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EdTech Update




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The e-reading advantage

Last month, Ryan Bretag wrote about an experiment in his school where students, often reluctant to leave print, read from e-books. (Students Reading Digitally: COD Pilot in Metanoia,1/25/13). Ryan's students' reaction to the brief e-reading experience was heartening. He writes:

Many of the students expressed just how much this could alter their reading and learning in the positive. In fact, two students talked to me a few hours later while I walked through our library. They continued to express their excitement for digital reading and talked about how they were finishing up their reading assignment right then.

Also, one item that really stood out to students was the sharing of their active reading notes. And I think this is a tremendous discussion point for teachers especially in English:

  • what happens when our active reading can become social?
  • what happens when our active reading can be shared with great ease?
  • what happens to discussions when our active reading is more readily accessible and transparent, if desired?
  • what happens to discussions and writing when our active reading can be captured and used as a visual?
  • what happens to the pace and depth reading of classroom discussion with the search features?
  • what happens to writing to learn when our active reading can be easily shared into social media and Google docs?
  • what happens to blogging and the blogfolio with this easy tie-in to our active reading?
  • what do we need to discard, keep, and change as a result of the features now available?
As one student said to me, “this changes how I see active because I can use my stuff so much more now and a lot easier”. How great of a thought? This student summed up both enhancements and transformative uses of the technology.

Tim Stahmer in Educon: Unraveling the Textbook, Assorted Stuff, 2/3/13 writes about a session by John Pederson and Diana Laufenberg that observed that while access to information has changed radically in the past couple of decades, textbooks used by most students have not. And that when schools have replaced print textbooks with e-texts. "many in the schools would rather just have the paper versions back." Tim then suggests that any replacement should:

  • be accessible on any device, anywhere
  • allow users to add comments
  • allow certain users (teachers, trusted students) to add and update materials
  • have a social media component to allow users to discuss the materials
  • have content controlled by educators, not publishers

When talking to mainstream educators, I find that many see an e-text as simply a regular book or textbook viewed on a screen - a PDF version of print (with poorer graphics and worse interface). This is the view of too many traditional publishers as well.

The real reason to invest in the e-text comes not from a lighter backpack, reduced distribution costs, or even updateablity, but in the value-added features afforded by e-reading. As alluded to above, these features, impossible to replicate in print, include adding social networking functionality, searchability, and customizability by teachers. But I would also add:

  • Multiple reading levels
  • Instantly defined, pronounced, and translated text
  • Clarifying multi-media content
  • Built-in tools like graphing calculators, mind mapping software, timeline generators, and note-taking/organizing apps
  • Built in pre-tests and checks for understanding
  • Links to source materials, primary resources and additional reading, viewing and listening experiences
  • Acitivities and games that reinforce concepts and increase engagement

Those are a few off the top of my head. (For a more thoughtful list see my article Turning the PageSchool Library Journal, November 2004. Yes, this has been a pet topic/peeve/frustration of mine for a long time.)

Here's the thing. The successful publisher of the future - of both trade books and textbooks - will not be the paranoid but the bold. It will be the publisher who both reduces costs and, more importantly, adds the functionality that will increase reading abilities, engagement, and content understanding.

Watch for that breakout publisher. It's coming... In the meantime, did anyone else think that Tim's description of a textbook replacement already exists? (Hint: It rhymes with noodle and starts with an M.)


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