Experts share tips on digital textbook transition

Moderated by Kevin Hogan, eSchool News, Content Director

A brief recap of our webinar discusses how some schools are making the transition to digital textbooks–and why the switch is worth it

digital-textbook-webinarsOn Feb. 25, eSchool News hosted a webinar with Michael Roth, superintendent of Salisbury Township school district in Allentown, Pa., Mark Benigni, superintendent of the Meriden Public Schools in Connecticut, and Barbara Haeffiner, also from Meriden Public Schools.

During his presentation, Roth explained that his main goal in using digital textbooks and other ed-tech resources in his district is to create a hybrid learning style that embodies creativity and innovation through project-based and challenged-based learning with real world examples.

“We need to work at the core, but we also need to constantly be pushing at the edges,” Roth said.

(Next page: More on the districts’ digital textbook transitions)

According to Benigni, digital textbooks are not the way of the future–they are the way of today. Physical textbooks can become outdated quickly. Therefore, every few years, districts will have to put out a lot of money to buy updated books. With digital textbooks, the material continuously refreshes itself and upgrades its material.

In Salisbury Township, Roth’s schools are piloting the Discovery Education Techbook, which includes reading passages, images and videos, culminating activities, content-specific games, and interactive applications.

The Meriden Public Schools use a variety of online learning tools, including Odysseyware, which features 160 courses at various grade levels across numerous subjects, and myOn reader, an interactive digital library with more than 4,000 books that suggests books for students based on interest, reading level and books they have already read. Haeffiner also spoke on the merit of eTextbooks. “This allows students to participate in a blended learning environment and allows both the student and teacher flexibility,” Haeffiner said.

For Roth, Benigni, and Haeffiner, professional development is a key part of technical success. The speakers agreed that teachers must be given time to work with the technology and collaborate to figure out how they want to use the technology in the classroom. One of the most important parts of blended learning is networking between teacher and student as well as student to student and teacher to teacher.

One question that was asked during the Q&A portion was how these digital initiatives are funded. Roth leased 1,400 units and was able to cut his expenditure by 20 percent, which adds additional devices in the hands of more students.

Roth concluded by sharing: “The most important thing is always to start with your why.” Ask yourself why you’re providing these resources and what direction you want to move with them. Once you identify the why people start thinking differently about how to use resources. Bengini’s advice was: “Don’t wait. Provide professional development. Alert the community. Listen to students.”

Please visit our webinar archives to listen to this important discussion and find other helpful ed-tech content.

Sydney Mineer is an editorial intern at eSchool News.

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