eBook Technology: Transforming Curriculum and Professional Development Delivery
by Glenn Dietzel, M.T.S. & M.Ed.
It is unbelievable how quickly we have passed from the industrial revolution to the knowledge era, especially when considering this quantum leap in light of the history of humanity. eBook technology is a natural extension of the knowledge era. Applications of this technology are virtually limitless in the field of education. The purpose of this article is two-fold: to explain the benefits of educational eBooks for educators; and to encourage educators to become published authors through eBook technology.
What Are eBooks?
eBooks (electronic + Books = eBooks) have become one of the HOTTEST revolutions on the internet today. So hot that the state of Texas, according to the Houston Chronicle (12 August 2001), earmarked $1.8 million to be spent on eBooks over six years. eBooks are especially handy "for courses in which the information changes rapidly, for example history," noted Charles Mayo of the Texas Education Agency.
eBooks act like web-browsers. They are downloadable to your computer or one of many hand-held multipurpose devices. They can be read while you're offline, or they can be printed in hard-copy. eBook technology has set free the "printed word" from the confines of traditional text. In fact, according to Terge Hillesund, Assistant Professor at Stavanger University Center, "With e-books the creation, storing, uttering and receiving of …(text) has been liberated from both the sound of the voice and the print on paper."
eBook technology is revolutionalizing the formation, organization, and presentation of information. In effect, eBooks are changing the traditional face of content delivery and are synergistic with the e-learning revolution. Just as computers are more than $1500 pens, eBooks are more than digitalized texts.
eBooks are very visual and interactive in orientation, reflecting the visual and interactive world. eBooks are created using special compiling software creating an EXE or PDF file. This software allows you to, among numerous functions, password protect your document, preserve all of your formatting, insert images, hyperlinks, multimedia presentations, and provide access to the internet---all within an eBook.
eBooks vs. Traditional Texts
Gutenberg's invention made storage and retrieval of knowledge easier, but printed material takes time to access---not easily updateable---and takes up physical space. Information in the pre-knowledge era was confined to the printed page: it was locked-up in ink and printed on paper. In the knowledge era, information is digital, which of course is essential for portability and interactivity.
To be part of the new economy, according to Hillesund, the content of books can no longer be locked inside physical covers, stored in classrooms, libraries, bookstores, and/or warehouses. It must be set free. eBook technology allows for this because it is both a digital and network based technology for both distributing and reading books. As a result, traditional textbooks are becoming a more temporary reference in the modern classroom.
Developments in both software and hardware have facilitated this paradigm shift from the industrial to the knowledge era. The internet has facilitated the democratization of information, freeing it from the bondages of the past era. Anybody today, with a computer or hand-held device, modem, ISP (internet service provider), and the motivation to do so, can access tomes of information on any conceivable topic using this communication tool.
The internet is seen primarily as an information source relative to very specific needs. eBook technology capitalizes on this capability, and concomitantly overcomes the internet's biggest problem---filtering the best knowledge from the ever-expanding ocean of information. Direct hyperlinks (hotspots) to material within an eBook and to referenced websites allows the readers immediate access of information, saving valuable time surfing the net. This also increases the pedagogical value of the hyperlink---it is specific and congruent with the context of the information presented in eBooks.
Other key benefits that eBooks have over their traditional counterparts include the following. eBooks are much more cost-effective when compared to print versions of books. The cost of printing books is extremely high when you factor in the ink and paper costs alone not to mention other costs involved. And in many disciplines, by the time that text books reach the end-users, the information is grossly out of date.
Another advantage to eBooks is that they are extremely easy to update. No more printing runs to produce printed versions of textbooks, which are outdated too quickly as already noted. eBooks can be updated in seconds simply by editing the original files and then re-compiling the document back into an eBook. This capability creates a "living document" nature to eBooks over their traditional cousins.
eBooks also save an incredible amount of space. You can store a vast amount of electronic books in a single handheld device that students and teachers could carry from class to class. Examples of handheld devices include Palm Pilots, Pocket PCs, the hiebooks, the eBookMan, and more. Each has different operating systems, so documents must be converted to specific formats to be used on each device.
Companies such as Palm Inc. and Compaq are offering handhelds to students and schools for free or at discounts. Palm Pilots and other handheld reading devices are making their way into schools, letting students schedule tests, read books/eBooks online, and even send each other electronic notes in class.
Become a Published Author: Showcase Your Expertise To An International Online Community
Have you ever considered the possibility of becoming a published author? With the advent of eBook technology, it has never been easier for you to accomplish this. Your personal experiences make you both a person and a potential author.
Often little research needs be done as you already have a great deal of knowledge and experience. In writing an eBook you are not writing a thesis. The writing style is more informal in demeanour, more conversational in tone, and more user-friendly in presentation, although you may be conveying the same type of information. In fact, in writing an eBook, the emphasis is on the practical over the theoretical. Purchasers of eBooks have more focussed reasons for buying them. The ease of updating information in eBooks is an important selling feature for the purchaser.
Research by Perkins and Solman (1988) demonstrates that thematic units and an integrated curriculum enhance the transfer process of new concepts into your brain's storage compartments. You have personal strengths that can and should be shared. Curriculum is comprised of three basic areas: ASK---attitudes, skills, knowledge. What do you have to share in our information age?
Ten Easy Steps To Creating An eBook
- Pick a topic of interest or choose a unit of study you have created already. Research it well. Particularly helpful to you is to pick a unit of study that you have already presented to a class and have worked out the glitches! Allow 2 months to create, edit, and publish your eBook. Begin with the end in mind!
- Create a targeted grade level such as the Junior Level (grades 4-6) or a specific grade level to reach with your eBook. Write in the language of your readers.
- Create a Table of Contents with chapters for each different component of your unit of study. Produce a flowchart or web of ideas for your unit. Begin to search the internet for related information. Create a separate file to store this information.
- Make sure to research and include the curriculum outcomes or expectations that your unit of study will address. (If you are not sure, go to your state or province's educational site and find them.) Remember that outcomes, or expectations, drive curriculum development. Cluster groups of expectations/outcomes across different areas of the curriculum–science, math etc.
- Record all your knowledge in several files using an authoring application of your choice such as Word or Word Perfect. You can record all your knowledge about a topic in one file or in several files. Make sure to save them in one folder if there is more than one file. Before compiling them, you can merge them together creating one file.
- To increase the success of your eBook, add hyperlinks throughout. You will need to make sure you research the internet and find sites which will make your eBook more interactive and hence, more successful. Try to find all the best sites that offer work sheets and research for students to do online. Include tests, seatwork, assessment materials, and any other material which will save teachers time.
- Proofread all your pages---check for spelling and all the other essential elements of good writing. Format it in easy-to-read style for the web. Remember the age group to whom you are writing. You want your eBook to be user friendly.
This is probably the trickiest step to explain so I will do my best!
Compile your merged documents into one file as stated in step 5. The process of transforming your files into an eBook is called compiling. The two main eBook formats are "EXE" and "PDF". There are also other formats for eBooks such as "PDB" (for Palms) and "LIT" (for the Microsoft Reader). To create your eBook as an "EXE" file, save your Word or Word Perfect document as an HTML file first before using the appropriate compiling software.
An eBook created as a "PDF" file using Adobe Acrobat allows you to reach Windows and Mac users. An "EXE" file only allows Windows' users to read your eBook. If your eBook is small you could leave it unzipped. This makes it easier for people to open it without unzipping it. Ideally it is recommended that your eBook fit nicely onto a diskette for portability.
- Make sure to periodically check the hyperlinks of your eBook to make sure they remain active. Continue to do some research and update your eBook regularly. Recompile it, and if you are really savvy, create a website to sell your eBook. Don't forget to add an eBook template cover to aid its marketability.
- Put a legal disclaimer on your work prohibiting people from distributing or copying your eBook for free. Register your eBook to protect it by copyright. Give away the first chapter of your eBook as a freebie, and password protect the rest of your eBook. This will allow you to make some money for your efforts. eBooks created in "PDF" allow you to safely secure your work protecting you from would-be thieves. No one will be able to steal your ideas and claim them for oneself.
The World's First Educational eBook eCourses from Teacher eBooks
Take Teacher eBooks' eBook eCourse and ensure your success. Teacher eBooks offers the world's first educational eBook eCourses. The genius of this eBook e-course is not only on the "how-tos" of authoring and publishing your own eBook; but this e-course, through an in-depth task analysis, helps you accomplish each goal in your journey to becoming a published author. We provide a plan of action for writing, not just a list of things to do.
As we are teachers at heart and by profession, our aim is to show you exactly what you have to do with your success as our goal. You will always get a teacher's perspective in the material we produce. We truly believe that this teaching aspect of the e-course sets us apart.
Jump-start your career! Showcase your expertise by authoring and publishing a topic about which you are very passionate. Make a difference beyond the walls of your classroom, school and district. Share your knowledge with the world. An international online community is waiting for you!
1. Almeda, E. & Dietzel, G. "Master Change the eBook Way: Helping Teachers Save Time and Effort!" at www.teacherebooks.com/
2. Hillesund, T, 2001. "Will eBooks Change the World?" First Monday, volume 6, number 10 (October), at www.firstmonday.org/issues/