"We went to digital because it makes for better learning," says Frank Portanova, vice principal at Stepinac. "This is the way kids learn today. And the online content is a lot richer. You’ve got assessments, you’ve got virtual labs, you’ve got blogging." The online history books, for example, include videos on subjects ranging from Woodrow Wilson to Malcolm X. The science books show scientific processes in motion. The English books grade an essay and offer a student a worksheet on the proper use of commas if it’s needed. Students can highlight passages or leave notes to themselves in the margins, without ruining the book for anyone else. All the books are available to all the students, so a junior can look back at the freshman algebra book to review a concept. Students can click to find every reference to "osmosis," say, in all the books. The school’s technology director, Patricia Murphy, says the textbooks have been updated three times this semester alone.
My district is making noises about switching to open source textbooks. Of course we are not the only ones. I thought I would make a list of resources that I know about so when the time comes I can refer back. Perhaps you can use these as well. Feel free to add to the list.Copyright
Over the weekend, I attended and presented at the TNT-c Confrence in the Ysleta ISD. As in so many of the conferences, it was led off by a keynote speaker, Patrick Fogerty, a Brooklyn based educator and speaker. I had never heard of him before so the thought of hearing new ideas was a great motivator to go listen.
I will blog about his talk later, but as I was listening to it, as in so many other keynote sessions I have attended over the years, I was struck not so much by his over arching theme (been there done that), but rather by a throwaway sentence that he mentioned near the end.
He was citing statistics that showed students preferred using digital textbooks over traditional print . He mentioned that he had been speaking to a teacher that said she wouldn’t move to digital texts because “SHE liked the smell of textbooks.”
She liked the smell of the textbook. The paper, the binding, the glue.
He then said that if liking the smell of a book was so important then “Go out and buy a book and smell away. But don’t use that as an excuse to hold your kids back.”
Don’t use your silly notions about what is “right and wrong” to hold your kids back when it comes to using technology in the clasroom.
How many of us as educators don’t try new things because we “like” the old way of doing it? I find myself in that situation at times, Why try a Chromebook when my Macbook works just fine?
Why try a new word processor because I have been using Word since 1998?
Why try a new lesson because the lesson I have been using has worked just fine for years and years.
If it works for me, fine, but that should not be an excuse NOT to let students try new things.
You love textbooks because they smell good? Fine. Smell away.
Please please please don’t hold your students back from trying or using something just because of your preconceived prejudices.
You don’t like ebooks? Fine. YOU use the printed version. :et your kids experience the wonders of electronic texts which are more engaging, more innovative and more up to date.
You can stay in your cave. But don’t imprison the kids in it just because you are afraid to go outside.
Honeycutt said it best when he said “Our students will spend the rest of their lives in the future. Are we getting them ready for it?”
Or are we stuck sniffing the textbooks?
If I were selling a K-8 technology text in the state of Texas, I think I would do one thing that none of the other publishers do:
I would align my technology lessons to the other guys Math, Science, ELA, and Social Studies textbooks.
Here is why:
Say for instance I have a technology lesson where I am asking students to create a chart and a graph using a spreadsheet. Now usually, if I am JUST teaching technology applications, that type of lesson would be taught in isolation. A random technological event. A drive-by technology lesson if you will. It would not be related to anything actually going on in the classroom other that it was another lesson in the classroom.
However, if my technology applications textbook were aligned to say the Math textbook of another publisher, then as a teacher, I would be able to take that isolated spreadsheet lesson and plop it right into the time when I am teaching graphs and charts in my classes. Same with science. When the Pearson book or the McGraw Hill book calls for us to be collecting data and creating graphs, then I would know exactly when it is done not only in my science lesson but also in my technology lesson as well. I wouldn’t have to do a lot of searching and waiting. It would be done for me already.
So for the students, the technology lesson would not be a discrepant event. It would just be a natural part of the science or math lesson cycle. For the teacher, the technology would make more sense as a tool.
It would not be THAT hard to do:
I would find the top ten adopted core curricular textbooks for grades K-8 and then align my lessons to those in the books.
I would put the page number, the standard and the lesson title of each book right next to mine.
Of course, my idea is not totally original. The folks at NROC, the creators of Hippocampus.org have taken all of their online courses and aligned them to the top textbooks in the US for years.
Check it out:
As you can see, the book, the page numbers and the lesson are all aligned.
Pretty sweet. Makes me wonder why the other Tech Apps publishers haven’t thought of it.
To: John Lopez
Managing Director of Instructional Materials and Educational Technology
Recently, I have had the opportunity to review some new textbooks that are up for adoption across the state. While my main interest is in the Technology Application K-8 adoption, I thought it might be interesting to look at the Math and Science offerings that are also up for consideration. My interest is in how the publishers are addressing the integration of technology into their books.
Here is what I have noticed:
The publishers of the core curricular areas, for the most part, are oblivious to the Technology Application TEKS at any grade level. I asked every publisher representative at a recent textbook adoption fair (see the videos elsewhere in this blog) how they get students to use the 21st century skills that we in the classrooms across Texas are supposedly trying to get our students to learn. Without exception they were ignorant of not only the 21st Century skills (perhaps because none of them are part of the 21st Century Partnership ) , but also the NETS-S as well as, and more importantly, the mandated Technology Application TEKS, K-8, which, if I understand correctly, are our state’s methodology for producing “technology literate” students.
“Technology integrated/infused lessons” to most of the publishers I spoke with involved allowing students to go online and play simulations, to view online videos or to provide teachers with interactive whiteboard lessons. While those have their place, they are, for the most part, low on the SAMR model of technology integration. Students are not asked to communicate, collaborate, connect, or do many of those TA TEKS skills that are required by the state.
This is disturbing on many levels.
First, since the Technology Application TEKS are still separate from the core curricular TEKS, the publishers (and by extension the districts and teachers) view them as, not something to be embedded into a course, but something to be outside of a course. Education technology is not being used as a tool for 21st Century learning, but as a course add on, something more to do, and more importantly, to be avoided because it is not a mandatory part of the core curriculum.
Secondly, if the textbook publishers are allowed to ignore true technology integration, then this will no doubt filter down to wherever those books are adopted. District curricula already have time management issues due to testing and other constraints.
Thirdly, to a publisher, I was told that they “concentrated” only on the core TEKS when making their product. If that is truly the case, and book publishers get their direction from the state offices, who is dropping the ball when it comes to tech integration in the core curricular areas? Who is telling the publishers that true technology integration is not essential enough to be part of a proclamation?
Finally, since the publishers are defining what technology integration is to them and ignoring the TA TEKS, they are essentially driving the car when it comes to how technology is used in the classroom. If they say interactive whiteboard lessons are “technology integration,” who is to argue, since they get their direction from the state? Districts wont. Publishers can say “We are meeting the criteria of the proclamation” and with that statement include classroom technology by implication.
Might I suggest the following:
It is time to move away from the Technology Application TEKS K-8 as separate standards. There should be Tech Apps for Math, Science, English Language Arts and Social Studies. That way, we will assure that these are addressed by publishers and districts at all grade levels. We have seen, and still see, what happens when the TA TEKS are separated from the core. Quite frankly, they are ignored. The time has come to intertwine the different TEKS. If they are important to you then they should be important to everyone.
Part of any State proclamation should include the TA TEKS as part of the proclamation in all core subject areas. This should be a non-negotiable for every single publisher doing business in the state. If the TA TEKS are important enough to create as part of a student’s overall Texas education experience, then they should be important enough to embed into the core curriculum.
If the TA TEKS are truly part of the core area TEKS, not something that districts, publishers or teachers can opt out of because of convenience, then we will go a long way towards actually making our students true 21st Century Learners, something your department has been advocating for as long as I have known you.
explorELearning talks about their technology component at the YISD textbook adoption fair.
The MET has got some wonderful, fully illustrated textbooks that are available online for free! (X)