Kelly Estrada

  • Textbook Alternative Pilot (TAP) Evaluation
  • Kelly M. Estrada, Professor, Curriculum Studies & Secondary Education (CSSE)
  • Participant Summary for the Inquiry Phase - Fall of 2014

Summary

  

 One of the definitions of engagement that informs my approach to teaching is “emotional involvement or commitment.” In my experience, students experience difficulty taking ownership of their learning experience when they are not engaged This most recent generation of students require more support for becoming engaged with course materials given their rearing as digital natives. Add to this state of affairs the simple fact of the rising costs of textbooks seemingly driven by profit minded textbook companies and it becomes imperative to develop a set of flexible, varied, interactive and valid course materials that have the capacity to evolve over time – indeed even during the course of the semester in which the course is being taught. Being so motivated, I elected to engage in the TAP program because I wanted to expand my ability to provide such materials via structured access to fellow faculty of like mind, engaged in a shared process of exploration.

My approach to teaching is based on the integrated use of a distance learning platform (presently Moodle, however I am equally versed in Blackboard and WebCT). I organize and present the course schedule online and integrate a hybrid teaching format into all of the courses I teach at SSU – consisting of a combination of face-to-face (F2F) and online course sessions. I call the online course sessions “Modules”, assign students to semester-long ‘home’ groups that stay the same over the course of the semester and engage in collaborative, team building, small group activities during these first few sessions to socialize students working in these groups in structured, interactive ways that promote their learning of the course concepts. I do so in order to structure interactive, self-directed, small group learning experiences that I embed into the course Modules (typically 5-6 over the course of a 15-week semester). Modules consist of the directions for participation with due dates for each module as well as a set of required and self-selected resources that are varied in terms of format (e.g. the required course materials for a module may be to read a chapter from a textbook, view a website with information on key concepts with their definitions, and the viewing of a short video outlining these same concepts, with self-selected materials ranging from podcasts, to blogs, to essays, poems, videos, online museums, lesson demonstrations, etc.) I typically select only 1 required textbook for each course I teach and strive to find textbooks that are engaging, readable, well-written and voiced in a way that provides the reader with access to the author rather than a disembodied ‘talking head.’ I also routinely assign only selected chapters from the text and have in the past simply scanned these in and made them available to students online rather than require them to purchase the whole textbook. My only requirement was for them to have a copy of the text available for class – if they were comfortable reading the text online then they need only have it available on a laptop or tablet. If not, they were responsible for printing a copy of the pdf file and having it available for class during the week in which the reading was assigned.

My goals for the TAP project

  • Explore options for compiling a textbook for the Methods of Language & Literacy Instruction (EDSS 446) course I am teaching spring 2015 that would allow me to take selected chapters from different textbooks and combine them into an e-textbook that I could easily embed into the Moodle course environment for a small fee that would give student electronic access and the ability to print a copy of the chapter if they so desired.
  • Expand the sources from which I could access Education-related course materials that were in varied formats (video, podcast, websites as well as text-based), and insure that these sources were reliable and valid.
  • Engage with fellow faculty in the process of developing more accessible, more affordable solutions for course materials so as to widen the range of resources and leverage the group effort in meeting my goals.

Resources

 I explored a variety of resources during the fall 2014 semester that I have incorporated into both of the Education courses I am teaching this spring (2015). They are as follows:

  • Through Open Course Materials for Education-Merlot Collection, I found a variety of materials on the topics of Education Foundations and Teacher Education that were available online, freely accessible and in various formats (text-based as well as audio and video formats)
  • I explored e-textbooks through vendors such as CourseSmart (www.coursesmart.com) that provide an electronic version of many of the textbooks from current publishers I use (Cengage, Sage, Wiley, Pearson). Once a textbook is ‘adopted’ using the system, faculty can ‘share’ a book with their students and thus reduce student costs for the e-textbook version significantly (their claim: up to 60% off from text version).

The e-textbook versions are accessible online and allow faculty to:

  • Search topics quickly within the book
  • Add notes and highlights
  • Copy/paste passages
  • Print any page in order to have a paper copy if necessary

I joined a free online education-related website called “The Teaching Channel” that provides me with access to many demonstration videos and lesson materials that exemplify best practices in teaching (for credential candidate students) and the links for the videos are easily embedded into my Moodle course for each of access by students. If student elect to become members of the Teaching Channel (free) they have access to the lesson materials as well – provided by actual classroom teachers.

My Recommendation

    As a result of my participation in TAP, I recommend that the campus move in the direction of supporting and providing wider access to as many high quality, low cost alternatives to standard print-based textbooks as are available to faculty. I plan to share my experiences as a participant in TAP with my department at our March 2015 department meeting.