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Sturgeon schools try virtual textbook

Discovery Education product could help students study science

By: Kevin Ma

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jan 15, 2014 06:00 am

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County residents will get to try out a virtual textbook this week that teachers hope will excite students about science.

The Sturgeon School Division is holding an open house Thursday night at Gibbons School to showcase the district’s new digital science textbook.

The book, created by Discovery Education Canada (a division of Discovery Communications, which owns the Discovery Channel), has been used to teach grades 1 to 8 science classes at the Gibbons and Landing Trail schools since September.

The board plans to test-drive the textbook at Gibbons and Landing Trail for the rest of the year before deciding if it will roll it out to other schools, said Nikki Woodford, the board’s co-ordinator of instructional and assistive technology.

“There’s no direct link between the technology that is used and achievement test scores but it does influence if (students) pay attention to what’s going on,” she said.

Board research suggests that students who aren’t interested in traditional textbooks or lectures are more apt to learn when information is presented in multiple ways, such as through videos and websites, she said.

Sturgeon Schools initially teamed up with Discovery Education about five years ago to tap into its streaming video services, Woodford said.

About three quarters of Alberta schools used Discovery’s streaming video and learning resources, said Discovery Education community manager Dean Shareski.

“Our videos are all aligned to the curriculum,” he said, and feature lots of suggested activities for teachers.

Students can also tap into their video library to do their own research.

The virtual textbook is a relatively new product in Canada that covers the K-to-8 science curriculum, Shareski said. It is now in use in the Sturgeon and Pembina Hills school divisions.

Students can log into the textbook website from any digital device and explore lessons on light, momentum, photosynthesis and other topics at their own pace, tapping into video clips or glossaries as needed. Students can highlight text to make notes, translate the text into several languages, or have a computer read it aloud for them.

Shareski said the textbook (or techbook, as it is known) also features virtual labs that let students do experiments they couldn’t easily do in a classroom. For example, one experiment lets students toss around planets as part of a lesson on gravity.

Some teachers love the textbook as it is full of resources, while others are still getting a grip on how best to use it, Woodford said.

Many have tapped into its videos and interactive labs to supplement their traditional lessons.

“There’s a lot of flexibility.”

Thursday’s open house is at Gibbons School in Gibbons from 6 to 8 p.m. It includes trivia questions and a private screening of the Discovery Channel show North America.

Call Woodford at 780-939-4341 for details.


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