Monday, February 16, 2009

Reinvented Textbooks: Print is the Next Big Thing

The Kindle 2.0 starts shipping next week. It's the beginning of the end for college textbooks. An emerging business model for content is "Read for Free, Pay for Print." The Read for Free part is being led by Flat World Knowledge. Their Open College Textbooks are starting to be released later this month. There will be more about the Pay for Print part in other posts. Stay tuned.

Textbooklets, instead of Textbooks.
But the real opportunity for XORIHK, is in High School teaching. Consider that instead of text books, there are text booklets. The product will vary, but for now, let's say 12 pages, 8 1/2 x 11 saddle stitched, either in black or 4c as budget dictates.

Last week I did the first of a biweekly column as "Print Correspondent" for Mediashift, a PBS organization. The title was Print is the Next Big Thing. Here's just one way that might play out in High School education.

Print enables the optimal Customer Experience in the classroom
Yesterday, I posted Jim Burke's vision for what teaching is going to look like for High School students. Consider the optimal customer experiences outlined by Jim Burke and how Digital Print can supply that experience today.
1. The article they read might be from that day's San Francisco Chronicle, downloaded for free as part of the digital version of Newspapers in Education program.
Versioned Print newspapers could be delivered directly to classrooms. Maybe three times a week. Edited with the classroom experience in mind. My Weekly Reader, on steroids. Printed either in the school or the district. It would be Printed locally, distributed locally, edited in the Cloud, and contextually accurate for that community. It might have a "News in Brief" for international and national news, and two feature stories about that community. It could be newsprint product or a text booklet.
3. When they encounter a word they do not know, they will simply highlight it and click a button and the definition will appear with the option of an audio link. If they encounter references (cultural literacy references) they will highlight and search the encyclopedia (or wikipedia) for the necessary background knowledge in context.
Each student has their own text booklet and a highlighter. They highlight any word they don't understand. Some time during the lesson, the teacher writes everyone's highlighted word on the white board. Defining each word is part of the homework assignment.
4. They will read actively, marking up the text with a stylus or some other means, saving these to a notepad on the DBook where they can jot down brief notes to prepare for the subsequent discussion using the keyboard on the DBook.
Same scenario as number 3. If the text booklet has a 2" blank column on the right of each page, students only need a pencil to make their notes.
5. When they finish, I will flash a quiz on the screen which they can use the embedded interactive wireless voting button to answer the questions. I will ask them all to choose the answer they think is best for each one; we will discuss these as we go, using wrong answers to provide opportunities for discussion and clarification. It will feel a bit like a game show; it will be fun; it will be instructionally productive and effective.
A great experience, but this needs the Kindle or a copycat. In the meanwhile, the quiz is in the back of the text booklet. And an 18x24" version is displayed in the classroom. Each question is answered. Each student answers first in their own text booklet, then the discussion ensues.

The teacher collects all the text booklets at the end of class or a unit. This gives the teacher a permanent record of the student's learnings. They can then be studied, shared with parents and used to inform instruction the next day. The collection of text booklets can also be used as a resource to improve next semester's approach and for Professional Development in that school.
6. For homework, they will write (or use the voice recognition option to orally compose) a paragraph in which they summarize and respond to the article.
A page or two left blank will accommodate the writing in class. Two slits would allow the student to insert the Print out of computer writing done at home.
7. When they come in the following day, I will ask them to upload their homework wirelessly, after which we will discuss what they wrote (for they will still have it to refer to).
The booklets are collected.
8. After warming up with this discussion, they will click into the assigned novel they are reading, the previous day's news article having prepared them to read the next section in the novel.
Each student will have their own Print edition of the novel to highlight and mark up as they wish.
9. After they read for a bit to answer the questions I provided them, they will click a button that will take them into a social network within which students post their remarks, interacting with each other through writing in a threaded discussion, their visible avatars and real names keeping them accountable.
The class relaxes. For the next ten minutes, they walk around and casually share any thoughts they have. Meanwhile, they are building a culture of intelligent, but lively discourse.
10. After ten minutes or so, we come back as a class, at which point I use comments from their discussion--which I have monitored and joined to nudge their thinking in certain directions when needed--to lead a focused discussion about what they meant, what the author was saying, and how that related to(which is only a click away to return to for easy reference).
A summary of the focused discussion is done by a team of three students every day. They enter the summary into a blog. Every week the blog is transformed into a PDF. The PDF's are Distributed and Printed, either in the classroom, in the school or at a commercial printer close by. Printed summaries are regularly given to each student to read, highlight and write their notes.

At the end of the semester, the edited summaries are printed as a Paper back book and one is given to each student so they can be reminded of what they have learned. A publishing party is the culminating event of each unit. The school, the student and their parents have a clear signal of what the student learned that semester, without being a slave to high stakes standardized test results.

Ain't Print grand?

The digital Print tech is well established and the Distribute and Print infrastructure is growing quickly. The last questions are sales, speed and price. My bet is that it will be easier to sell, much faster to the delivery and lower price than the all in cost of doing a textbook.

Plus more clicks for everyone! And a much better experience for teachers, parents and especially the kids.

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