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Today I had my mental model* of the e-book completely shook up.
I went to a brown bag presentation here on the UIUC campus called “Encounters with E-Texts“. Catherine Prendergast from the Undergraduate Rhetoric Program talked about the adoption of an in-house developed e-textbook for the freshman composition classes. Here’s the description that went out to campus listservs: “Cathy Prendergast discusses the process of adopting an e-text from preliminary research and implementation to student evaluation and feedback. Join us for a peek between the pages of teaching with e- textbooks.”
My notes below from the brown bag might not be entirely accurate, so please keep a look out for the video of the talk which will be up on the brown bag website eventually. [ Update: video is available here ]
The Undergraduate Rhetoric Program:
- 4,000 students per year
- 65 Teaching Assistants (graduate students)
- 27 Adjunct Instructors
- new paper textbooks every 3 years, roughly
- students usually have to pay about $130 for the paper textbooks
Prendergast devoted a year and collaborated with several campus departments to develop a UIUC-centric textbook that would work better for the Rhetoric Program, be accessible, be cheaper for the students, be more flexible and allow more creativity.
Now, when I first saw the brief description for this brown bag, I imagine the kind of e-books I’m used to reading on my iPhone: basic epub files that I downloaded from Feedbooks.com or Project Gutenberg, mostly fiction that doesn’t have any fancy formatting, looks pretty much just like a paper book.
The e-textbook for the Rhetoric Program, however, is a different animal altogether. The keywords here are *flexible* and *interactive*. I don’t mean the old-fashioned “ooo, we have hyperlinks” interactive. Prendergast and her colleagues went out to professors in other disciplines at UIUC and interviewed them about citation styles, research methods and other writing issues, then incorporated these interviews as videos into the textbook.
But the most surprising part to me was how customizable the instructors wanted this text to be. The Rhetoric Department includes several different classes, each taught by several different instructors. They wanted to be able to rearrange the chapters for each class (the students purchase a log-in to the book, which then identifies them to a specific section and instructor). Plus, the instructors can leave different “notes” throughout the text, which look like small thumbtacks off to the margin with prompts like “Think about such-and-such questions while reading this section.” or “Be prepared to discuss your reaction to this part in class.” Even though all the classes are using the same e-textbook, each instructor can tailor the experience for their students from within the text itself – setting up links to other sections of the book, inserting exercises, incorporating media. What they envision this being in the end is a textbook and an LMS (like Blackboard, Compass) all rolled into one.
At first, the Rhetoric Department went with a vendor to distribute this e-textbook, which turned out to be a miserable experience. But – very wisely – the department kept the copyright (and receives the royalties! which will be funding better equipment in classrooms to view these e-texts). So now they are in collaboration with another unit on campus to get the e-textbook made the way they originally wanted. They hope to have it ready for the fall semester of 2010. I’m very excited to see how it turns out. More than anything, I’m blown away by how different the e-textbook could be from the traditional paper textbook I grew up with. Although there are some aspects of the e-textbooks that I don’t like (won’t go into those details here though), I do see this move toward fluid, non-linear textbooks as a step toward some amazing learning tools. This has completely changed my thoughts on what the textbook might look like 10 years from now.
I was looking for a good dose of humor this morning, so I turned right away to Piled Higher and Deeper. I found two comics that really express everything I could want to say about…
and 2. Politics
My first year of graduate school is over!! Gaah! As you can see from the activity on this blog, I haven’t really had any time to myself for a few weeks now. So as is my style, a few bullets:
- I’ve sort of reconciled myself with the whole idea of my dad going to Iraq. We’ve talked quite a bit more on the phone in the last couple weeks than we usually do in two months. We’ve reached the deal-with-this-through-humor stage, and I’m teasing him about getting Prince Harry’s autograph while he’s over there. I think what helped the most was looking ahead to his homecoming in August and we’re already planning on a nice little family reunion, so we all have something to look forward to. Something as simple as a goal or a plan can be wonderful therapy.
- I haven’t read blogs or RSS feeds in almost a month, so my apologies to all my friends who posted earth-shattering news on their blogs and haven’t heard from me. This weekend = catch up.
- With classes over, I’ve done two things this week that I never thought I would do …
- First, I have wholeheartedly listened to and enjoyed some country music. My lovely girlfriend checked out the video “Shut up and sing” about the Dixie Chicks, which was a great film, and afterward we listened to “Not ready to make nice” in various YouTube editions from the video to the Grammys. It was such a perfect song for the whole situation with my dad — and so fitting in light of where the song came from. Mind you, I’m not angry at my dad at all. I’m still worried sick about him. As I said in the last post, I’m dumbfounded that our government has let all this happen. But anyways…
- Second, I signed up on Facebook. Two reasons went into this – for starters, I’m taking a class in the Fall on Social Networks, specfically the online kind (as opposed to the theory) so I figured I should know something more than just blogs and Flickr. Secondly, I’ve met some great people in a class this term who use Facebook a lot, so much so that it comes up in conversation regularly. Some of these people are graduating and it appears that Facebook will be the best way of keeping in touch. Why was I resisting? Well, I used to work with a couple people who were giving MySpace a try, and it seemed like the whole idea was a great big meat-market-singles-bar type thing. And the bar was primarily inhabited by teenagers, to boot. So I wasn’t interested. Facebook, at least, seems a little better organized and, I don’t know, grown-up maybe. We’ll see.
- It’s summer! Such glorious long sunlight hours! I’m trying to enjoy it as much as I can now, because I know I’ll be miserable in about a month when the heavy, heat-laden, humid air returns and suffocates us all. Hopefully this year won’t be so bad since we’re not coming straight from Oregon.
- I have lots of thoughts about library-related matters, but that will have to be a separate post. Although this term was crazy busy, it was also extremely rich in information and ideas. More to come. For now, I leave you with a cheeky fun music video that I lifted from Unexpected Librarian:
One of the biggest lessons I’m learning in grad school is time management … or, better put, how the absence of time management can really mess up every aspect of your life. Smiles.
Maybe every student has a semester that they didn’t do quite right … I think this is mine. I tried to pack in too many classes and too many jobs and here I am, barely half way through the semester, feeling like I’ve already run the marathon only to find this is just the turn-around point.
But just like a marathon (from what marathon-runners have told me), there’s a strange kind of high in there somewhere, too. Less than two months ago I was in Prague at a library conference. Today a whole gaggle of us are going to East St. Louis to survey community centers in low-income neighborhoods for computer labs. How cool is that? A few days ago I went to a lecture called “Visions of Time” given by a Princeton chronologist who, as if in irony, used faded black and white photocopied transparencies on a projector for his presentation. I realized that was the first projector I’ve seen in use for, oh, six years at least. It was like watching someone type on a typewriter. It put things in perspective for me during this crazy term of back-to-back scheduling. As fun as it’s been, next year I’m only taking 12 credits a term, tops.
Hopefully you’ll see some photos here soon of this weekend’s trip. Updates to come.
I’ve run across two very different approaches/perspectives/interpretations of the Web 2.0 trends in the last few weeks. First, there was the famous text animation video from Kansas State U, which has already been blogged to death, receiving its fair share of praise and criticism.
Then I somehow did a time warp to the past – say, six months ago – while researching Web 2.0′s effect on information users and their privacy (or lack thereof). On a new-to-me search engine, I ran across Dani B.’s blog, specifically her post from July 2006.
Now, both of these examples are fairly optimistic about Web 2.0, but it seems to me that the applications of that optimism are worlds apart. I’d have to admit that I would toss my chips in with Dani on those rare moments when I leave cynicism aside. I really appreciated her specific, all-too-real connection. What good is all this information if we don’t use it to communicate with each other? Is Dani’s example an isolated incident? Sure. But it speaks to a potential that the video above only skirts around. Dani’s post is also the first time I’ve heard Web 2.0 associated with something visceral, corporeal, and possibly fatal.
We have our last sessions today and I’ll be flying home tomorrow. It’s been so wonderful to see all the different topics addressed by all these different countries, and yet we have such strong similarities in how we all look at libraries. I mentioned in an earlier post that the librarian stereotype was the subject of a few different presentations – and they were the same image … spinster in glasses with a bun. Other popular topics here: social software or social websites, competitive intelligence, and library curriculum. That last one has been especially interesting because Europe is in the midst of looking to standardize university degrees across the EU, which is proving to be quite a challenge. Should it be 1, 2, or 3 years? What are the core issues? Do students have to have a library background before the master’s?
And then there’s the fact that the whole conference, posters, proceedings and all, was entirely in English. I understand the need for a lingua franca, but at the same time I feel rather strongly about providing as much information as multilingually as possible. Especially here… we must have at least a dozen languages respresented at this conference, yet we’re all muddling through in English. Maybe I just see it as an opportunity for Americans to continue being lazy in their language skills. Those who know me already know I think that tendency will bite us in the but one day. But anyway… I’m going in search of a lovely Czech baguette before heading back into conference sessions. :-p
Things are chaos all around, missing speakers, missing room (?), and people waiting. And yet it all moves on in spite of itself. It’s just a flurry of activity overall with excited, nervous people running to and fro. Of course, I want to see three different speakers scheduled all at the same time.
And given the blessed wireless here on campus I just uploaded *real* photos to Flickr so check out the slideshow.