Using Technology to Develop, Share an E-Book

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At the American International School of Bucharest (AISB) in Romania, a class of third-graders used their IT skills to publish an electronic book that they created together. After many weeks of hard work, they decided to go one step further and become worldwide communicators by placing their e-book on the school's Web site (www.aisb.ro/grades/grade3/ebook/ebook.html). Now, the students are using this work to further develop their sense of responsibility toward intellectual ownership and the need to respect other authors' rights. They are also learning about copyrights and, more specifically, their copyrights as the authors of the "Grade 3 e-Book." To do this, they are going through the official process of registering their intellectual work with The Library of Congress in the United States.

Electronic Storytelling

The students worked on this project in the framework of their third unit in the primary years programme (PYP), which is a curriculum system for students aged 3 to 12 that focuses on the development of the whole child - not just in the classroom, but also in the outside world through other environments where children learn. It offers a framework that meets children's academic, social, physical, emotional and cultural needs.

This specific unit was an inquiry into the ways in which we discover and express our nature, ideas, feelings, beliefs and values through language and the arts. We specifically explored how all things can be interpreted and communicated from more than one perspective. During this unit, students wrote descriptions of their teachers from varying perspectives, listened to different variations of musical themes, as well as drew and painted using the concept of perspective.

During this unit, we also read stories from various perspectives and tried to be open-minded by considering different points of view. We then made the decision to write our own stories. After debating the best way to communicate with an audience, we decided to create a book, or rather an electronic version of a book: an e-book. We agreed that our stories would be linked to one another, that they would describe events that took place on the same day and that all our stories would happen in the same place (our school). A title quickly emerged: "The Fantastic Adventures that Took Place at AISB." To make things even more challenging, each student agreed to write a story, then rewrite the same story from another perspective and, finally, come up with another way of communicating one of their perspectives.

The students came up with a variety of forms for expressing their third perspectives, including writing a play, reading their text in front of a camera, making a film, drawing pictures and creating a comic book. Some students even wrote stories using their mother tongue: Korean, Finnish, Swedish, Flemish, Serbian and Romanian. Parents also helped with this work at home.

Learning to Respect Intellectual Property

After weeks of prewriting, drafting, revising, proofreading and more writing, it was with great satisfaction (and relief) that our students, along with their parents and teachers, finally reached the publishing stage. They used school software to create the Web pages necessary to make a CD-ROM with their stories. Then, they presented their work during an elementary school assembly and gave samples of the CD-ROM to the school library so the wider community could also enjoy their work. Finally, we decided the students could be even better communicators by presenting their work to an even larger community. So, we placed the e-book on the school's Web site for every-one in the world to read. Since then, we have contacted other schools for their feedback, and we have received many e-mails expressing support and appreciation. This support encouraged the students to reflect in a clear and lucid way during the portfolio process that concluded our unit. However, this did not conclude our e-book adventure.

The students had been learning throughout the year about the importance of respecting other individuals' works and the dangers of plagiarism. They had reflected on the ethics of research, both in books and online, and had learned to precisely cite sources of information, ideas and quotations in their work. This might seem like a marginal issue for third-graders, but an attitude of respect toward intellectual property needs to be fostered from an early age. With the help of our school librarian, John Bishop, we taught the students why it is so important to respect the efforts of others.

Finally, the students went through the process of registering their creation with The Library of Congress. They filled out the necessary paperwork, then sent an official copy of their CD-ROM to the U.S. Copyright Office. Registration takes about four months, and we are still eagerly awaiting the formal confirmation. AISB's third-graders will soon be legitimate authors with rights over the use of their work. Their e-book will become a part of the largest library in the world, accessible for all to read and enjoy.

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2003 issue of THE Journal.

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