Friday, July 26, 2013

Conquering the Frankenbook

The article, “Conquering the Frankenbook,” is about two teachers’ efforts to use digital books in the classroom.  The author, an instructional technology integrator, and her colleague, a literature instructor, used iPads to assign the book, Frankenstein, to a tenth grade class.  They developed a set of technology goals and a set of content goals: “on the technology side, [the author] wanted to make sure students could actively read on an electronic device”; while the literature instructor wanted to be sure they “could meet the objectives of a literature unit” (32).  They first introduced the students to the technology, exploring apps and websites relevant to the task.  In implementing the iPads, they discovered some great sites and apps for free digital books in the public domain, though they also learned that some of the digital copies were superior to others. As the project moved forward, they assigned more traditional literature assignments with modern twists; for example, using themes, each student researched an individual topic relevant to the period of the book, wrote a paragraph and emailed their assignment which was assembled into a collaborative Wiki-style e-book and shared on the iPads. 

There were more problems, however, besides the superiority of certain e-books over others.  They found that moving between devices presented a problem; iPads are designed for individual use and so return to the last user’s settings and place in the book.  They also found the lack of page numbers made referencing and citations difficult; this also made the task of ‘turn to page…’ during class discussions extremely difficult without using a word or phrase search.  Taking notes was difficult for both teacher and student, though students were more open to exploration than the teachers admittedly were.  The author concludes that “perhaps much of the resistance we and our students experienced was because we knew how to actively read a paper copy…while [the author is] still looking at new app releases and waiting for that game changer, at this stage, a hard-copy book is preferable for active reading and discussion of a text” (33).

I think that nothing beats a hard-copy for active reading.  I use my Kindle mostly for downloading PDFs and travelling; e-books prevent the user from knowing how thick a book is, from the tactile sensations of turning a page, from being able to doodle in the margins.  I can see how using e-books in the classroom could eventually save a school money over time, but I agree with the author that active reading requires a hard copy almost always. 

This article addresses both NETS-S standards and NETS-T standards of technology operations and concepts and professional development.  The e-book was a great example of communication and collaboration, and the students were also taught about digital citizenship and plagiarism (this was part of the discussion and trouble with citing the materials). 

Read the article here: Conquering the Frankenbook

Barrett, J. (2012-2013) Conquering the Frankenbook. Learning &Leading with Technology, 40(4), 32-33.

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