Technology Integration

How My School Is Transitioning to Digital Textbooks: Organizing (Step 1 of 5)

August 4, 2011

Overview: The Role of iPads

There is no denying iPads are becoming a dynamic tool for education. However, with the integration of new tools into the classroom, there is a learning curve. The evolution of the iPad has created more than just a learning curve, but a cultural shift in the way we access information and connect with the outside world.

This fall, Burlington High School will transition to a 1:1 school exclusively with the iPad 2. One of the goals of this initiative is to slowly transition curriculum and textbooks to ePub format. ePub file format allows anyone to create a file that is readable on an iOS device or Kindle like a book. At Burlington, we will be using the iBook app to distribute teacher created texts, but also the student handbook, and other student reference materials throughout the year.

Multi-district Collaborative Event

While this transition is exciting and new, there are not many examples out there of the ePub format in use. Therefore, we decided to create a multi-district edcamp-like event over the span of four days in June. This event was scheduled during the first week of summer vacation for teachers in Massachusetts. The focus of this four-day event was to bring together superintendents, principals, teachers, librarians, and academic technologists and start talking about ePubs. While the goal was to create an ePub that teachers could use to replace a textbook in class, the primary takeaway was the conversations and multi-district collaboration that was taking place.

The organization of the event was lead by three Massachusetts Superintendents: Dr. Eric Conti, Burlington Public Schools, Dr. Marinel D. McGrath, Andover Public Schools, and Dr. Maureen LaCroix, Bedford public schools. Dr. Conti pulled together his instructional technology staff at Burlington High School along with Paul Facetau from Apple to create a planning team for the event. The first meeting covered the logistics of the four days: schedule, cohort organization, collaborative teams, presentations, etc.

Event Planning and Organization

During the next few days we created a website that presented an overview and welcomed all to attend the four day event at Burlington High School. We placed a Google form on the website for registering attendees and sent out an email blast to Massachusetts districts (I would also recommend using a free ticket service like TicketLeap as well).

Once the website was live, we started planning opening keynotes for the first day of the event. The planning team compiled a list of topics that needed to be covered during the morning session of the first day. We decided on the following topics (in no particular order):

1.  ePub: Creating classroom texts with connected resources
2.  Creative Commons: Creating a license for your work and citing others
3.  Using a wikispace for cohort collaboration
4.  Workflow within content area cohorts
5.  Moving from a wiki to Pages to the ePub format
6.  Keeping the conversation alive: Connecting and sharing beyond the event

The next thing we created was the schedule. We posted this on the website but messaged that the schedule was tentative and most likely would change from day to day. Here is a copy of our schedule:


Event Schedule: Transitioning to ePubs -- Day One: Monday

8:00 - Opening overview in BHS Auditorium

Introduction of Digital Publication Collaborative by hosting Superintendents Eric Conti (Burlington Supt. of Schools), Maureen Lacroix (Bedford Supt. of Schools), Marinel McGrath (Andover Supt. of Schools)

8:15 - Copyright and Creative Commons Overview

  • Digital rights management and ensuring appropriate attribution to sources - Dennis Villano and Andy Marcinek (Burlington Public Schools Instructional Technology Dept.)

8:30 - Access to the wiki (collaborative workspace) and e-pub overview A change in thinking for educators

  • Paul Facteau and Brian Gewirtz from Apple

9:30 - Work-flow/structure - Questions Help Forum via Google docs

  • Objective/goals for the day
  • Develop essential questions
  • Facilitator - develop assign tasks for group members
  • Organize focus groups for research on specific content area chapters (i.e. US Revolution)
  • Develop working bibliography - citation generator
  • Organize Google doc
  • 10:00 - Move to assigned rooms by subject area facilitators begin introductions and group collaborates for task dissemination

    12:00-1:00 p.m. - Lunch Break

    2:00-3:00 p.m. - Sharing Progress (auditorium) Quick overview of progress/questions/challenges from each group - All participants should complete initial feedback form

    Day Two: Tuesday

    8:00-9:00 - BHS Auditorium - Review of feedback Address lingering questions

    9:00 - 12:15  - Breakouts and Socrative Assessment Tool schedule by discipline in room 128

  • ELA/Art History/Middle School - 8:45-9:45
  • SS - 10:00-11:00
  • Science - 11:15-12:15
  • Math - 1:00-2:00

    12:15-1:00 - Lunch Break

    2:30-3:00 - Sharing Progress (auditorium) Quick overview of progress/questions/challenges from each group

    Day Three: Wednesday

    8:00-9:30 - Assemble in assigned spaces and review feedback within subject area groups Commissioner Chester will be here around 8:30. Each group should have some product from Monday and Tuesday to show and discuss the process with him.

    9:30-12:00 - Continue work in groups

    12:00-1:00 - Lunch

    1:00-3:00 - Groups reconvene

    Day Four: Thursday

    8:00-12:00 - Assemble in assigned spaces and review feedback within subject area groups

    12:00-1:00 - Lunch - final assessment Debriefing - where do we go from here? (Continue on collaborative wiki)


    Reflection of the Organizing Process

    The planning team created overview presentations on these topics and decided who would speak on each subject. During the morning of the first day, we spent roughly three hours covering these topics.  The instructional technology team also checked in throughout the day to help everyone with these topics and reinforce their purpose. At the end of day one we placed another Google form on the website to elicit feedback from attendees. The majority of the feedback was positive, but we received a lot of requests to cover the opening keynote topics again. We spent the morning of day two covering these topics again. It was imperative that everyone was clear on these topics in order to move forward. 


     At the end of day two and three we brought back attendees to the auditorium to share what they learned or accomplished during the day. We also allowed time for questions and made sure everyone in attendance felt supported.

    The organization of this type of event, as I mentioned earlier, is very new. The planning team set out to create an event that brought together a variety of educators from different districts to learn something new. Those in attendance not only walked away with a new skill, but a new community to share and learn with. If you are interested in planning an event like this centered on creating an ePub or just a way to bring together multiple districts for collaborative work, please contact me through my Edutopia profile or Twitter @andycinek.

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    • Curriculum Planning
    • 9-12 High School

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