Week 6

I just completed the reading “Designing and Developing Online course Assessments” and like Karen, I wonder about the course objectives themselves. I need to review those critically to determine whether or not they need to go through revision.

7 Things You Should Know About the Evolution of the Textbook

The EDUCAUSE Learning Inititiative (ELI) publishes a great series of concise guides (only 2 pages long!) exploring learning technologies.  The publication for this month is particularly apropos for the sandbox —

 7  Things You Should Know About the Evolution of the Textbook (April 2012)

Accessibility and eTexts

My favorite part of the sandbox experience is the conversations that I have with participants.  Each participant brings a unique perspective to the sandbox topics.   I have learned so many useful, beneficial things from these conversations!

One of the unique perspectives on e-texts for me was a conversation that I had with Valerie Schoolcraft,  e-Text Sandbox participant and Director of Disability Services here at JMU.  Valerie and I talked about accessibility and e-texts.

When it comes to accessibility, e-texts and e-readers offers so much promise.  Unfortunately there is a  huge gap between the promise of a  universally usable device or software and the reality of the current devices and software.

The web for the Office of Disability Services states its mission —  “Disability Services assists the University in creating an accessible community where students with disabilities have an equal opportunity to fully participate in their educational experience at JMU.”  They work hard to make sure that students facing different functional limitations,  including vision and hearing impairments, motor disabilities, or reading and attention problems, receive appropriate accommodates.

As we look at e-texts, we need to consider accessibility for students.

The sandbox discussions have touched on the variety of electronic formats for e-texts.  Some formats are more useful than others  when it comes to accessibility. Accessible formats include, ePub, Daisy, PDF, and HTML.   E-book reader technologies, whether devices, web-based services, or installed software,  offer varying levels of accessibility. The Diagram Center established by the US Department of Education  (Office of Special Education Programs)  maintains a product matrix of e-book hardware and software that is a useful resource for checking on accessibility.

On her blog No Shelf Required, Sue Polanka includes an interview with Ken Petri, the Director of the Web Accessibility Center at The Ohio State University.  The 25-minute audio podcast provides an excellent overview of accessibility and e-books. The post “Accessibility and eBooks – Resources and an Interview” (October 6, 2010) also includes  links to resources  recommended by Petri  on accessible formats, e-readers, and  e-book repositories.   In an update, Polanka wrote “Accessibility and eReaders: functional requirements,” with useful links to the book chapter written by Ken Petri on e-book accessibility for her publication No Shelf Required 2:  Use and Management of Ebooks (ALA Editions, 2012).


Copyright questions – Ingram

My copyright question for today has to do with whether I can take a freely available eBook, eg, PDF, and annotate that and embed links for my students.  I am already doing this with two books, listed below:


Ito, Mizuko (2010). Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media. MIT Press. eText ISBN-13: 9780262258265. Print ISBN-13: 9780262013369

Note: This book is available for free in PDF format via http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/full_pdfs/hanging_out.pdf


Abelson, Hal. (2008) Blown to bits: your life, liberty, and happiness after the digital explosion. New York, NY: Addison-Wesley Professional. ISBN: 0137135599

Note: This book is available for free in PDF format via http://www.bitsbook.com/excerpts/


I can provide an example of how I am modifying the text for my class.  I modify using Adobe Acrobat and then read with Adobe Reader X or Kno.



Copyright question

If we post our own e-texts for our students should we provide explicit usage instructions (such as freely available without alteration or feel free to download and use with reference to the origination?

I post on our course website links to code provided by our authors, some of which is how it was in the text, some of which I have altered to add in some teaching examples. Is this permitted if we are using the book for class?  Concerned that the “web” is also accessible to others.

Is it safe to post links to online library resources on a course web site (not necessarily through BB).

Copyright and E text

If I am using an etext in a course and the text allows me to insert a comment (as Elsevier does)– and students print out the pages — will my comment show up and is that “altering” of the text that is allowed?

If I find a video on line from a peer reviewed site like NIH and I want to embed that video into a course on line, do I first have to get permission to use the video from the author(s) of the video? from the site that I find it posted it on? can I download and embed as needed or only provide a weblink?

I have found an online source of mini chapters and would like to use those as assigned student readings in an online course. Do I have to contact the authors for use when it is open for anyone to read on line?




Digital textbooks get a boost with new offerings

Digital textbooks get a boost with new offerings


Cloud-based ‘Techbooks’ from Discovery Education now include high school science, middle school social studies

Apple recently made a splash when it unveiled its iBookstore, featuring digital textbooks for high school math and science education from McGraw-Hill and others. Now, Discovery Education has given digital textbooks another jolt with the release of its own high school science offering—and a middle school social studies product as well.

Discovery Education’s new “Techbooks” expand on an instructional delivery model that Discovery launched for K-8 science in 2010. Much more than just digitized versions of static textbooks, the Techbooks include videos, embedded assessments, and other interactive features that leverage the power of the internet, the company says.

E-Book Authoring Tools

With Rich’s interest in e-book authoring, I went on a scouting expedition to see what is happening in this area.

There is a new HTML5 authoring tool with the fun name of Red Staple.  Red Staple, which is web-based, offers a tool to create a standard ePub 2 book or ePub 3 book that includes audio and video.  According to a post on  Red Staple in The Verge entitled “Red Staple Books Offers Web-based, Multimedia e-Book Creation, DRM-free for $29” —

Authors can create books for free by signing up at Red Staple’s site, but the cost comes when you attempt to export your book: $29 for books under 500 pages with the standard ePub 2 format and $99 for larger books or books that include multimedia content.

The Verge post and comments look at reasons for using Red Staple versus Apple’s free iBooks Author.

The following video is a brief demo of Red Staple.


ProfHacker has an interesting post entitled “Make Your Own E-Books with Pandoc.”  The Pandoc web site  describes Pandoc as “your Swiss Army knife”  for convert files from one markup format into another.  The Profhacker post describes making an e-book with the free Pandoc software. It also mentions ProfHacker posts on two other open-source tools for creating e-books:  Sigil, a WYSIWYG ebook editor, and  Anthologize, which uses WordPress to transform online content into an e-book.



Survey: Tablet Ownership Up Among H.S., College Students

It looks like the “Digital Textbook Playbook” may move things along more quickly than we thought.  ri


The results, released Wednesday, show that tablet owners more than quadrupled among college-bound high school seniors during the past year, with 17 percent surveyed this year claiming a tablet device as their own. It also more than tripled among college students, with a quarter of this year’s respondents owning a tablet. There was no information about the ownership likelihood for high school seniors who weren’t pursuing postsecondary education.

Further, 69 percent of high school seniors and 63 percent of college students said they believed tablets would effectively replace textbooks within five years, a time frame also set as a goal by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan when they announced the launch of the “Digital Textbook Playbook.” That student belief could be more promising to ed-tech tablet enthusiasts than student ownership statistics, especially if it reflects that schools are receptive to adopting alternative forms of content from traditional print textbooks.

Copyright Questions

1.  When you locate an article on the Internet, can you save it as a pdf and place it on BlackBoard for students to read within a course?

2.  When you find a text online and it is accessbile via link AND pdf download, can you save the download in BlackBoard for the students?

3.  Can you download an article from a database supported by the  JMU library into BB for students rather than have the students find the article themselves?

4.  How much of a text can be scanned and placed on BB for students to read?

5.  Can websites be placed in pdf format and loaded onto BB for students’ use?