Connecting dots for digital learning and teaching

Growing Your Textbooks by Thinking Outside The Box

It’s a Digital World, Why not Digital Textbook ? Now the answer is loud and clear. In this old post we briefly reviewed some stories about digital textbooks, and one of the viewpoints is definitely worth re-visiting : Some Resources For Moving Beyond Textbooks (by Patrick Larkin, from Connected Principals) “I think it is also important that we do not jump too quickly at the e-versions of textbooks that companies are scrambling to sell to us.  It is my belief that the textbook companies are banking on the fact that public schools will take the easy way out and become dependent on the e-texts. However, given the time, I know that my teachers can create a much more meaningful resource for their classrooms.

Why don’t Teachers Publish Their Own Textbooks ? In this post we started with the advocacy: “The transition into adoption of etextbooks is actually aiming a higher goal than just bringing cost down.” “”Let’s not make students “sit and get” when it comes to digital content, but instead, make them part of the engaging content assets, so do teachers.” A long list of great examples on growing customized curricula by educators were collected in the article. Besides, after Apple demonstrated its fancy interactive digital textbooks “iBooks2”, lots of conversations from teachers are around: “we would rather have students engaged and equiped in creating contents“. Perhaps one of the advantage of Apple’s free authoring tool “iBooks Author” is for students to create contents in learning process.

David Andrade talked a lot about his Physics class going beyond textbooks, because some websites and software are more interactive, explain concepts better, and allow the students to interact and learn. Furthermore, textbooks are stagnant, online resources are kept up-to-date. Most of them are free and available from any computer, this saves lots of money. David mentioned he did use some paid resources – Discovery Education Streaming and Multimedia Science School – they are awesome and not expensive compared to 150 textbooks for his classes alone. He also uses class websites and blogs, you can check out the class site.

Dolores Gende, whose teaching reflections featured in Great Reflections from a Physics Teacher, just published an article: “Aggregate, Curate and Create Your Own Textbook” to respond to the buzz words around digital textbooks recently, she said: “With information being ubiquitous, I believe that teachers can (and should) take control of their courses by creating their own interactive textbooks.” And the steps suggested are highlighted as in the title: aggregate, curate, create. The most important key is collaborate, collaborate, collaborate! To facilitate the outcome, free Web2.0 tools are all you need, the tools she recommended are all popular among educators: Google RSS Reader, Diigo(also Using Diigo as a Search Engine), Twitter,, LiveBinder, (with curation App), Google Sites, PBworks and Wikispaces, also LMS like Moodle, Edmodo and Schoology, of course Apple’s iBooks Author will be useful if you and your students have iPads. We highly recommend you refer to her comparison table on teacher and learner roles in the various models of creating a “textbook”, from traditional model to a learner-centered approach. 

Dolores gave one example of students as curators: American Democracy in Action and pointed to another useful post: “Students becoming curators of information“. In another old post “Crowdsourcing a Textbook Via a Wiki”  Allan Gyorke shared about how to have students collaborating to write a textbook wiki, also introduced a freewareExpertiza. Expertiza is to support student-generated content through peer review and teamwork. Actually there are already lots of teachers enabling their students to curate and create contents, some examples are:

Web Tools Collective Part 4 – Tools to Help Students Create is a useful post for you in this regard. And “Surfing Internet and Learning Safely summarized good resources that can help leveraging the rich learning opportunity on internet safely in K12 education. We also like to point to Shelley Wright’s blog , it’s one of the awesome examples for your reference about technology/ constructivist shift in classsrooms.

As Dan Meyer pointed out in this post: On iBooks 2 And iBooks Author“No new technology is so novel we can’t subject it to the question, “How does it change the relationship between student and teacher, student and discipline, one student to another?” “The textbook is now digital but students still encounter it as they always have: wisdom to be received, perhaps highlighted, annotated, and memorized, but not created, constructed, or made sense of. Teachers still interact with students as they always have. The platform doesn’t offer them any new insights into the ways their students think about mathematics.”The textbook or curricula designs we need are those making students become active learners involved with learning objects.

digital textbook, digital curriculum Because of abundant web resources and tools available so that “flipped classrooms” can become a realistic alternative in today’s pedagogy. But, Flip Your Minds before Flipping Your Classrooms ! Peter Pappas adviced that “flipping the class could be a great opportunity to engage our students in taking more responsibility for their learning. Why not let your students curate the video lessons from existing content on the web? Don’t miss the seven-steps of how to lead the transition in your classroom.

digital promise, digital learning

Karen Cator, the United States Department of Education’s (ED) director of technology, had addressed the move beyond the digital textbooks: “I think the trend is towards–I wouldn’t call them e-books, I’d call them ‘digital learning environments.” To explain the distinction, Cator said that e-books are simply digital representations of books, with text and pictures. “But when we think about the expansion in digital books or digital learning environments, it also includes not just the text and pictures, but also video and Web sites and simulations, visualizations, and environments where you’re testing yourself and lots of other kinds of things that would be important.” The ultimate goal is to connect students to the resources that work best for them. The free educational resources with high quality like SAS Curriculum PathwaysVerizon ThinkfinityTeacherDomainLearner.orgPBS LearningMediaYouTube EDU, iTunes U (and more) and open platform Learning Registry are significant for the digital learning environments. We also can see digital innovations emerging to help different kinds of learning needs. For example, a new non-profit Gooru just built a free platform for both students and teachers that offers access to standards-based online resources in organized playlists. Gooru lets students access ‘classbooks’ which are essentially a collection of textbooks, videos, tests, and much more. Best of all, these classbooks are on any topic and offer tools to let students share and interact with the resources.(thanks to introduction by Edudemic)

Cator also said she thinks 2012 will see “continued expansion of free and premium models of delivery of digital content.” The open-source movement will further push digital delivery of online material. Open educational resources (OER) had been growing in both quality and quantity, there are lots of repositories of open educationl materials and open source media materials for re-use. Just this week Utah announced a major initiative to use open textbooks in K-12Collaborative Creation of OER by Teachers could bring a promising future for our education and curriculum.


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“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.” -------- Chinese Wisdom "Games are the most elevated form of investigation." -------- Albert Einstein
"I'm calling for investments in educational technology that will help create digital tutors that are as effective as personal tutors, educational software as compelling as the best video game," President Barack Obama said while touring a tech-focused Boston school (year 2011).
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