Supplementing Textbooks with Student Constructed Knowledge Bases

Orig­i­nally posted on iPads in Edu­ca­tion Ning net­work site
Authored by Sam Gliksman, Twitter: @samgliksman

We’re just a few weeks removed from a major Apple announce­ment regard­ing the release of a new eText­books ini­tia­tive. I’m keenly aware of the sig­nif­i­cance of the move to eBooks, espe­cially as I have a 13 year old that car­ries 20 pounds in his back­pack to school every day. How­ever impor­tant the move from paper to dig­i­tal text­books, I’m still left with a taste for more.

have been crit­i­cal of the ways most schools still rely on text as the pri­mary, almost soli­tary, medium for exchang­ing infor­ma­tion. The “real world” trades infor­ma­tion using an amal­gam of dif­fer­ent media that includes video, audio, images … and text. Of course, it’s also no secret that most stu­dents are way more com­fort­able watch­ing tuto­ri­als on YouTube than read­ing pages from a text­book. So what’s the prob­lem? Apple has given authors of all vari­eties a mech­a­nism for cre­at­ing inter­ac­tive, mul­ti­me­dia school con­tent … but it doesn’t feel like enough.

iBooks could have included aspects of social read­ing so “friends” could exchange ques­tions and notes right within the pages of the book. It may have included a sys­tem for imme­di­ate feed­back, for­ma­tive assess­ment and cor­rec­tive branch­ing — that would have added to its value. The abil­ity to gen­er­ate sum­mary usage reports for par­ents and teach­ers could have helped eval­u­ate the progress of stu­dents. All things con­sid­ered how­ever, Apple has man­aged to estab­lish a solid base and it’s sure to improve as addi­tional updates are released. It doesn’t how­ever solve the core prob­lem of textbooks.

One of the major com­plaints about “20th cen­tury edu­ca­tion” was that it cen­tered on con­tent deliv­ery. We acknowl­edge that stu­dents need inde­pen­dent learn­ing skills that enable them to enter soci­ety con­fi­dent in their abil­i­ties to adjust to chang­ing cir­cum­stances and equipped with skills to learn and relearn as new needs arise … yet many of our tech­nol­ogy appli­ca­tions keep draw­ing edu­ca­tion back into the model of con­tent delivery.

While the eText­Books ini­tia­tive is a won­der­ful stride for­ward from our old paper text­books it’s still essen­tially a re-constituted con­tent deliv­ery sys­tem that wasn’t designed or intended to change the one-way process of edu­ca­tional exchanges. Reliance on any type of course text­book – dig­i­tal, mul­ti­me­dia, inter­ac­tive or oth­er­wise – only fits as a more mar­ginal ele­ment in student-centered learn­ing mod­els. It’s not the nature of the text­book as much as its rev­er­ence in the class­room as “the” sin­gu­lar author­ity for learn­ing. Life­long learn­ers need to be skilled in find­ing, fil­ter­ing, col­lat­ing, eval­u­at­ing, col­lab­o­rat­ing, edit­ing, ana­lyz­ing and uti­liz­ing infor­ma­tion from a mul­ti­tude of sources.

Instead we could pri­or­i­tize “con­tent con­struc­tion”. Text­books are an impor­tant gate­way — a start­ing point from which stu­dents can learn and then begin their explo­ration of infor­ma­tion on any topic (although even on that point I feel we should encour­age the “crit­i­cal read­ing” of text­books). How­ever the days when stu­dents could respon­si­bly rely on any text­book as a sin­gu­lar infor­ma­tion source are gone. Also, the process of access­ing, syn­the­siz­ing and uti­liz­ing infor­ma­tion is often as impor­tant as the prod­uct. The skills devel­oped are an essen­tial com­po­nent of edu­ca­tion and life today.

We have access to an expo­nen­tially grow­ing amount of infor­ma­tion to process and apply. There are many excel­lent tools we can all use to help in con­struct­ing and orga­niz­ing that con­tent. Here’s a short selec­tion of some of the more pop­u­lar ones. They can be used by indi­vid­u­als and also by stu­dents or teach­ers col­lab­o­rat­ing in groups.

Orga­niz­ing Content

Con­tent con­struc­tion starts with col­lect­ing and col­lat­ing. Dig­i­tal solu­tions for col­lect­ing resources are mod­eled on the old shoe­box or file cab­i­net we used for stor­ing paper based resources.

Live­Binders, as the name sug­gests, is designed to work and look like the binders we use at school. You can store con­tent of all types in binders and then set the binder per­mis­sions to made pub­lic or keep them pri­vate within any class or group of members.

For younger stu­dents Muse­um­Box (requires Flash) allows stor­age of images, text snip­pets, web pages and more.

Ever­note is a very pop­u­lar resource that works across all plat­forms. It’s an invalu­able tool for col­lect­ing and shar­ing any type of con­tent — images, text, links or your own notes. Set up Note­books by topic and add infor­ma­tion by click­ing on an Ever­note icon or even email­ing it directly to your spe­cially des­ig­nated Ever­note email account. The Ever­note “Clip­per” is a tool that allows you to cut out any por­tion of your screen dis­play and saves it as image. I’ve used Ever­note effec­tively with classes that want to col­lect and share infor­ma­tion and it’s also an extremely valu­able tool for per­sonal use. You can also sign up for pre­mium school accounts now and then cre­ate and man­age stu­dent accounts.

Instapa­per is a sim­ple ser­vice for sav­ing web pages. It adds an icon to your tool­bar. Click on the Instapa­per icon and it saves a page for later read­ing. Instapa­per is a tool that’s used pri­mar­ily for sav­ing items to read later rather than for col­lat­ing and tag­ging items in libraries for research pur­poses. It is how­ever a very effec­tive tool for sim­ple archiv­ing. You can even down­load web pages for read­ing offline when you’re trav­el­ing or out of Inter­net range. Apple recently added a “Read­ing List” fea­ture to Safari in iOS 5 but Instapa­per still works across all devices and platforms.

Method­ol­ogy: Don’t for­get that the skills required in col­lect­ing resources require teach­ing and train­ing. Search­ing, assess­ing, fil­ter­ing, group­ing and/or tag­ging – these are all skills that require guid­ance and rep­e­ti­tion. It’s about process not just product.

Social Book­mark­ing

Social book­mark­ing is an extremely effec­tive method for col­lect­ing con­tent on the web. My tool of choice is Diigo. Social book­mark­ing works by hav­ing you tag web pages that can then be anno­tated and shared. You pro­gres­sively build a library of tagged links and there’s a sim­ple search and retrieval mech­a­nism when­ever you need to find a tagged arti­cle or note. The two pri­mary fac­tors that dis­tin­guish social book­mark­ing is that it uses tag­ging to orga­nize infor­ma­tion rather than a sim­ple lin­ear struc­ture and sec­ondly, it allows you to con­nect with other users and share tagged information.

Click the Diigo tool­bar icon to anno­tate and tag any web page

Open an account with Diigo and add a tool­bar icon within your browser. Diigo works across all plat­forms includ­ing mobile devices and iPads. When you find con­tent you want to archive sim­ply click on the Diigo icon. High­light any text, add notes to the page and then add some key­words that will allow you to find it eas­ily after­wards. Click to Save it to your Diigo account and when­ever you go to diigo.com (or use their iOS app) you’ll have access to the libraries of tags and links that you’ve col­lected and annotated.

There’s also a promi­nent “social” com­po­nent. Share your links by sav­ing them pub­li­cally. You can start or join a wide vari­ety of dif­fer­ent groups with like inter­ests and share con­tent within your group. When search­ing, you’re also able to search through tags that oth­ers in the group have added.

Sign up for an edu­ca­tor account and each stu­dent in your class can also get an account. Now you can use Diigo to find and share con­tent among mem­bers of your class. It’s an extremely effec­tive way of enabling stu­dents to build an infor­ma­tion library. They can share high­lights, notes and com­ments. Used in that way Diigo will become an invalu­able resource for your classroom.

Cura­tion

We’re exposed to so much infor­ma­tion that it gets a lit­tle over­whelm­ing at times. One of the newer cat­e­gories of tools for orga­niz­ing infor­ma­tion on the web is “con­tent cura­tion”. Cura­tors gather infor­ma­tion from any web based resource (news sources, web pages, rss feeds, Twit­ter etc). They then fil­ter the con­tent and add selected web pages to the library of curated con­tent. Other users can then fol­low a curated library and get more select, pre­mium con­tent that has already been fil­tered. A pop­u­lar con­tent cura­tion tool is scoop.it .

Scoop.it:  When you open an account, you select a topic to curate (eg. iPads in Edu­ca­tion) and add any num­ber of con­tent resources such as web­sites, rss feeds, Twit­ter accounts or hash­tags and more. Scoop-it will serve up the con­tent daily and you then decide which articles/sites to add to your curated library. You can also add an icon to your tool­bar and add con­tent on the fly as you surf sites on the web. Typ­i­cally, oth­ers will fol­low a curated topic to get fil­tered con­tent on a par­tic­u­lar theme. Arti­cles can be tagged and searched. Typ­i­cally, this process is par­tic­u­larly effec­tive in a class set­ting when you’re research­ing any theme that has a lot of cur­rent, top­i­cal infor­ma­tion being released on a fre­quent basis. Your stu­dent cura­tors need to browse and read all related resources and only add those that pro­vide the most help­ful information.

Other Tools…

There are many addi­tional tools and meth­ods for build­ing infor­ma­tion libraries:

Wikis have been a pop­u­lar method for cre­at­ing col­lab­o­ra­tively built con­tent and peer edit­ing. You assign each stu­dent a login and groups will cre­ate pages. Each user can add and/or edit exist­ing con­tent. The wiki admin­is­tra­tor can track all changes and roll back to prior ver­sions. One of the bet­ter resources for start­ing your own wiki iswik­i­spaces.

YouTube is an under­rated source for video based con­tent. Open an account for your class and stu­dents can add videos to a class Favorites list. One way of using YouTube is to use your class account for col­lect­ing tuto­r­ial videos on any topic… and of course, stu­dents can and should add their own. Vimeo is another sim­i­lar resource.

Some schools are uncom­fort­able allow­ing stu­dents to browse YouTube at school. If that’s the case at your school, con­sider using SchoolTube instead.

Lastly, it’s not just the infor­ma­tion library you’re build­ing that has value for stu­dents. As opposed to hav­ing them access a slice of con­tent that some­one has selected for them, the process of search­ing, fil­ter­ing, orga­niz­ing, ana­lyz­ing and edit­ing exer­cises valu­able skills and helps develop their abil­ity to become the inde­pen­dent learn­ers we’re hop­ing to grad­u­ate from our schools.

Sam Gliks­man
samgliksman@gmail.com
Twit­ter: @samgliksman

8 comments

  1. […] Full orig­i­nal article: http://ipadeducators.ning.com/profiles/blogs/supplementing-textbooks  Via 1to1schools.net Share this:TwitterFacebookTumblrPinterestLinkedInDiggEmailLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

  2. […] Cura­tion We’re exposed to so much infor­ma­tion that it gets a lit­tle over­whelm­ing at times. One of the newer cat­e­gories of tools for orga­niz­ing infor­ma­tion on the web is “con­tent cura­tion”. Cura­tors gather infor­ma­tion from any web based resource (news Sign up for an edu­ca­tor account and each stu­dent in your class can also get an account. Now you can use Diigo to find and share con­tent among mem­bers of your class. Sup­ple­ment­ing Text­books with Stu­dent Con­structed Knowl­edge Bases | 1 to 1 Schools […]

  3. […] orig­i­nal article: http://ipadeducators.ning.com/profiles/blogs/supplementing-textbooks  Via 1to1schools.net Share,Contribute,Innovate! Tweet This entry was posted in Uncat­e­go­rized by Marc […]

  4. […] Sup­ple­ment­ing Text­books with Stu­dent Con­structed Knowl­edge Bases | 1 to 1 Schools While the eText­Books ini­tia­tive is a won­der­ful stride for­ward from our old paper text­books it’s still essen­tially a re-constituted con­tent deliv­ery sys­tem that wasn’t designed or intended to change the one-way process of edu­ca­tional exchanges. Reliance on any type of course text­book – dig­i­tal, mul­ti­me­dia, inter­ac­tive or oth­er­wise – only fits as a more mar­ginal ele­ment in student-centered learn­ing mod­els. It’s not the nature of the text­book as much as its rev­er­ence in the class­room as “the” sin­gu­lar author­ity for learn­ing. Life­long learn­ers need to be skilled in find­ing, fil­ter­ing, col­lat­ing, eval­u­at­ing, col­lab­o­rat­ing, edit­ing, ana­lyz­ing and uti­liz­ing infor­ma­tion from a mul­ti­tude of sources. […]

  5. […] Via 1to1schools.net Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

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