I realized at some point a month ago that I am creating a digital textbook for LA 7. I have been recycling content from my Literacy 8 digital text and adding (lots of) new curriculum and resources for the my upcoming classes. And here is the bottom line - it's not that hard!
First, what is the nature of my digital textbook? It is a flexible, editable, downloadable & printable (by page, by chapter, entire), online reflection of the entire course for the entire year. Because it is online, it is hyperlinked both internally and externally. Because it built using Aquamind's NoteShare, documents of any type (including web pages and RSS feeds) can be embedded and editing/content building/activities can be interactive (decided by the administrator, me).
This is NOT a digital core of curricular content for my students. There is no reason to do that, when all of the content is available either online or in print (in the library or my classroom) - and often in multiple media formats (video, audio, etext, mixed media, Kindle text, DVD, CD...). With some omissions, the overall text design looks like this:
To the left you can see some of the linked-to web resources and applications (I call these Threads), the laptop applications that will be used to support our classwork, and some of classroom texts and tools that we also use.
I have mounted the notebook on our NoteShare server, where I do all editing. NoteShare creates an automatic backup file of the (rather large) document.
This is not a text meant to be downloaded or printed - it is meant to be used by parents and students (and interested educators) as a "live" document, in and out of the classroom. For this reason, I have made it a web notebook (LA7MrsMac). I also use the NoteShare RSS tool to make a feed for my daily "What's Happening in Class" section, which operates like a blog to update parents and students about daily classwork completed. In our case, this means that I make entries at the end of every waterfall (every 5 core periods).
In making the book, I feel more like a curator of LA 7 than a teacher. That is what I find really interesting - teaching takes on a different light when choices are essential and options are many.
What are the advantages of using such a text, rather than any one of the classroom texts that are available to me? (I will post a picture of the vast text storage wall I have inherited)?
- It requires me to constantly review and revise coursework selections.
- I can record what I have done, instead of all of the planning for what I will do.
- It encourages me to alter and differentiate activities by Core, at times on the fly.
- It requires me to think deeply about the purpose and scope of every unit and lesson, honing ideas, readings and assignments carefully. When the notebook begins to fill up with minutia, I have gone off-track as a planner.
- It puts a much greater responsibility on the student learners, who must also make (scaffolded) choices and who must gradually direct their own inquiries into the texts.
- I can spend time communicating reasons and resources.
- I can interconnect lessons, terms, etc. with hyperlinking, removing the linear path of the traditional text.
- It goes without saying that this text saves paper.
- The interconnection of texts is "up front" for students - they see a list that is preselected for a connectivity that they must discover.
- Although I just thought of this, I think it will be easy to track the choices made by students (generally student groups, in my case).
- It is, or can be, interactive. Students will be able to insert, embed, and/or link to annotation, comment, discussion and projects. In light of some current research showing that online learning aces even F2F learning, this is a good thing.
It has taken me time to pull just the beginning of a text together for Language Arts 7. But that is time that I will not have to respend. I gain the beginning-of-the-year comfort that comes with knowing that there is a good, workable plan for the year - and I lose a little free time in rainy, muggy, Maine. Not a bad deal...