Continuing Alex the Great

It turns out that a lot of students in my ninth grade class have no idea how to read our textbook in such a way that they can extract information about the various historical lenses.  So I made this guide to the first few pages of the section on Alexander the Great.

The textbook photos are not particularly good, unfortunately.  I’ll have to figure out how to correct that in a later edition, and do it right the first time the next time around.

I had a lot of students write about Macedonia, Alexander the Great, or his father Philip II for homework last night.  But it was clear that most of them didn’t know how to extract ideas about the Macedonian economy, or about the country’s culture or environment from the text.


I think about how much easier — or how much harder — this could have been with a digital textbook.  I might have been able to make a digital photo from a ‘flat’ page, with ‘perfect lighting’, and then added highlighting more directly than I did here.  I might have been able to call up links to dictionary definitions of difficult words, or included links to photographs — we have a teacher here whose nickname includes the word ‘rugged’, and including a picture of him might have been a good way to get a laugh and a notice of recognition that they know what this word means.

It also might have been much, much harder. There could have been copy protection in place, so that I couldn’t photograph the text (and as it is, a lot of my kids could barely read my on-the-fly photos.  I might not have been able to export the images from the textbook to another program, so I could ‘deface’ them with highlighting, red circles and squares, and arrows.  The copy protection system might have locked out the projector capabilities of my computer, so I couldn’t show pages from the textbook.

As it is, maybe I’m on shaky legal ground by including photographs of part of this textbook; I don’t know.  I do know that to get a class to understand how to read a text from multiple angles of approach was a hard sell, particularly since some of them are originally poor readers.

How is this going to work in the age of digital textbooks?  And how did teachers do this before?  Could they do it solely through having students read aloud, copy sentences, and engaging in mass recitals of text?  How does doing this sort of thing change our schools, for better or worse?

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