Digital Textbooks

This is just a short collection of resources for those interested in learning more about digital textbooks. I was part of a statewide, digital-textbook pilot called "Beyond Textbooks" in Virginia. This pilot was designed to investigate classroom changes and teacher management of ipads, as well as the quality of an app as a textbook replacement. To learn more, visit the Learning Without Boundaries website.

I think what's important in the discussions about digital textbooks is not so much that they are a great replacement for traditional textbooks, or that they are simply more mobile. I think the real benefit is to look at them as an opportunity to really focus on instructional improvements and individualizing the student experience. "Flipping the classroom" has become a hot topic, and content creation and curation is also a huge opportunity made available through digital textbooks. Structuring a "move" toward digital textbooks is an opportunity to look at curriculum standards, student creation, student "ownership" of learning, etc.

Major Topics to Consider:

  • What is the budget/pricing structure for this new approach?
  • Hardware only? OER (Open Educational Resources)? Subscriptions?
  • Professional development plans?
  • IT and Policy Issues?
  • If BYOD, will in-house developed materials work on all devices?

General Information:

Building Your Own Textbook

Aggregate, Curate, and Create Your Own Digital Textbook:

An online course on how to bring digital textbooks (in this case, ipads) into the fold:

iBooks Hack a Thon - learn about creating ibooks from ipad-using teachers (the comments are especially helpful)

Considerations of the overall costs of moving to digital textbooks (vetting content, distribution, management, etc.)

BYOD Apps that keep the focus on content:

The Digital Textbooks Daily collection

Series of Blog posts from SETDA on Open-Educational Resources and Digital Textbooks

Resources for Building:

Ongoing Issues

Charting new territory in education is always challenging. Making a shift from a landmark like traditional textbooks, into something relatively new, brings with it many issues. This new realm is shaping up quickly - the last two years has seen a huge change in the way textbooks have moved from one single, solid chunk of static information, into a much more modular, constantly changing flow of content and ideas. Having access to devices which help manage this huge flow of information can be tremendously beneficial for classrooms. The current challenge is. . . we aren't quite there just yet. Unresolved issues still exist, and must be discussed, by any district venturing down the path of this digital transition:

District leaders must guarantee that the following discussions are being circulated amongst financial staff, technology coordinators, professional development directors, teachers, parents, and the broader educational community.

  • What is the budget/pricing structure for this new approach, compared to traditional textbooks?

  • Will our district simply purchase hardware, and a subscription to content, or will teachers be creating some of their own content, using Open Education Resources, etc.? If teachers will be "filling" ipads or other tablets with their own content, what is the district's vetting process for accuracy and depth of content, alignment to SOL, etc.?

  • Does the district have an ongoing conversation with a publisher to discuss "ownership" of content, subscription pricing, textbook rentals?

  • Will the district purchase identical hardware for each student, or explore a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) model? If so, will textbook-related apps work on all models?

  • What professional development structure is in place for teachers, administrators, and others to ensure that this switch does not sacrifice learning time or teacher productivity?

  • Who will help model this 1:1 environment so teachers can realize the potential of a device much more powerful than a traditional textbook?

  • Does the technical staff understand the short term and long-term implications for additional burdens on electricity, wireless, synching, app management, etc.?

  • What is the cycle cost for maintenance/replacement, inventory?

  • Has the district considered policy issues (safety, at-home use of wireless devices, theft, replacement, damage)