Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Love Note to

Recently, I was asked by some of my district administrators to review an online textbook being delivered by Discovery Education. It is called the TechBook, and features interactive elements. I am sure it is fine, but I wanted to repost what I shared with my colleagues about another resource, called

The site offers a large range of features:

1. The books are available in a wide variety of subject and grade levels, and all are free.

2. The books can be viewed online. The online versions have embedded videos in them. Here is an example of a chapter section on Common Parts of the Cell (forgive me, I am a Life Science guy).

Note that online readers can highlight sections of the textbook, as well as take notes.

3. The books can be downloaded (for free) in various formats: pdfs, ePubs (for Apple and Android devices) and mobi (for Kindle devices).

Notice that the chapters (and book as a whole) can be shared just like everything else on the web.

4. The books can be edited by teachers. So, if you want to include or exclude certain content, exercises, diagrams, review questions, etc., you can do that. If you want to gather various chapters from a set of books into one new one, you can do that as well.

Here is a screenshot of the FlexBook system, which allows for this type of editing.

5. Braingenie. Braingenie is a tool that allows students to work through a set of content on their own, by watching teacher prepared videos and then taking skills quizzes. Teachers have access to reports on their students' progress. This is also free. Braingenie is also separate from the use of the digital textbooks.

Here is a screenshot of Braingenie.

6. Multi-modalities. also offers (for teachers) a set of muti-modal tools (flash cards, activities, readings, etc.) on a variety of topics. Here is an example of the set of these tools for the topic, "Characteristics of Life."

7. Did I mention, these high quality materials are all available for free?

I have been using these textbooks peripherally for about three years, and this year I have been using their Middle School Life Science textbook, which correlates nicely with the Living Environment. The students have found the book really helpful and clear. They also really enjoy the portability of the various formats.

I have also been experimenting with Braingenie. Some kids love it, some less so, but this has had to do with learning styles more than anything else.

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