Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Digital Curriculum Part 1… Textbook To Flexbook… Free, Open Source, Engaging


With so many schools beginning the journey towards a 1 to 1 initiative, it really is time to investigate how a digital device in every child’s hand can transform learning… even down to what a student carries in a book bag! In fact, could it be that the book bag may just have to find a new name? After all, why carry around an encyclopedia of books when that same print can be stored in a digital manner? Additionally, why limit it to print? One group providing a free and open source alternative is the CK-12 Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to reduce the cost of textbook materials for the K-12 market both in the U.S. and worldwide. C-K12 is building an open-content, web-based collaborative model termed the “FlexBook”, In fact, CK-12 intends to pioneer the generation and distribution of high quality educational content that can serve as both a core text and at the same time provide an adaptive environment for learning.  The people at CK12 state that, “content generated by CK-12 and the CK-12 community will serve both as source material for a student’s learning and provide an adaptive environment that scaffolds the learner’s journey as he or she masters a standards-based body of knowledge, while allowing for passion-based learning.”

So… what is a FlexBook? They may be best described as customizable, standards-aligned, free digital textbooks for K-12 education. FlexBooks are customizable textbooks that teachers can use online,via flash drives, CD’s, or as printed books. Teachers can even share FlexBooks with other educators and they can also customize them to fit their students, locality, standards, and current events. They contain high-quality online materials that are aligned with national and state textbook standards. Since FlexBooks are online they are kept up to date much more easily than printed textbooks. Teachers can use the books as they are provided by C-K12, use only parts of them, or add their own materials along with other content from the web. By now I am sure you understand the word “flex” in Flexbook. This unique flexibility made possible by digital technology allows for adding or deleting of material (including graphics and videos), adjusting the difficulty of the language, and making any other changes students may need. Imagine teachers providing the valuable handouts, readings, videos, pictures, and sound bites they have always used and including these pieces in the textbook, or should I say Flexbook!. Best of all FlexBooks are free, so teachers can modify the FlexBook each time they find something that works better in their classrooms.

Currently, the Flexbook Library contains 50 books with many more soon to be added. Flexbooks at this time are almost exclusively focused on math and science for middle-school and high-school students. In fact, be sure to check out these Flexbooks in the area of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. You can be certain this library will grow, as it is the goal of CK-12 to ultimately encompass all subjects for K-12, as teachers and authors create books and donate them to the FlexBooks Library.


Please explore my twelve points to consider when investigating the implementation of Flexbooks.

1. Provide sustainable in-service for teachers. [snip].

2. Allow time for teachers to collaborate, create, and plan their digital curriculum; you might be an adoption cycle away from full implementation.

3. Gather resources to facilitate the entire curriculum. [snip].

4. Provide proper technology and include necessary maintenance. [snip].

5. Consider the wide diversity of students’ needs in their home environment and have plans to facilitate for this wide spectrum.

6. Spend more time discovering resources and less time writing standards… [snip].

7. Consider the local community when seeking material for a Flexbook as this will allow relevance and meaning for students. [snip].

8. Remember that transformation from hard copy to digital must be done in small measurable steps.[snip].

9. Keep in mind that the flexibility in a Flexbook means that content should go beyond text and allow for a wide array of learning styles. [snip].

10. While there may be cost savings, keep in mind that these savings could be spent in ways to further support students and teachers. [snip]

11. Realize that there is no such thing as a free lunch. [snip]

12. A great amount of quality digital curriculum resources are currently available by publishing companies for a fee. [snip]

In conclusion, I firmly believe that a digital curriculum will provide access to a virtual and flexible textbook that will facilitate necessary understanding of content by all students. It will be available in a variety of formats to be read on tablet, iPod, Droid, laptop, desktop, or possibly a piece of real paper! As the virtual and flexible textbook matures it will become interactive, filled with engaging media, and will provide a nonlinear experience. [snip]

Join me in this continuing series devoted to ” Going Digital”. In fact Part 2 promises to bring you seven more digital resources. [snip].

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