Category Archives: iBooks

Is Keynote the best app to create widgets for your iBooks?

The cool thing about eBooks created with iBooks Author is they can be interactive. However, most of the traditional publisher offerings are only slightly better than their print counterparts. By and large, they don’t do a good job capitalizing on the features offered in this relatively new medium.  Most teacher created textbooks, by contrast, do a much better job using interactivity and are therefore much more compelling.

This interactivity typically comes in the form of widgets. The widgets built into iBooks Author will only take you so far. Before long teachers are looking for ways to create their own widgets. I’m going to contend that Keynote is the best app you can get to create custom widgets for your iBooks. That said, I should also mention that I’m a big fan of Tumult Hype, but I believe Keynote is the best place for most teachers to start. There are lots of great general tutorials out there for learning the basics of Keynote, some created by me and some created by other very talented people. These will get you up and running in Keynote, but are not focused specifically on using Keynote with iBooks.
I’ve created a number of posts showing how to use Keynote to enhance your iBooks. So, in an effort to win you over to my way of thinking, here are a variety of ways you can use Keynote to enhance your students’ learning.
Creating Interaction:
  • Interactive Maps – Create maps like the ones showed off in E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth books. The same technique could also be used in a variety of widgets where you want to highlight or contrast various parts of an image.
  • Math Practice Widget – Build something like Tara Maynard’s ultra cool math practice widget. This is set up to allow students to get the level of help they need while working on problems.
  • Interactive Videos – Have a dialog with your students through video, where your students’ answers to questions lead to different responses from you. Get your students think, not just watching.
Creating other Cool Stuff:
Keynote is not nearly as powerful nor versatile as Hype, iAd Producer, or straight HTML and JavaScript. It is, however, much more accessible. In most cases if you have a Mac it’s most likely already on your hard drive and you’ve probably already used it.

Downsize Your iBook using Keynote

I like to embed a lot of videos in my iBooks Author projects. These videos can often push the size of my iBooks up to an unacceptable size. One way I get around this is to create YouTube widgets in a program like Hype or using a web service like Bookry. However, this means students must have in internet connection to view the videos. Requiring the internet can sometimes be a problem which is why I like to try to include full videos when possible.

As it turns out, many of my videos are screencast tutorials. These often simply show a static screen with my mouse moving to and clicking a button to bring us to the next static screen. This can easily be reproduced with a series of screenshots put into Keynote. I use an Animate Action or Magic Move Transition to move a cursor from one location on the screen to another, or to highlight a a particular item.  Then all I need is a voice over.

Currently audio files will not autoplay on the iPad, but videos will. So in-order to add a voiceover I need to add in a video. Now this seems like it might be a bit counter productive as I was trying to not add a video in the first place. The video I make for this is tiny, consisting of only a solid background and recorded audio. I make these using Quicktime. Simply select “New Screen Recording” from the “File” menu and then drag a rectangle over a plain white portion of your screen when prompted. I discussed using a video for a voiceover in my video on Tara Maynard’s Interactive Math Practice Widget.

You can see some examples of my finished video replacements in an iBook on using Google Drive in education I made for my school last summer. The content is slightly outdated now, but you can still see how I used Keynote to replace screencasts. In this iBook I didn’t use a single video nor HTML5 widget.

I should note that videos playing in a Keynote widget will not have video controls, so there is no way to pause them nor replay them. With this in mind I’d recommend adding linked buttons to replay a slide as well as buttons to go forward or back as needed. The replay button was not something I added to the Keynotes in my book, but I will in the future.

I wouldn’t replace all of my screencast videos but I will be using Keynote more and more in the future to replace videos. One of the things I like about replacing videos with Keynote is you can easily have playback require student input to progress. This is important for two reasons. First is the student is more likely to pay attention if they have to click to continue and secondarily the passes can give time for reflection or note taking.

CK12 to iBooks Author

Finding the perfect textbook for your class really is an impossible task. Each one you look at is missing some critical component or if one does have everything, it uses an approach that you think won’t work with your students. Even if you somehow find the perfect book, it is typically the most expensive book you’ve looked at. In the end you end up selecting a book that is the best compromise of several competing factors. Not the best but instead, the least bad. The alternative is to not use a textbook or to create your own textbook.

With this in mind I encouraged the teachers of our freshman Integrated Science Class to create their own textbook for the first year of our 1:1 iPad deployment. This was a huge undertaking so I encouraged them to dive into ck-12 to assemble a series of books to use with their students. The books were saved as ePubs and distributed through iTunesU.

The ePubs, while very nice, have some limitations. The ck-12 materials often have videos and interactive elements scattered throughout. In order to use these, the students must leave their book and go onto the web. Not a big deal, but often once students leave their books many never make it back again. For next year we want to make the books more encapsulated, removing the need for students to leave the book to work with the interactive elements. Enter iBooks Author. The last update Apple gave iBooks Author the ability to import ePubs. Now we can take the work that was already done and repurpose it.


  1. Create flexbook on ck-12 and download as ePub (done already)
  2. Import into your iBooks Author template of choice. All of the content will come in as a single chapter.
  3. Create a new chapter for each of the chapters in your original ePub
  4. From your chapter with everything copy all of the content for a chapter and paste it into the chapter you created for it. Keep going until you’ve done this with all the chapters.
  5. Work on Formatting: All of your images are “inline” you might want to use the Inspector to change them to Floating or Anchored so you can put them where you want them to be.
  6. More Formatting: Edit the text/paragraph styles used by ck-12 to be something you want (totally optional)
  7. Create Widgets for interactive content.
  8. Export as iBook and distribute or publish
Point 7, “Create Widgets” is the hard part. iBooks Author doesn’t give you the ability to embed most web content directly. It does, however, give you the ability to add in HTML5 widgets. I typically build my HTML5 widgets in Tumult Hype. Totally awesome program. I haven’t looked at the newest update yet but I will probably buy it. They do offer an educational discount, making it much more affordable. A less nerdy, as well as free, way would be to use Bookry to make your widgets. Once we get some of the books converted I’ll post them here.
Below is my walkthrough of using Hype to embed a YouTube video in your iBook. You could use the same process for a lot of other web content as well.

Interactive Maps with Keynote and Gimp

When people are learning to make iBooks with iBooks Author they often want to have cool widgets for their students to interact with. As I’ve shown in previous posts, you can create some pretty easily with Keynote. I really like showing teachers how to use Keynote to do this because if they use a Mac they already have it. When you couple this with a free image editor, Gimp, you can do some really cool stuff.

The example here is not one I’ve used to teach my students, but one I used at last year’s iBookHack. From a teaching standpoint it might not be very good, I’m not really sure since I don’t teach social studies. It’s just an example of how you might create an interactive map to use with your students. The first video below walks you through using Gimp to create your maps. The second shows you how to use Keynote to bring them together as an interactive widget you can drop into an iBook.

Interactive Practice Widget Built in Keynote

I’ve been involved in iBooks Author teacher training with Anthony DiLaura for a few years now. You can find out about our hackathon coming up this summer at the ibookhack site.

While working on the iBookHack project I’ve gotten to meet some amazing educators. One of these is Tara Maynard. Tara saw a cool HTML5 math practice widget in an iBook and she wondered if it would be possible to put something like it in her own books. I showed her how she might reproduce the basic idea of the widget in Keynote and she went on to create this great template. She has shared it so you can use it as a starting point for your own practice widget. If you need a little help you can check out my video below.

The problem is shown, if there are accessibility concerns a button is included that will read the problem aloud to the student. Each problem can provide a hint to help aid students in independent practice and finally the solution is provided so students can get instant feedback to see if they were correct. Since it is made in Keynote the problem, hints, or solution can include pictures or videos as well. Overall it is a great interactive element to include in an iBook and doesn’t take a lot of technical skills to implement.

The core idea of this widget centers on creating a “Links Only” presentation in Keynote. If you need a little more information on this you should check out another video I made, which is also included below.

Interactive Video Widgets in iBooks

For the last couple of summers I had the pleasure to work along Tony DiLauraDave Bast and some great educators committed to making their own content with hopes of replacing traditional textbooks at iBooks Hackathons. I’d put together some material for those hackathons and I thought I’d share some of it here.
When I teach I try to always ask questions and never give answers. I want my students to struggle a bit and discover the answers through experimentation and discussion. This is very difficult to do in the videos I make. Due to the nature of video I don’t really give students time to think, nor do I give them a chance to investigate different answers. Derek Muller hit on a solution to this on his Veritasium YouTube Channel. YouTube allows you to put clickable hotspots on videos. Derek uses these to link to other videos he’s made. He set up a kind of choose your own adventure allowing viewers to think about different answers to questions and each answer has it’s own video.
I thought this was an awesome way to get students thinking and set out to try it myself. But as it turns out, these hotspots don’t work on mobile devices, including iPads. We’re in the midst of becoming a 1:1 iPad school, so I don’t want to rely on cool internet features that I know won’t work on mobile devices.
After some though, I realized I could create the same sort of effect using either Keynote or Tumult Hype. Once created I can drop them into an iBook as an interactive widget and my students will be able to actually grapple with questions in their book rather than simply being presented with the answers. Each solution has its own advantages and disadvantages. Here’s the version I made with Hype (I’m not sure this link will work correctly) to use with my students.
One big advantage with Keynote is it is easy to work with and if you have a Mac you probably already have it. Keynote’s biggest disadvantage is there is no way to control the video once it starts in an iBook widget. The video starts and then runs to completion, no pausing or rewinding.
In Hype you do have the video controls. The other big advantage in Hype is you can embed YouTube videos. I don’t know of any way to have YouTube videos auto-play in Hype. As far as I know, there is currently no way to embed a YouTube video in a Keynote. Embedding YouTube videos means you must have internet access to view, but it keeps the iBook size down to manageable levels. Unfortunately Hype is not free. It costs $30, but if you’re going to be making iBooks it might be worth it in the long run. Make sure you buy it through the Tumult Education Store to get the discounted price.


Make your Keynote Presentation “Links Only”:

Keynote for Interactive Video:

Hype for Interactive Video:

Putting YouTube Videos in Hype:

iBooks Hackathon

I’ve already written a bit about iBooks Author and how awesome it is for creating resources to share with your students. I know some of you are probably rolling your eyes about now and thinking something along the lines of, “More iPads in education… When will this fad die?” Whether or not iPads in the classroom are a fad or not is really immaterial at this point. Like it or not, many schools are already or will be going one to one with them. So we should probably find the best way to use this technology to support our students.

Last year Dan Spencer put me in contact with Tony DiLaura. Tony is an educator from Zeeland Michigan. He is also excited about the potential impact of teacher created textbooks using iBooks Author. His goal is to bring educators together to collaboratively create resources that can be used to make the creation of these books easier. After some discussion the idea of the iBooks Hackathon was born.

We will officially kickoff the Hackathon at this year’s MACUL conference. Then in June we will have two workshops, one on the east side of Michigan and the other on the west side. At these workshops we hope to bring educators together into groups and begin working on cool resources. Throughout the summer these groups will continue to work and in August we will take what has been created to that point and have the official launch of what will hopefully be a large collection of resources for other educators to use.

if you are interested in participating you can check out our Google+ Community as well as our page in the MI-Learning section of MACUL’s website.

iBooks Author Teacher Academy

This summer it looks like I will be helping run an iBooks Teacher Academy for teachers in my school. We’ll be partnering with a local university (more on this later) so we’ll be able to offer SB-CEUs and/or university credit. Our plan is to use this to help leverage the technology we already have in our building. Last summer we bought a cart of iPads and for the most part we’ve only been using them as a portal to the internet. When we bought the cart we knew this would be the primary way it was utilized, but now we’re hoping to move beyond this.

Our secret plan is to get teachers investing in professional development to change the way they think about teaching with technology. Our summer training will only be three four hour days. The focus of the workshop will be split between how to use programs to author interactive iBooks and TPACK (when did this change? I thought it was TPCK). We don’t simply want to show teachers how to use the tools. We want to help them think about how to use the tools to teach better.

So how will we accomplish this in 12 hours? The short answer is we won’t. We’re also planning a series of three to four more 90 minute meetings during the following school year. These will be a chance to get back together and share what we’ve been working on and get feedback. I’m also planning on pushing for an online collaborative component. I’ve run some staff training in the past and I’ve not gotten much traction with any online stuff I’ve done after the fact, so I’m not dead set on including this. I will be thinking about it through and I’ll post details to my blog if anyone is interested on following our progress.

So, why iBooks Author? Because it is really slick. Yes, I know you’re locked into the Apple iPad ecosystem. But, at it turns out that’s ok at thins point. That said I’ll be watching for Inkling Habitat when it becomes available to the public “later this year”. Our focus is not only on the specific tool, but how we can use the tool to create pedagogically appropriate content for our students. This last is what I’m excited about.

Below is a my latest iBooks 2.0 demo video. I made it in part to advertise the possibilities to our staff while at the same time testing out the capabilities of Camtasia Mac 2 and Reflection (which lets me mirror my iPad on my computer). I highly recommend both programs!