Tyler Rabin’s tweet really stuck with me this past school year and inspired me to create a system where students can access everything they need on one page. I designed digital textbooks to increase accessibility to learning.
What is a Digital Textbook?
A digital textbook is an easy way to organize learning. The textbooks I make are hosted in Google Slides. I use one slide per week and add pre-recorded lessons, assignments, resources, and videos in the form of pictures and hyperlinks for easy access. I link in assignments from my learning management system to prevent the 100-click-situations that sometimes accompany learning in 2021. Finally, I embed my virtual textbook directly into my learning management system; I use canvas, but any will work.
Who? Me? Write A Digital Textbook?
You are absolutely capable as an educator of creating a digital textbook. If you’ve been teaching much at all, you probably already have the raw material- it’s just a matter of organization. Think of it as a digital lesson planner with hyperlinks. Take the resources that you already have within Google Drive or other digital file systems and reorganize them in a more aesthetically pleasing and easy-to-access arrangement for both students and yourself. BOOM! You have a digital textbook.
Some folks get caught up on the pre-recorded lessons, and truly that is not as intimidating as we all think it is. There are free or affordable tools that make recording very simple, such a screencastify, WeVideo, Loom, and I’m sure there’s even more. All we need to do is get over our insecurities, push the button, and start recording. Embedding prerecorded lessons into the digital textbook is easy or than ever. This allows the students always to have access to the learning, and the time spent with students can be focused on bridging the learning gap and building meaningful relationships – which is the whole reason we teach.
Why do this? I’m teaching in person
2020 taught me students might lose access to the physical classroom, but they should never lose access to learning. Even before the pandemic, I have always had students who may not attend the class for one reason or another physically. It can be anything from a health crisis to transportation issues. There are many reasons why a student might not be in a place mentally or physically where they can learn during our allotted class time. I still want those students to learn, and this ensures that they can.
I’m also a huge advocate for flipping classrooms. I am fortunate that I started to do this before the pandemic because it made everything easier for my students (and myself). When we pre-record, our lessons students have access to the learning and can work at a better pace for them. I can then spend class time teaching and small-group to clarify or guiding their learning through enrichment activities that are fun and engaging.
Where can I use this? Will it work with any LMS?
It does not matter what learning management system your school uses – you can add your digital
textbook anywhere. My school uses canvas, not Google classroom, but it will work on both platforms. The textbook itself is just a Google Slide presentation with a bunch of hyperlinks to look like a textbook. There is a way to publish this to the web and embedded in your learning management system. When students pull up my module in canvas, they see my digital textbook without also needing the google slide.
When Would I Have the Time?
Creating digital textbooks is time-consuming at first, but it ended up creating more time for me. On average, it takes me about 30 minutes per week per class to set everything up right and create virtual instruction videos. Of course, it took me longer at first, but I tend just to make these during my prep.
How Does it Work?
You can be as creative as you would like and there’s not a right or wrong way to make YOUR digital textbooks. Here’s a video to get started. Feel free to reach out with any questions