But more technology doesn’t always mean better results. Within K-12 learning environments, the digital divide means that students in low-income and rural households have less access to reliable internet and fewer connected deviceson which to complete the online portions of their homework. And while Pearson’s initiative applies only to textbooks in higher ed, the shift to digital has implications at the collegiate level as well.
Just as traditional software has a thriving open source community, textbooks have Open Educational Resources, complete textbooks that typically come free of charge digitally, or for a small fee—enough to cover the printing—in hard copy. And while it’s not an entirely new concept, OER has gained momentum in recent years, particularly as support has picked up at an institutional level, rather than on a course by course basis. According to a 2018 Babson College survey, faculty awareness of OER jumped from 34 percent to 46 percent since 2015.
One of OER’s leading proponents is OpenStax, a nonprofit based out of Rice University that offers a few dozen free textbooks, covering everything from AP Biology to Principles of Accounting. In the 2019–2020 academic year, 2.7 million students across 6,600 institutions used an OpenStax product instead of a for-profit equivalent.
The knock against OER is that, well, you get what you pay for. “One faculty member told me only half-jokingly, that OER is like a puppy that’s free. You get the free puppy, but then you have to do all the work,” says Cengage’s Hansen, who argues that traditional publishers provide critical supporting materials, like assessment questions, that OER often lacks, and can push more regular updates.
By virtue of being free, OER materials also heavily skew toward digital, with hardcover as a secondary option. (Or you can download the PDF and print it out yourself.) The same caveats about efficacy apply. But at least OER doesn’t lock you into one digital platform, the way the major publishers do. OpenStax alone counts around 50 ecosystem partners to provide homework and testing support.
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Or you could always split the difference.
That’s the territory Cengage wants to stake out. Late last summer, the educational publishing behemoth—it announced a planned merger with McGraw Hill in May; the combined company would surpass all but Pearson in market capitalization—rolled out Cengage Unlimited, a “Netflix for Textbooks” model that rolls all textbook rentals and digital platform access into a single rate: $120 for a semester, $180 for a full year, or $240 for two years. Almost a year in, the US-only program has a million subscribers.
Once students register with iFlipd, they can rent digital textbooks for as little as a week. Once they finish using a book, they can move it back into the digital catalogue, making it available to other students. There is a loyalty program that gives points toward free rentals.
iFlipd is also integrated with Datalogics and its interactive Active Textbook e-book system so that students have sharing capabilities. They can share notes on the texts through the platform and access notes made by previous users of the same textbooks. The note-sharing platform allows for highlighting, annotations, audio, video and search.
About 80% of the revenue still comes from renting textbooks, which might seem a bit outdated with everyone talking about tablet deployments and digital textbooks.
Though heavily funded and with more than 225,000 digital textbooks in its library, the startup was sold for pennies on a dollar to Intel Education last week.
With the Internet and tablet devices, publishers themselves can now go directly for the students through digital products. There is no need for physical bookstores or other middlemen to distribute the textbooks. Also professors are now able to sell their own textbooks directly to students.
This IPO is not so much about the current business of renting physical textbooks but about the time after paper-based textbooks. Chegg apparently does not see a future with publishers or professors by their side, and they will probably choose more direct sales channels in order to balance out sinking margins.
Connexions: A place for teachers, students, and professionals to search and contribute scholarly content, organized into “modules” or topic areas instead of entire textbooks.
CK12 FlexBooks: A nonprofit that aims to reduce the cost of textbook materials by encouraging the development of what they call the “FlexBook.” Anyone can view or help create these standards-based, customizable, collaborative texts.
Shmoop: An up-and-coming collection of freely shared, expert-written content (most Shmoop authors are Ph.D.s and high school or college-level educators) with the goal of inspiring students and providing tons of free resources to teachers that include writing guides, analyses, and discussions.
MIT Open CourseWare: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology publishes nearly all of its course content on this site, from videos to lecture notes to exams, all free of charge and open to the public. Many other universities are doing the same, often using the content management system EduCommons.
Mike Silagadze isn’t shy about his desire to take market share from the largest college textbook publishers through his classroom software company Top Hat. He believes his company’s brand of digital textbooks beats anything Pearson, McGraw-Hill and their ilk can provide.
Founded in 2009, Top Hat claims that 2.7 million students access its digital course materials, including those at 750 of the top 1,000 higher education institutions in North America.
Silagadze believes younger faculty members and future generations of college students will help drive institutions to adopt digital materials instead of print.
Top Hat has challenged tangible goods for a long time now. Its first offering was a digital version of clickers to measure student responses in the classroom. In 2017, the company launched a marketplace for e-textbooks, working with authors and offering openly licensed content from the likes of OpenStax as well.
Last year, the company ceased sales of individual assessment tools to instead offer a bundle of its products. Students pay $48 for one year of Top Hat’s products. Interactive textbooks on Top Hat cost an average of $35.
Many librarians have shied away from ICT literacy, concerned that they may be asked how to format a digital document or show students how to create a formula in a spreadsheet. These technical skills focus more on a specific tool than on the underlying nature of information.
librarians have begun to use an embedded model as a way to deepen their connection with instructors and offer more systematic collection development and instruction. That is, librarians focus more on their partnerships with course instructors than on a separate library entity.
If TPACK is applied to instruction within a course, theoretically several people could be contributing this knowledge to the course. A good exercise is for librarians to map their knowledge onto TPACK.
ICT reflects the learner side of a course. However, ICT literacy can be difficult to integrate because it does not constitute a core element of any academic domain. Whereas many academic disciplines deal with key resources in their field, such as vocabulary, critical thinking, and research methodologies, they tend not to address issues of information seeking or collaboration strategies, let alone technological tools for organizing and managing information.
Instructional design for online education provides an optimal opportunity for librarians to fully collaborate with instructors.
The outcomes can include identifying the level of ICT literacy needed to achieve those learning outcomes, a task that typically requires collaboration between the librarian and the program’s faculty member. Librarians can also help faculty identify appropriate resources that students need to build their knowledge and skills. As education administrators encourage faculty to use open educational resources (OERs) to save students money, librarians can facilitate locating and evaluating relevant resources. These OERs not only include digital textbooks but also learning objects such as simulations, case studies, tutorials, and videos.
Reading online text differs from reading print both physically and cognitively. For example, students scroll down rather than turn online pages. And online text often includes hyperlinks, which can lead to deeper coverage—as well as distraction or loss of continuity of thought. Also, most online text does not allow for marginalia that can help students reflect on the content. Teachers and students often do not realize that these differences can impact learning and retention. To address this issue, librarians can suggest resources to include in the course that provide guidance on reading online.
My note – why specialist like Tom Hergert and the entire IMS is crucial for the SCSU library and librarians and how neglecting the IMS role hurts the SCSU library –
Similarly, other types of media need to be evaluated, comprehended, and interpreted in light of their critical features or “grammar.” For example, camera angles can suggest a person’s status (as in looking up to someone), music can set the metaphorical tone of a movie, and color choices can be associated with specific genres (e.g., pastels for romances or children’s literature, dark hues for thrillers). Librarians can explain these media literacy concepts to students (and even faculty) or at least suggest including resources that describe these features
My note – on years-long repetition of the disconnect between SCSU ATT, SCSU library and IMS –
instructors need to make sure that students have the technical skills to produce these products. Although librarians might understand how media impacts the representation of knowledge, they aren’t necessarily technology specialists. However, instructors and librarians can collaborate with technology specialists to provide that expertise. While librarians can locate online resources—general ones such as Lynda.com or tool-specific guidance—technology specialists can quickly identify digital resources that teach technical skills (my note: in this case IMS). My note: we do not have IDs, another years-long reminder to middle and upper management. Many instructors and librarians have not had formal courses on instructional design, so collaborations can provide an authentic means to gain competency in this process.
My note: Tom and I for years have tried to make aware SCSU about this combo –
Instructors likely have high content knowledge (CK) and satisfactory technological content knowledge (TCK) and technological knowledge (TK) for personal use. But even though newer instructors acquire pedagogical knowledge (PK), pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), and technological pedagogical knowledge (TPK) early in their careers, veteran instructors may not have received this training. The same limitations can apply to librarians, but technology has become more central in their professional lives. Librarians usually have strong one-to-one instruction skills (an aspect of PK), but until recently they were less likely to have instructional design knowledge. ICT literacy constitutes part of their CK, at least for newly minted professionals. Instructional designers are strong in TK, PK, and TPK, and the level of their CK (and TCK and TPK) will depend on their academic background. And technology specialists have the corner on TK and TCK (and hopefully TPK if they are working in educational settings), but they may not have deep knowledge about ICT literacy.
Therefore, an ideal team for ICT literacy integration consists of the instructor, the librarian, the instructional designer, and the technology specialist. Each member can contribute expertise and cross-train the teammates. Eventually, the instructor can carry the load of ICT literacy, with the benefit of specific just-in-time support from the librarian and instructional designer.
Can the same photograph be used as propaganda and as ‘pure’ reporting? (Can they cite other examples?)
What was the mission of the FSA photographers? Did they adhere to the mission or stray from it?
Did the photographers themselves believe they were on a “propaganda” mission or something else?
Did President Roosevelt see the images as helping get political support for “The New Deal”?
Did the FSA photographs result in “social change”? (What was Lange’s conclusion?)
In what ways is photography being used today to document people and conditions we might not be aware of? Locate examples.
Image literacy is important
Today’s students are part of an increasingly visual world. Images in textbooks, in the news, and elsewhere are perfect teachable texts that can be engaging and thought-provoking for tweens and teens. They also have potential as part of lessons that emphasize social-emotional learning and empathy.
When teachers take the time to introduce students to historical images, and the photographers who captured them, we are once again satisfying many of the goals of American education.