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A few weeks ago I worked with our fashion marketing teacher on creating a Look Book to include all of her advanced fashion and introduction to fashion students.  She had the idea of a Look Book where students would each have their own page where they included pictures of themselves and personal fashion information (including descriptions of their fashion style, professional aspirations, interests, etc.).  She originally wanted to have students make pages out of MS Publisher, Word, or event PowerPoint and to print them so she could compile and bind them in a book.  However, I suggested she try Mixbooks-a free online scrapbooking site.  I knew it was starting to be a widely used resource for students, but I had never implemented it in the classroom before.  I had only heard a few success stories where teachers had students create their own individual mixbook, but I hadn’t heard of anyone making a collaborative book with multiple students working on one mixbook. 

I started playing with Mixbook myself and created a mixbook of my family’s Easter pictures.  It was very easy to use.  To create a fantastic book, all you needed to do was:

1.  upload pictures

2.  choose layouts for the pages (there are TONS of layouts that include multiple pictures…even goes up to 20 pictures on  page!)

3.  choose a theme and/or backgrounds for your mixbook/pages (again..there are TONS of options)

4.  add stickers (each theme/background comes with a variety of stickers.  you don’t need to stick to a theme…yet again…TONS to choose from!

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Okay…it was easy enough.  Now what about the collaboration part?  I went to Twitter and posted an all-call on how I could have students collaborate on one single Mixbook.  Thankfully, @cclancy responded that it was possible and a link to his blog “Chris’ 21st Century Learning Blog and his post:  Create Amazing Digital Books with Mixbook.  He gives an awesome overview of what Mixbook is, step by step how he has implemented it in the classroom, and also points to consider.  He also has a great example of a classroom Mixbook created by a 5th grade class for social studies.

I pretty much followed his formula with the exception of changing the settings on the mixbook we were creating to be set to private and viewable only by those invited (since we were including student photographs).  Here are some lessons learned from this experience:

1.  Create a free account using mailcatch.com.  I didn’t want to use the teacher’s school email or personal email to create the Mixbook account.  Mailcatch.com site allows you to create an “inbox” but you can’t send any outgoing email.  You don’t even need to register or complete any form.  Just create a mixbook account with a made up mailcatch.com email (i.e. mixbook@mailcatch.com) and voila…you are in business.

2.  Assign each student a page and direct them to the page and the individual view page mode when you assign it to them. 

3.  Instruct students to work from left to right with all the page options.  This helped avoid layering confusion for some reason.

4.  For text boxes, students may have to go to full screen mode and then back to regular screen for their text to be visible.  Sometimes students had to do this to “kick the textboxes in the teeth”. 

5.  Have students upload 1 picture and one student at a time.  When I let multiple students upload at will, it caused some network traffic and uploading froze.

6.  Instruct students to not jump off of their page and view other pages as they were working.  This caused students to lose work they saved for some reason.

7.  Have students save one at a time.  Students had to raise their hand when they were ready to save.  I had them save and immediately log out.  Onced saved, I had students log out and log back in to check that everything saved correctly.

When I followed the above protocols, we didn’t have any issues with student work.  I’ve invited other teachers in other disciplines to take a look at the mixbook we created.  I’m hoping other teachers will be interested.  The possibilities are endless!

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