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Showing posts from March, 2011

iPads and Textbooks - and a battery backup

To me the idea digital textbook will most likely be a hybrid of the new pad devices and the e-ink readers. The iPad is a great device and able to run multiple ebook formats, it is highly intuitive in operation, and the touch color LCD display works great, but that said, at best you could get maybe a day's worth of battery life. The latest version of e-ink devices now runs for between two weeks and a month on a charge. So when students were just doing reading, taking notes from a book, etc, it would be better done with the low power option, and then switch to the more active display for other things. I just remember when I introduced a set of digital cameras for my students to use in my science class, even though I was using long lasting rechargeable batteries, I was amazed at how quickly students could drain them, often in just one class period. I think it is a great idea to start replacing textbooks with digital versions, such as could run on an iPad. For schools that are doing t…

ebooks and motivation

As a classroom teacher I used to use just about anything I could (within reason) to get my students motivated in what they were to be learning that day. From interesting stories, hands on labs, fun demonstrations, and stuff like that I would integrate them if they helped motivate my student in their learning. Once I had students who use to go off-roading on the weekends, so when teaching vectors, I didn't just show them in class, we went outside, got a sample truck, then using rope and two of the small girls from class, proceeded to use vector strategies to start pulling the truck, the students were amazed and then were motivated to learn how vectors worked. If technology can help motivate students to get into the practice and then love of reading, then use any and all technology available. I feel today that it was the books that I read as a child, that love of reading and reading as much as I could from books that I liked that enabled me to get to where I am today. Yes, for some …

Ebooks, Collections, and School Libraries

This sounds similar to a project that I had been working on with my own school's library. I love the idea of handing a student not just a single book, but a whole collection. I once attended a presentation done by another school who had done a similar project used audio books on iPods, you didn't just get one book, but a whole set. For ebook devices school libraries could create themed collections of books mixing in with the new books a whole set of public domain texts to that as the student used the ebook device to read that one that they wanted, they could also be exposed to other literature that they may not have seen before or that the library doesn't' have as a hard copy. For example, you could purchase the new movie tie-in for the latest of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean movie, and then add to the device other public domain ebooks such as Swiss Family Robinson, Treasure Island, and Captain Blood. Or think about having the whole collection of a series on a …

Educational Assistive Technology

Here is a news article that is about something that I has always been saying (along with a number of others), the use of assistive technology not only helps those persons with disabilities, it can help just about anyone. The difference is usually the difference in making something possible and easier. But in other ways, the assistive technologies may be improving learning my adapting the instructional materials for a learning style or situation. eBooks can be so much more accommodating that printed text, with their ability to adjust font size and use text-to-speech as two examples. For those of us who need glasses to read, the font size adjustment is certainly a big help. But also research has reported that increasing the font size a couple of times also decreases reading errors for students (along with making the text appear easier to read [less intimidating] it actually is easier). So too with text-to-speech, students can listen while they read, thereby reading in multi-modalities, …

Book Lending

I think that this is an exciting time in the area books, yes there can be contention, but it is exciting none the less. On one hand we have Harper Collins restricting the number of times a book can be loaned, bringing  up the question of who owns the ebook file. On the other had we have organizations like eBook Fling, which is pushing the boundaries of what it means to be a library. There has always before been book sharing. I would read something and then lend it to a friend to read, or a student (and hope that I would get it back), and in the last condo that I lived at there was a small lending collection in the club house that anyone could take and give back to. Technology though has drastically improved the situation in many respects. Initially one of the complaints/issues with DRM and ebooks was the inability to share, now that that has been fixed, we are in essence seeing people create libraries all over the place, the technology has dropped the overall price to the extent that …

E-Textbooks

The question of ebooks as textbooks keeps coming up, along with questions of why are they not common yet. There are a number of factors that I see in the delay. First and foremost, at the college level, textbooks are chosen by the professor of record, and unless they are more ebook savvy, they will most likely be doing what they have done before and going with what they know. Why might they not know about ebooks and open source options, it could be that no one told them. A common way for instructors to find out about texts is a book representative shows up and helps explain the texts that they have for their class, there isn't usually anyone doing the same for opensource textbooks. Some of this may change quickly though, as both Florida's and Texas' Departments of Education have proposed changing to all digital texts by 2013-2015. If PK-12 schools do change to a fully digital format, then students showing up to colleges will have more of an expectation and experience skill…

Digital Interactive Dictionaries

I have often read how we learn the meaning of words when reading though context, and that is a great thing. But often the new word's context can not even be understood or I often feel that language drift has cause the speaking and writing patterns to change over time that the words used and their meanings may have changed. Yes, of course we should look things up in the dictionary to find out what that new word means, but perhaps we are right in the middle of an exciting passage and we just don't want to stop right now, or we don't have a dictionary with us (or there just isn't a dictionary around right now - if you look in the modern office you will most likely not find one). I feel that a big part of the regular dictionary use is the actual process that occurs in the room while reading: you read the new word, now you have to stop reading, remember the word, walk across the room, look up the word, read the defined word, remember all the definitions, go back to the de…

Accommodating

One of the things that I love about ebooks is how accommodating they can be. In this case it is a factor of the teachers working ahead of time to pre-accommodate the texts that will be read, by providing clues and such to the texts. We often do this with printed works also, but those actions taken often "harm" the text as we have had to use highlighters, or have written on the text to add underlines and notes. The great thing about the ebook file is that when you do this for one you can distribute it to as many as you need.
E-readers help customize lessons for Ohio students
Educators at one Ohio school say Kindle e-readers are fostering individualized learning. The devices allow reading assignments and lessons to be customized for each student, with highlighted sections and relevant definitions at the ready. "The biggest advantage of the Kindles is the ability for teachers to leave notes within the text. The Kindle will also read the book aloud and enlarge the font,"…

Engagement

Technology in and of itself is never the answer, instead I have usually found it to be about interaction and engagement with the content and the tools of learning. Yes, there may be some initial technology attraction that can help you push though the cognitive overload of learning with a new tool, but in the long run it is usually what you do in the learning that can really help. Here is where I think that ebook devices have the advantage over printed text, just that you can do things like interact with your textbook to highlight, bookmark, and take virtual "margin notes" (all things that you are not allowed to do with a school book).

Educator: Classroom technology should be about student engagement
The key reason to implement such technology as the iPad and iPod Touch in the classroom is student engagement, says Patrick McGee, the assistant principal of a Florida school. He says the technology can be used to increase productivity or involve students in activities that were u…

MS Office 10

I got a new version of Office during a computer reset in my office and went right to using it. It was going along fine, till I wanted to use the Executive Summary tool to analyze some text and couldn't find the tool. In checking online, indeed it is to no longer be included with Office. This to me is an accessibility issue in development. As an educator when I have a student with special needs one of the first things that I try to do is get the textbook being used in a digital format. With digital there are many things that can be done, such as varying the print size to using text-to-speech. One thing that I have often also done is to use the summary tool to create differentiated versions of the text, from the basic facts summary, to summary and detail, to the whole chapter. Being able to quickly get a summary of a chapter is a great learning tool. I've contacted Microsoft to ask why it was removed and to see if there will be some way to have it as an add-on, but as yet have …

World Reader

Here is an organization that I think is taking a great leap forward in the development of students. I often hear as I talk about ebooks people saying, "what about the students who don't have ereaders or computers at home?" In this they are saying shouldn't we wait till everyone has a device before starting. To that I usually reply with something like, "if someone shows up to class without a pencil does that mean that no one writes?" This organization though wants to "put a library of books in the hands of families worldwide, using e-reader technology." This process reminds me of the ways that cellphones took over land lines. As a child I lived in Italy and then there was a five year waiting list to get a phone line added, we instead had to use common/shared phones. When we came back the the US there was no problem getting a phone, so that is what we did. But that backlog and problems of getting a phone line actually helped jump-start cell phone u…