"Techbooks" highlight EACSD regular meeting

by Susan Cantine-Maxson

The Eastern Allamakee Community School District (EACSD) Board of Directors met Monday, January 19. One of the highlights of the meeting was a presentation on Techbooks now replacing textbooks within the school district.
Brea Baxter, seventh grade geography teacher, presented information on Discovery Education Techbooks which are being used as the primary curriculum for geography and as a supplement to sixth through eighth grade science and reading. She explained that there are numerous advantages of using Techbook technology over standard textbooks. First, the information is always current since the Techbooks are updated regularly over the internet. Second, the system capitalizes on multiple learning styles, being student centered to individuals. It appeals to audio, visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners by including items such as interactive maps, videos, and speech-to-text capabilities. The material can be adjusted to two different levels of reading as well as Spanish. Students are actively engaged in reading, thinking critically, and making connections with the curriculum. Third, the lessons are aligned with the Common Core standards with strong literacy connections such as the use of graphic organizers, comparison/contrast exercises and similar activities which push the students beyond just memorizing. Areas such as the Global Wrap are updated for the past week with modern day issue analysis for that area, which ties in with current events. Standard textbooks are found to be out of date as soon as they are printed, Baxter relayed.
Students have access to the resources of the Techbook through any internet connection, so they can print out worksheets or homework. The technology is currently limited somewhat by the low bandwidth for the internet in the area and runs slowly when many resources are pulling on the same bandwidth. Using a Discovery Education App on the IPads has helped with that issue.
Baxter then demonstrated the Techbook, explaining that each chapter uses the same organizational pattern: 1. Map of the area being studied; 2. Human-environment interaction; 3. People and culture; 4. Government and economy; and 5. Modern issue analysis. Each lesson follows five E’s: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and Evaluate. The lessons progress through activities, projects and culminate with synthesizing the learning through higher level critical thinking. Baxter praised the Techbook curriculum as highly interactive and engaging for the students.
Several board members commented on the appeal of this type of learning, stating that it would be fun to go back to school again to use this type of technology. Mary Hogan, high school and middle school principal, said that Baxter has been a leader in integrating this type of technology in the classroom.

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