Association’s New E-Books Help Science Teachers Up Their Game

A fresh lineup of interactive books for the iPad, designed by the National Science Teachers Association, is helping educators spice up their lesson plans, from biology to physics.

Want to glimpse the future of the science classroom? You might start by swiping and tapping your way through some new tools designed for science educators teaching in the age of the ubiquitous iPad.

Three new iPad-ready e-books released last week by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA)—“Nature of Light,” “Interdependence of Life,” and “Earth, Sun and Moon” —aim to help teachers become more comfortable with content that they may not have extensive training in.

“There are a lot of teachers, especially in the elementary- and middle-school levels, that may not have the content expertise in a particular science content area, but they are expected to teach it. The more comfortable they become with the content, the more effectively they’ll be able to teach it in the classroom,” said Leisa Clark, producer/director of e-learning production at NSTA.

Videos, simulations, and interactive elements make the content more engaging for educators. Assessments and activities allow teachers to check their own understanding of the material and can be used with students in the classroom.

The idea of producing interactive tools and resources for teachers is not a new one for NSTA. The association has a few dozen similar teacher textbooks available in a portal on its website, and those books served as the model for the new iPad e-books. The tablet format allowed NSTA to “ramp up” the books with new multimedia features and other interactive enhancements, Clark said.

The plan is to convert the online texts into similar e-books for the iPad.

“We’ve gone back to experts to ask them questions, and [are looking for] new high-definition images that work for the iPad,” she said. The conversion is also raising some technical compatibility issues: “In our original online books, there were flash elements, which aren’t supported on the iPad. So we are in the midst of converting over 200 videos to HTML5 so they are cross-platform compatible.”

What are teachers are saying about the new tools?

“The response has been great,” Clark said. “The hands-on activities embedded throughout the books allow them to get a quick activity that they can do themselves, or carry over into a lesson plan. It’s just the little things that make the page more engaging that they appreciate.”

And while the e-books aren’t meant for students, they could preview the future of the science textbook.

“If you do a student textbook, there are a lot of other parameters that you have to look at,” Clark said, “but I had a teacher show these new books to a student, and the student absolutely loved the interactivity of them.”

(National Science Teachers Association)

Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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