Tuesday, February 2, 2016

When will you be ready to give up paper?

Philadelphia's Christ Church "Vinegar" Bible
Face it. People seem to love paper. Especially paper books — there is something about the feel, the smell, and the tactile satisfaction of turning pages, that remains dear to many readers. In fact, our ongoing romance with paper may have somewhat slowed the move towards becoming “paperless.” Newsweek magazine tried it by changing to a digital-only edition at the end of 2012, yet, a print edition of Newsweek was relaunched on March 7, 2014. And, even though millions of Kindle e-readers have been sold (Forbes estimates roughly 43.7 million Kindle devices had been cumulatively sold through the end of 2013), GeekWire reports that sales of paper books are on the rebound, with sales increasing in 2014 by 2.4%.
An August, 2009, a New York Times article speculated that in 5 years, more students would be learning from digital texts and online resources in place of paper textbooks. At that time, teachers and district leaders in Arizona’s Vail Unified School district began the Beyond Textbooks initiative (http://beyondtextbooks.org), an online resource that has since grown to more than 100 partners in Arizona, California, Idaho, and Wyoming, with more than 12,000 teachers sharing their best lesson plans and online learning resources. The success of the Beyond Textbooks program was recognized at the ISTE 2014 conference in Atlanta, Georgia, when it received the “Digital Content and Curriculum AchievementAward.”
How might the Beyond Textbook model help other schools? The good news is that the digital divide seems to be narrowing as more students are connecting online using a variety of either personally- or school-owned digital devices. When coupled with the abundance of free or inexpensive cloud-based services, such as Google Apps for Education, or Microsoft One Drive, the age of being able to teach and learn in a truly paperless environment may have arrived.
As schools contemplate the idea of “going paperless,” education leaders must be thoughtful about whether adequate systems are in place that will help guarantee a successful transition. In addition to making sure the infrastructure will provide adequate bandwidth to support connectivity, are the staff and students ready to adopt a new way of thinking about “how we do our work?” For administrators, it’s important to model and promote a paperless workflow by making use of online surveys and forms, meeting agendas, shared calendars and collaborative note-taking.
For teachers, going paperless needs to be thought of as more than posting digitally-captured worksheets online. Learning tasks will need to be redesigned so that students are provided opportunities to create, collaborate and communicate in ways that take advantage of digital tools. Teachers may access a variety of free online classroom management services such as Edmodo, Schoology, or Google Classroom, in order to support instruction, collaboration, and the management of digital products. A variety of cloud-based and Web 2.0 services are available that provide students with the ability to create a online products or portfolios to demonstrate their learning, thus making it easy to “turn in” links to their published digital work.
Those of us who may have a habit of printing out online articles or email messages, should make an effort to embrace the idea of moving to cloud-based services such as Evernote or Google Drive. These services will not only store our documents, images, and media online, but they also provide powerful search tools that help us find and access our information from just about any device that can connect to the Internet. My personal favorite tool is Evernote which allows me to clip web articles, capture handwritten notes, snap photos, and record voice in my notes, plus giving me the ability to share and collaborate with others, even those who are not Evernote users.
Are you ready to take the plunge and "be" paperless?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Pages 5.2 update brings improvements to ePub creation

For those interested in creating ePub documents, there are some improvements to the process now available in the new Pages 5.2 update:

From: http://www.macworld.com/article/2140800/making-ebooks-in-pages-5-2-heres-what-works-now-and-what-still-doesnt.html

For example, you can now manually insert page breaks into an ebook by using Pages’s break tools, rather than having to use the template’s “Chapter Heading” template to do so.
But that’s not all: The Pages 5.2 update last week actually mentioned “improved ePub export” in its release notes, and added a few more fixes. That’s right: Not only did someone take the time to improve ePub export for Pages 5.0, but they seem to actively be working on making it better with future releases.
You (mostly) don’t need Apple’s four-year-old ebook template: Because the export recognizes page breaks and section breaks, you can use those along with custom text styles to create your ebook table of contents—you don’t have to download Apple’s template. That said, Pages takes a shortcut here with its text styling; if you look at the code of your resulting export, all text styles come out as various CSS classes for the paragraph tag.

As much as I love iBooks Author and the awesomeness of multi-touch ebooks, the ability to create a document that is "ePub 3" compliant, allows a wider audience beyond those possessing only iPad or Mavericks OS.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Paper Books vs. eBooks? Research prompts more questions...

Today's headline: "Students Reading E-Books Are Losing Out, Study Suggests" from this NYTimes article by Annie Murphy Paul, begins with the question "Could e-books actually get in the way of reading?"

One item to consider in evaluating the research presented by Schugar and Schugar at last week's American Educational Research Association's (AERA) Annual Meeting, is the definition of "e-Books." Access to digital text and e-Readers is quite varied across computing devices. For instance, some eBooks are actually "apps" — dedicated stories that often contain multi-media components, and are not viewed using an eReading device or dedicated eReader application.

Is it too soon to make judgement on the value of digital text over paper-based books? Based on the comments posted to the author in this article, I have more questions than answers — perhaps you will too.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Customized: Build Curriculum for any Mobile Device

Build curriculum for any mobile device, with a free online eBuilder from Digital Wish!

If you can drag-and-drop, you can build an eBook. In this Sept. 4, 2013 webinar hosted by the NMC Horizon Project, Digital Wish's Executive Director, Heather Chirtea demonstrates how to build digital eTextbooks, activities, and lesson plans with very simple drag-and-drop skills through a computer's browser. Digital content can be saved as an app that can be downloaded to any smartphone, tablet, Apple or Android device.

Teachers can sign up for a free eBuilder account at http://www.digitalwish.com/dw/digitalwish/ebuilder. Completed eBooks are hosted on a "Marketplace" channel within the eBuilder account.

Connected! Readmill redefines eBooks as Social Networks

The Future of Media Lab recently reviewed Readmill, an eReader app released late last year for both iOS and Android:
Readmill makes each and every book its own self-contained social network, allowing readers to discuss, share and review from inside of the e-book. If you find a passage you like, you can highlight it and comment on it right from within the book. Other users reading the book and even the author can see these comments and add their own thoughts, starting a discussion within the book, without ever having to leave it.
According to the Readmill.com website, however, it's noted that discussions are not limited to the app:
Highlight and comment on passages as you read, and share them with friends and followers. Every highlight can be viewed on the web (at Readmill.com), making it easy to start a discussion with other people, even if they are not using Readmill. 
Readmill supports ebook formats ePub, PDF and Adobe DRM, and books from stores such as Kobo and Feedbooks can be bought and brought into Readmill. The Readmill.com website will allow you to manage your library and store all of your books in the cloud for free. Readers are invited to join their community of readers and authors, and Readmill will periodically send emails recommending "books of interest," based on what is on your reading shelf.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Connected! "Reading with Others" using Subtext

I am happy to announce that we have arrived in the future -- and it is amazing!

"I want to be able to share my thoughts with my students, my friends, and my colleagues, and to hear their thoughts and ideas. Books of the future will be connected: connected to other books, connected to other users -- to see what others are highlighting, to see their notes -- in essence, reading with others." These words (from the "Books of the Future" video created at the 2010 Apple Distinguished Educators Summer Institute) expressed our dream, as educators, for what we described as books of the future.

During that summer of 2010, when we were dreaming about the future of digital text, the iPad was only a few months old. We were excited about the personalization the iPad offers readers using the iBooks app: changing font size and type, adjusting the background color, dynamically looking up dictionary definitions, text to speech, and the ability to create digital highlights and notes. E-mail provided the ability to share notes from the book, however, we dreamed of the possibility of reading becoming a social experience. Little did we know, that others had a similar dream.

Subtext logo
Our vision of a connected book has arrived -- it's name is Subtext!
Subtext is a free iPad app that allows classroom groups to exchange ideas in the pages of digital texts. Teachers use our tools to layer enrichment materials, lesson plans and assessments into the pages of texts; while students build a reading history and body of content with lifelong benefits. Subtext’s service extends the reading experience far beyond traditional books and aligns with the Common Core Standards across reading, writing and 21st century digital skills.
Teachers can access their Subtext accounts using a web browser, however, at this time, only to create and share digital assignments. And, although Subtext is an iPad only app, access from other devices and web browser Subtext reading, is under development.

Here's what teachers are saying about Subtext:

Watch the following video from the 2013 EdReach.us Summer PD series to learn how Subtext is being used by teachers in a variety of grade levels and subjects:


Getting Started with Subtext:

Friday, March 15, 2013

Is it time to break the Textbook habit?

From Education Week:
"Maybe now is the time to break the dependency on textbooks.

Breaking the Habit
There are numerous reasons why many schools believe it's time to break the textbook habit. Most schools have a variety of ways to meet the needs of students and those typically revolve around the use of technology. It's time for teachers to be treated like professionals again, and an over-reliance on textbooks makes the book the expert and not the teacher. If used at all anymore, the textbook should be a base and not be the driver behind the conversation or the information."