Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Dave Ghidiu

ReKindling Creative Writing in Education

Okay, so if I had to pick a platform for mass distribution of self-generated content, I'm saying Kindle. Barnes & Noble tried the Nook - and it's a perfectly fine execution - but it pales in comparison to the Kindle.


Amazon has led the industry in eBooks, and their marketplace trumps Barnes & Noble (especially because of the competing split personalities of brick and mortar versus online). For me, the sheer magnitude of Amazon's scope is the deal maker.

People who do not have a Kindle sometimes feel disenfranchised from the whole eBook revolution. The fact of the matter is that they just need to be educated on the various platforms that they can consume Kindle content. Most smart phones have a free Kindle app. Anyone can start a Kindle account for free from the website and use the "cloud reader" to interact with a Kindle book. There really are a variety of ways in which readers can handle Kindle books (without buying a Kindle Reader or Kindle Fire - by the way, I am astonished at how many people think the Kindle Fire is the only way to read a Kindle book. Even if I did not have the apps across all my devices, I would still prefer my good old Kindle Touch over the Kindle Fire).

That being said, I think education has a few opportunities to really capitalize on some of the tools Amazon has made available.  

Relatively new, Amazon introduced this marketplace as an exclusive channel for fanfiction. Traditionally, fan fiction usually triggers immediate thoughts of Twilight and Star Wars. And there's nothing wrong with that (Shades of Grey was Twilight fanfiction, after all). I think educators have a few different methods in which they could harness the power of Kindle Worlds.
  1. What if a high school English class was tasked with writing fanfiction for the book they are reading? Kurt Vonnegut has some stories that scream for the creative writer to add to. There is some collateral learning here, too. Students can actually post their stories online, and family and friends could purchase them for their own Kindle devices. Perhaps each student writes their own version, and the English teacher aggregates them all into one package.


  2. A creative writing teacher could have all their students write fan fiction for a topic of their own liking (pop-culture, literature, etc.). Each of these could be published to the Kindle Worlds store.
In either example, the student is getting their work published, and the distribution channel is suddenly widened. Additionally, this could be used as part of a portfolio for students as they grow their own writing. I suppose schools could probably also monetize this if they wish (all proceeds go to an endowment or the "Class of 2014" or some other cause).



I recognize this could be a point of contention, but offer it as a viable option that students could opt out of. I also recognize that there is a limited selection of licensed worlds currently, although that will most likely grow in the future.


Kindle Direct Publishing
https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin
Wider than the scope of Kindle Worlds, Kindle Direct Publishing is a method for authors (aspiring and established) to convert content to the Kindle platform. The toolkit is easy to use, and most content can be converted in ten or twenty minutes.

Again, this gives the student the opportunity to actually publish content. And design their own author page. It's empowering and also purposeful.


CreateSpace
This tool, also offered through Amazon, is a venue with very powerful tools for publishing content. It is a bit more customizable than Kindle Direct Publishing (above), and has an added advantage - customers can order hard copies. Schools could simply use this as a forum for products from their English class, or History classes could publish a collection of essays. The school literary magazine could be published here. A photography student could curate their entire portfolio here. There is also the opportunity for interdisciplinary education (Art students could design the cover and layout, English students could create the content, and Business students could manage the monetary aspect).


Leveraging existing tools (and a phenomenal marketplace) to assist students as they emerge into authorship is something that has not existed in the past; educators should take advantage of the opportunity Amazon has created. I'm afraid I'm not knowledgeable enough about how to write books, but I bet you could find one somewhere at Amazon.

Dave Ghidiu

About Dave Ghidiu -

Dave Ghidiu is a Senior Instructional Designer for Open SUNY.

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