Last week I gave a presentation and demonstration of bookleteering for a teachers’ CPD (continuous professional development) workshop run by Ashley McCormick at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill on Sea. The event was part of the programme associated with the current exhibition, Ladybird by Design, a celebration of 100 year’s of publishing the eponymous books. During the session we discussed lots of ideas for creatively engaging children and other learners through making books themselves, echoing the deliberate design constraints used to create hundreds of classic Ladybird titles within the constraints of bookleteer. The Ladybird formula of short, illustrated books retelling classic stories and tales, explaining history and science, exploring life at home, work and out shopping or introducing industries and technology retain a strong nostalgic hold on those generations who grew up on them. As a cultural and design icon in their own right they offer a template upon which we can continue to explore the world in our own ways – bookleteer offers a modern day alternative for anyone inspired to create their own library of books exploring the world around us.
Yesterday I ran a Bookleteer Masterclass for Library professionals from the boroughs of Lewisham, Brent, Hounslow, Camden, Islington, Merton and Harrow at the Deptford Lounge. The event was part of our collaboration with the Librarypress project and was designed to introduce library staff to bookleteer and how they might use it in their own projects and activities with library users and local groups. We had a fantastic turnout with very inquisitive and engaged participants – it was wonderful to see them all getting straight down to making books and StoryCubes with text and images they had brought along with them specifically for the day. We will be selecting a series of books made by the participants for the Periodical over the coming months, as inspiring examples of what can be done with bookleteer to engage readers and local groups with library projects and services.
I’d like to encourage other library authorities who are also interested in using bookleteer as part of their services to get in touch : we are more than happy to offer workshops and provide consultancy on how bookleteer can used by the public and integrated within existing projects and services.
A few months ago I met accessibility and sensory design consultant, Alastair Somerville, who was in town to demonstrate using simple and cheap visualisation tools such as the 3Doodler pen. Over coffee we chatted about 3D printing, data manifestation and some of the tools and techniques we’ve each developed. Alastair showed me a material he has been using in wayfinding for people with visual impairments: Zy.chem swell paper, a specially treated material where the black ink ‘swells’ up to create a textured surface. Alastair had been using it to make simple tactile maps and for braille. We both then became excited about the possibilities of using the Zy.chem paper with bookleteer to create simple and low-cost braille and textured publications.
Very soon afterwards Alastair experimented with a wayfunding guide for a project he was working on for the University of Sussex’s new library, The Keep. He sent me a copy printed on the Zy.chem paper which confirmed for me that this was a material with hugely exciting creative potential. I then asked Alastair if he would consider making something special for the Periodical so we could demonstrate this to others. The result is this beautiful guide to Dal Riata, an ancient Scottish kingdom in Kilmartin Glen, Argyll which has some of the most extensive neolithic earthworks and structures in the UK.
Alastair’s book uses the zy.chem paper to impart the texture of some of the neolithic stone features of Dal Riata as well as some maps of significant sites. In addition to the tactile paper, one sheet is also printed on tracing paper, overlaying the bigger map of Scotland and Northern Ireland onto a tactile map of the kingdom of Dal Riata itself, and then providing a ‘mist’ overlaying a section about the disappearance of the kingdom during the Viking raids of the early Middle Ages. At once informative and poetic, it holds its own sense of magic and mystery within its very textures.
Alastair has posted a Vine video:
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Most writers have one or two trusted readers-of-drafts, critical friends who are relied on to make suggestions and offer that gentle critique that we didn’t know we needed. And the closer we get to conventional publication, the more likely we are to find ourselves working with an editor who scrutinizes our text for errors, ambiguities, sloppiness and – horror of horrors – breaks with convention. With the publication of my essay on picnic and community, published using Bookleteer last month, I had the chance to reflect on the experience of ‘doing without’ an editor. It was stimulating but also a little scary.
In the summer of 2011, I needed to take a decision about finalising and publishing the work. Choosing Bookleteer presented me with a new option: it meant I could go all the way to publication without any editorial oversight.
Picnic was an unfunded project: no client, no defined audience, no expectations, no responsibilities. That may seem liberating but it also means no feedback, no reassurance, no confirmation. I kept the text to myself (apart from sharing it necessarily with my collaborator, the artist Gemma Orton) at the obvious risk of missing out on potentially valuable guidance, having mistakes spotted, and being seen as arrogant.
The key justification for me was that to submit to editorial control would have been a crass betrayal of one of the essay’s themes. The essay contrasts picnic with formal meals, it contrasts organisation with networking, and disorder with order, as a way of exploring our tendency to idealise community in structured, formal terms. I felt that by submitting to the convention of editing – a fundamentally conservative process – I would have contradicted that theme in a rather feeble way.
I was also aware that Picnic challenges people’s expectations, because it doesn’t fit easily into any recognised genre. An editor might have made valiant, corrosive efforts to turn it into this or that.
I don’t wish to imply that the editorial process is either redundant or pointless, but it may be that many writers come to be over-dependent on editors. Perhaps this is to do with perceived differences between non-fiction and fiction. Few musical composers or visual artists would expect to cede so much influence over what they do. On the whole, editing is a process for confirming convention and reinforcing norms, which may not always be what’s needed. By making the publication process realisable, it was Bookleteer that empowered me to remain consistent to the theme without compromise.
In my previous blogs I have mentioned about the variety of eBooks you can make on Bookelteer, from invites, to user guides to scrapbooks. However I haven’t yet mentioned how Bookleteer can be used in the learning process as a valuable learning tool.
A number of ideas prop to mind when I think of using Bookleteer in education. The part I like most is that it’s not restricted to one age bracket. From younger children to older kids in secondary school an eBook can be used in many ways.
For example, for the younger age group, I have created an alphabet book. This can be customised to the child’s preference, such as using their favourite cartoon characters on each page as a visual stimulant. Of course this is where the older brother or sister or parent come in use, to actually create the book on Bookleteer. Or a blank eBook can be printed and with the guidance of parents, children can help draw and stick each letter onto each page, a fun learning activity all rolled into one!
As for the older kids, Bookleteer can be used as an alternative way of presenting coursework, projects, art projects or even as a revision tool or a diary format to keep track of their revision timetable/schedule.
Using Mandy’s artistic ability, I made a mock up of what the alphabet eBook could look like if it was made.
Back in September Frederik posted a case study of Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination‘s use of bookleteer. They’ve continued using it as a creative and documentary resource, and in doing so have created a Library of Traces – a series of eBooks which enable both participants in their professional development workshops, and others, to follow the traces of their experiences and share reflections and observations.
To help CCI widen the audience for their work we’ve posted 7 eBooks on our diffusion.org.uk library and will be making others available there as they are created. All are welcome to download and share eBooks from the Library of Traces.
A report by Julie Anderson, British Museum
In January, I returned from Sudan where my co-author Salah Mohamed and I distributed the eBook we produced last autumn. Frederik Lesage has previously written about the development of our eBook, which deals with the archaeological excavations conducted in Dangeil, Sudan, as a case study for eBook usage, in this blog.
Salah and I have been excavating in Dangeil for more than 10 years. Over this period, we have lived in the community and have come to know our neighbours well. Every year many work with us in the excavations. The archaeological site is situated in the centre of the village and an increasing number of tourists, both Sudanese and foreigners, are visiting the ruins. There is also a large primary school situated along the northern edge of the site. Students cross the site daily on their way to and from classes. As a means of engaging further with the local community, school children and site visitors, we decided to create a resource which would help them to better understand the excavations, the ancient temple and its importance, and to place Dangeil in its historical context. We were also driven by a need to explain what we were doing and why, in an accessible fashion. The key was communication and the end result was the eBook.
So, what sort of reaction did the eBook receive? Simply put, its reception, both in Khartoum and in the rural farming village of Dangeil, exceeded expectations. We produced 500 English copies and 500 in Arabic, the local language. We ran out of the latter. In retrospect, we should have produced a greater number of copies in Arabic. Copies were given to the local school and arrangements were made so that every household in the village received a copy.
Following the distribution of the eBook, teenagers began coming to our door in the village to ask questions about the site / archaeology / their own Sudanese history. In the past, usually they had wanted to have photographs taken, but now instead were connecting with their history as made possible through the booklet. It was astonishing. More surprising was the reaction people had upon receiving a copy. In virtually every single case, they engaged with the eBook immediately and began to read it or look through it. This occurred regardless of location or other business being conducted. Many of our workmen looked for images of things they themselves had helped to excavate and of people they knew, though the latter was true for almost everyone seeing the eBook.
Although our eBook takes the form of a more traditional and perhaps somewhat static publication, its impact cannot be underestimated. The Dangeil villagers, and indeed university students and antiquities staff in Khartoum, viewed the publication as written for them, about them, and in their own language. The eBook has served not only as an educational tool, but has empowered the local community and created a sense of pride and proprietary ownership of the ruins and their history.
Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan, British Museum
I chose to visit the Idea Store in East London’s Chrisp Street Market and was quite surprised by how modern it looked inside – it was brightly lit with large open spaces, laptop benches, lots of seating areas, and visitors of all ages. Working areas, books, computers, ‘chill out areas’, and learning labs (rooms hired specifically for meetings and training sessions), are all clearly sign posted and well spaced out, offering an alternative ‘library feel’ all within a comfortable learning atmosphere.
Having walked around the library taking pictures, looking through leaflets and flyers, peeking into learning labs and flicking through some books in their library section, I realised that the Idea Store was definitely the ‘mega library’ of East London. Because the Idea Store has so much going on already, I left feeling slightly overwhelmed and wondered how, if at all, bookleteer would fit in to an already thriving library service. However, after some research, I realised that there were two areas that bookleteer could further help the Idea Store, and this was through advertising and user experience eBooks.
The Idea Store could advertise and promote courses, events, and services through bookleteer by creating mini information eBooks, providing a new and modern way to advertise what’s on offer. Allowing the thousands of people who use the store to create user experience eBooks to map out what they’ve learnt and what they’ll take away from using the Idea Store’s services would help both staff and visitors explore ways of improving services and document their experiences at the same time.
When I heard I was going to be working on creative projects that combine art and publishing with year 5 and 6’s in a primary school is Soho, I was definitely excited about working with children on a project that sounded different, creative, and fun (both for the kids and adults involved!) However, hearing that I’d be working in a school in Soho, I thought I may have mis-heard – I had no idea that there were any primary schools in Soho! The school itself is small Church of England primary school tucked away on a narrow street just a stone’s throw away from Piccadilly Circus. Going into the school I was greeted warmly by staff and noticed how colourful the corridors were – adorned with bright paintings by the children and proud reminders of previous work. Soho Parish definitely had a welcoming ‘family feel’ about it. Walking around the school and peeking into the small classrooms, it was obvious that Soho Parish had a positive learning atmosphere.
After I was introduced to some of the teachers, a class of year 5 children quietly walked into the classroom where Giles would talk to them about how bookleteer and eBooks worked, and also how this would tie into their current project, a project based on Antarctica and the effects global warming. The children were curious about who we were and what we had to say, and as Giles began to explain that we were going to help publish their school project by turning them into eBooks, some of the children shouted ‘yay!’ and everyone seemed to became even more interested. After Giles demonstrated how eBooks were made, the children were more than ready to get going and make their own.
We then began to upload the children’s work onto bookleteer, with the children standing close-by, often asking us about how bookleteer worked and what they thought about their Antarctica project. After a few near glitches with the schools computers, we began to finish uploading and naming the year 5 eBooks. Almost immediately after we waved the children goodbye, year 6’s entered the classroom with the same amount of wonder as to why me and Giles were standing at the front of the classroom. This time around, however, uploading the children’s eBooks was much faster and easier to do after having uploaded year 5’s eBooks moments before. Then came the task of printing off and making up the children’s eBooks – (a skill that Giles was clearly much faster than me at!) After proudly handing all 32 eBooks to the children’s teachers, Claudia and Matt, our work at Soho Parish was done for the day.
Following our work with with the children (and lots of help from the staff!) Giles and I had lunch with the head teacher, Rachel Earnshaw, discussing possible projects and ideas for the new term ahead. After how promising my first day was at the school, I can confidently say that I am looking forward to going back to the school after the Christmas holiday and collaborating on other creative projects with the children – and also exploring bookleteer in a school setting.
In our interview, Niharika told me that she first used the eBooks on part of the Perception Peterborough project. She and Alice used the eBooks to document a cab ride around Peterborough using illustrations as a way to explore the different kinds of communities and systems that were embedded in the city. For Niharika, this early way of using the eBooks functioned more as a support for personal reflection. Although she would show the results to others, the eBooks she created felt more personal:
“It is shareable, but that is not the intent in which I created it. It was more like a personal log.”
Although she continues to be interested in this kind of approach, she has also used the eBooks as part of a more extensive project which I want to examine in greater detail:
Sample project: Articulating Futures