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iBooks Author Challenge: Adding spelling quizzes to iBooks

Dave Caolo and I were chatting this morning about iBooks and spelling. "It's not my daughter's favorite subject," he said, "and I'm looking for a way to make it more appealing to her." He asked if there could there be any way to incorporate spelling quizzes into iBooks via Author.

The answer is, unfortunately, not clearly yes. That's because iBooks Author assumes that all interaction will be by multiple choice. That means you can create interactions to choose from common misspellings and from homonyms, but can't solicit freeform text entry.

That gives rise to the kind of interaction you see below. The shortcomings are apparent. For example, you cannot define any item that isn't tied to a specific location (so you can't create a pool of misspellings without destinations). If the reader switches the order of the two misspelled words (here Tale and Flour) those are marked wrong as well.

So I hopped into Dashcode and built a widget that would solicit a correctly spelled word and embedded it into an Author project as follows. This turned out to be a failure. Although the embedded audio prompt worked fine (albeit in a separate interactive element), widgets do not run in-line and iBook's interpretation of the widget hid my embedded checker button.

This might be due to my subpar Widget construction, or I may simply be running into iBooks 2 limitations.

So how can you expand iBooks for spelling? This post tells you where I am to date. If you have a better solution, drop a note into the comments. And if you are an expert Dashboard widget engineer, please ping me offline. I'd really love to test out the possibilities and limitations of this tech.

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