Textbooks aren't dead. They're just getting digitized, like everything else. As teachers we are continually looking for instructional technologies to improve student learning. Visualizing complex processes associated with understanding weather phenomena is often difficult for students to achieve with standard textbook illustrations and is also a challenge for blackboard presentation. Animations enhance the learning of topics that involve movement, such as airflow through a thunderstorm. Simple animations are somewhat better than textbooks, but neither allow the instructor or student to interact with what is being shown. Interactive modules, geared toward specific concepts, are the optimum tool for illustrating and exploring dynamic processes.
We wrote an introductory textbook “Meteorology: Understanding the Atmosphere” that was first published in 2002. From the outset we sought to incorporate active learning via web exercises that were linked to appropriate sections of the book. While these learning activities on their own provide a value to learning (Whittaker and Ackerman, 2002: Interactive Web-based Learning with Java, BAMS) we were never successfully in working with the publishers to effectively incorporate these activities into the text.
With the steady increase in the price of textbooks and with new authoring tools available, we have embarked on a path to move the physical book to a virtual book. In this way, the activities can be embedded with the text. Still images and maps of weather can come alive with simple or complex animations. Updates, such as unique weather events, can be quickly and routinely updated. This year we are converting our physical textbook to a fully interactive e-book. The beta version is being tested in one of our classes (John Knox, UGA). The authoring tool we are using is from TopHat, a company with ‘clicker experience’. Their student engagement classroom activities can be automatically incorporated into a learning management systems (LMS) of a number of universities and colleges, allowing interaction with the book to be automatically incorporated into class grading systems.
In this presentation we will discuss the experience of transferring a physical book to an on-line version, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each. We will discuss lessons learned, our plans for the future, and the preliminary feedback of the value of the on-line version as seen by students who use the e-book.