Checking in on textbooks

The week before Thanksgiving Tiffany and Shelley went to visit some teachers and see how the textbooks were working for the students. Two teachers were kind enough to let us come in and observe how students were using the textbooks and ask the students some questions.

The first class they visited had the option of using the textbook on an iPad or using the paper version we printed for them at the beginning of the year. That day the teacher was giving a lesson on highlighting and writing notes using the iPad. He showed the students how to do it, had them follow along and then had them look up specific genetics vocabulary words to highlight and make notes on. As he was showing students how to write a note in the margin of their digital textbook one of the students exclaimed in excitement, “I wish our regular textbooks could do this!” The teacher smiled and said “Oh they can.” He then described how you can take a highlighter and drag it across the page to highlight a section and then write a note in the margin.

As Shelley and Tiffany watched the students in both classes work and asked questions, they continually heard the other students echo the same sentiment. They kept saying how useful it was that they could write in their science textbooks and that they wished they could write in other textbooks too. Several of them talked about how it helped them group ideas (many students highlighted with multiple colors and assigned specific colors to specific ideas) and others talked about how it helped them work through difficult concepts.

Tiffany asked students what other courses they would like to have write-able textbooks in. Math was the overwhelming consensus with other science classes close behind. One student also mentioned how much it would help in her music theory class.

When Shelley went into the classroom, she had been skeptical that students would write in their textbooks and she was pleased to find that students were writing and marking up the textbooks a lot. And when she asked them if they were marking it up in response to teacher assignments, they gave her funny looks and explained that they did it on their own for their own learning.

For the next steps in the study, the BYU team will identify what constructs they want to measure and put together questions to get at those constructs. They’ll spend more time in the classrooms with students and teachers and get more information about how students are using the textbooks.