Friday, May 17, 2013

Our Two Month iPad e-textbook Pilot

Last November Houghton Mifflin Harcourt asked me to pilot their new iPad e-textbooks which we did for two months ending just this past Monday.  The pilot was for Patterns of Interaction and I must admit the first day we had them there were some collective groans especially when I told the kids they could no longer make their maps using Google Drive drawings.  But the groans very quickly turns to glee when they saw how the iPads came on instantly and after I had taught them a few procedures to make their iPad life easier we were up and running.  Most of the kids were decidedly unhappy Wednesday when they had to pull out the slow starting netbooks.

So what did I like?  To begin with there are two different versions of the Table of Contents which you can get in landscape or portrait modes.  Secondly you can scroll through entire chapters, the individual pages or using the contents go anywhere in the book you want.  There also is a search box which is not present in our format online.  You can also manipulate all of the pictures flipping them around, looking underneath for objects such as an oracle bone or Viking ship.  Each section also has five multiple choice questions (not available on the page).  There were also movable features such as putting the levels of the Caste system in order.  I actually asked that they do the same for historical maps so students could drag and drop (and be rejected if they are wrong) all the maps the kids have to study.  As with the online version there are also videos in each section, links, etc.  I must admit as the pilot progressed I stopped using my  laptop during the class and just plugged into the LCD or walked around the room with it as I was working with the kids.  Finally we used the four finger method to scroll between open webpages, the ibook, Google Drive and even music which made it very easy to manipulate.

My only beef - and this is with Apple, not HMH, is that the e-book can only be accessed on the iPad it was downloaded on.  So if you forget it at home, you are out of luck.  I should also add that if your district, school, etc. is looking to purchase the iPad book or the online versions of any textbook, you will have to consider restructuring your purchasing plans (easier said than done with state and school board mandates now somewhat obsolete, but still very much unchanged) as the e-textbooks are constantly changed and if you want the newest and latest, you have to put that in the contract (which is probably going to increase the cost).  At the same time textbook companies have to consider "Google Driving" their e-textbooks meaning as changes occur, why not just give them to the school districts.  This would also mean they would not have to service multiple platforms.  With changes coming so quickly today (HMH is also working with Kno for other innovations, but not the ones described in the previous paragraph) the traditional 5-6 year contracts means your e-textbook will be obsolete 3-4 years before the end of the its run in your district.  Of course as is argued in The Tyranny of the Textbook, teachers hate changing textbooks and have to learn (hey isn't that what we teach students every day) to adapt to ever changing textbook formats and  multiple methodologies of delivery (and yes those reading this blog, I know, agree with me - it's the ones who don't that have to be convinced!).

If you go to the iTunes store, you can get a free chapter download for the Patterns of Interaction, The Americans and United States government iPad books and check them out for yourself.

I should add that I wasn't paid a penny, nor received an iPad or e-textbook to do the pilot so these are my unvarnished thoughts.  In if I had my way I'd have a laptop that has a manipulative screen and could access the iPad textbook on any device (smartphone, laptop, etc. and any system (Apple or otherwise) which means you get to decide what works best with your students.  If you already have iPads, you'll certainly love the books. 

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