Wednesday, January 19, 2011

E-Books and Bring Your Own Technology

This year we made some major changes at our school. After upgrading our infrastructure last summer to have wireless throughout, we then progressed to allowing students to bring their own connectivity. This year we asked them all to bring their own connectivity and we added e-books. We are about 85% electronic books throughout our grades 6-12. We made recommendations to parents about what level the machines should have. We have areas where students can plug in to charge up and for those who may have had difficulties obtaining their own equipment we took our COWs (computers on wheels – the big carts) and cleaned those machines up as much as possible and loan those out to students to use. They take them home after signing an agreement that they will be responsible and if not then they are charged a fee for replacement.

The main focus this year is the E-Books. The school is fortunate to have an instructional technologist that works here who has taken the bull by the horns and wrestled this program into submission so to speak. Christine Voigt has replied to several people who have asked about e-books and here is what she has to say:

“The eBooks are online digital editions of the actual printed texts. The advantage is that they have interactive content in addition to just being a PDF. The world language teachers really love their eBooks, because it allows student to hear and in some cases interact with the languages they are learning. Video and audio clips that previously were only available in class via DVD (or in some classes video tape!) are now integrated with the eBook so students can access them anytime, anywhere.

All the eBooks are online subscriptions. The students login to the publishers website and have a digital bookshelf with titles they need for their classes. What I like about the online login is the fact that they are not tied to one computer. If their computer breaks, or the battery dies, etc. they can login and get their books on another machine. All of their notes, highlights, and work are tied into that online account.

We use eBooks from Pearson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, and also use CourseSmart for all courses that use college level texts (primarily our AP classes).

The only texts that can be accessed on an iPad are the once from CourseSmart
- they have developed their own App for the iPad that is really quite nice.
The regular texts rely on multiple plug-ins such as Java or Flash and they will not work with the iPad, smart phones, or Kindles.

Although many of the publishers strongly encouraged and even gave us bundled pricing for purchasing physical books and the digital ones, we opted to go with eBook only. Overall it was a bit cheaper and we saved a lot of shipping costs, and many trees in the process.”

One of the nice features in most of the e-books is the fact that they will speak. So while the machine may not have text to speech the books do. Our biggest struggle for the students is to make sure they have downloaded all the free Adobe apps. Things like Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash, Adobe Air and Adobe Shockwave. All of these play a role in some of the more in depth parts of the books for demonstration or even speech.

So very much to learn and so little time.