Getting Ready for eBooks

Getting Ready for eBooks

One of the roles of a tech integration specialist to is to explore new technologies and how they might play a role in education.  When I started in this field it was how to use word, excel, powerpoint, and video.  We talked about how to share work with each other by passing around floppy disks. We could create web pages but nothing was download and upload-able.

A mere 10 years later I help teachers sort through the overwhelming number of options.  The tools to create content are too numbers to list.  You can’t  find a computer that can read a floppy disk.  We share content in course management systems, wikis, blogs, dropbox and pass around the flash drive.  We can upload and download almost anything.  More then ever we need to consider what type of device the content will be accessed; computer, phone, iPod, iPad or eReader.

This brings me to the question, what format(s) should teachers use when making documents available to students?  The goal is to provide a format accessible to most students.  My first thought would be .doc and pdf.  But students are tending to use more mobile devices that full fledged computers.  Textbooks in eBook format are still in development and not yet in K-12 education, but they are on the way.  Should teachers begin to share their documents in an eBook ready format such as ePub or MOBI?  PDFs can be read by most readers but since it is an image of the document font size can not be changed and it may be a challenge to read. ePub and Mobi are more widely acceptable and ePub on some devices can be an interactive document with links and embed video.

I need to experiment a while and will practice creating documents in a variety of formats to find the right tools for creating eBook formats.  I also need to practice getting the files on to a variety of devices.  As a tech integration specialist you need to plan ahead and also model how the tools can be used.  I’ll start by updating many of my teaching documents into multiple formats and make them available for download.

What formats to you use when sharing with students or fellow teachers?
What formats do you think you will be using in the next 5 years?

16 thoughts on “Getting Ready for eBooks

  1. The key is your statement, “The goal is to provide a format accessible to most students.” The format which currently provides the most accessibility is the epub format. The main reason is its open nature. Second would be pdf for most of the same reasons. Otherwise, any format which in routine use doesn’t really qualify. Open comes first. A popular format, when linked tightly with vendor buy-in is not the way to go. “Accessible” is the key term. If one must buy particular brands to get access, then the game is lost.

  2. Good post… it has prodded me off the complacency of providing pdfs to explore what methods will really make information available. Time to explore epub and mobi. Thanks!

  3. I am always fascinated by the way technology continues to evolve. Currently, I use .doc or pdf to share documents with my students. I am fortunate to have laptops for every student in my fifth grade class and I use them almost on a daily basis. It took us a while to get these laptops through a grant that was written. Even though I am happy to have them, I wish now we were able to get ipads. It is apparent that I need to explore more with epub and mobi especially if it is a better way for students to access information. I believe with all the constant changes in technology, that we need to stay on top so when students begin to get access to them we may be ahead of them instead of the other way around.

  4. If innovative technology is going to have its place in our classrooms, we must find ways of better educating our students with technology terms and various methods of saving materials. Outside of saving a word or power point document onto the hard drive or a flash drive, my students are lost. Otherwise, my students can open up files and save them, but only with my guidance. As for the type of file, my concern is that if we are not consistent, files may not be able to be opened when needed. I agree with Algot, “Accessible” is the key term. An Epub sounds like it would be a flexible way of adding material, but again, do most schools have this savvy technology?

  5. Wow! About the only thing that was not foreign to me was the mention of doc and pdf files. While I am not stuck in the past with the era of floppy disk; I am struggling to keep myself educated with all the new technology available for classroom use. Making discussions such as such as this one all the more important.

    Although I am not familiar with the epub or MOBI I can say that you are on the right track by focusing on the “accessibility” of the format you choose. However, I think it’s important to note that it should also be accessible to teachers as well. If the goal is to get us teachers armed to teach the digitally wired children of today then when considering new technologies we must make sure that we choose technology that will be relatively easy to learn by both students and teachers. Otherwise you end up with teacher resistance.

  6. Algot,
    I too think a format that is open is better, being tied to a vendor can lead to being tied to a device. The industry is changing very quickly and so many new access devices are popping up. Trying to prepare for the future regarding needed infrastructure, content, applications, and training is like gazing into crystal ball.

  7. Shannon,

    It really is about the exploration. As Educators we tend to stick with what is working. A good policy in general, but around technology what might be working for me as a teacher may not be working for my students. I think we need to keep an eye to what is happening in our students world, we need to adapting to their needs and not the other way around.

  8. Kim,
    I am a bit envious of your one to one situation. We have been thinking about what tools is best for a one to one: Laptops, iPads, netbooks or a new tablet like the HP tablet 500. I think as schools we have to first think about what we want students to be able to do with the tools and see which tools meet those needs. Next we need to focus on the total cost of ownership and see how much it takes to use them effectively regarding Maintenance, applications and training support. The focus needs to be on the learning and effectiveness and not the ‘cool’ factor. We also need to realize in this ever changing tech landscape that we can never be caught up. We must be satisfied that we made the best choice at the time with what was available.

  9. Joliver,

    It is not just making students aware of file formats and ways to save and access files but staff as well. It is a recurring request to help someone open a document or find one when they cannot remember where it was saved. It is true many schools do not have the need for epub nor the tech yet, planning for it is essential. In my role at Tech Integration Specialist I need to support staff and student with what we have now. But I also need to start laying the ground work for where we are headed. I need to slip in the new vocabulary, demo once in while how they can create documents in different formats. Continue to talk about universal design and accessibility. If the ground work is laid out and a plan is set then adapting to change becomes less frustrating and more a natural progression.

  10. Carrisa,

    You point that we must “choose technology that will be relatively easy to learn by both students and teachers” is essential. As I noted to Joliver and Kim when considering new tools or ways of doing things you need to consider the total cost of ownership and that includes training and support as well as buy in. If people do not find it usable or needed it is never going to be used to its potential.

  11. Beth,
    I agree 100%! There is so much technology at our fingertips as teachers, but finding the perfect one to utilize in our classroom is the key. My son has an iPod touch and received an iPad for Christmas. Both of the tools would be wonderful to have in the classroom, but if I had to choose between my class set of laptops and the iPod or iPad Touch, I would have to stick with my laptops for now. It may be because I am more comfortable with them or because the skills I need for my students to master is found using the laptops. However, if given the opportunity I would love to have one of the devices, iPod or iPad. Technology is changing so fast that it is almost difficult to keep up with.

  12. Beth, what advice can you give for teachers to keep up with new and advancing technologies? Schools that are “technology underfunded” need to find creative ways to enrich their students with inexpensive means. Thanks!

  13. Joliver,

    I believe one of the best ways for teachers to keep up with new technologies is to attend the state educational technology conference. I find most teachers believe these conferences are for ‘techies’ but it is a great way to see what tools are out there and to talk to educators about how they implement technology and work around financial constraints. In Mass, the our local conference is MassCUE. The conversations can be very enlightening. Another way is to participate in a professional network where educators can talk with each other about how they implement technology. I have learned more from my network then I ever have in school.

  14. Beth,
    You are absolutely right! People, especially veteran teachers have to find the available technology “useable” or else it will become useless to them. I think another thing that teachers who are new to all this technology have to remember is that we can’t be afraid to try. Technology can be a bit intimidating, especially if you are not comfortable using it but as a peer of mine reminded me…sometimes the best way to learn is to jump in. After all, that’s how many of our children learn to use the technology available to today. Through free exploration…so why should we let not knowing exactly how something works stop us.

  15. By me being an educator, you can make modifications, such as most non-modifiable documents that are created in pdf which is a file as we know that has the advantage of maintaining all the formatting of the original document. You can also find many templates for forms, documents, letters, and classroom visual aids somewhere in either a word processing document or as I stated earlier in a pdf form.

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