Wednesday, October 5, 2011

E-Textbook in the 8th Grade

Chris Ros has two pilot efforts taking place with his 8th grade science class. He is using the Fujitsu tablets we have been using for several years in a 1 to 1 environment. Chris also took Sherry Ward up on her idea to have teachers supplement their course materials by constructing an online e-textbook. The e-textbook is web-based so it can be accessed via a browser at school and home. The software provider is The Learning Mag which is headed up by Will DeLamater who is a former ACDS administrator. 

Chris has published the first sections of his online textbook. What makes this endeavor so powerful is that the instructor is in control of the content that goes into the textbook as opposed to a textbook publisher. The teacher individualizes the content drawing from his/her personal knowledge, books, media and web resources. The end result is a textbook designed to meet the specific learning needs of the students while aligning with the learning outcomes set by the teachers.  

E-textbooks also provide further engagement for the students when they collaborate in researching information and publishing with the support of their teacher. One of our goals for graduates of ACDS is to help our students be active and independent in their learning. Chris' effort is one very concrete activity that engages and empowers our students in their learning. 

Take a look at The Dynamic Earth e-textbook that Chris and his students are developing.  


Chris shared the following insights about his class:
  • We are using online textbook and source of information for the kids -
    • I am currently putting in the information as a combination of culling from resources, gathering information off the web and writing my own material.
    • Eventually the students will be involved in uploading and creating some sections for the online book.

  • Students are using Evernote as their note-taking program.
    • They can download the software, which is free, onto any device they have - PC, MAC, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch
    • We can share pages as well.
      • I can share my notes with the students.
      • They can share their notes with me to show me the work that they have done.
      • We really are building a learning community based up easy access to information through our e-textbook and note sharing via Evernote.

  • The class discussions are lively. We follow a general curricular foundation that allows for the freedom to discuss other ideas. As an inquiry-driven course, we make time for questions as they come up. This allows me as the teacher to develop the lessons and units in a unique way that follows more closely my organizational preferences, and more importantly, follows the way the kids are thinking. This individualized approach is working much better than working from a prescribed textbook.

  • Challenges
    • The kids are adjusting to not having a tangible textbook - we are going to be discussing this today.
    • The kids are also adjusting to taking notes digitally.
    • I am finding that I will likely need to create new and interesting ways of assessing student knowledge and understanding.

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