Friday, June 25, 2010

Going digital

The Consultants e-community has been offering interesting live events for those who have attended their online courses.  The last one, streamed in Elluminate last June 25th, was about digital coursebooks. It was moderated by Ana Falcao and having as guest speaker Lindsay Clandfield talking about Flexible learning in a digital age
This presentation was about how the digital components of a coursebook should flexible to the needs and expectations students may have when learning a foreing language.
Lindsay said, at the beginning of his talk, that coursebooks and (their) workbooks are becoming digital each day around the world. This is in response to the access language learners have got not only to loads of materials online ranging from (free) websites offering students the possibility to practice a foreing languge as well as sofware and hardware (hand-held devices) to listen to audios or videos either offline or online. This hasn’t escaped the publishers’ eyes.  
During this presentation Lindsay talked about:

1) the traditional components of a paper-based book (Teacher’s book, student’s book and workbook)
2) digitized components: digital book for projection, teachers’ resource discs and website, e-workbook.

The digital coursebooks and interactive whiteboards.
It has to do with the possibilty of projecting digital material using an IWB. Shamelesly, in Venezuela we are lagging behind (and will be for a long time) when it comes to using IWBs and needles to say digital coursebooks to project in the classrooom using this kind of interactive display. As far as I know, the British Council here has got a IWB and some few private schools located in afluent areas in Caracas.

The teachers’ resource site/disc.
I find it quite appealing to have a teacher’s resource website. However, some colleagues might still hang on to the teacher’s paper based format. Why do I find it appealing? You can have access to the website anywhere. It can be improved and updated easily and if this done following teacher's feedback much better. Also you’ll never lose your material. Lessons or extra-material will always be available on the site.   

The e-workbook
It is a CD-ROM and students can carry it anywhere (this might be not such a good idea, though). Students can practice and repeat activities as many times as they want.
Before Lindsay showed us an example of a digital material, he said that it will be accesed from handheld devices in a very close future.

Global: the e-workbook and teacher’s resources site.

To illustrate all this, Lindsay Clandfield showed us, as lead writer, a good example of a digital material: Global and its e-workboook (the first of its kind I understand).
During the walkthrough, he showed us the different contents of the workbook. From its location and format  to how the student’s work was saved and shown in the markbook.

What did I like the most about this e-workbook?:

1) It is attached to the student’s book as a sort of User's Guide booklet having the CD-ROM inside.
2) It can be installed in the student’s PC or laptop.
3) Some exercises can be printed (PDF) and videos downloaded (MP3).
4) Captions can be removed from videos.
5) There are videos for practicing language and authentic videos (like BBC programs)
6) There’s a literary section for reading.
7) You can click on a word , phrase or sentence and listen to it several times (It reminds me of Speaker text).
8) There’s the markbook. It keeps track of what students have been doing so far and results can be exported as a PDF file.
9) Material is scormed compliant so it can be delivered to Moodle.
10) The layout is nice with sober colours. The desing is quite minimalistic to put it some way. That is, it's simple in design but elegantly and professionally executed.
What I’d like to see: interactive activities for videos.

The teacher’s site is also great. Teachers  can download lessons, read about some other people’s experiences using Global and there's even a sort of trial session. The blog is an excellent idea and texts are easy to read especially for a busy teacher. You can also keep updated about changes in this site following Global Twiter or Facebook. Apart from this, there's a teacher's book with a CD-ROM as well.

Musing about…

1)  There are still some teachers and students who do not have access to computers or even have access to Internet in some parts of the world. It is a pity wonderful materials like Global cannot be used for teaching and learning yet.

2) It is a bit expensive for an EFL teacher in Venezuela. Student’s book / CDROM + Teacher’s book / CDROM + Audio CD is about BF 537 (USD 125). Not to mention the Global Digital Beginner which can be used with IWBs (not an option here) and projectors (most schools & universities have got at least one here). It is USD 102 which is about BF 441. Because of the economic and political situation we are living in Venezuela, this might be affordable for some private schools and/ or universities. If I'd like to buy Global I won’t be able to buy any since we are only allowed USD 400 annually (unless I buy separate units per year - sad, isn't it?). And this is the raw price. I can’t image how much we would be charged if it is finally imported and sold in our country. Price doubles. That is if you want to have the whole package, it’d be about BF 2.000  (UDS 466).

It is always good to know wonderful people are doing wonderful stuff out there anyways. 

If you want to know more about this topic, I'd encourage you to join the SEETA course on digital books moderated by the very same Lindsay Clandfield. Although, the course has finished already you can still register and read the interesting posts about this issue.


Lindsay said...

Hi Miguel

Thanks for the nice write up of my session. I'm glad you enjoyed it and I think you make very good points. Interactive activities for videos would indeed be a great plus!

Sorry about the price, hopefully these things (like all digital things) will come down a bit in the future, price-wise!

Miguel said...

Well, it was a really interesting session!

In Venezuela, it is not only about the pricing but the restictions you have to buy. But I'll try to be optimistic and hope things change for the better soon to have access to great materials like the ones you are designing.

Bruno Andrade said...

Hey Miguel!
First of all, thank you for your contribution on my blog. I am starting up a project to be delivered to the authorities in order to develop the use of technology in class. You really helped.
Well, I guess I can say we share many things in common. Here in Brazil is also difficult to get things done when it comes to the use of tech. Price and access to the internet are the worst points.
I also attended Lindsay's section on Elluminate and liked a lot!
Let's keep in touch!

Miguel Mendoza said...

Yes, Bruno. Brazil and Venezuela (and I believe most latinoamerican countries) have been struggling to try to integrate technology in the classroom...However, I do believe there's an emergent group of people like you who are contributing quite a lot to change this situation in this part of the world...

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