I’ve challenged some of my colleagues to take the 23 Things challenge to become more invested in online learning this summer. This website includes a 10-week game plan for learning some online learning and presenting methods that are useful for teachers, and that are appropriate activities for the age group we teach. There are other 23 Things lists out there, I know, but this is the one that we’ve chosen to work with, and that I’ve decided to complete.
The previous entries in this series are here:
- Getting Started
- Setting Up a Blog
- Starting with Flickr
- Find some Flickr Toys and Tools
- Blog about the role of tech in your classroom
- Initial experiment with RSS Readers
- RSS Readers continued
- Cloud Computing
- Web 2.0 Activty
- YouTube & Video
Activity 13: eBooks
I’ve now been using eBooks and PDFs for quite a while, and they’re so important to me, personally, that I hardly know what to say about them from an educational perspective. The notion that I’m supposed to “try to find some eBooks you want to read” for this activity is laughable. Back when the 23 Things list was composed at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg County Library system, eBooks were this new and alien thing that hardly anyone knew about. Nowadays, I’m using Apple’s iBook Author to compose my own eBooks, and Calibre to alter books from PDFs to .mobi files, and Pages to create PDF files for both myself and colleagues. There’s even a website that converts PDF files to Kindle files, so you can take a PDF and turn it into a book.
As far as resources: I have a library of early English and American authors on my iPad as Kindle files, PDF files, or .mobi files. I’ve been siphoning up resources for years, if not a decade.
So. Back to the activity. “Find a Free eBook”? That’s the challenge this week…?
Look, anybody can find stuff. My dad was amazed. He’s a pretty conservative guy, but he was (and is) angry about all this NSA spy business and Edward Snowden, and so on. He wanted this recent amendment HCV #412) to pass, and shut down this NSA’s process of spying and collecting all the metadata on every phone call in America.
I whipped out my phone, dialed up thomas.loc.gov, and found out what he wanted to know: which Connecticut representatives voted for the amendment (which would have shut down the NSA’s spying program), and which representatives voted against it (which keeps it active). Behold, his representative voted against the bill, and mine (I live elsewhere) voted for it. Mom was able to name three Republicans from other states, and they had split their votes: Issa had voted against it, Stockman voted for defunding the NSA, and Michele Bachman voted against the bill (keeping the NSA). Complicated.
The question is, what do you do with the information? One of those weird things I’ve picked up in my digital hoovering is a photostatted PDF of a 1690s manual on astrology. Of this 125-page document, maybe 65 pages is immediately useful (if you want to learn classical astrology which maybe you don’t), although difficult to read; the rest is ephemeris charts from the late 17th century. In order to be genuinely useful, someone is likely going to have to do an OCR (optical character recognition) job on this text, and further re-transcribe all the charts and diagrams. Me? Maybe. Probably not. I have other fish to fry. Like reading the 500+ eBooks I already have.
Along those lines — one of the things I’m doing these days is buying reference books in Kindle format when I need them. They reside on my iPad, I can download them to my phone, and I don’t have to be standing in my library to look something up that’s of interest to me right then and there. This is one of the key skills of the digital immigrant generation, I think — those folks who grew up in a world without computers, who now live in a world with them. We have the ability to look things up and the mental habits that there are things which must be looked up, and the knowledge of keywords and subject searches to find first the right general class of information, before searching for the more specific information. And this is a powerful benefit.
I can’t help but feel that this activity’s ship has already sailed. If you don’t know how to use or find eBooks, particularly eBooks of the classics that you already read for your students, then you’re in real trouble.
Excuse me. I have some reading to do.