PD Session 5: Digital textbooks and assessments

Cool Tools

Memiary.com is a simple web tool for creating exit slips. Students log in to Memiary, and write what that learned that day in class. Memiary keeps the student’s responses so that they can go back and review them, and also allows a teacher to browse them for quick formative feedback. Students are linked to teachers by entering a teacher code generated by Memiary.

Electronic assesment

Since students will have a laptop with them at all times, you might be interested in ways in which you might conduct assessments electronically, saving paper, and allowing a number of new forms of assessment.

  1. Chelsea introduces her online exam for Environmental Science Class. Chelsea’s final exam for Environmental Science consisted of students writing a series of blog posts to summarize everything they learned, and then commenting on one another’s work, creating a permanent archive of their learning.
  2. Distributing fillable forms using adobe acrobat. It’s very easy to use adobe acrobat to take an existing document you have now, turn it into a form, distribute it to your class, and then collect and summarize their responses in one location. Here’s a very detailed set of tutorials:
    1. Converting a PDF to a Fillable Form
    2. Distributing forms using acrobat.com
    3. Initiating a Data Collecton Workflow: how to collect your form data from acrobat.com
    4. Managing form data: how to convert your data into an excel file.

    Other tools you might use to do online assessment:

    • Webassign.net: this is the leader in online homework/assessment. Webassign has very large problem banks with questions from nearly every textbook, and it is also very easy to create your own questions in webassign. Webassign can be used for more than just homework—you can also use it to create timed exams, clicker questions and much more.
    • Google DocsYou can create google forms quickly and easily, and even set them up to check simple numeric and multiple choice responses automatically. This was the topic of our 3rd PD session:Collaboration using google docs.
    • Other learning management systems: Schoology, Moodle and EdModo, among many others all allow you to create online quizzes and handle online submission of work.


    e-Books are expanding rapidly and there are literally hundreds of options for how to begin to use an e-book in your class, or even create your own electronic text. Electronic textbooks are evolving rapidly—new features, platforms and books are being created almost daily. Breaking News: Apparently, at the end of this month, Apple will be making a big announcement centered around the textbook publishing world.

    Electronic editions of standard texts

    The first place to start is probably checking out an e-version of the text you are using or are familiar with. Typically, these are distributed as an electronic file that is pretty much a copy of the paper text, with a few advantages, like searching. Often, they are also rentals, meaning students purchase access to the book only for a limited amount of time.

    CourseSmart is one online retailer that publishes e-texts. If you sign up for a free account, you can view a free trial version of any text in their catalog.

    Kno-a digital reader for the mac and iPad: Kno sells and rents over 150,000 digital textbooks that offer some interactivity, and good ability to highlight and take notes in the text.

    Webasssign.net also often bundles electronic texts with access to the site so that for an extra fee, students can have access to an online version of the text inside Webassign.

    Open source and free textbook resources

    There’s a growing movement of educators who are dedicated to creating quality digital textbooks that are free and easy to use. Here are a few options:

    • CK-12 Flexbooks: Large library of digital texts that can be edited and customized for individual classroom use.
    • E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth: E.O. Wilson is leading an incredible team of designers and educators to create what looks to be an outstanding interactive biology text, but there is not exact word on when it will be ready.
    • Principles of Biology, an Interactive Textbook By Nature Education: Nature Education is delighted to announce the launch of a new series of affordable, high quality interactive textbooks in college-level science. rinciples of Biology consists of 200 customizable modules collectively covering chemistry, genetics, cell biology, animal physiology, plant physiology, and ecology. Each module is a self-contained learning experience, combining textual instruction, high quality figures, simulations, interactive exercises, self-tests, and formal tests.

    Building your own textbook

    It’s much easier than you think to take all the cool websites, worksheets, and ideas you’ve got and put them together into an online course resource/textbook.

    Here’s an article that gives a nice overview of how many teachers and professors are doing this: Building your own Texbook.

    Here are a couple of blog posts by teachers describing exactly how they are doing this in their science courses using Juno.

    More on electronic texts:


One thought on “PD Session 5: Digital textbooks and assessments

  1. […] a brief overview of the current quickly changing landscape of electronic texts (you can see the list of resources I put together here). As part of this workshop, the teachers spit up in divisions (physics, bio, chem) and then […]

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