A few years back, at my previous school when we started the 1 to 1 initiative there, I was posed with the problem of outdated texts. Our Earth Science texts were old and had either missing or incorrect information. Not to mention the fact that I am not a big fan of textbooks to begin with. The standard textbook is not designed to meet all of the different needs our students. They are not interactive, not engaging and are static. They tend to only explain very important concepts one way and are designed to meet the needs of some imaginary student in another state. They were not designed with either my teaching style or the learning styles of my students as a consideration. (Whether or not you believe in learning styles is a moot point, we can all agree that not every student learns best the same way.)
The solution to my problem of outdated texts was to just curate my own resources for the essential concepts we were learning. I could pull together resources that would fit all of my students and give them the choice that they desire. I was trying to move away from anything that resembled a “one size fits all” approach. Some of my students stated that they still wanted some text source to view and expressed that they liked that type of resource. I could have just given them the old text but that was still missing information and listed Pluto as a planet (without having any discussion at all about what constitutes a planet and what doesn’t). I went in search of a “text” that my students could have access to but which would not cost a lot of money and had the ability to be updated when things change (because in science, the world is constantly in a state of change).
I found the solution to my problem at http://www.ck12.org/. The CK-12 Foundation is a non-profit that puts together and aggregates resources for the classroom for certain subjects. Initially they had only Math and Science topics but they are adding more subjects often. When I started using CK-12.org I was able to find texts of different reading levels for my subjects and select only the topics we were focused on. My students were able to access these texts online or they could download them as a PDF. I even taught some of my students how to download the texts to their mobile devices. And a big positive to these “texts” were that they were updated on a regular basis. An even bigger positive was that this was all FREE! (I want to remind you, this was not the sole resource in my classroom but just one part of a collection of resources I curated for my students.)
The CK-12 Foundation has been busying updating its resources. The “texts” are now interactive and include a variety of media formats including video and simulators. There are different reading levels (not a lot but there are options) and these can still be used such that the teacher can pick and choose which parts they want to put together for their students. Students can still download a PDF onto their computers, which is useful for students who do not have internet access while at home, but there is a lot that they can do while online.
One of the greatest advantages to a 1 to 1 environment is that we can now easily put together resources for our students that truly can meet their needs. The resources do not have to be static and can include media that they feel more comfortable with. You will never hear me say that digital texts are the answers to the problems we have in the classrooms. Texts in general could even be a part of the problem but we can now easily integrate resources from so many sources into our learning environment. The key is to go out there and find what works for you and especially what works for your students.
(All images taken from http://www.ck-12.org)