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Textbooks go digital

September 2, 2010

When Catawba County Schools teachers couldn’t find an acceptable math textbook for their students, they decided to create a textbook of their own.
But you won’t find the school system’s textbook bound and printed on students’ desks – it’s a digital textbook.
“Other textbooks just didn’t seem to fit what we needed to have,” said Jeanine Lynch, CCS curriculum coordinator. “So, we’re creating a digital textbook that’s a fluid document.”
Schools across the country are changing their curriculam to an integrated, problem-solving approach to mathematics lessons, prompting the need for new textbooks and lesson plans.
“It’s an approach that uses algebra to justify geometry and vice versa,” Lynch said. “The math curriculum has changed so drastically.”
The digital textbook will we available for middle and high school teachers in Catawba County to use, edit and adjust as their students and lesson plans necessitate.
Teachers will start using the textbook, once implemented, with some students in eighth grade, when they enroll in an Algebra I class.
The digital textbook will follow common-core standards for the North Carolina standard curriculum.
“Sometimes textbooks tend to be a crutch,” Lynch said.
The master document will be available online, and teachers can make administrative changes to the document.
Lynch said she and other Catawba County Schools teachers have the “skeleton” of the digital textbook finished, but it will take about four years for the textbook to be fully implemented into the system.
“We wanted to move away from teachers standing and lecturing,” Lynch said. “The teacher will be more of a facilitator for students. … It’s really to get the kids to start thinking about the (math) problems instead of mimicking and parodying what teaches do.”
Students will also have access to the digital textbook, but they will also have a workbook that coincides with the textbooks’ lesson plans.
“We didn’t want to say, ‘We’re just going to send them home with a piece of paper,’” Lynch said.  
The school system met with a publishing company to create a workbook for students.
Students will use the textbook to do homework and other requirements outside of the classroom, so children without Internet access at home won’t be at a disadvantage.
Most classrooms in Catawba County Schools have a projector teachers will use to display the digital textbook to students.
“This (technology) is what students are used to,” Lynch said. “It’s what they’re comfortable with. We feel like this is something that will engage them.”
Lynch will pilot the digital textbook this fall, and if the program is successful, she will train other CCS math teachers to use the document.
As teachers and administrators from CCS work with the digital textbook, Lynch said it’s possible other textbooks will be created for different subjects.
“We’re just in the baby steps now,” Lynch said. “We just want to make sure that what we have is quality.”

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