A Computer For Every Student
“One-to-one programs” are popular in private schools, and the governor wants them in all the public schools, but the jury is still out on their effectiveness
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Making Textbooks Interactive
Word processors are replacing paper and pen. Will high-tech textbooks be next?
Although etextbooks are increasingly common in college, their creation and adoption in primary and secondary schools has been limited. But at Punahou School, teachers are digitizing the textbooks they have written by using iBooks Author, a free app that allows users to create multitouch textbooks for the iPad. The software makes creating etextbooks simple, says Douglas Kiang, a Punahou computer science teacher working on his own etextbook.
“It’s never been as easy as it is now” to use video and sound to create multimedia textbooks, he says.
More etextbooks mean students are lugging around fewer heavy, traditional textbooks, plus the texts are more interactive and, hopefully, more engaging for students.
Unfortunately, there are few studies on the effectiveness of etextbooks in primary and secondary education. Textbook publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt did a study that compared the use of an algebra etextbook and a regular algebra textbook in a California middle school last year.
The study found that students using the etextbook were more engaged, more motivated and performed better on tests at the end of the school year, compared with students using the traditional textbook. Critics were unconvinced, saying one study done by the company that made the etextbook proves nothing.
Creating etextbooks requires teachers to change how they view the text and how it supports students’ learning.
“We don’t want to just take advantage of the greater accessibility by just digitizing books and making them available as a PDF or something,” Kiang says. “We actually want to rethink what is the purpose of the textbooks, how do they enhance learning, and how can they be personalized and localized to the direction a class is taking with a particular group of students?”
This personalization is big part of etextbooks’ appeal. “I think that most teachers constantly try to improve their courses,” says Kiang, “and we have seen very few technologies that have caused this amount of excitement. The fact that you can interact that physically with the material makes it feel more intimate. That’s what students need.”
– Marcie Kagawa
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