Student writers–actually all writers–need opportunities to publish their work. If I want students to revise multiple drafts, to edit, to care, I need to give them a reason. I know this, but at the same time, it is very easy for me to make excuses: I have more than 140 students. I don’t have a budget. I am super busy and I don’t have the time. But if I want quality writing from my students, I need to give them a purpose beyond “getting a good grade.”
My goal is to have at least one mid-year publishing event, as well as an end-of-year anthology. The mid-year event may be an oral reading or I may post short pieces to the classroom blog, but I want the end-of-year publishing to be a real book showcasing the writing of my classroom community.
Should I go digital? Print? A combination of the two? And where is the money coming from? Here are the options I am currently considering:
- How It Works: Lulu.com offers a variety of publishing and printing options (for a reasonable fee). Students would submit digital copies of writing to me and I could use the Lulu templates to format it. There are several types of bindings for print books: perfect bound, which is like a trade paperback binding; coil bound, which is like a spiral notebook; and saddle stitch, which is threaded along the spine.
- Cost: Lulu.com offers a calculator to figure out the potential cost. For example, if I make a 40-page perfect bound book, it would cost $4.60 per item. Obviously, I can’t afford to order one for each of my 140+ students, but Lulu makes the items available for purchase on their site. Students and families who want to buy a book can do so. There is also a free ebook publishing option. The ebook can be made available on Lulu.com and other places like iBooks.
- Student Concerns: What if students and parents don’t want their students’ names and/or writing online? Is it possible to only make the book available to people with the link? Can I ask for print versions and not make it available online? I can’t quite find the answers to these questions from my preliminary research and that makes me think that the writing is published publicly, period.
- How It Works: After spending a few minutes experimenting with this iBooks, I am impressed with how easy it is to use and with how beautiful the final product is. According to my admittedly limited research, anyone can easily create a book using a Mac computer. Readers access the book through the iBooks bookstore or iTunes U. There is also an option to export to PDF if I choose to print the anthology on paper or post it in PDF form on my blog.
- Cost: Free!
- Student Concerns: Again, since I work with twelve-year-olds, I have to think about their privacy. I don’t really want to put the anthology on sale on iBooks, even if it is free. My students are minors and they have a right not to put their writing up for public consumption. The same goes for using iTunes U, which is also public. Another concern is that in order to read the digital book, readers need iPads and not all of my students have one. I could solve that problem by also making the book available as a digital PDF for those who don’t have iPads.
- How It Works: FlipSnack is designed to make flip book-style textbooks and manuals. Combining images and text, the result is visually appealing and fun to read. Creators can share the link to the flip book or embed the book on a website. It looks fairly easy to use. One idea I have is to use FlipSnack to teach short lesson or to publish a few student poems in order to see if I like how it works. It looks like it is purpose is mainly for instruction, not for writing publication.
- Cost: FlipSnack can be free, if you don’t mind a watermark on your pages. It is possible to download books to PDF, but users have to pay a fee for that option.
- Student Concerns: Like the other options, FlipSnack publishes your work to the world. There is no privacy or limited sharing option that I can see. I could only publish with the student first names or with parent permission. And I wouldn’t feel comfortable posting photos of students, at least not without explicit permission from the student and their families.
- How It Works: As I write this, I already know Scribd isn’t right for my situation. Like Lulu.com, Scribd allows users to upload images and documents, including Word Documents and PDFs, to a book template. The purpose–as far as I can tell from my quick research–is to publish the book online using Scribd’s online library. It looks fairly easy to use, but just as time consuming as Lulu.com without the option of getting print copies. Unlike iBooks Author, users don’t need Mac computers to make the book and they don’t need iPads to read it.
- Cost: Free!
- Student Concerns: As is the case in the other options, student work and names would be publicly available.
- How It Works: Student treasures, as the name suggests, is specifically for teachers, gearing more towards elementary than secondary. Teachers submit student writing and drawings and Student Treasures binds them into hard cover, full-color, professional-looking picture books. Most of the examples are individual student projects, but there is also a “Class Book” with 33 pages for text and 33 pages for illustrations. They also have a separate ebook publishing option.
- Cost: Free! The only catch is that Student Treasures asks you to send order forms home to parents so they can order reprints. The teacher has to return the reprint forms with parent signatures along with the publishing package. Reprints are $19.95.
- Student Concerns – The print version is not for digital publication, so student identities are safe. However, it looks like the book projects are mostly handwritten stories. I don’t know if they have an avenue for the typed poetry and prose I want to anthologize. They certainly don’t have any examples that look like what I want to create.
Bottom Line: Right now I am feeling just as overwhelmed as when I started. I was discussing the issue with my student teacher and she said, “Why don’t we just make copies of student work using the school copy machines?” I couldn’t think of a reason to counter this idea, especially because I have an old-school spiral binding tool in the back of my classroom closet. Whatever works, right?