiser.
A professionally printed and bound book from a Print On Demand machine