iBooks Author Conference. What did we learn?

We just got back from Nashville. The second iBooks Author Conference happened there and some great educators and creatives gathered and shared their experiences. This year the conference took place at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville. gaylord opryland resort

For me there are 4 big takeaways from the conference.

  1. We no longer need textbooks
  2. Collaboration is possible within iBooks Author
  3. Create accesible iBooks
  4. Use iBooks Author for corporate training

Let’s look at these in detail.

Ditch the Textbook

“Ditch the textbook” was the title of the keynote from Micheal Mills (@michaelsmills). But this theme was touched on in more than 1 keynote.

There are some good arguments why we don’t need textbooks anymore. Here are a few:

  • The cost of textbooks is getting way out of control, they have risen by 864% since 1978. This is reflected in students' debt, which increases yearly and has never been higher than it is today. 65% of students don’t purchase the required textbooks for their classes because they cannot afford it.
  • All the information is “out there” anyway, so why would you require students to buy textbooks?

But this means that teachers need to create their own material, and yes we know you are busy, very busy. But let’s be honest: “we choose our busy”. Your students will love you for doing it. Your bookstore might not, though. But we need to do what’s right for the children. It’s all about our students.

iBooks Author and iTunes U: Reimagining Curriculum

Kurt Klynen (@meesterkurt) and Christine DiPaulo (@ckdipaulo) are strong advocates for reimagining your curriculum. They presented a great free resource for Educators: “The Joy of Professional Learning ”. This multi-touch book introduces 16 recipes which are different approaches to current professional learning. There is a free download of the book here.

If you want to start designing your own books, here are some tips from the expert:

  • Don’t just consider the UX, think about LX (learner experience).
  • Use the right text and interactivity in the right places.
  • Think about how a person would swipe to the next page.
  • You can use keynote as your design tool.

Ordinary Educators Creating Extraordinary iBooks (Anthony DiLaura)

Anthony DiLaura (@anthonydilaura) makes a point that ordinary educators can create extraordinary iBooks. Anthony, known for the iBooks Hacks, created a keynote that was full of examples and practical tips. Find all kinds of tips and trick on his website: iBook Hack

Teaching and Learning with iBooks: UPenn’s School of Dental Medicine (Chia-Wei Wu)

Chia-Wei Wu, from the University of Pennsylvania’s Dental School, talked about the use of iBooks Author in higher education and medicine. Last year he joined the conference and learned so much from several like-minded people. Not only did he show what PennDental achieved, but he also explained the processes they use to get there.

The World Is My Audience

Collaboration was the next big item on this conference. Although iBooks Author is not designed as a collaborative software, we have seen many collaborative projects.

Most eye-catching is the #TWIMA project (The World Is My Audience) by Jon Smith (@theipodteacher). This project started from the desire to create a collaborative iBook.

Four books have already been created this way with educators from all over the world working together on one iBook.

You should download these iBooks right away here.

Besides his collaboration project, Jon advocates letting children make their own books. He shared his experience of motivating students to publish with iBooks Author. With the credo: “If you write for your teacher, you make it good enough. If you write for the world, make sure it’s good.”

He had kids grades k-12 making multi-touch books with iBooks Author. If they can do it… anyone can!

On a side note, Jon is a bit scared of flying. His son asked Blade to join him on his trip to keep him safe. And Blade aspires to become a real model!

Blade and Bart Blade and Jon Can you find me?

The Joy of Professional Learning” from Kurt and Christine is also a great example of the result of collaborative work. This book is a cooperation between ADE’s all over the world, and is available for free from the iBooks Store.

Design for future you.

The most revealing keynote for me was the one from Luiz Perez (@eyeonaxs): Creating Accessible Content With iBooks Author.

56.7 million people report having a disability in the US. That’s 1 in 5 people. It’s the largest minority in the US. When creating content, it needs to be accessible to EVERYONE!

The 100% accessible book has not been published. But we can take one small step at the time. Here are some easy tips anyone creating content can easily implement:

  • Ensure Legibility by left aligning your text!
  • Use a clean font. Sans-serif fonts will work best.
  • Provide sufficient line spacing. In iBooks Author choose 1.2 spacing or above.
  • Probably the most important: add an image description to all the images in your book. This must be a short description of what the image represents. It’s not about the appearance of the image, but it should explain the concept of the image. The iPad will read out this image description for those who suffer from visual impairment.
  • Closed caption your videos.
  • Use the voice Alex when having iBooks read to you.

Modernizing training

Tate Mortenson and Caroline Grenwelge from Southwest Airlines had the inspiring task to close this conference. Their audience is made of millennials and they use iBooks Author to reimagine corporate trainings. These trainings have not only inspired all of us, but were also noticed by the iBooks Author team at Apple. Although nothing specific was revealed, we were under the impression that nice things are ahead of us.


I can’t leave you without showing these great sketch notes, courtesy of Andy McNally (@andymcnally). If you’re a fan of sketch notes, he publishes lots of them on his site, andymcnally.com

Kurt & Christine

Luis Perez

South West Airlines

Serenity Caldwell iMore

Carl Eppler

Bart Buckinx

Bart Buckinx

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