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Will Textbooks Go Digital… and Free?

Visalia Direct: Virtual Valley
March 2010 Issue
January 23, 2010

Will Textbooks Go Digital… and Free?

California schools spend nearly $500 million each year on textbooks, according to state reports. That is up $250 million over the last decade.

As any parent or teacher knows, a significant portion of this expense goes to replacing lost or damaged books. We also have a growing student population. In many schools, there aren’t enough books for complete class sets. Students end up sharing books or working in small groups.

Every few years, the California State Board of Education adopts new standards, known as frameworks, for our public schools (http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/). When standards undergo major revisions, textbooks need to be updated and replaced. The adoption of a new standard is a lengthy and expensive process, with textbook publishers eager to pitch their books to the state for approval. School districts must adopted texts that meet state criteria.

California, Texas, and Fl…

First Week of Moodle

Moodle is definitely proving to be more flexible and, sometimes, more efficient than Blackboard. I created five groups for class today in under 15 minutes, something I could not do as quickly in Blackboard. I then created a Wiki for each group in only three steps. The Wiki in Moodle does use HTML instead of Wikitext, but that's okay with me and should be okay for students. The system is new for most students, but they seem to have far less difficulty than my previous classes with Blackboard. That's a definite positive to using Moodle. The campus interviews I have for tenure-track posts use Blackboard. If hired, I would certainly want to advocate for Moodle, now. Unfortunately, such choices are seldom up to instructors and few IT departments want to support several platforms. Reporting is overly detailed in Moodle; I would prefer a chart or something by student. Still, it is nice to be able to check so many student activities. Next week I collect my first online assignment and …

Moodle: The Start

This semester I am using Moodle for online course content, after six years of Blackboard use (including WebCT, WebVista). I thought I'd chronicle my experiences; I know it helps me refine my thoughts and it might help other instructors. As I design my course, which starts Jan. 19, 2010, I am finding some things take a bit of extra work with Moodle. This is because the system tends to present every possible variable for an activity, even when only two or three are required. It would be nice to have a "show basic" option for some tasks. I realize some instructors use every option, so those should be easily accessible, but cut the clutter is a good design philosophy. When I do use an option, such as setting the maximum points for an assignment, the system uses a "pop-up" or "drop-down" list, when I would rather key in the numeric value and tab to the next field. Scrolling through every number, from 1000 to 1, for "points possible" is annoying. …