Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Look at Science eTextbooks - Engaging and Inspiring Students

One of the biggest challenges of teaching with iPads, for me at least, is churning through what often seems like an endless sea of quality apps.  There has been an explosion of resources made available for parents and educators alike.  Trying to choose which app to use can be one of the biggest challenges for those educators thinking of using the iPads with students for the first time.  (In fact, this is why I advocate choosing two or three apps and using them almost exclusively in the beginning).  Often overlooked when searching for resources and ideas are some of the most visually stunning eTextbooks and eBooks.  I thought it was about time these resources got a look (and yes, I do know I have added another level of resources to the mix).  Here are some of my favourite eTextbooks for teaching and learning Science.

Senses and Natural History: Origins are two examples of the visually stunning, interactive and informative eTextbooks that are sure to revolutionize the type of textbooks educators will soon choose to use.  Published by Imaxina, an educational organization from Spain, and written by science specialist and educators, both Senses and Natural History: Origins are suitable for students ages 12 and older.  The texts use interactive media and amazing imagery.  My favourite image was the enlarged pop-up picture of the octopus tentacles.  The texts are engaging, contain the information students need and are visually complex.  The Science textbooks I have been using with my Grade 6 and 7 students for the past decade are wordy and difficult to use in any way other then…. read for information, answer the comprehension questions and fill out the worksheets.  Science should be exciting and these eTextbooks present the material in an interesting and informative way.  I was engaged and I am pretty sure they will engage my students.  I can see using them in any Science classroom and believe them to be a valuable resource for educators

Another amazing series of eBooks are the Life on Earth series of 7 eBooks by E. O. Wilson, a noted Biologist and University Research Professor Emeritus at Harvard.  Developed in partnership with Apple, they are free and can be used in conjunction with a free iTunes U course.  The course and books cover several topics.

I had the privilege of hearing E O. Wilson speak about these books in July and was amazed and inspired by the amount of detail and work that went into them.  Added to the interactive media are some pretty detailed scientific animations that so clearly demonstrate the scientific concepts that even I can understand them.  The visuals are stunning, the text is written by one of the leading experts in the field of Biology and…it is a free resource that is far superior to any I have seen in my classroom. While the text is more suitable for older students (and is designed to provide the full high school Biology curriculum), the images will engage younger students and provide a starting point for discussion, questioning and scientific inquiry, exploration and discovery. 

Thinking Like a Scientist:  Students as Mobile Researchers by Julie Hearn (a Maple Ridge, BC Grade 6/7 Teacher and Apple Distinguished Educator) is not an eTextbook for students but rather a guide for teachers on how-to introduce inquiry into the curriculum.  These ideas can be adapted for all grade levels and give examples of ways to use iPads to capture and share the learning experience.  This eBook is free, as are many others, and well worth the read.  Check out the Apple Bookstore for other great examples.