Teachers and students need textbooks to be useful and relevant. With the release of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in 2013, the Science Department at Chapman High School in Chapman, Kansas, wanted to find a way to incorporate the NGSS as well as the Common Core Standards into classroom curriculum. In the process, they discovered that the textbooks they were currently using no longer met the needs of their students and classroom. In this update from Future 2,000 Common Core, you’ll hear about how educators used eBooks to meet curriculum goals for Physical Science, Biology, and Chemistry and improve understanding of standards while improving the students’ access to resources and increasing their motivation.
How does eBook creation improve curriculum?
Chapman High School science educators led by Sara Cook explained that starting with a blank canvas enabled them to “include the essential curriculum that students need to know rather than having them sifting through unnecessary material.” They planned to integrate multimedia, virtual labs, student work samples, projects, activities, and more. eBooks would allow their curriculum to come alive in ways that would engage students more than normal textbooks do. They focused on featuring student work to increase the expectation for projects over time. “They will make studying and teaching more effective,” Cook stated, “most importantly, we have the ability to revise and edit the books to best meet the needs of their students.”
According to project report, the goal was to create a book that met “the individual learning needs of their students, and better incorporates the Common Core Standards as well as the Next Generation Science Standards.”
An additional goal was to produce a textbook that the students would be able to access at anytime that could be easily updated with a changing curriculum. By saving a .pdf copy of the iBook and uploading the iBook to a website, the students could have access to the book on any web-based device.
How did educators evolve their curriculum with eBooks?
Participating educators started the project with a professional development day to learn how to use iBooks Author, a free software created by Apple for eBook creation on the Mac or iPad. Throughout the year they scheduled 4 other professional development days to work on eBook creation. During the school year, they collected student work to be featured in the book for the next group of students. Sara Cook published the eBooks online for all students to access and to share the project progress, you can view them at:
Below are some screenshots from a few of the eBook offerings created by Future 2,000 Common Core.
What did they discover?
All of the iBooks, except one, were used with students over the course of the year. The students are enjoyed viewing and using the books on the iPad and Computers. Students liked having access to the book at home especially when they were absent from class. Also, students loved competing to become “published.” They seemed to be excited about their work being used as an example for future classes.
As far as teaching, the creation of the eBooks allowed the department time to become more familiar with both the NGSS and Common Core standards. They were able to find better videos, animations, labs, websites and other resources to meet the needs of the new standards. Cook stated, “We personally feel like we have a better understanding of strengths and weaknesses of our curriculum than we did last year at this time. Since our iBooks are Standards Based, this has also allowed us to start discussing the possibility of integrating Standards Based Grading into our Curriculum. This would allow us to better see what our students know and don’t know in relation to the NGSS. Most importantly, this grant has provided us with time to collaborate and develop content that can be used in our classroom, which directly benefits our students.”
What advice would they give to others?
The biggest challenge for this team was the time that it takes to complete the eBook. It was their hope that they would complete more curriculum during the first year of the project. After the first work session, they quickly realized this process would take many more hours than initially expected. eBook creation is a time-consuming process to obtain content and find media appropriate to make the books as interactive as possible. However, they do feel that the time they are spending is well justified if it helps them meet the needs of their students.
One area of improvement for next year will be to come to the work sessions with all content, pictures and other resources already saved into files on the computer and ready to place into the book. This would allow more time to be spent on implementation & editing instead of gathering content. They plan to continue with work sessions during the summer and through next school year.
From a budget perspective, the project team learned that there were subscriptions for interactive simulations and labs that they wanted to incorporate into the eBooks. They decided to consider that as an important item in the next year’s grant budget, as the funding was not available from their institution.
If you would like to useeBook creation as a way of improving your curriculum, we recommend the following resources.
- Build Your Own Textbook (Audrey Watters, Edutopia, 2011)
- How to Create Your Own Textbook With or Without Apple (KQED Mindshift, 2012)
- CK12 Standards Aligned Flexbooks (CK-12 Foundation, 2016)
- Students as eBook Authors (The Creative Educator, 2014)
- NeBooks Teacher Resource Center (Nebraska Department of Education)
- Reading and Teaching with eBooks (EdTechTeacher)