Teaching content creation (no coding required)

Nov 11, 2014

For better and worse, we live in a culture of coding. Now that virtually everyone is a consumer of digital content, there are unprecedented commercial and social opportunities for content creators.

For better and worse, we live in a culture of coding. Now that virtually everyone is a consumer of digital content, there are unprecedented commercial and social opportunities for content creators.

People with app ideas who can’t or don’t want to pay triple-digit hourly rates for developers today can teach themselves how to program online for a fraction of the cost at places like Code Academy. Next month, the organizers of the Hour of Code hope to inspire 100 million students across the globe – “ages 4 to 104” – to begin to learn the science behind programming apps, websites, and other digital media.

As we encourage kids to learn to code with apps like Hopscotch, Cargo-Bot, and Move the Turtle, we shouldn’t lose sight of the new digital communication skills many of these apps enable. While there is a lot of emphasis on STEM-based learning for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math careers, it’s important that students understand how to leverage these skills for creative communication.

“The iPad was the first viable platform that allowed students to learn how to create their own content,” explains Rafiq Ahmed, co-founder of Demibooks, which creates apps that teach middle school, high school and art students how to develop interactive book applications without having to know how to code.

Ahmed co-founded Demibooks in 2010 after helping to launch the MOTOBLUR social media service that was preinstalled on the first wave of Motorola’s Android smartphones. The mission of Demibooks is to create applications that allow students to develop and author their own interactive books. All of the content creation is done within the Demibooks app, which also includes the ability to distribute the books via the iTunes App Store.

Here is a glimpse of how it all works.

Students can sample the free Demibooks Composer tool from the App Store, and choose to upgrade to the pro version for $9.99. There is a separate Demibooks Storytime application that publishes the works of other users. Ahmed and his team, which is based in Chicago and Sydney, is testing out additional direct-to-school pricing models that include additional training.

A logical content management system

What distinguishes Demibooks from other popular publishing and book creation apps for the iPad including Creative Book Builder, Flowboard, and Book Creator for iPad is how the app teaches STEM-based skills while students are creating digitally composing their stories.

“Demibooks Composer has a system of behaviors that are created by the user with a series of logical IF-THEN statements,” Ahmed explains. “The app presents functions to choose from to create simple to complex movement, actions and overall interactivity.”

He added that student applications to emerge from Demibooks Composer are much more complex than what is created on other book building apps, with titles that showcase everything from “complex physics concepts” to original art and virtual air hockey games that take advantage of the iPad’s accelerometer.

Last month, Demibooks entered into a partnership with Britannica School, which allows Composer Pro users access to images and videos, and make use of this premium content for a 30-day trial period. Ahmed is pursuing additional content partnerships with major brands.

The five person company has raised just over $500,000 from seed investors including Edcuational Development Corporation. With the product and partnership in place, Ahmed hopes to raise an additional $1 million to generate more consumer awareness and advance school distribution and training.

“To date, we’ve been organic in our marketing,” he said. “We’re hoping to raise the funding necessary to put the tool in the hands of teachers.”

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Brad Spirrison

Brad Spirrison is the managing editor of appoLearning and Appolicious Inc. In this capacity, he has sampled and evaluated thousands of iOS and Android applications. He also holds an M.A. in Education and Media Ecology from New York University.

Spirrison worked in concert with appoLearning Expert and Instructional Technology Specialist Leslie Morris while curating and evaluating educational applications.

A longtime media and technology commentator and executive, Spirrison is also a regular contributor to ABC News, The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Bloomberg West and The Christopher Gabriel Program.

Spirrison is married and lives with his wife and young son in Chicago. As his son was born just weeks before the debut of the iPad, Spirrison takes his work home with him and regularly samples and enjoys a variety of educational applications for young children.

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