Saturday, February 9, 2013

How Kids Can Make their Own Textbook


If I waited until I had the perfect idea, I probably would never blog anything.  So here is another partially formed idea:

Why not ask kids to make a 21st century textbook as a reflection of their learning?

Kids making a textbook – this isn’t perhaps new.  But it’s new to me, and I have motive and opportunity.  So, this is the plan.  It began with watching Sugata Mitra’s video on Child Driven Education.

What do children need to learn? Do they need a teacher?

Next I watched a video about a kid named Caine who made his own arcade out of cardboard boxes.  What heart this kid has.

Open for business!

Then I thought, what if I just gave some elementary kids the a few tips on how to use some technology, like SMART notebook or SnagIt for making screen casts and screen capture (both available in many of our schools).  Then what if I asked them to make a textbook – on anything.  I would provide them with very little information.

Then I will go away – maybe for a couple weeks.  Then I’ll go away again, and come back later.  Here is what I have planned to tell them:

What is a good textbook?

1.) Contains a lot of useful facts and information on a subject

2.) Doesn't just help teachers teach, but rather it helps students learn!

3.) Can have more than one author

4.) The work belongs to the author

5.) Might make people want to take your course

6.) Looks good


What form could this text book Take?

1.) a book with words and pictures

2.) a game where as you learn you keep playing. If you don't learn, restart.

3.) a bunch of movie clips

4.) a pop up book

5.) a computer file with text, pictures, audio and video.

6.) something else


Most importantly - what is the subject?

  • Something you know a lot about, and will teach others about
  • Something you have collected information about from more than one place
  • Something that gets you excited, and might get other excited too

Some suggested topics:

  1. Science Experiments
  2. Minecraft?
  3. The Rules of Building Things
  4. Things People Eat
  5. Wilderness Survival
  6. Things that Eat People
  7. Greatest Disasters in History
  8. How to be Brave


A few requests:

  • Make it shareable at school - no bad words, nothing too violent or offensive
  • Make something you are proud of, and your grandmother would be proud of as well
  • Be an expert, or become an expert, on your topic


That’s it.  I have 3 schools lined up to try this with.  Let’s see what happens.


Judith Comfort said...

Suggest you give them topics relevent to the curriculum; this used to be called a research project, even though the end product is technology-based.

James Gill said...

Hi Judith. Thanks again for your comments as always. Sorry for not responding sooner, but I needed to think about it. I think there is something important in this case by allowing kids to choose the topic, and not giving them a topic relevant to a curriculum for this one particular activity. I think by giving kids a chance to choose something they are passionate about allows them to shine as an expert. I think it will motivate them to perserve through frustrating moments, (i.e. can't find the info or picture I am looking for, need help with my editing or planning).

Also, while the final product might be made with technology, some of the other options I am offering (pop-up textbook, board game textbook) are not. But, right now letting the kids play with the technology might encourage them to use it in their school work where it will make a difference later.

Thanks again for your comments.