eBooks could help fulfill new standards’ requirements

eBooks-Common As schools begin implementing the Common Core State Standards, experts say that this could be an opportune time for districts to explore eBooks, specifically because eBooks’ technology features can help fulfill many Common Core requirements.

“Right now, schools are investing in a lot of information texts (nonfiction) and hoping to balance these with literacy texts (fiction) for instruction, research, and recreational reading. It’s now, when schools are looking to better implement Common Core Standards that eBooks should come into play,” said Carl Harvey, school librarian for North Elementary School in Noblesville, Ind., during and edweb.net webinar.

[Harvey recently discussed the first steps of eBook implementation: “What to consider for eBook implementation.”]

According to Harvey, there are six ways the Common Core will shift current ELA classroom practices, and eBooks can help guide these shifts better than traditional printed textbooks.

(Next page: Text complexity and text-based answers)

1. Balancing informational and literacy text. According to Harvey, there are now many education textbook publishers that provide materials in eBook form, as well as newspapers that provide their stories digitally. For literacy texts, eBooks have been on the forefront for quite some time thanks to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other national sellers.

Districts looking to invest specifically in nonfiction current events texts can even compile a digital list of articles online and then compile these articles in an eBook format. For more information, read “How to create your own eTextbooks for Common Core.”

2. Knowledge in the disciplines. Teachers, explained Harvey, can take full advantage of spanning texts across disciplines with the help of eBooks, because “many teachers have been asking for nonfiction in the form of stories.”

For example, a social studies teacher can use the nonfiction biography of Sir Isaac Newton to not only highlight historical context, but can be used in both mathematics and science classes as examples of basic theory.

“eBooks can provide a wealth of knowledge that can span across disciplines where printed textbooks, usually developed for one specific subject, cannot,” explained Harvey.

3. Staircase of complexity. One of the requirements for ELA Common Core is that students read more complex texts, “which can be a daunting task for teachers already burdened with remedial tasks,” said Harvey.

Many features associated with eBooks can help students better understand complex texts without becoming frustrated or relying on extra assistance from teachers. For example, students can highlight text to hear pronunciation and read a definition. In many cases, students can highlight a phrase, term, or place and the eBook will guide them to an internet search.

“Thanks to many of the interactive and web-connected features associated with eBooks, like video, links, and audio, students can take responsibility for their own learning and teachers can better spend time on task,” noted Harvey.

4. Text-based answers and writing from sources. As part of the new standards, many students are required to use parts of text to include in their answers in order to validate their arguments. Perhaps one of the most overlooked benefits of eBooks is their ability to stop students from inadvertently destroying school property.

“I can’t tell you how many times students use a highlighter on textbooks, rip out pages to keep for projects, or use pen to take notes in margins,” said Harvey. “With eBooks’ functionality, students can highlight, take notes, reference pages, and even include their own hyperlinks to more texts within the text without damaging anything. That’s a huge sigh of relief not just for librarians, but for other students, as well.”

(Next page: Vocabulary, assessments, and future considerations)

5. Academic vocabulary. Because eBooks are interactive, not only can students look up the definition of the word, but in some advanced settings, they can look up its synonyms, antonyms, root origin, and other examples in an internet search. There is also a read-aloud function that allows students to hear how the word is pronounced, which can help with fluency and reading skills.

Not only does this help students better understand the text, but teachers can save time in comprehension remediation.

6. Computer-based testing. According to Tunisia Pullins, instructional consultant for Rourke Educational Media, states that are part of PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) or Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium will need to help students transition from paper-and-pencil testing to computer-based testing as part of Common Core assessments.

“Reading text online or in a digital format actually does take practice sometimes,” said Pullins. “By being able to read eBooks either on a device or on a computer screen and analyzing the text quickly, students can have a better handle on computer-based testing.”

But eBooks won’t just help in aligning curriculum to Common Core, said Harvey, since eBooks can also help teachers with instructional practice.

“Teachers using open source eBooks or creating their own eBooks can make it as interactive as they want and can cross many disciplines at once,” said Harvey. “They can also pull up eBook content on smartboards, assign students to create their own eBook creation project to gain much-needed computer skills combined with room for creativity, and much more.”

Harvey also suggested that as teachers learn how to navigate eBook quality, they should teach their students how to do the same.

“Finding legitimate sources of online and digital content is a new frontier for everyone, not just students,” he explained. “As you begin to sift through what’s good content and what’s not, try to think of how you’re doing this and make it a teachable moment. It’s critical thinking skills for everyone!”

Moving forward, Pullins and Harvey noted that there are still many considerations when implementing eBooks for student learning, especially whether or not the non-linear learning style—skipping to links and videos before finishing the whole text—will be a challenge for students and how this will affect comprehension.