Tag Archives: design

Using a Dipity timeline for Shakepeare

At first glance, Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice struck me as odd and fairly racist. I wondered what ole Will was going for when he wrote this play and its comic villain Shylock, with his “pound of flesh” threats, and I wondered what exactly my students were supposed to get from it in our study of Shakespeare this spring.

Then, at my mentor teacher’s nudging, I did a bit of research and found out that this play was written during a time when Jews were expelled from England. This knowledge caused a dramatic shift in my interpretation of the play and I wanted to share the history with my students in a way that wouldn’t put them to sleep.

Having heard of Dipity’s timelines, flipbooks and maps of contemporary news (such as the chronology of the Bin Laden raid or of key events in Charlie Sheen’s string of bad behavior), I created a Dipity timeline showing a brief history of persecution of the Jews in England before Shakespeare wrote The Merchant of Venice.

Overall, Dipity was user-friendly and I was able to combine dates, info and images onto a timeline, flipbook and map in about 20 minutes. The frustrating part came when I realized that Dipity is blocked on many school computers because it’s considered social media. So I remedied this by taking screenshots of each Dipity flipbook page, then cropping them and dropping them into Keynote, and finally exporting to PDF/QuickTime.

I’m pretty new to Dipity and haven’t done much with slideshows in the classroom yet. Any success stories? Frustrations? Recommendations or cautions? The only major caution I have is that every time I look at Dipity.com I get stuck thinking of the “Doo.Da.Dipity.” line from Black Sheep’s “The Choice Is Yours.” Which, of course, is a reminder of that bizarre hip hop hamster commercial. Be warned.


Too many stories! Too many ads! Too many pages!

Flexibility. That’s what all this comes down to.

When our student team initially took to publishing at Issuu.com this year, it was because our newspaper had lost its printing budget. Issuu provided a means of publishing when there wasn’t money for paper and ink.

In April our team used Issuu to publish a two-page tribute to a student who died this year. We remarked over and over again how nice it was to have the option to publish a mini-issue of two pages rather than the typical minimum of four required in print shops.

But in May we found that Issuu helped students solve an entirely different problem. It wasn’t that we didn’t have money for printing, or that we had too few pages to print a full issue. This time was that the students had about 22 pages of content to lay out (that’s right — 22 pages of their ideas and hard work). AND they had raised enough money through ad sales to cover the cost of printing as many as 16 pages.(Our ad sales were almost nil before the budget was cut — necessity truly is the mother of invention, and that should be a blog post in itself.)

So now the puzzle was figuring out how many pages to print (8, 12, or 16?), which pages would be published on paper and which ones would be online-only. There was also the wonderful challenge of juggling page layouts in order to accommodate last-minute ad sales. Can I just say it? These are the BEST PROBLEMS a student newspaper could ever have.

The students handled these challenges deftly, using Issuu as a cornerstone for most of their solutions. (I promise, no one is paying me to say this.) Because it gives them an online publishing option that essentially has the same production process as their print pages, and because Issuu publications aren’t bound by page quantity, students can easily shift the order of their page layouts. If a story needs more time to come together, it can be bumped to the online edition with a longer production timeline. If a page is suddenly dominated by a large new ad, students can add a new online page for the content that gets bumped by the ad.

Once again, it’s all come down to flexibility.

Our final publication of the school year will be released May 31. In the meantime, here’s a link to the newspaper’s previous editions, which have garnered more than 2,000 page views since our online launch in March.

My only complaints about Issuu at this point are that it’s difficult for viewers to post comments, and some readers find the full-screen view hard to navigate. It seems easiest to navigate with a laptop mouse, but a little awkward with a traditional mouse.

If you’re using Issuu for classroom projects or other presentations, let me know how it’s working for you, or if there are other free publishing sites you recommend.

Here’s to having wonderful problems to solve!

Going electronic with a student newspaper

Several weeks ago, the newspaper staff at my student teaching placement site learned that they would have no allotted budget for the coming school year. To save money and to propel their newspaper into a new era of publishing, our team got innovative and put the newspaper on Issuu.com. The results (as seen here) have been fantastic:

  • The publication has the look and feel of an e-magazine.
  • Our team saved money by printing only four pages (which were distributed throughout the school) and including teasers on those pages to lead readers to an additional six pages online. (I should note that this idea came from our student team, and was a key part of moving our team in this new direction.)
  • Within a couple of days, the online publication had about 200 views. There were about 400 views within a week, equivalent to a quarter of the student body.
  • The online publication is in color, allowing for more emphasis on photography and new options for our page designers.
  • The Issuu.com account that allowed us to do all this was free.
  • The viewer statistics we receive from Issuu.com will be used in advertising sales packets. And the opportunity to publish additional pages online means there will be more room for ads.
  • We are already planning online extra issues in between our major scheduled publications. This allows us to memorialize a student who recently passed away, to provide sports updates, and to be available for other breaking news reports.

We have our current issue up online, along with two archived issues in black and white. You can see them all right here. We plan to use Issuu.com at least for the rest of the school year, hopefully in conjunction with a news website that a student is developing.

I know this blog is getting a lot of traffic from readers who are interested in classroom publishing and student journalism. Are any of you using Issuu.com? Which online resources have helped you and your students save money or reach new audiences?

Classroom Publishing: Issuu.com saves the day!

How does a student newspaper take the prospect of NO MONEY and turn it into an opportunity?

I’ll do my best to make this story short. I’m a student teacher this year at an Oregon high school that is preparing for drastic budget cuts. As such, the budget is nearly gone for production of the student newspaper that I’m helping advise. My mentor teacher and her students were trying not to succumb to doom and gloom, and we started looking for ways to turn this change into an opportunity.

So, again, how does a student newspaper take the prospect of NO MONEY and turn it into an opportunity? First, all of the students agreed to start hustling advertising sales, which is new and kind of scary for a lot of them, but puts them in a situation that is no different than any professional news publication. Second, we started considering affordable (or free!) options for developing an online presence for the newspaper, just in case there were times when we wouldn’t be able to pay for paper publication.

Two years ago a pair of students started developing a website for this paper, and it’s getting close to being ready for launch. But that process is always more complicated than anyone wants it to be. So while that’s in the works, we were looking for free online publishing options. A blog would be the first logical choice, but the school district has blocked any and all social media sites, including blogs. So that was out.

After a bit more digging, I found Issuu.com through an association of journalism teachers in Virginia. Issuu.com is a free (or $20/month for extra features) site that lets you upload just about any kind of document so it can turn into a shiny, almost magical online magazine. The results have a very iPad-y vibe, even when you’re not looking at them on an iPad.

When my mentor teacher and I showed the Issuu.com demo video to our students this week, they were absolutely enchanted. There were pockets of exclamation around the room that were so encouraging: “We could do new issues whenever we want! … We could publish photo spreads in color! … We can put hyperlinks in the stories! … We could link to it on Facebook! … It’s like Christmas morning! … It’s going to make all our dreams come true!”

So our student production manager decided to test the site by uploading files from the students’ most recent issue from December. He showed us the results yesterday and I heard gasps and “wow!” across the classroom. When he finished the demonstration, we actually burst into applause.

We’re planning to use Issuu.com while the newspaper transitions to online publishing, and it’s likely we’ll continue using it even after the paper’s full website is launched. We like it that much. I particularly like that it still leaves room for students to practice page design while incorporating web elements such as embedded video functions (hopefully this will make for a good match with our upcoming use of SchoolTube.com). The students like it because they will be able to share it in school assemblies and recruitment presentations, they will be able to link to it on their social media sites at home, their parents will be able to email it to their friends, the school will be able to link to it on its website, and the students will be able to say on their resumes and college applications that they were part of their school’s first-ever online news publication.

Meanwhile, I’m thinking of using Issuu.com for my upcoming school presentations and reports, and ideas are brewing for ways to use the site for my creative writing. I am continually excited and amazed by all of the free or low-cost tools available to us on the web. Our opportunities are nearly limitless at this point. Doom and gloom, be gone!

2012: My story will be in “Our Portland Story”

Great news! One of my stories has been selected for publication in Our Portland Story, Vol. 2, which is set for publication in the summer of 2012.

It’s still early in the process, so I’m not sure which story they will include from my two submissions, but I know it will be one of my favorites — either “For an Anxious Cowdog” or “No One Will Believe Me. Oh Well.

Our Portland Story is published every other year, and is described as “part yearbook, part insider’s travel guide, and part collected memoirs […] all about Portland by Portlanders.” Volume 1 is available at numerous Portland book stores, and was released in the Fall of 2010. My friends at NeighborhoodNotes.com listed it in its “Nine Must-Reads for Locals, Visitors and ‘Portland-Curious‘” in December.

What I especially love about the publication is that it emphasizes creative design as much as creative writing. Each story is assigned to a designer who will create an unique color layout for it. The stories aren’t always printed in columns, but in forms that match the sentiment of the story and its accompanying design.The results are unique and gorgeous, as you can see on Our Portland Story’s splash page. (Under ‘Featured Stories,’ you can choose ‘design view’ or ‘story view.’)

I will post updates on the project as it moves along, but for now, I am thrilled to know that a publication like this even exists, and I feel honored to be part of it.

Here is a link to Oregon Public Broadcasting’s interview with one of the book’s creator’s Melissa Delzio.

And here’s a video that wonderfully captures what Our Portland Story is all about:

Classroom Publishing: Books, blogs and beyond

Right now I’m in conversation with teachers about turning their fourth-grade students into members of an elementary school newspaper staff. The 9- and 10-year-olds would be responsible for interviewing each other, writing stories, editing each other’s work and establishing the design concepts for a quarterly publication. There’s a method to this madness, I promise.

Classroom publishing was the theme for this fall’s Wordstock for Teachers conference in Portland, and I was fortunate to assist with a workshop conducted by the Classroom Publishing team from Ooligan Press at Portland State University. The key concept from this workshop was that there are lessons all through the publishing process that translate to multiple content areas and skill sets. Here is a breakdown of the Ooligan workshop:


  • Before you do anything, identify your publishing intent and audience. This will help get students invested in the project and help your team shape its style, voice and format.
  • “The content and the form of expressing it need to match.”
  • Students can evaluate potential content for their publications by using criteria that they have established themselves. In turn, they learn to look at their own work more objectively.
  • The process of acquisitions helps students understand how literary anthologies and textbooks are put together, and makes assignments involving bibliographies, quotes and citations much more relevant to students.


  • It’s easy to get stuck at this stage if you don’t have a clear plan.
  • Emphasize to students early on that revising is a necessity in the writing process, not a punishment. Remind them that their work is worth revising.
  • Developmental editing is the first round, and involves looking at the foundations of each piece and the way it is constructed.
  • Copy-editing is what we usually think of when we hear the word “editing.” It involves checking for grammar and spelling.
  • Make time for fact-checking.
  • Proofreading comes after a piece is laid out on a page or website, prior to final publication.


  • The style and execution of your design will depend on who is creating your publication and who it is for. A publication that is made for students and by students will likely have a different design than one made by students for parents or by students for the community.
  • Design can go way beyond the printed page! Consider a website, a blog, a podcast, a web video, etc.
  • Web-based classroom publishing projects are a way for students to build a positive presence on the internet. A college scholarship committee will likely take note of a student with a web-based publishing project more than a student with a public Myspace page, etc.
  • Let design serve as a visual metaphor for your entire publishing project.


  • This can come in many forms (paper, internet, digital presentation on a CD, etc.). When choosing a production method, consider your audience, intent and, most of all, your project budget.
  • Here is a great list of publishing and production resources from Wordstock for Teachers.
  • Contact local businesses and community groups to see if in-kind donations or financial assistance is possible for your production efforts.


  • Marketing is often a dirty word to artists and educators, but a book that doesn’t get marketed doesn’t get read!
  • Marketing is more about connecting your audience with your project than it is about making money. But if you want to use a publishing project to raise money for another educational effort, it can’t hurt.
  • Ideas for marketing efforts include having students to read from their publication over the school intercom, having students design posters and bookmarks for the project, hosting readings and open mic events, hosting book fairs, and connecting with groups online that are conducting similar projects. Relationships can begin with something as simple as students students from different schools commenting on each other’s blogs.
  • Marketing is a great way to practice important writing skills such as persuasion, summarizing and identifying a target audience, and it requires clarity and conciseness.
  • Your project should have a hook and pitch. A hook is a short, attention-grabbing phrase (such as “Take student work beyond the classroom”) and a pitch is similar to an elevator speech — about 40 words that clearly describe your project.

Is classroom publishing really worth all the effort? As a writer who is about to make classroom publishing into a career as a Journalism and Language Arts teacher, I am inclined to answer with a resounding YES. Sure, I’m biased. But I’m biased because of the pride I felt in third grade when my teacher laminated the drawings I made to summarize The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I’m biased because of the pride I felt when my sixth-grade teacher stopped the entire class to read my poem aloud (reading aloud is a form of publishing, too, because it brings work to an audience). I am biased because working on my high school newspaper staff taught me a variety of skills that have had direct applications to my paying work in public relations, nonprofit administration, journalism, and even parking permit services (that one’s a long story).

To learn everything you ever wanted to know about turning your students into publishers, visit Ooligan’s Classroom Publishing site and get a copy of their practical guide for teachers.

Neighborhood Notes: New reasons to love Portland

Forgive the attempt at gangster language, but Southeast Portland is blowin’ up, yo! That quadrant of our fair city is home to four of the 17 new businesses we got word of in the last month—with even more indie biz goodness in the works. It boasts a board game shop, a gallery and artists’ hub, and a drool-worthy Italian deli, while the rest of town now offers more art and craft fun, a donation-based yoga studio and a vintage store housed in a camper. Did I mention last month that I love living here? Because I love it even more now.

It’s that time again. Time to take stock of some Portland entrepreneurs who are striking out and hoping to make a living and make a contribution to this city. My new business piece was published by the good folks at NeighborhoodNotes.com today and you can read it right here. Oh yeah.

PS: This photo is from the interior of Beulahland on SE 28th around 1 a.m. after a good round of true Japanese-style karaoke at VoiceBox.