March 4, 2013

The Future of Textbooks

My department has 30 iPads that we're supposed to use.  I'm looking forward to doing some work on geogebra and with active prompt but I haven't found any apps that are really useful for high school math.  Today I spent some time considering books rather than apps.  A representative from Glencoe spoke with the department head recently and gave us trial log-ins for the online systems they have.  I played with it and finally found an "interactive" portion of the ebook (so far everything else, including all the examples, are exactly like the paper textbook we already have).  This problem, however, had a green circle around the number, which I correctly interpreted as "click me!"; I was rewarded with a video.  This was exciting because I've done this problem with my students and some have trouble deciding how the pieces will move- a video would let them watch the escalator in motion and they could follow a single step as it traveled.  My excitement was short lived.  Here's what I got:

10 seconds of the context and a static image.
By the time 40 seconds pass
the answers are already appearing!

Seriously?  This is a video?  Words and an image... More words appear...  More words appear...  More words appear...  Then the solutions start appearing before I even have a chance to realize I'm supposed to do something. If you can't make the escalator move then what's the point?  I'd much rather they let the kids control words appearing, especially the answers!  I don't understand how anyone thinks this is progress.

I did find an iBook series that is heading in the direction of what I'm imagining for textbooks on tablets.  iShortcut has embedded geogebra applets throughout, quizzes that students can take mid-unit (with an answer checker) and an overall clean design.  It lacks pedagogy, but for a mathematician/chess player it's impressive.  Maybe someone wants to work with him to get the questions and applets to appear before the definitions and theorems?  And feedback rather than just "incorrect" on the quizzes would be nice too.

There's potential for ebooks, but we're so not there yet.


  1. In many ways it reminds me of the early CD-ROM days where you would have media player installations every time you wanted to watch the demo for a particular concept and half the time they didn't load properly or would crash the software or your computer couldn't handle the video.

    If the future is destined to be e-books on tablets there needs to be a taking advantage of the power of the technology and not just be a scan of the paper version.

    One of the benefits to software that we are discovering at is that we can tell how long a student spends on individual problems, how long they are looking at a page and based on the wrong answers they give we can tell where the went wrong and exactly what concepts to represent.

    The whole point of intelligent learning is adaptability. If we are in the Web 2.0 age we should be looking to a Textbook 2.0.

  2. Have you taken a look at Their science books are good so I would imagine their math books are as well. The content is also editable and you can add in YouTube videos.