Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Digital Textbooks and The Kno

Last time I posted I talked about how my other online course has students doing PowerPoint Presentations on different technological tools that can be helpful in the general and inclusive classrooms.  For my presentation I decided to research digital textbooks.  As someone who would love to own an iPad or Nook I always wonder what the education implications would be if we brought them into the classroom.  I've heard rumors here and there about colleges that are beginning to include iPads in the cost of tuition and making all of their textbooks digital but I have yet to personally see this in action.  I also read about Governor Scharwzenegger's Digital Textbook Initiative where he is trying to get paper-based books out of the classroom and digital in instead in order to solve California State's budget crisis.  There is a great article here about how the initiative is currently doing in some classrooms.

After doing the research about digital textbooks it seems as if the capability of digital textbooks to be interactive depends on not only the textbook but the reader one chooses to view the textbook on.  A digital textbook may include links to podcasts, blogs, games and other exciting resources but if the eReader doesn't have internet capabilities then those all go to waste.  The opposite is also true, if the eReader has internet or typing capabilities, but the digital textbook is exactly the same as the classroom paper-based textbook with no additional resources then it makes it more difficult to really interact with your digital textbook.

Here are what I found to be the pros and cons of digital textbooks:

  -Text-to-speech programs allow students to listen to the text as they read along
  -Features that allow for personalization such as text size, reading speed (of text-to-speech programs)
  -Students can take notes and use highlighter features right on the digital textbook, almost makes a paper-based notebook unnecessary
  -Cheaper than regular textbooks usually by between 30% & 50%
  -Students no longer have to lug backpacks full of books around. 
  -Some readers for digital textbooks can instantly get students connected to the internet to work with enhancing resources.
  -They are searchable.  Instead of using a glossary or table of content students can type what they are looking for into a search box it will automatically take them to the pages that the particular topic appears on.

  -Requires students to have computer and internet access at home or to own some sort of eReader.
  -Could widen the gaps between the poor and rich because wealthier districts can afford to purchase their students eReaders while poorer districts may not and thus they are not getting the same educational opportunities.
  -Can be more expensive in the long run because digital textbooks require some form of technology to read them.
  -Not all digital textbooks have interactive abilities.
  -They can be written in different electronic formats making a book impossible to read on certain eReaders.
 -More straining on one’s eyes and students may tire quicker reading their digital textbooks.
 -eReaders and computers require you to monitor their battery levels.  If your reader dies half way through class you no longer have your textbook to use.
 -Not all textbooks are available in digital form yet

Overall, I think that digital textbooks are a great idea but that we shouldn't get rid of paper-based books all together.  While I love the idea of a book that is interactive with instant dictionaries, notepads, and links, I love flipping through the pages of a real book or being able to show some one the chunk of a book that I read in one sitting.  You can't get the same feeling with digital books.  I have to say as well that I think digital textbooks would not be my top priority to get into the classroom for a little while longer until, hopefully, more books are available in digital form and they are available in more universal formats so that one textbook can be read on any type of reader.  However, I do see the really great potential of using interactive digital textbooks in the classroom.

Most of us have heard about the iPad, Nook, or Kindle, but how many of us have heard about "The Kno."  This is an eReader made with educators and students specifically in mind.  It is extremely interactive allowing students to take notes and highlight their books as well as have their book and a notepad open at the same time.  I've found some great YouTube videos here and here that are really informative as well as some videos that really demonstrate its capabilities here and the official video for it here (I really recommend this one!).  The Kno is currently unavailable to individuals looking to purchase them so that the company can first reach out to educators and students and be able to document their experiences with it, but hopefully as the one video states that they'll be available for purchase soon.  Also the Kno comes in two formats, one that looks more like a regular textbook with two tables and the other that is more newly developed is just one tablet, like the iPad.  After watching the video and reading up on the Kno I think that this type of reader is really what makes me want to use digital textbooks in the classroom because this allows for endless possibilities in the textbooks' interactivity with the user.  I really recommend checking it out for yourself and deciding what you think about the Kno and whether you'd like to see it used in your own classroom!

If you are interested in reading any of the articles I found on digital textbooks or the Kno please don't hesitate to ask, I didn't post all of them here because I didn't want my entire post to be swarming with links.

Have a great Tuesday everyone!


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  2. Jen,

    I really like your blog post on digital textbooks. Students in today’s classrooms are growing up in a digital world, and I think that digital textbooks can help create a rich learning environment. After reading your post, I realized that digital textbooks are not only environmentally friendly, but also more helpful for different learners. I think one of the greatest features of a digital textbook is the fact that it is interactive. Moreover, I think that it can really accommodate different students. For example, while reading a text, I always use my highlighters so that I can look back on different sections to gain meaning and understanding. Before I reached college, I was never allowed to highlight my books because they had to be reused by other students in different classes. I think the fact that students can take notes and highlight words in a digital textbook like The Kno is great! Students can interact with a book in their own way! I can definitely see myself using this technology in my own classroom, especially because it makes it easier for students to transition between classes. When I was teaching 5th grade, I constantly had to remind this one student to hurry up while he was at his locker. It literally took him over five minutes to go to his locker, take out his books, and come to class. It was the same routine all the time. In general, many of the kids struggled with the locker situation, especially after lunch. It was very time-consuming! I think that digital textbooks would help students manage their time better because they would have all their reading materials right there in one source.

  3. Ahh this is so cool. I read the article you posted about California's use of the iPad. As a math teacher, I was struck by the interactive component of the software. The article says students can "see problems step by step; they drag a finger down the page to reveal more steps." Especially for algebra, this could be a great tool for differentiation and helping students with those little mistakes that sometimes derail them when solving a problem.

    I also checked out the video on the Kno you recommended. It looks pretty cool. It will be interesting to see whether a mass-market device like the iPad or a specialized device like the Kno becomes more popular in schools. Thanks for doing the research and putting together this post. I learned a lot!


  4. Hi Jenny,

    Wow! I want a Kno! Imagine the possibilities....
    I wish I could get one now. You mentioned the iPad and Nook above. My wonderful husband gave me a Kindle for Valentine's Day. I love it! Here is a little video I made in response to your blog.


  5. Tawanna,

    I really think that digital textbooks are most useful when they are as interactive as possible. Like you I was not allowed to make notes or highlight my books in school because the following year's class would need to use them. If you did happen to make notes you usually had to pay a fee. Also, I agree that many schools do have internet access, but I've experienced that schools only have a class set inside their actual computer lab and in order to use it you must sign up or hope that no one is using it when your class wanted to use it. However, I do see this as being an obstacle that you can definitely overcome. I'm glad that you can think of a student that this technology would really help, as I said in my presentation, one of my biggest pros was that students would no longer have to rush back and forth from their lockers, instead they might not even have to go to their locker between classes.

  6. Tom,

    As someone who wants to teach math as well I definitely see the interactive qualities of digital textbooks as a plus. I like the fact that they can pull down to reveal more steps of the problem as well.

    I also wonder which device will become more popular in schools. Personally, because the iPad gets more media coverage and is known about more nationally I have a feel that will be the device that gets more attention even by schools. But I think that the Kno is more adapted for students and looks like it would be a great addition to the classroom. I think that the Kno is still in its beginning stages despite being on a second version, but it sounds like if you and your class are willing to have the company see and hear how you use it in the class you might even be able to get a great discount on a set.

    Overall I just think that the idea of digital textbooks is soo cool and recently when I was interviewing at the Rutgers Education Career Fair I actually found some schools that are beginning to implement them!

  7. Christine,

    Oh my I loved your YouTube video post for me! It was awesome, I love that since Professor Boling has talked to our class that I feel our classmates are getting more creative in their responses! Your video was such a fun thing to wake up and watch this morning!

    First, I really think that the text to speech on your kindle is awesome. This is actually one of the things that I was concerned about, because I know that when a computer reads text it sounds so much like a robot and can be so boring/the incorrect way to pronounce a word. For example, my boyfriend's gps recently decided to pronounce Lakeview Drive (prounced Lake view) as La (as in singing la la la) key (as in a key you open a door with) view. I was afraid that text to speech would actually not help students out, but your kindle shows that text to speech is getting less robotic. I think it would be really awesome if companies could somehow make the text to speech version the audio/books on tape version of the book. While I realize that would be extremely difficult to program, I think it would be awesome to have the text to speech be different authors/readers.

    Also, I loved that you were able to show me how you can change the font size! I never realized how big you can make the font (as I noticed there were still a handful of sizes bigger that you could've made the text after you made the text larger for me to see). I really think that this could help learners who have difficulty reading and even students who wear glasses. By changing the font size I feel like they will get tired less quickly and will be able to read more.

    Thanks for the great reply Christine! I really enjoyed it!