Sharing Their Voices with the World: Helping our ESOL Students Self-Publish with Smashwords

The Hooch Learning Studio, in conjunction with Ms. Balogh’s ESOL students, is delighted to announce the publication of Twelve Worlds, One Book.  This book is an anthology of student writing created by Ms. Balogh’s students crafted as part of the work they crafted in Ms. Balogh’s writer’s workshop approach to composition instruction.  The book contains many pieces of writing, including poetry, short stories, essays, memoirs, monologues, plays, a biosketch, and microfiction.

Book cover revised version 3

How did this book project come about?  Earlier this semester as I was working with Ms. Balogh and her students on mini-research assignments, Ms. Balogh told me about the writer’s workshop approach she had implemented this academic year.  I asked her what they were going to do with their finished pieces, and at the time, the students were just keeping them for themselves.  When I suggested we publish their work as a collection of original writing in eBook format, she and the students enthusiastically said yes!  Since I had previously worked on a collaborative eBook project using the Smashwords publishing platform, I decided to use it for this project.  What is Smashwords?

Smashwords is the world’s largest distributor of indie ebooks. We make it fast, free and easy for any author or publisher, anywhere in the world, to publish and distribute ebooks to the major retailers.

Students began submitting the completed manuscripts of their works they had composed over the course of this academic year this earlier this month.  The students also chose the book title, decided how the book would be organized, and Hitoshi Akiyama designed the book cover.  My task was to compile the pieces into one master manuscript and then format it according to the Smashwords style guide.  This process took me about three full days to complete.

Yesterday, we debuted the book at our eBook launch party after school and celebrated our students’ success with each other, parents, fellow teachers, and administrators.   Students are already talking about eBook projects for 2016-17!

balogh student authors

Balogh eBook party

smashwords-our book

balogh ebooks on tablets

The class eBook is now available for FREE at Smashwords!  You can download it in several formats:

  • PDF file
  • Mobi (for Kindles or Kindle apps)
  • ePub format (works on multiple devices and platforms including iBooks (iPad, iPhone) and the Overdrive app.

Our class eBook has its very own ISBN number (!!!) and we are waiting approval for premium distribution.  We are so very excited to be able to support Ms. Balogh and her students and to help them have a medium for sharing their voices with the world!  We also plan to integrate the eBook into our school library digital collection.

Here are some reflections on this experience from Ms. Balogh and her students:

Ms. Balogh:

When I saw the book and saw the copyright page, I got tears in my eyes.  My students wrote a book!!  What an amazing experience.  This group of students is one of the best I’ve ever worked with.  I’m so very proud of them.

Vrajna P.

It was amazing to be part of this project. I would love to do it again. I learn so many things from writing and it helped me to improve my English. After launching this book I feel so happy and I feel like that I am something. I feel like I have achieved something.

Sofia R.

Being part of this book  was a amazing experience, and I’m so glad to have this journey in my story, to take with me for the rest of my life.  I can’t wait to tell everyone about this awesome project that me and my class just done.

Hyesun K.

This is first time [for me] to make books; I was the author.  I like to make different genres for us.  When I made the poem or short story, memory, essay it was enjoyable to make it,  and I think my English is better.   It’s really fantastic experience to make a book.  I am really thankful for Ms.B and Ms. Hamilton.  And to make relationships with friends.  In class we enjoyed writing and thinking about it.  I want to do it again next year.  Some of students are leaving ESOL, but they will remember the  experience with Ms.B, Ms. Hamilton and me.  Thanks for giving great experience.

Pessi L.

It was amazing to be part of this project. I really liked publishing my own work and reading other students’ writings. Usually I write essays just for a grade and the teacher is only person who reads them. But this time it was different. It feels like there is a reason to write if someone actually reads it.

As you can see, this project had tremendous personal meaning for our students.  It is my hope that our eBook project will inspire other teachers and students to think about how the media center program here can help them self-publish student work and to expand the possibilities for our media center program in 2016-17!

Choosing an eBook Platform(s) for Your K-12 School Library

Many thanks to ALA TechSource for allowing me to do another webinar with them last week and to the gracious participants who took time to join us!  Be sure to check out my Scoop.it magazine on eBooks and eReaders.

Nook Program @ The Unquiet Library Update, March 2012

Catching Up

Many of you have been writing or Tweeting for updates on the Nook program we had planned to launch last fall; unfortunately, several factors slowed our launch date for the program, including:

  • a lack of clerical help this academic year
  • an incredibly busy schedule of instruction (a good problem to have!) in the library; since the teaching and learning focus comes first, we prioritize our energies into that effort first
  • significant delays in the communication process with Barnes and Noble in processing our ebook purchase orders

At this time, we own 50 Nook Simple Touches; Nooks 1-35 are designated with our Barnes and Noble Managed Digital Locker program for classroom use, which could include literature circle book study or independent reading selections.  Nooks 36-50 are for circulation to students who return a parental permission form or who would like to use them in the library during a class or lunch visit.  I worked with Dan Boon, my Community Relations Manager at the Alpharetta Barnes and Noble,  to establish groups of Nooks so that it would be easy for B&N to deliver the eBooks we order via purchase order to the appropriate Nook devices.

Challenges with the Digital Managed Locker Program

In terms of the digital managed locker program, there have definitely been some problems that I have experienced as have many of you.

1.  Barnes and Noble has frankly not done a very good job in educating its employees about the Digital Managed Locker program.  As you can imagine, librarians who are trying to inquire and find out more information about the program feel frustrated when they can’t get the answers they need, and the B&N employees also feel frustrated that they may not have been provided the information and training they need to help implement the program with school librarians or classroom teachers in an effective manner.  I know these concerns have been concerned to B&N management from those of us in the trenches as well as from employees, so I’m hopeful they are committed to being more systematic in communicating the information more effectively.  If you are not able to get the answers you need from someone at the first store you visit or call, I recommend contacting a neighboring store or the regional Barnes and Noble manager for your area.

2.  In some store locations, the community relations manager or person designated as the “go to” person for the Digital Managed Locker program is just swamped with multiple responsibilities; consequently, they may have difficulty dealing with the communications from librarians or teachers in a timely manner.  Since there is no electronic/virtual  interface at this time that librarians can access to submit purchase orders and manage eBook (or app) orders, eBook orders can be delayed significantly when there are gaps in communication.  We as librarians and teachers desperately need a virtual interface to manage these orders; email is simply not an efficient means of managing the orders; we as customers need the option of having more control over reassigning texts to different devices if needed.  While I appreciate that B&N is doing a lot of the management for me, I need to be able to have a point of access to do it myself when needed.

Our local store and representative are committed to helping B&N address these concerns; I very much appreciate that Dan has shared my suggestions for improving the communication channels and order management with those who work at a higher level in the company.  In addition, I appreciate that Dan is willing to come out to my school site if I need assistance with devices.

In terms of technical issues, they have been minimal so far.   We have not had any issues connecting to wireless, and the downloading process has been fairly seamless.  We did have one device go bad as we could not unlock it; after not having any success with the 1-800 technical support, our representative Dan was helpful in resolving the issue and actually bringing us a replacement device (a major time saver–thank you!).  We did have one device not receive the appropriate eBooks assigned to that device, but we are working on resolving that issue as we speak.  One other helpful hint:  it took me a while to realize that the power button is on the back of the Nook; thankfully, the covers we bought are designed to stay on and have the Nook symbol on them so that you can press it and power the device off and on without having to remove the cover.

First Steps of Implementation, Spring 2012

We have now started circulating devices to students for free reading (yes, I let them take the devices home—students and parents sign an acceptable use agreement, and we also bought a 2 year warranty), so I hope to have their feedback for you soon.  The initial impressions, though, have been very positive–students really seem to like the “swipe” technology as well as the size of the devices (it fits in their pockets).   One student in particular is absolutely thrilled to have the chance to use a modern eReader—I am not exaggerating when I say he was giddy and glowing when he left the library!  At this time, the free circulation Nook collection (36-50) is purely student driven like our Kindle eBook collection since students submit eBook request forms when they turn in their permission forms).   At this time, the loan period is one week although we hope to extend that in the future.

Our other initial pilot group is Deborah Frost’s 1st period  9th Literature/Composition class.  The majority of the class, boys, chose to read Monster by Walter Dean Myers; the remainder of the class, girls, selected The Secret Life of Bees.  Since many of the students in the class are self-described reluctant readers, we”ll be surveying them regularly about their reading experiences on the Nooks to see if the medium of reading has any impact on their feelings about reading.  The students are excited  (as are we!) to be the first pilot group; I hope to provide some updates in April when they finish their unit of study.

Questions via Email and the Blog

First I want to apologize if you have emailed me in the last month, and I have not answered your email individually.  For the last year or so, I have tried very hard to answer each inquiry individually and in a timely manner.  However, the number of inquiries has come to a tipping point, and I’m just not able to continue answering inquiries personally at this time.    I’m hopeful that either this blog, my Kindle LibGuide, my Nook LibGuide, or my recent chapter in No Shelf Required II edited by Sue Polanka, will give you the answers you’re seeking; you might also want to follow my Scoop.it magazine on eBooks and eReaders.

I’ve received several emails as of late about how we are circulating the eBooks via our OPAC and tracking what students read.   At this time, there is no way to do either–neither Kindle eBooks on a Kindle device nor a Nook book via a Nook device.   I do not assign MARC records to the eBooks for Kindle or Nook although I do catalog the devices; as I’ve written before, I don’t catalog the Kindle or Nook eBooks individually because 1.  you can’t really “circulate” them via your OPAC and 2.  I don’t assign them to the devices in the MARC record because media specialists in my district do not have rights to edit existing MARC records.    If you need to track that kind of data or circulate eBooks electronically, then you will need to look at an eBook platform like Follett eBooks or Overdrive that is designed to function in those ways.

Next Steps

We’ll now provide students post-reading surveys about the Nook reading experience to determine if they are a good fit for our students;  I’ll also be working with Ms. Frost to get her feedback as a classroom teacher.   While I’m still looking for an eBook platform whose licensing agreements are acceptable for my library and learning environment, especially as our district is now ready to implement a bring your own device policy for 2012-2013, I still think there is a place for circulating the devices themselves since so many don’t have one of their own.  I look forward to giving you a new update in a few weeks as I document our journey of learning and exploration of eBook and eReader experiences and options.