Write Your Own eTextbook…


…in fact, you may already be doing most of this.

Recently, I had a conversation with a computer science teacher who was bemoaning the fact that there just wasn’t a perfect textbook for her course.  I don’t think that’s unusual.

I never found a computer science textbook that I wanted to use.  The examples in the ones that I looked at were different from the ones that I would use and the exercises often were too simple to reinforce the concepts that I wanted.  Plus, it’s also nice to have a bank of extra problems to pull out as needed – for review, extra practice, ideas for students, and so much more.

Any computer science teacher that I’ve ever met is the ultimate curator.  Filing cabinets just chock full of problems gathered from here and there; I was always a sucker for online programming competitions.  They are always a wonderful source of problems for class solution or for student problems.  Most are now available on the web and moving to a digital storage is only a click away.

Back to my discussion.  She was proud to indicate two things…first, the students were allowed to bring their own devices to classroom which had changed the way that she used computers – no more waiting for the “master image” to have the language and editors that she wanted.  Secondly, she had moved all of her notes and examples to a WordPress blog.  It was a private self-hosted blog and was just perfect for her purposes.  The students could access the current lesson or problem by visiting the blog.  She had learned quickly enough to have a few lessons published in advance so that there always was something ready.  She was using the comments to a post section as a way for students to ask questions or get clarification when students weren’t in class.

It seemed like a perfect scenario with just one gotcha that was looming for a couple of students.  They didn’t have internet access at home.  It was not a huge problem provided the student remember to go to the blog and grab the topic while at school.  She was considering moving her resources to any of the eBook editing programs that are available but was shuddering to think of the work involved.

As we talked, I remembered BlogBooker.  I’ve written about it a few times on this blog.  Do a search or just read this one post.

Long story short, BlogBooker takes your blog and makes it into a PDF file.  That file, then, can be repurposed for any use that you might have for it including distributing copies to your students.  Why not turn your blog into an eTextbook?  BlogBooker has a great selection of options for formatting…

It sounds just like the sort of thing that any editing process would include.  Since the resulting document is a PDF file, images are embedded nicely, and links you make reference to are live!  If you’d been allowing Comments with one class, you could include them or go ahead an exclude them so the textbook is all you!  There’s nothing more universally assessible by devices than PDF.  And, if you need to revise the text book for subsequent years, you already have all your blogging experience at hand to make the changes.

BookBlogger is the perfect tool for saving a year’s worth of blog posts … those posts could your next best textbook!

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OTR Links 02/26/2013


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

OTR Links 02/25/2013


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

The Deal with Infographics


I must admit that I find the field of infographics fascinating.  In my Zite reader, I’m excited when one of them makes any of the categories that I follow and, to be sure that I get a daily fix, I have the category “infographics” selected.

What impresses me about the whole infographics concept is that one that is well crafted can convey so much information in one document.  Those of us who do presentations regularly will use pie charts or bar charts to identify data or elements of the data.  However, the conventional wisdom has always been to keep one piece of data analysis on a slide to make it readable.

Infographics take that conventional wisdom for a walk by the river and shoves it in.  In fact, infographics puts it all together in one place.  Unlike a pie chart where the experienced designer stands out by exploding a piece, infographics can share just a tonne of information all in one spot.  They’re not intended to be glanced at and moved on.  They are a work of art and data in themselves.  I’d go so far as to say that they’re another contemporary story telling technique.

Here’s one of the infographics that I spent time looking at this morning.  It’s titled “The pros and cons of social media in education” and was blogged by the Edtech Times who credit the authorship to OnlineUniversities.com.  Meet me under the infographic.

If we take a look at the infographic for its design, we see:

  • four major categories identified; (there are two number threes)
  • some bar charts;
  • graphic organizer showing relationships between items;
  • logos that we all recognize and are immediately drawn to;
  • sources credited for the resources;
  • identifier of the author;
  • a great deal of work with an image editing tool;
  • elements of design – colour, alignment, attractiveness to the viewer.

So let’s step away from the infographic per se, and think about this in the classroom.

A simple way to use the infographic would be as a resource from which to pull answers.  I’d like to think that we could move much deeper with the concept of infographics.  Why not make it the end result of a project?  Consider what the student or groups of students would do in order to be successful.

  • more than trivial use of their graphic tool; (Photoshop Elements, Powerpoint, CorelDRAW!)
  • the need to design the story they wish to tell;
  • research for facts, details, authorities;
  • design element choices – fonts, colours, graphics;
  • respect for copyright and the use of others’ efforts;
  • collaboration and agreement within their group;
  • choose the most appropriate way to display and tell their story;
  • determination of ultimate filetype;
  • critical decisions made about what information goes into the final design.

There is huge potential for this particular activity.  Not only is the process so important, the final product will display so nicely in the student or class blog or wiki.  Where do infographics fit with your curriculum?  If you are doing infographic activities with your class, please share challenges and successes below.

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