Hinsdale eighth-graders use technology to create science book
Hinsdale Middle School science teacher Kelly Pelak Ditmars works with eighth-graders Jillian Cai and Liz Keller on a project for which students created science books. | Chuck Fieldman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 3, 2012 9:03AM
What likely will be a wave of the future took a 2 ½-week stop at Hinsdale Middle School in May.
About 250 eighth-graders had the experience of creating chapters for their own science textbook, thanks to some new technology and guidance from science teachers Kelly Pelak Ditmars and Jane Fetty.
Using a new Apple computer application, iBooks Author, students worked in groups of four to five to create actual online chapters for a book about environmental science. iBooks Author allows for the creation of books using an iPad, although other Mac laptops were used in the process. The books can include photo galleries, video, interactive diagrams and several other features.
“We wanted to tap into this learning style because this is what students are going to be doing; it’s their future,” Ditmars said. “College students are doing this, and this was a great opportunity for our kids to see how some of this works.”
Students were given a suggested list of topics from which to choose, including the likes of medicines in nature, air pollution, sound pollution, food supply safety, and global warming.
Video clips, photographs, informative graphs, discussion questions and multiple choice questions related to the topic were among requirements of each chapter submitted by student groups. Students were able to earn extra credit by finding an expert on their topic and conducting an email interview with that person.
Fetty credited Ditmars with suggesting the idea of having students create science books and was glad to be a part of it.
“I thought it was a great idea when she talked about it,” Fetty said. “We want our students to be a little more comfortable with technology, and we had the opportunity with this for them to do something really new and exciting.”
Many of the eighth-graders participating in the project enjoyed it so much that they asked to come in during non-class time to do extra work.
“It’s cool; I had never heard of an iBook like this before,” said eighth-grader Olivia Boswell, who was working May 23 with classmate Gretchen Groenewold on a book about endangered species.
“This is fun because it’s more interactive than what we usually would do,” Gretchen said. “Its more interesting because you can share it with the class.”
Fellow eighth-grader John Yaeger agreed that the interactive aspect of the project has made it considerably more fun to do than many other classroom undertakings.
The sharing aspect within the classroom that has come with the iBook Author project is very appealing, Ditmars said.
“It’s a great way for all the kids to have this interactive experience with their research and creating their books, and they can all learn from what others in the class created.
“It’s usually a very good experience for the kids when they can become engaged like they’ve been able to with this, and it makes it fun for them to know that they have really created something.”