Monday, March 30, 2015

Evaluating E-Book Apps for K-12

Toady's blog is written by Paula Hollohan, the Doucette Library's Instructional Technologies and Information Specialist.She writes the blog Doucette Ed Tech. 

Student-teachers often ask us what our opinions are about e-books so I asked Paula to provide a few points to consider when selecting e-books. The Doucette Library has the book apps mentioned here available on iPads that can be loaned out to students from the Werklund School of Education here at the University of Calgary.

By Paula Hollohan
I've been looking at e-book apps for almost a year now and I have to say, evaluating them is an involved process. It is getting easier but e-book content is evolving at the same time.  Here is some advice for evaluating e-book apps for a class set of iPads:
1. Find an e-book that you feel exemplifies what you are looking for. Many evaluators  look at  Bats! Furry Fliers of the Night for a great non-fiction e-book app that exemplifies great augmentation while not being distracting.
2. Strike a balance between the basic book as a hard copy and the enhancements of the e-book app.  Are the add-ons truly enhancing the reader's experience or distracting from the enjoyment of the book? In this case, you must know your reader or the kinds of readers in your classroom and the amount of interactivity present in the app.  Test out Even Monsters are Shy to see activity, music, and a story. I thought this e-book was mostly balanced but, depending on your readers, it may have too much going on.
3. Are you looking for an e-book app that you can be embedded in your curriculum or are you looking for technology to check off in the :"I am a technology forward teacher" box?  Adding an e-book app is great if it means that the book is an embedded part of your teaching. Many students learn differently and an enhanced e-book app may reach some very visual students.  For example, Water by Edward Burtynsky can be used across many curriculum areas and grades. It is very visual but has interesting information embedded for units on climate change, environmental responsibility, global citizenship and many social studies and science topics.
4. Think about how you choose great books for you classroom library. Most of the same criteria apply to e-book apps.  Do you love the illustrations? Can the story be used to model writing? Is it interesting enough for students to go back to again and again.? I would be extra careful with e-book apps. I would experiment with many and read reviews but the ones that you feel are keepers for your classroom may differ from what the critics say.  Can you see yourself recommending an e-book app over and over to different students? Then it is a winner. Do you need one copy or a series of copies on ipads throughout your classroom? That is more expensive and may need to be refreshed from year to year.

5. Have fun! Experiment! Download apps for a panel of students to try.  They are so experienced with technology, you will find out pretty quickly which e-book apps are engaging and which ones are not. And like a hard copy book, an e-book app has a lifespan within your classroom and can be deleted when students are no longer using it. There is no shortage of new apps appearing each day.


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