I’ve been spending a lot of time in iBooks recently, and have showed teachers a whole slew of features that are new, or not as well known, in Apple’s default e-reader. So, without further ado, here are a few of my favorites tips for teachers using iBooks in education.
1. Find Free Books
There are probably more free book titles in the iBooks Store than you might think, and they can be a great way to add to your classroom library without taking up any more valuable shelf space! Want to know a quick way to find them? Once you are in the iBooks Store, tap Top Charts, then tap Categories in the top left hand corner and select Children and Teens from the dropdown menu. Apple will then display a list of the most popular paid books on the left of your screen, and a list of the most popular free books on the right hand side of the screen. Try it with other categories like Reference, History, Science and Nature, and even Textbooks! Wait, free textbooks? Yes! There are a number of free academic textbooks available from the iBooks Store, including the highly regarded CK12 series.
2. Find Free Read Alouds
A number of titles in the iBooks Store come with a built-in read aloud feature that will read the text to students, and highlight words as it does so. This can be great for the struggling readers or those that need extra help with higher level texts. How do you know if your book is a read aloud book? Tap a page in the book, and look for the speaker icon on the black menu bar at the top of the page. If it is there, you can tap the speaker and choose to turn on read aloud, and even decide whether you want the pages to automatically advance, or be turned manually. A number of books also have “read aloud” in their titles, so you can search the store for “free read aloud books” to find a good selection to get started with.
3. Find Your Own Books
By now, you might have several shelves full of fine free books, but how do you quickly find the one that you want? You could take the time to manually sort them into alphabetical order, but every time you download a new book, it sits proudly at the first spot on your bookshelf, and that will quickly mess up your system. So, instead you can search for the books you need. While looking at your Library bookshelf, pull down with one finger to reveal a search bar at the top of your screen. You can search by title, author or keyword to find the book you need.
4. Find Books in Flipboard
This might be a little obscure, but Apple recently teamed up with Flipboard to let you find new titles from the iBooks Store right from inside the Flipboard app. Simply browse through Flipboard’s categories until you find Books. The sub categories are the same as that in the iBooks Store, so you can browse through a good selection of titles from inside Flipboard’s unique user interface. It seems like an unlikely alliance, but you’ll quickly find that the number of free books you find this way will be very limited. Apple is pushing only paid books through the Flipboard app. No real surprise there I guess.
5. Organize Your Books
While it might be nice to organize your books into folders, like you can with apps, it wouldn’t look right on Apple’s carefully designed bookshelves. However, you can bring some order to the chaos by creating additional book shelves and moving books of the same genre, or reading level, to sit on these new bookshelves. To do this, tap Collections in your Library, then tap New and give your bookshelf a name. Hit Done to create your new shelf. Next, tap Edit in the top right hand corner, select the books you want to put on your new bookshelf, and tap Move. Select your newly created bookshelf, and watch the books vanish to their new home. If you have a group of iPads that are shared between grade levels you could create separate bookshelves for different grade levels, teachers, or curriculum areas. Another compelling reason why iBooks is great for education.
6. Highlight, Add Notes and more
Although this doesn’t apply to all texts, many iBooks titles will let you highlight text and add sticky notes, just like you did in college with print versions. So, encourage your students to take advantage of this and teach them to be active readers. Simply press a finger on the text and drag it over a line or paragraph to highlight a section of text. Tap the highlighted section to change the color of your highlighter, or to add a sticky note. Tap it again and look for the share arrow so you can copy, or share your excerpt by email, Twitter, Facebook or iMessage. Useful, eh? Well, you can go one step further and tap the other white arrow and get the option to have your iPad read the selection aloud, (if you have Speak Selection turned on – more on that later).
7. Change Fonts, Themes and Scroll
Tapping the double “A” on the menu bar in the top right allows you adjust the brightness of your chosen text. You can also increase or decrease your font size by tapping on the capital As. Tap Fonts to choose from a variety of fonts for your text. Selecting Themes lets you change the background color of your page to Sepia or Black, and you can eliminate Apple’s newly patented page turning animations by activating the Scroll mode to turn your book into a web-esque reading experience that will scroll vertically through pages. These options may not appear on all book types, so experiment with the books in your library to see which ones have this and which ones don’t.
8. Use Speak Selection to Read PDFs
Find the PDFs in your Library by tapping Collections and selecting PDFs. If you turn on Speak Selection (Settings > General > Accessibility > Speak Selection) you can use this feature to read PDFs aloud. You could always do this with Voiceover, but it was never ideal because it would read the whole page without the option to pause or stop the reading voice. It also made big changes to how you navigate the iPad. So, to speak selected text on a PDF, press and hold on a word until you see the magnifying glass, then release your finger. Drag the blue bars around the selected word to highlight a section of text you want read aloud, and then tap Speak in the black pop-up menu. This could be another great option for struggling readers or even as a test taking accommodation.
What’s Your Favorite Tip?
There are undoubtedly any other great tips for using iBooks in the classroom, but these are a great first few steps for new iPad users or those who are not as familiar with iBooks as they might want to be. So, what is your favorite iBooks tip for educators? Leave a comment below.