September Teacher Meeting

Last week we had a very exciting teacher meeting. Besides getting to see each other again, we talked about how the students have been responding to their textbooks, how technology is working in the classrooms, and what questions we are interested in asking the students and the parents about this project.

The students have responded well to their new textbooks. We discussed some of the pedagogical reasons that the teachers made the choices they did and it seems as if the students are excited to hear the new reading and learning strategies that the teachers have planned. One of the ideas we talked about is student ownership of the textbook and student ownership of learning. Do students feel more ownership when they get to write in and keep their own textbook? Do they feel more ownership of their learning when their book was customized for them and they get to further customize it by writing in it and highlighting it?

Tracy shared an experience with us that when she asked her students to answer the questions at the end of the chapter, one of her students voiced a concern that she hadn’t brought her notebook and she didn’t know where to write the answers. Tracy explained that the students were supposed to write their answers in the books–in the margins. She got stunned looks from students and it took them a few minutes to get used to the idea. Once students do get used to writing in their books, might they start taking notes in their books, tracking their thoughts, or asking their own questions?

Several of the teachers participating are having their students use the textbooks online–with PCs or iPads–and using online note-taking applications (i.e. diigo). Even though it has only been a few weeks, it seems as if the students are taking to the new technology well.

As we discussed what we are interested in knowing from students and parents, we discussed many of the specifics that we are interested in knowing.

  • How might online interactivity change the way students use a textbook?
  • Does online availability change the way parents are involved with student learning?
  • Does a smaller, more customized textbook change the way students perceive it and its contents?
  • Will the students engage in the textbook and in their learning on a deeper level since they have ownership of their textbooks?
  • In what ways are students using the textbook that they haven’t before?
  • Are students reading the textbook more this year than previous years?
  • Do students feel like this years textbook is more ‘useful’ than previous years’ textbooks?
  • For those students with no physical textbook, how do the parents feel about that?
  • For those students whose teacher highly customized and even wrote the textbook, how do parents feel about that?
  • Do the parents notice a higher level of student engagement with the textbook and the course?

These questions gave us a good idea of what our teachers are interested to know. As we get closer to our data gathering,  we will use these thoughts to craft the questions we want to ask and to learn more about how the open textbooks are affecting the schools.