106K free teacher-created digital textbooks hit the web

The move to digital textbooks and resources is spreading as more companies partner with open education efforts

digital-textbookMore than 100,000 teacher-created digital textbooks are now available online through the CK-12 Foundation’s free STEM content and tools platform.

The 106,000 digital texts, or FlexBooks, come from the roughly 30,000 schools using CK-12’s free and open digital resources. CK-12 is launching two new tools in addition to its new content.

One is a new physics simulation module that uses real-world interactivity to increase student engagement. Students relate often-abstract concepts to real-world examples to increase learning.

The second is called PLIX (Play, Learning, Interact, and eXplore), and it gives students an interactive and immersive experience that helps them learn by doing.

PLIX “makes it simple for students to play around with concepts, follow up, and model those concepts,” said Neeru Khosla, the executive director and co-founder of the CK-12 Foundation.

“Learning best happens when you’re exposed to something–you first learn very basic facts and then you think about the material in deeper ways,” she said. “[PLIX] takes students through deeper thinking, critical thinking, and creativity,” in the hopes that they use their knowledge to create new ideas, tools, and concepts.

Next page: How one district is implementing CK-12’s digital resources

“We want to make learning happen in any way that it happens for individual students,” Khosla said. “We’re giving them the tools to learn in their own way. We’re on a path to prove that free doesn’t mean low-quality.”

The El Paso Independent School District (EPISD) in Texas is using CK-12’s free online resources for high school science classes, with plans to expand the resources into other subject areas.

Instead of purchasing textbooks, money from the instructional materials fund went toward 15,500 laptops and resources for high school students. District leaders found that opting for CK-12 FlexBooks and purchasing laptops was still cheaper than buying new science textbooks, even with laptop upgrade or replacement costs.

Because CK-12’s resources and digital FlexBooks are adaptable, teachers can customize the resources in whatever manner suits their needs–and this, said EPISD Director of Instructional Services Timothy Holt, is invaluable.

“That’s empowering to teachers–they can modify resources on their own. That’s power that no paper textbook has,” he said.

Initial plans for a spring 2015 rollout were slowed to incorporate intensive professional development, ranging from practical use tips to in-depth tutorials and examples on how to integrate the FlexBooks into instructional practice.

“Nothing will kill a tech initiative faster than poor PD,” Holt said.

And come fall, EPISD leaders hope teachers and students will be using CK-12’s FlexBooks in as many lessons as possible.

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Laura Ascione
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