James Rice has spent last past 20 years in the ELT field in Canada and abroad as an ESL teacher, language school owner, and writer. Find out how the iBooks Author software created the perfect opportunity for him to produce over 50 different digital textbooks with valuable feedback from students.
Can you start off by telling us where you teach?
I teach at Connect School of Languages in Toronto, Canada.
How long have you been teaching?
I have been teaching English for over 20 years throughout the world before coming back to Toronto. I taught in Toronto for a number of years before opening my own school in 2003.
Can you describe a typical teaching day?
I only teach on a part-time basis now.
What do you do in your spare time to relax?
I am a film buff. I take any chance I can get to watch movies.
You took on the tremendous task of writing the Study It ESL textbook series. Can you tell us about it?
The Study It ESL textbook series grew from a desire of getting rid of our tired, old paper ESL textbooks. Everyone hated them – students, staff, teachers and administration. I felt guilty selling these books to students and even worse when I had to buy them.
Apple came out with the iBooks Author software in January 2012 and we immediately jumped on the opportunity to develop our own textbooks. We had no idea that the task would be so monumental and so rewarding. We spent the next 3 years building and creating the series.
Can you talk a bit about the content?
The textbooks are best used on the iPad, iPhone and MacBooks. No WIFI is needed. Students and teachers just download the books onto their tablets or phones once. All the books include videos, audio and interactive activities. Everything is 100% original.
We built and 8-level Grammar and Conversation series based on the Canadian Language Benchmarks. We also developed elective books for Business English, Pronunciation and Listening.
How long did it take you to write the textbooks?
We have produced over 50 different digital textbooks. The Study It series consists of 23 textbooks for ESL learners and teachers. 27 books are workbooks. It took us 3 years to produce all these books.
Where can teachers and students purchase your books?
All these books are available on iTunes for all schools or teachers to download. We have developed at website too with more digital, enhanced textbooks www.studyitbooks.com
Congratulations on winning some awards for your books.
Thank you. Yes, the awards are the 2015 Best Digital Textbook in the Reference/Academic Category and in 2016, The Benjamin Franklin Book Award™ which is administered by the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) with help from over 150 book publishing professionals including librarians, bookstore owners, reviewers, designers, publicity managers, and editors.
Are you working on any other projects at the moment?
We are currently fascinated by updating our content and training teachers on how to use Digital Textbooks in the classroom.
What skills did you gain from classroom teaching that have allowed you to excel as a teacherpreneur?
Understanding the needs of the students. By being in the classroom on a regular basis, I can see where content is failing both students and teachers. It helped me to understand why students don’t want to buy textbooks and why teachers hate using textbooks. It gave me inspiration to look for ways to make an ESL textbook series that is flexible to all kinds of teaching styles and teaching demands while at the same time give students interesting activities that can be used again and again.
What advice would you give to teachers who are considering writing a book/books?
Students taught me what worked for them. This lesson was incredibly valuable. We would build wonderful activities and give them to students who absolutely ripped them to shreds with complaints. What seemed obvious to us, as teachers or content creators, was not so obvious to them. And we had to make activities or instructions more intuitive.
Also, how students want to be taught and how they want to learn is changing. And we need to try new methods or new ideas to reach students. So your most valuable resource is your students. Use them to help you, guide you and criticize you.
Is there anything that you would like to add?
Be flexible with anything you develop. What works for you may not work for another teacher. So you need to challenge yourself to experiment with different teacher styles or methods. There is no one way or no right way to teach. When developing content you must be flexible and give teachers the opportunity room to breathe their own life into the work you have created.
Thanks so much James. I hope to meet you in person at TESL Canada in June 2017.
Interested in learning more about transitioning from a teacher to teacherpreneur but don’t know how to get started? Here are some ways:
1. Read more teacherpreneur interviews at www.teacherpreneur.ca/blog
2. Check out my Teacher to Teacherpreneur Toolkit at http://www.teacherpreneur.ca
3. Sign up for my 4 week online course with iTDi.pro - Teacher to Teacherpreneur http://itdi.pro/itdihome/teacherpreneur.php
4. Download 10 Tips to Transition from Teacher to Teacherpreneur https://www.teacherpreneur.ca/p/10-tips-to-transition-from-teacher-to-teachepreneur
5. Connect with other teacherpreneurs by joining my LinkedIn group https://www.linkedin.com/groups/7060976
6. Set up a private coaching call with me https://www.teacherpreneur.ca/pages/book-a-coaching-session-with-me
Connect with me on social media. Teacherpreneurs must be on social media!
Who am I?
My name is Patrice Palmer, M.Ed., M.A., TESL and I reside in Canada. I have 20 years’ experience as an ESL Teacher, TESL Trainer, and Writer including 7 amazing years in Hong Kong. I have taught students from 8 to 80 years in a variety of programs such as ESP, EAP, Business English, and language programs for new immigrants in Canada. I'm now a teacherpreneur doing the things that I love such as writing courses, blogging, sharing teaching materials, instructional coaching for new teachers and coaching teacherpreneurs. Having a flexible schedule allows me to conduct short-term training around the world at any time of the year.
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