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The rise of the e-book

A fixture in classrooms since … well, for centuries, the textbook is perhaps one of the greatest education tools available. But it’s not Gutenberg’s book anymore; increasingly, today’s schools are swapping out books with spines for books online.

If you’ve missed the e-books conversations, e-books are electronic books available via CD-ROM (and often accompany a textbook) or via download from an online source. Students then access these electronic books from classroom computers, laptops or e-book readers provided by the school.
Proponents of e-books in the classroom say that the move from textbooks to e-books offers a number of benefits to the school, the teacher and the student. For instance…

  • Everything a book is, an e-book is and more. They are lightweight (unlike heavy textbooks), portable, and allow for highlighting and underlining. Additionally, readers can follow links to additional resources, watch videos, listen to audio, change fonts and font sizes to suit their needs and comprehension abilities. Some e-books offer dictionary and phonetic capabilities to help elementary readers navigate new vocabulary, too.
  • E-books turn every classroom into a library. Ever make a reference to an author or a piece of literature to a room full of glossy-eyed students, wishing you had an example right there instead of in the library? E-books are fast to find and fast to download, making on-demand book perusing possible.
  • E-books guarantee students have access to the latest volumes and versions of texts. Schools rarely see new textbooks for each subject every year, yet e-books offer this opportunity at a greatly reduced cost. In many cases, the newest version of a text is just a downloadable update away.

Here are a few tips we’ve come across in how to use e-books in fun, effective ways:

In elementary schools …

  1. Download stories and assist each child in inserting their own clipart in order to create custom story books as a way to increase comprehension in an interactive and creative way.
  2. Project e-books onto a smart board or projection screen to develop vocabulary and spelling skills by highlighting or pointing to words and phrases. Ask students to develop their own endings to these stories.
  3. Use e-book reader functionality to create fun games that practice spelling words. For example, try omitting spelling words and phrases from common stories and offering fun prizes like Yo-Yos or Nutty Putty to those students who fill in the blank correctly. 

In high schools …

  1. Use e-books to have students compare short stories or poems side by side. Ask them to circle or highlight similarities during discussions with e-book reader tools. Doing this with e-books instead of print-outs has the added benefit of saving paper.
  2. Ask social studies students to use e-book readers to fact-check local news stories or statements from local government officials—the ability for many e-book readers to access online resources in a controlled environment that’s directly connected to the e-book text makes them ideal for narrow Internet research involving text documents.
  3. Combine e-book readers with slideshow software as a way for students to create their own custom e-books. This is especially helpful in classes that use peer review, since it allows students to share and trade documents easily, especially if peer review is homework assigned outside of the classroom.

At universities …

  1. Choose textbooks that are sold with an e-book component. Be sure to let students know how to access e-books from your school’s library as well as from publishers of material included in your syllabus. Keep it top-of-mind for them by including it with your office hours and contact information on a handy magnet.
  2. Make class documents and notes available for download for e-book users. For those without e-books, offer USB drives as another portable tool for storing class information.
  3. Keep your own e-book reader on hand to access research documents, lecture notes and to reduce paper waste while upping the convenience factor. Don’t forget to tuck it in a protective tote or cover.

E-books are a great tool for any student and easily accessible by most schools and teachers. The technology is still new, but schools are beginning to see value in them and the new ways of using them to educate and interact with students. Check them out today!

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