November 21, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Discovery Education Makes E-Textbooks Easy | Reference Online

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1612-ref-discoveryedu-onlineSchool districts looking to make the digital shift to e-textbooks will find a wealth of information and valuable resources in Discovery Education’s “Techbook” series.

Discovery Education

Grade Level Math: 6-8; science: K–12; social studies: 6-8

Cost The average cost of a traditional textbook is approximately $70 per student, and the Discovery Education “Techbook” series is $45 to $55 per student for a six-year subscription.
Ease of Use and Visual Appeal The thoughtfully innovative design is as functional as it is aesthetically appealing. Simple point-and-click navigation, drop-down menus, and keyword searches provide users with quick access to content pages and invite exploration of the vast resources available. Visual learners will appreciate the graphical user interface (“Course View”/”Visual Overview”), which is easy to navigate and a pleasure to look at. A “Table of Contents” alternative is more text-heavy but no less valuable for its organization and clarity. It offers a familiar, book-based approach for finding information.
Overall, the user-friendly design is intuitive, responsive, and consistent, and the page layout is purposeful in its placement of items, facilitating readability and scanning. Bold colors, vibrant graphics, straightforward language displayed in large typeface, and other design elements work together seamlessly to engage the senses and create flow from page to page.
Content While the layout and design of the math, science, and social studies techbooks may vary from one to the next, the comprehensive nature of the information remains constant throughout. Thoroughly researched, each offering is updated regularly, providing educators and their students with material that is current, relevant, and authoritative. A flexible, multimodal framework that includes embedded videos, audio recordings, and interactive modules addresses individual learning styles and interests.
The “5E Model of Instruction”—engage, explore, explain, elaborate, and evaluate—is at the heart of each lesson and is used effectively to pique curiosity while simultaneously encouraging inquiry-based critical thinking and student-directed learning.
Furthermore, educators can customize content to meet classroom requirements that are aligned with national and state standards, including Next Generation Science Standards, Core Curriculum Content Standards, and Common Core State Standards. In fact, there are currently 35 state-specific science techbooks available for most grades. They cover three major scientific disciplines—physical science, earth and space science, and life science. Each subject—in this example, physical science—is subdivided into smaller units, including “Sorting and Changing,” “Motion,” “Heat,” and “Sounds,” and from there broken down into concepts such as “On the Move” or “Warming Up.” Within each unit are model lesson plans, a teachers guide, and assessment questions corresponding to specific standards; educators can personalize lessons by selecting videos, reading passages, and ebooks, among other options, to store in a folder for later use. These items can be quickly accessed, updated, or deleted as warranted via the “My Content” and “QuickList” tabs on each page.
Student and Teacher Resources An abundance of resources are available. Educators have direct access to the Discovery Educator Network (DEN), a community approach to resource and idea sharing that also provides networking opportunities. Here, teachers can obtain other free resources, including puzzle makers and additional lesson plans.
A “Professional Learning” tab offers information regarding online and in-person training events, virtual field trips, and more. “Builder Tools” assists teachers with the creation of everything from quizzes to writing prompts, while “Classroom Manager” enables them to organize and maintain student and class results.
From within each techbook, students can access an interactive glossary arranged alphabetically or by unit, as well as homework help, games and other interactive activities, and archived webinars via Discovery Education’s home page. Free parent resources include all of the above, plus “Motivation Station,” a collection of helpful tips to motivate children in and out of school.
Verdict Comprehensive and content-rich, the three techbooks currently available through Discovery Education are well-designed multimodal resources that not only enhance learning but are also adaptable to individual student needs. These relevant, reliable digital textbooks are a welcome addition to classrooms and school districts that value 21st-century learning skills.


Audrey Sumser, Akron-Summit County Public Library, OH

This article was published in School Library Journal's December 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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