Project Proposal

1. Key Frameworks

Our project is framed around the ideas of personalized and situated learning and communities of practice. Because we are all secondary teachers with experience ranging from a few years to many years, we recognize that our colleagues range in their comfort in using technology in their professional practice. The “silo effect” of education, where teachers rarely have the opportunity to discuss their work continues to exist in varying degrees, depending on school location (urban or rural), staff size, and whether a school (or district) has embraced a collaborative learning model like professional learning communities (PLC). Our project is designed to assist any teacher interested in learning how to create an e-textbook, whether the teacher is working alone and accessing feedback and support asynchronously or working in a group setting and benefitting from group discussions and assistance. Creating an e-book with the help of colleagues, is reflective of Brown, Collins and Duguid’s assertions that “activity, concept and culture are interdependent.” (1989)

Despite our excitement at creating this project using iBooks Author, Apple’s program for creating multimodal e-books designed to interact with iPads, we are aware of the limitations and problems this project creates. Apple products, by their proprietary nature, restrict access for many potential users. It is not open source or easily accessible on all types of devices. Not all educators have access to Mac products necessary to create and read this type of e-book. Licensing of such books also requires that authors go into a sales agreement with Apple, should they wish to sell their textbook. Despite these limitations, we are aware that there are a significant number of potential users and many schools have begun to purchase class sets of iPads to explore the affordances of tablets. We are also attempting to compensate for this through the creation of a wiki and a PDF version of the e-book.

Affordances of e-textbooks

It is the multi-modal nature of the e-book created in iBooks Author which may prove to be exceptionally helpful to both teachers and students. O’Brien and Voss note that the addition of text to speech, applications like Voicethread and the use of social bookmarking open the potential interactions into social meaning-making of image, sound and text. For students whose first language is not English, translation features make e-books much more accessible, allowing students to participate in a greater degree. This also requires consideration on the part of the instructor designing the e-book, as the literacies involved in reading multi-modally are significantly different from reading text on a print page. (Coiro, 2012). Other considerations the instructor and designer must reflect upon are student familiarity with the device being used and the format being used, as different e-texts and devices operate in manners differently enough to require time for familiarization with the operating features. One of the affordances of tablets is the natural user interface (NUI) which allows gesture to make applications quickly and easily accessible. This ease of use makes tablets and iPads in particular, desirable among secondary students and could increase enagement toward working with textbook material, for social and personal reasons.

To ensure students and teachers are able to explore ideas together, the iBooks Author program can allow learners to build their own collection of writing and artifacts that help them fully understand a topic. This project aims to give educators the opportunity to learn these skills and begin to share them with their students.


Brown, J. S., Collins, A., & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated Cognition and the Culture of Learning. Educational Researcher, 18(1), 32. doi: 10.2307/1176008

Coiro, J. (2012). The New Literacies of Online Reading Comprehension: Future Directions. Educational Forum, 76(4), 412-417. doi: 10.1080/00131725.2012.708620

O’Brien, D., & Voss, S. (2011). Reading Multimodally: What Is Afforded? Journal Of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 55(1), 75-78. doi: 10.1598/JAAL.55.1.9

2. Intentions and positions


Our primary intention for this design proposal is to produce a multimedia artifact in the form of an e-textbook produced in accordance with iBooks Author for the purpose of training teachers on how to integrate this medium into their current instructional practice. More specifically, we will be taking a professional development approach by allowing educators the opportunity to experiment with our instructional e-textbook that will emphasize content creation via the iBooks Author platform. We will accomplish this by producing a digital instructional guide that will provide step-by-step instructions on how to create an e-textbook from the initial organizational and planning phases to the final publication and viewing phases. It will provide interactive multimedia examples of built in features that is afforded through the combination of media rich digital textbooks and the iPad’s natural user interface (NUI).

The predominant technologies we will use for our design project are Apple’s iBooks publishing format, iBooks Author design software and an online Wiki environment. This specific technology has been selected for several reasons including the ever increasing
popularity of iPads and iPad Minis in learning environments, the multitouch, multimedia andinteractive capabilities of the iBooks etextbook format along with the easy access and use of a WiKi environment, to encourage collaborative learning and knowledge construction. In addition, with the exception of an iPad required for optimum interaction with iBooks, the iBooks Author software is free to download, iBooks can be distributed outside of the iTunes store for free and there are many no charge options for creating online Wiki environments; making this design approach very cost effective.


From British Columbia to New Brunswick, provincial Ministries of Education have been extolling the benefits of technology integrated with purpose in education. From The Shift in New Brunswick Public Education video (2010) to the BC Education Plan (2012), governments have been striving to join in encouraging the use of new pedagogies and technologies to support learners in this new century. In Ontario, the Ministry of Education has been promoting blended learning environments for 3 years (or more) with tutorials at its e-Learning site to enable teachers to incorporate new learning strategies and technologies to support students in a more personalized learning environment. In British Columbia, the recently drafted Digital Literacy Standards, Exploring Curriculum Design and Cross-Curricular Competencies documents are part of an intense push to radically change how schools and education are structured. As Will Richardson points out in Why School?, “It’s now easier than ever to communicate, create and collaborate with others from around the globe who share our passion to learn. This changes just about everything when it comes to being educated.” (Richards, 2012)

Teachers in the K-12 system, are at various points on the continuum of comfort and skill in integrating technology into the classroom. Many teachers own personal devices for communication and entertainment, yet do not always consider how to use these tools in the classroom. This is certainly true of e-books and e-book readers. Despite the incredible surge in e-book popularity in the last two years, with sales of e-books surpassing the sales of print books, it is rare to see e-books in school library catalogues or in classrooms. There are varied reasons for this lack of inclusion. Subscription costs for e-textbooks have not yet matched the long term savings of a print textbook, making the initial purchase inexpensive, but the long term cost greater. Ensuring equitable access to reading devices concerns teachers and students alike. Finally, finding teachers who are comfortable enough with the affordances of e-texts to see the learning potentials continues to be challenging, as even pre-service teachers have had limited exposure to instructional practices with e-textbooks or e-books.

With these concerns in mind, we hope to give teachers the opportunity to not only work with an e-textbook, but to create an e-textbook that would be completely applicable to the instructional setting and learners the teacher would be working with. We recognize that  “Learning how to use a tool involves far more than can be accounted for in any set of explicit rules. The occasions and conditions for use arise directly out of the context of activities of each community that uses the tool, framed by the way members of that community see the world” (Brown, Collins & Duguid,1989). The iAuthor program allows the designer to embed text, images, video, audio files, and many other digital artifacts that the teacher can then arrange or delete as needed. Creation of e-textbooks can allow for insight into culture and authentic activities of science (and other content areas) through ill-designed problems and projects which link to discussion and expert communities of practice. (wiki support, “ask a scientists”, knowledge-building activities built from socially constructed understanding). While designing an entire e-textbook might seem like a daunting task, allowing educators the opportunity to discuss challenges, successes and problem-solve only further enhances their educational community of practice. The finished product can be viewed best on an iPad, but can also be viewed as a PDF document. Once in the PDF format,  it can be edited to have page-turning capabilities, although the moving images would no longer be accessible and interactive in the same manner.  While iPads are expensive, pilot projects around North American seem to indicate that schools are prepared to have at least a class set of these devices to allow students to interact with tablets.  By including a support wiki, we are valuing situated learning as discussed by Lave and Wenger, as well as Vygotsky’s research in socio-cultural learning. Ultimately, we hope to address Hung and Chen’s  four considerations for web-based learning in communities of practice:

▪   situatedness (can learners situate tasks in “global” picture)

▪   commonality (valid reason for learners to work together)

▪   interdependency (need for varying demands and expertise of different competency levels)

▪   infrastructure (participants are clear as to the processes, especially significant in web-based environments)


Brown, J. S., Collins, A., & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated Cognition and the Culture of Learning. Educational Researcher, 18(1), 32. doi: 10.2307/1176008

Coiro, J. (2012). The New Literacies of Online Reading Comprehension: Future Directions. Educational Forum, 76(4), 412-417. doi: 10.1080/00131725.2012.708620

Hung, D. L., & Chen, D. (2001). Situated Cognition, Vygotskian Thought and Learning from the Communities of Practice Perspective: Implications for the Design of Web-Based E-Learning. Educational Media International, 38(1), 3-12. doi: 10.1080/09523980121818

IPads vs. textbooks [Chart]. (n.d.). In IPads vs. Textbooks. Retrieved January 30, 2013, from

Judson, E. (2006). How teachers integrate technology and their beliefs about learning: Is there a connection? Journal Of Technology And Teacher Education, 14(3), 581-597. Retrieved from

O’Brien, D., & Voss, S. (2011). Reading Multimodally: What Is Afforded? Journal Of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 55(1), 75-78. doi: 10.1598/JAAL.55.1.9

Province of BC. (2013, January). Defining cross-curricular competencies. Education – Province of BC. Retrieved January 31, 2013, from

Province of British Columbia. (2013, January). Exploring curriculum design: Transforming Curriculum and assessment. Education – Province of BC. Retrieved January 31, 2013, from

Province of British Columbia. (n.d.). Profile for technology (ICT) literate students grades 10 to12 (ages 15 to–18). DRAFT Profile for Technology (ICT) Literate Students Grades 10–12 (Ages 15-€“18). Retrieved January 30, 2013, from

Province of New Brunswick (Producer). (2010, March 28). 21st Century Education in New Brunswick [Video]. Retrieved February 01, 2013, from

Province of Ontario. (2012, September 18). Ontario’s e-learning strategy. Ontario’s E-Learning Strategy. Retrieved January 30, 2013, from

Richardson, W. (2012). Why School? [Electronic].

3. Key Concepts and Contexts

Providing educators with the opportunity to have more control over how their curricula is presented gives them more ownership of their courses and the content they are teaching.

Due to the fact that they have a less prescriptive platform to present with, it enables the user to provide interactive sections that give a more authentic context for the learner.  Typically when textbooks are purchased they are used for several years. This poses a problem as there is an increasing demand for more higher ordered questioning evaluations. Higher ordered questions usually demand that the learner be able to explain the concepts they have learned in a way that demonstrates a deeper level of understanding. In doing so they need to relate the material to themselves. This becomes increasingly difficult when the material is static and the questions are made for a more global audience.

When teachers are given more authority on the delivery of their curriculum, they can create it with their students in mind. It allows them to personalize the experience for their students, their specific culture and readiness. In addition they can include a cross curricular approach that promotes an approach for life long learning.

Reflective questions in traditional textbooks provide no real time feedback. Timely feedback is essential and iBooks provides real time feedback on their understanding of the material. This also promotes more independence within the students, as they don’t need to go to the teacher for the answers anymore. The interactive capabilities of the iBook allow the student a more enriching experience.

The interactive nature of the iBook will also be beneficial for the Educator that utilizes it to aid them in the creation of their own. This will provide a situated learning experience where they will have a reference to guide them through the process. Interactive media and tutorial videos will offer the Educator an environment they can interact with; pausing, and replaying sections to help guide them through the process.

Modeling is an essential part of instructing educators. If this resource is to be valuable it must provide a framework that the teacher themselves can follow. Providing authentic experiences is key with educators, as they need more tangible tasks to walk through on their own. If we follow a constructivist model and ask the users to follow a more problem based approach, they will be more successful when reflecting on how it will work in their classroom.

Educators prefer autonomy as it defines them as professionals. The goal is to empower them and to reflect on their own abilities in their content areas. The difficulties lie in assessing the abilities of the individual user and ensuring that it is done at a level that does not overwhelm them.

A common issue that is prevalent in many schools is the formation of silos. Educators can often become content oriented with their methodologies and tend to avoid integrating new practices. “Schools need to be restructured as communities in which the construction of knowledge is supported as a collective goal, and the role of educational technology should be to replace classroom discourse patterns with those having more immediate and natural extensions to knowledge building communities outside school walls” (Scardamalia and Bereiter, 1994). Providing educators with a wiki to get them actively involved in the process is essential for stimulating social interactions. Through the wiki, we will focus on the model as presented by Scardamalia and Bereiter to facilitate a decentralized knowledge building environment that will promote and sustain inquiry.

Getting teachers to adopt new strategies or technologies is difficult due to the lack of time. This model will allow teachers to work collaboratively on an engaging platform to interact with teachers at varying levels of ability. Pairing a rich multimedia experience with the iBook and a supporting wiki will allow us to better accomplish this task.


Barab, S., & Duffy, T. (2000). From practice fields to communities of practice. In D. Jonassen and S. Land (Eds.), Theoretical foundations of learning environments. Mahweh, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Scaradamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (1994) Computer Support for Knowledge-Building Communities. The journal of the learning sciences. 3(3), 265-283

4. Interactivities

iBook – We will be using an iBook as a reference tool to help teachers create their own interactive iBook for a Science unit on Kinematics and Waves. By creating this content, teachers will have a relevant resource where the problem simulation will appeal to the learners’ interests. As teachers navigate the iBook, they can observe the output of the tools offered through their widgets (gallery, keynotes, interactive images, review, html, 3D interaction, and video) and test the model first hand. This makes the iBook a model example of what they can accomplish and allows teachers to contemplate, analyze, and organize the information for their own iBook. Once they have gained an understanding of the iBook, they can create their own iBook and use the “static knowledge modelling tool,” iAuthor software.

iAuthor – Teachers will apply what they have learned in interacting with the iBook to build their own simulation and to test their understanding. The iAuthor will serve as the problem manipulation space to directly engage the learner and allow one to view the immediate results of their interaction. Learners will need to have this application downloaded on their Mac computer through the App Store. To help scaffold the different levels of learners, the following information resources and cognitive support tools will be created:

  • PDF Pamphlets – An algorithmic aid is provided where the steps are clearly outlined so that learners do not need to memorize the steps required to accomplishing the tasks. This resource will help focus the learner’s attention on higher order cognitive tasks at their own pace.
  • Videos – In addition to the videos that are embedded in the iBook, extra media rich content will be provided for the more audiovisual learner. The videos are organized and provide learners with a convenient source of information without having to search through the internet for resources. This serves as the “problem/task representation tool.”
  • Wiki – learners can share information and build knowledge together as they encounter a problem or a task that has not been outlined in the pamphlets or videos. This introduces a collaborative element that is lacking in the other support tools and will create a knowledge-building community. This can also be an environment where the learners share their end product and create a database of teaching resources. As a result, the wiki will provide an environment for learners to articulate, reflect, coach and assess each other on their progress.
  • Website – This will serve as the platform that organizes the different information resources and support tools of the constructivist and situated learning environments. The resources will need to be displayed in such a way that makes it clear to the learner how they can adjust the difficulty of the concept/task and how they can progress logically through the learning experience. The website is embedded with a search tool so that learners are not distracted by seeking the information but rather focus on developing their iBook. As a result, the website can also be used as an “information gathering tool.”


Jonassen, D. (1999). Designing constructivist learning environments. In C. Reigeluth (Ed.), Instructional design theories and models: Volume II. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

5. Project Timeline

Theoretical and iBooks Author Research, Curriculum Devlopment

Week 1: Creation of iBooks Main Content  – Student Focus
Week 2: Creation of iBooks Main Content  – Teacher Focus


Creation of Instructional Pamphlet and Screen Capture Tutorials

Week 1: WiKi and WordPress Content Creation
Week 2: Final Testing, Revisions and Written Project Summary