Thursday, January 19, 2012

Digital Textbooks - My Questions

With the announcements of new digital textbooks everywhere (see below), I am wondering about the implications for literacy, when we:
  • Read online on a screen
  • Read eText
  • Read interactive text
  • Read text that has related links and content that enhances the text

I’m wondering if we need to teach students how to read a digital textbook. The skills are simply not the same as when reading static text. Consider that it is surrounded by content that enriches the reading experience: videos, links, and interactive pictures. How does someone read deeply and understand complex texts without having the enhancements turn into distraction?

The tools that are available to “dirty the text” as we read are of great value. We can:
  • Take notes that stay with the text
  • Highlight the text
  • Review all of our notes and highlighting at one time
  • See what others are highlighting (in some cases)
  • Look up a definition by tapping the word
 Some of the new digital texts will even create notecards for you; however, there is great value in writing or typing those cards out yourself. The act of writing gets lost when the tool creates the notecard for you.

The media that is embedded with the text is fabulous for clarifying or expanding upon a topic. However, in what order should the reader use it? Do readers read through the chapter and return to the media on a second or third pass? Or do they use it the first time through? What will have the greatest impact? Some of it will just be bells and whistles, which readers will need to learn to filter out. Are the text books designed to be read from front to back? Or are they more of a smorgasbord? How does the reader avoid getting lost in this interactive text?

I do think that the possibilities are wonderful; however, I believe that we need to approach this new genre with care.

  • It is not the same as text on paper. 
  • All online textbooks are not the same.
  • All online text is not the same.

Many of the strategies will be the same. Some will need to be modified. And we will need some new ones as well. More questions here than answers.

Recent announcements about digital textbooks

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