Saturday, January 23, 2016

Designing a digital textbook: Things to consider

#ebookevo #wk2ebookdiscussion question (with eTextbook Teachers)...
How do you believe digital textbooks should be designed to best match learners’ needs?
Digital textbooks should be designed to meet learners’ needs, interests, and learning preferences. Learners’ needs typically are based on age, academic level, and future aspirations. Their needs might relate to curricular objectives but could also be personal or specific to the individual. Their interests are linked to their sociocultural background and should also be taken into consideration, and their learning preferences will depend more on past experiences with technology and materials in general, types of communication appropriate for the course (synchronous vs. asynchronous), and learning theories. I tend to avoid the term “learning styles” and prefer to think in terms of the engagement value that bridges content with learners.

Having said that, the content of the textbook and how it ultimately becomes published matters. Depending on the profile of the group, content might be created, curated, collected, etc. by the instructor and/or the learners themselves. The delivery of content might be static as in the case of a traditional book, or more dynamic such as a book that promotes interaction. Books might be more suitable for mobile technologies that afford quicker access to content. Much will depend on the purpose of having learners use the book. Is it just for a grade, or will it serve some future purpose?

The best way to find out how to know whether a digital textbook meets the needs of the learner…is just to ask them! Just as we might do a needs analysis when beginning a course, we might do a “needs analysis” before considering writing a textbook (and during and after as well)? The following questions come to mind:

  • Would a textbook be a valuable source for achieving course objectives?
  • Would a textbook be a valuable source for achieving individual objectives that differ from curricular objectives for this course?
  • Should the instructor create all of the content for this textbook or should learners contribute as well?
  • How would a textbook best serve learners’ needs: in print form, ebook for Kindle or iPad, published online, accessible on mobile devices, etc.?
  • When would you use a textbook for this course?
  • Why would a textbook be valuable for this course?
  • Etc.
Now, a student just beginning a course might not have the insight to adequately address all of these questions, but to understand how a textbook meets the needs of the learner, these or similar questions need to be addressed throughout the course and continually thereafter as one plans and begins drafting such a course textbook. This ongoing feedback from learners would also help to draft future editions of the book as well.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

#ebookEVO Chat response (Jan. 8, 2016)

The following questions were asked yesterday via #ebookEVO chat...
Q1: What current problems or limits do you encounter teaching with your textbook?
I do not use one textbook when teaching, so I cannot really comment on this.  If there was a particular textbook, I would work hard not to use it as the "syllabus".  So, my goal is to begin a textbook with the realization that it will not be used as the syllabus for any particular course.
Q2: Why should teachers consider creating digital textbooks for their learners?
 As mobile learning become more ubiquitous, digital textbooks become a logical transition from the physical textbook.  Also, the term digital textbook should not be limited to a fixed artifact...for instance, a wiki could be used to host a digital textbook that is continually being updated.
Q3: What are possible obstacles faced when creating and publishing digital materials?
 Copyright and the degree materials are open to the general public.
Q4: What questions & fears do you have about creating a digital textbook?
 What are the best tools and processes for creating an attractive-looking textbook?
Q5: What questions & fears do you have about learning online in or a #MOOC?
Q6: What tips do you have for learning online in a 5 week session like #ebookEVO?
 Don't feel overwhelmed by the amount of content and discussions that emerge over this short, five week period.  Connect with individuals and content as time permits based on one's needs, wants, and learning preferences. Also, get involved in the conversations by offering opinions, regardless of your experience level.  Active learning over passive learning I always say.

UAA Bilingual Education Feed

Monday, December 21, 2015

As an EFL/ESL educator, what issues do you face?

A five-day academic writing workshop starts January 11, 2016!

A five-day workshop begins January 11, 2016, and will be conducted face to face via this wiki.  The through-line question that underpins the pedagogical aspects of teaching and learning academic writing is as follows:

As an EFL/ESL educator, what issues do you face?

Participants of this workshop will be asked to develop a thesis around this essential question as they develop an argument with supporting claims and logical reasoning patterns. Join us!

Navigation: Day 1>Day 2>Day 3>Day 4>Day 5

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Going Gradeless vs. Formative and Summative Assessment

I came across Edchat Interactive (#edchat) and the Starr Sackstein Edchat Interactive webinar where Sackstein shared many great ideas about the importance of formative assessment in formal educational contexts. I certainly agree with the various ways formative assessment allows learners to take ownership of the learning process.  Clearly, formative assessment (over summative assessment) should be the main focus when providing the kinds of feedback that allow students to transform into more competent individuals. But after having watched the webinar - which touched on topics few would disagree with (and not having read Hacking Assessment: 10 Ways to Go Gradeless in a Traditional Grades School) - I felt there was a missed opportunity to touch on more issue-based (or practical based) concepts that stem from the title of her book.

What grabbed my attention before having watched the webinar was the part of the book title, 10 Ways to go Gradeless in a Traditional Grades School.  So, going into the webinar, I expected to hear about how summative assessment (via grades) would not be used at all. I quickly learned while watching the webinar that grades were in fact used in her classes by having students grade themselves.  Also, at 42:25, she says she, "...hates to teach to the test", which is really a false argument against a thesis that grades should not be used in class at all.  In other words, tests can be useful in class without teaching to the test, aka dynamic assessment. Regardless, I get the impression that Sackstein is currently using summative assessment in class in the form of student self assessments and perhaps a final test at the end of the course?  If this is true, then this would seem to be counter to the book's thesis, going gradeless... 

The would have been interesting to hear Sackstein's perspective on the following questions:
  • How does she and each of her students negotiate the final grade for the course?
  • How does she resolve any differences in opinion between her and a student when negotiating the final grade for the course?
  • Are individual assignments, products, projects, etc. negotiated as well?  Do they receive a grade for each of these or just a final grade at the end of the course?
  • Is she really going gradeless if students are giving themselves a grade?
  • Does peer assessment play any role in the overall assessment approach?
  • How does she reconcile aligning assessments with both course goals and individual goals students set for themselves (assuming students set goals for themselves)?
  • What role does technology play in how assessment emerges both in and outside of class?
Again, the topics Sackstein bring up in the webinar are timely and relevant to today's standard-based testing environment, but I couldn't quite connect the dots between the book title and the webinar. And, I also felt that she was for the most part, preaching to the choir. A (future) webinar on the above questions, taking on a more practical discussion, would be helpful is better understanding the important relationship between formative and summative assessment in formal education.