Discovery Education Part Duex: Beyond the Textbook Continues.

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Instead of making you watch a projector slideshow of my trip to Washington (old school reference), I thought I would just share my thoughts about my experience at Discovery Headquarters.Discovery Education.

First, I love a free trip.  I’m not sure which I love more – the free or the trip.  Combine them and I’m in heaven (if you are reading this and in charge of giving away free trips, please keep me in mind).

If you recall and I’m almost positive you don’t, I was invited by Discovery about this time last year to take part in a forum on digital textbooks (I’m told it’s the wave of the future).

The way this works is Discovery pays your expenses for two days and then they own you.  Sort of like a college athletic scholarship except there aren’t coaches from Discovery screaming at you.

Discovery flies or trains you in, provides a hotel room, feeds you, and then asks a lot of questions.

Their purpose is to learn the thoughts and ideas of people who may one day implement digital textbooks (or techbooks) in their school districts.

My purpose was to be helpful but most of all to learn something.

This is harder than it sounds.  Think about all the workshops, webinars, speeches, curriculum groups, etc. we’ve all sat through.  More times than not we all leave these experiences dumber and angrier than when we walked in.

Going to Discovery is just the opposite of this type of experience.  These people are so happy with their jobs  it’s almost creepy.

It is hard to be around them and not take something positive away from the experience

When the forum was over, I felt much smarter.  I’m sure I’m not, but the feeling is nice.

I would like to feel taller, but that’s a different blog.

Participating in an event like this at Discovery is fun for several reasons.  The biggest for me is I’m not in charge.  And it’s nice to be part of a group where you don’t hold any responsibility (other than being there on time and eating Georgetown Cupcakes).

It’s also nice to be asked questions instead of being the one asking.  Plus, anytime you find yourself in a situation where everyone else in the room is smarter, you should take advantage of it.

For two days, we were quizzed by the good folks of Discovery Education on a variety of topics.  The main one being what a digital math techbook should look like.

I’m often asked my thoughts about buying textbooks, but no one has ever asked me to help design a very preliminary version of one.

I guess I can check this task off my bucket list.

When Discovery comes out with their Math Techbook, I’m sure I won’t recognize it.  It will likely not look anything like the one our group came up with, but that’s okay.

We were there when they started.  And that’s pretty cool.

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20 Responses to “Discovery Education Part Duex: Beyond the Textbook Continues.”

  1. Sheryl Lawless
    on Apr 7th, 2013
    @ 8:37 am

    Mike…glad to see that you are back posting on the website…always enjoy your insights into education and life!!!

  2. Barbara Warren Madden
    on Apr 7th, 2013
    @ 8:38 am

    Techbook. Love it! Perfect word for a great tool. :)

    Michael Smith Reply:

    @Barbara Warren Madden, It is the perfect word.

    Well done, suits at Discovery Education.

  3. Response to: Discovery Education Part Duex: Beyond the Textbook Continues. | Educational Technology Leadership - Policy, Planning & Practice
    on Apr 7th, 2013
    @ 11:49 am

    [...] Response to .The Principal’s Page, Supt. Mike Smith [...]

  4. Gordon Dahlby (@gdahlby)
    on Apr 7th, 2013
    @ 11:50 am

    It was a pleasure to meet and learn from you, Mike. I am still processing the event. One path of thinking is to focus on “Beyond” and think of it as the call to supplement and not supplant the textbook. I don’t think I took that angle of consideration during the event.

    A larger question of the purpose of a “textbook” considering the current, or more likely next, generation of connected mobile devices is yet to form. I challenged Iowans on my return to think of an always connected “Living” book that is perpetually updated, social in construct, and presents multiple paths to learning about and expanding on a topic. Caught in a not 100% connected truth, my guests had a hard time visioning about what they want by the time our 2014 Kindergarten class is likely to graduate using by middle grades in 2021 or even by high school. I am not imagining the status quo for another generation. I cannot imaging a “textbook” without some ability to “intelligently” help students learn and explore; to experiment and contemplate; to hear multiple voices and explanations; to learn of generations past in all parts of the globe represented equally in their resources without prejudice. These connected-textbooks assist the learner and the teacher reducing the curation burden and perpetual testing of cloud resources for validity and stamina. Why not integrate Siri-style natural language questioning into a living-book, for example?

    Still tumbling through the past, present and possible futures. An exciting time for education, indeed.
    Cross posted:

  5. Michelle Howell-Martin
    on Apr 8th, 2013
    @ 2:58 pm

    Sounds like it was a lot of fun! Glad you got to go!

  6. Pete Post
    on Apr 17th, 2013
    @ 7:47 pm

    Superintendent Michael,
    I am back with another group of my Trinity Christian College folk – but beware – these are certified teachers in our brand, spanking (although we never teach corporal punishment) new masters program in special education. This is also a blended course so we are moving into online education. So many changes…so many things to learn. But nice to be appreciated as a teacher and we need to take advantage of programs such as the one you detailed here.
    I fondly remember going to a demonstration of the CEPUP science program and then being given a complete kit to use with my SPED students – where I fell in love with the uses of the universal indicator. I could visually tell in a moment if the student had properly followed the procedure (very important when dealing with chemicals).
    And then there was the “We The People” program sponsored by the Center for Civic Education. They put a group of teachers up at a college for a week, taught us how to run the program and then GAVE us the textbooks. All we had to do was promise to have an event on the Constitution – for which I ended up taking my high school students with special needs as coached by local college students to debate on which branch of the federal government had the most power. And when I asked the mayor of Palos Heights if we could conduct our debate at city hall – he readily agreed and my students proudly recited their arguments behind the fancy mikes used by the alderman (and were even taped for cable tv).
    Wonderful memories – glad to visit your blog once again – and my class will follow. Dr. (as of last November) Pete Post

  7. Katie
    on Apr 20th, 2013
    @ 2:05 pm

    I think the idea of digital textbooks sounds wonderful! Text books are rarely used in the classroom because they do not meet the needs of all students. Teachers continually supplement the textbooks with materials that will actually reach the multiple intelligences of their students. I also find Gordon’s idea of a living textbook to be extremely interesting. The possibilities would be endless if something such as a living textbook was created. In the meantime, I am very hopeful that techbooks will be something that we start seeing sooner than later!

  8. april grant
    on Apr 21st, 2013
    @ 11:27 am

    I am a student of Dr. Post’s “spanking new SPED masters program”. Textbooks in the digital format will be required at my daughter’s school next year. They are weaning from traditional texts this year and requiring the kids to get Ipads. This really opens up a can of worms. The financial constraint is a major factor. Where as the cost of her textbooks can run $500 upwards each year, the digital format may rival this amount. That’s just one kid in high school now, what about families that have multiple children in school? In the public school arena where is the money coming from for this expensive technilogical move? On the flipside this digital format can allow for text accessiblity for all levels of students in the same class.

    Michael Smith Reply:

    @april grant, The only downside I can see is – financial for some families.

  9. Michele Kintz
    on Apr 22nd, 2013
    @ 1:59 pm

    This assignment from Dr. Post is irony at its best! My crazy librarian decided to collect our textbooks last week, with 6 weeks of school left! I have signed up to use the free trial of the Discovery Techbook to finish my unit on Newton’s Laws with my students. I love the idea! Of course, being a science teacher having anything that helps to save the environment works for me… Less books, less trees down! I found the resource to be as informative as the text resource I usually utilize. In addition, it offered aditional labs for my children to perform. I am very excited to start using it and look forward to having this kind of accessibilty in my classroom. That way, the days of, “I left it in my locker” can be over!

    Michael Smith Reply:

    @Michele Kintz, Librarians should NEVER be allowed to do this.

  10. Dan Matt
    on Apr 22nd, 2013
    @ 2:57 pm

    I think this is an interesting topic. I see both sides of the argument daily. At this point my district has access to some new technology (though no digital textbooks), but it is up to individual teachers to decide if they would like to use it. It seems some people jump at the opportunity and others avoid it at all costs. I have no problems with technology in the classroom, and I think as we continue to develop and expand our resources it is vital that we incorproate new technology into our lessons. Education should be leading the charge with technolgy, not fighting it off. As far as digitial textbooks go, I can’t speak too much about them as I have not had any experience with them in the classroom. Yet, I am all for trying new things and working with our students and technology.
    However, we need to remember that just because we have a fancy new way of doing a lesson, that does not mean the teacher can stop planning and adapting things. Using technology as a resource is great, but it should remain a resource and the teacher should still be working to meet individual needs.

  11. Barb Wolterink
    on Apr 22nd, 2013
    @ 10:01 pm

    I also think this is an interesting topic and have absolutely no experience with digital textbooks as I am a preschool teacher. There seem to be endless resources connected with them, but it’s also sad to think that someday the traditional textbooks may be obsolete. I like the idea of saving tons of paper though. It would also be a wonderful benefit not to have to wait for new yearly revisions. When I questioned my computer savvy college-age son about digital textbooks, he replied that he prefers textbooks because it’s easier and faster to find the information he’s looking for. I’ve also wondered about eyestrain with digital textbooks.

    Michael Smith Reply:

    @Barb Wolterink, I often find progress a little bit sad. :(

  12. Vince Lucca
    on Apr 24th, 2013
    @ 8:25 am

    Digital text books are great but not realistic for everyone. Given the current financial constraints that many school districts are facing (including mine: Chicago Public Schools), the disparity between rich and poor schools will only get larger. Many affluent areas are already using digital texts and benefiting from them and their capabilities. These are also the schools that have greater resources for their children. On the other hand, poorer areas struggle to get their basic needs filled. For example, I am using a textbook in my English class copyrighted from 1982, just two years after I was born. Until the financial inequities are solved, the well off will continue to adapt to the times while others continue to try and get by (kind of sounds a lot like how are country is right now…).

  13. Paula Parker
    on Apr 24th, 2013
    @ 12:32 pm

    As many have commented on the ups & downs on this issue, I can relate to Vince’s comment as a daily process☹. I work at a CPS charter school and I do not have one complete set of books (in particular science) and no social studies books. So, I have two different grade levels combine to teach various units in science and have to go to this online program called “Study Island” to supplement for various lessons to teach social studies. How said☹ I do find that Study Island is a great tool to use, however not in place of hard cover books or digital books. I am interested in this new era of technology in the classroom with books however I am very much still all for tangible books, if the book are differentiated in various tiers. For example, the math book I use now (Go Math) is differentiated and is broken up into various tiers so that I can address various needs in the classroom is a great tool. I love it!

  14. Dennis Brumirski
    on Apr 25th, 2013
    @ 2:32 pm

    So many interesting thoughts on this subject…

    I am another member of the brand “spanking” new grad school program at Trinity. I spend my days as an intervention teacher in a high school specifically doing tier two interventions in reading and grammar day after day. Here’s the thing, I’ve noticed two things about textbooks:

    1.) though we all (teens included) probably still benefit at times from having an actual book in our hands, when will we be willing to admit that we might be better off using the devices that students feel most comfortable with to educate them. At what point is the attention spand of today’s student dependant on interactivity, and is this a good or a bad thing.

    2.) I hate textbooks. How can a college sell a book for 150 dollars that amazon sells for 40. Where does that money go? What does it fund. It just seems like this is another example of how our society needlessly spends, and in this instance we are spending on objects which will become obsolete not only in their form, but in ther content as well.

    That being said – my house is full of books. Go figure.

  15. Bill Scott
    on May 8th, 2013
    @ 5:14 pm

    I am another member of the “spanking new SPED masters program” and I can say that we are already using these digital textbooks in our school for many of the classes that are being taught. The only problem is that there are not enough places in the school for the students to access the books online and in turn we use a classroom set of textbooks, that are supposed to stay in the class, of the online book.
    There are two problems that I can see with using these books:
    1. It is technology and with technology comes problems. We have had numerous problems where the website where the book is at was done for a couple of days. This has happened on more than one occasion. This really screws your class up when students are supposed to be working from their textbook at home and have no access to the book.
    2. Most of the students think it really is a pain to use the online book and they would rather have the print copy to use. This is when the classroom set starts to disappear and then we are up the creek when I want to use the books in class as well.
    So as great of an idea as the techbook is, there are still many kinks that have to be worked out before it should be a pliable alternative to the physical texts that we have traditionally used.

  16. Laura Ridgley
    on May 11th, 2013
    @ 11:05 pm

    I too am a student of Dr. Post. I am a middle school teacher, our school got a technology grant and used it for iPads (only one per classroom). I have books and educational apps on it for my class to use. They love it! They are very motivated to read or work on skills when they are aloud to use the IPad. I realize it is a novelty and novelty wears off but these kids are digital natives and digital textbook speak their language. I also like the fact that they can be updated with the most current information. I think it would be a great investment. I understand they are working on digital textbooks whose content can be leveled up or down like a volume knob allowing students to read at their own individual level. Now that will be awesome! I may be somewhat technically challenged myself but I believe it is the wave of the future and I embrace it.

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