Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
Curriculum

Technology Update

January 31, 2001 4 min read

Education Publisher Moves Science Textbooks Online

The McGraw-Hill Cos.—one of the nation’s biggest K-12 textbook publishers—will soon post six science textbooks online, a move that industry analysts say may spur other publishers to follow its lead.

The textbooks the New York City publisher will put online this spring mirror its print editions. The “e-textbooks” will have the same text as the regular books, but will be accompanied by special electronic features such as video and audio clips.

“McGraw-Hill’s [electronic textbooks] are the most comprehensive we’ve seen to date,” said Stephen Driesler, the executive director of the School Division of the Association of American Publishers in Washington.

Because it’s such a competitive industry, Mr. Driesler said he expects that other textbook publishers—such as Pearson PLC, Harcourt General Inc., and Houghton Mifflin Co.—are considering similar plans to convert textbooks into an online format.

School textbook publishers commonly give purchasers of their printed editions a CD-ROM, or they set up special Web sites containing supplemental materials. But up until now, the industry has provided complete electronic versions of textbooks only at the college level, not for K- 12 schools.

Publishers have waited because of a range of concerns in the industry about the security of their content if it is available online, about the application of copyright law for Internet materials, and about a lack of access to the necessary technology in many schools and homes that would prevent online materials from being used.


Starting With Science: The six McGraw- Hill science texts headed for the Web are for elementary and middle school grades, and are published by the company’s Macmillan and Glencoe divisions. The online versions will be sold for the same price as the printed versions—or at a 40 percent discount if the purchaser owns the latest print edition.

“We’re starting in the area of science [because] science teachers tend to be open to technology,” said Addison “Buzz” Ellis, the president of McGraw-Hill’s School Publishing Group. A wide range of textbooks will eventually be offered, he added.

The online books will have the same content as the print versions, but will add video and audio clips and interactive maps to the usual static images and diagrams of scientific phenomena.

“For the student, obviously it will make the book come alive,” Mr. Ellis said. “There will be some video clips that will give concepts a different presentation. If we talk about tornadoes or hurricanes—you can’t show the force of it in a [printed] textbook.”

Other special features will include a “report writer’s assistant” that places footnotes in students’ word-processed compositions—including the page numbers from the printed textbook—and online quizzes that students can take on their own. Some quiz items will be interactive; in one question, for example, a student is asked to show the phases of the moon by using a computer mouse to place the moon in its correct phase.

The self-tests also will direct students to sections of the textbook where they can find information to correct wrong answers, according to Mr. Ellis.

The online books will be more up to date than the print versions, he added. Editors can change the text at any time to reflect scientific advances, instead of waiting for the next edition, which can follow a cycle of three years or more, depending on the subject. And schools won’t have to wait for their own replacement cycle to come around, which can be six years or more.

Students and teachers will have access to their online books at the company’s new Web site, called the McGraw-Hill Learning Network. They can go to the site—at www.mgln.com—use a password to open their books and print selected chapters. Teachers will be able to search through the online teachers’ edition.

Mr. Ellis said he believes that within the next five years electronic texts would be able to be downloaded into portable “e-books,” but the screens of these handheld devices would first need to have much higher definition and their cost would have to drop to a fraction of their current price of nearly $500.


Schools To Test E-Textbooks: The new online textbooks are scheduled to be tested beginning this week in two locations: the Maui schools in Hawaii, and the Celebration School, in Osceola County, near Orlando, Fla.

“This is a very powerful resource,” said Scott Muri, the dean for grades 6-12 at the public Celebration School, which will use the online textbooks in grades 4-8.

But Mr. Muri emphasized that textbooks—online or in print—are playing a lesser role for his high school students than in the past. His teachers increasingly compile their own collections of materials from a wide array of sources, including the Internet, guided by Florida’s academic standards.

Mr. Driesler, of the publishers’ group, said that the textbook is still pre-eminent in many schools, with its value rooted in the quality control that is necessary to meet rigorous state adoption standards.

But he agrees that times are changing. “Over time, the distinction between traditional print publisher and electronic publisher will be very hard to tell,” he said.

— Andrew Trotter

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the January 31, 2001 edition of Education Week as Technology Update

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Learn directly from the pros why K-12 branding and marketing matters, and how to do it effectively.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Join experts from Samsung and Boxlight to learn how to make learning more interactive from anywhere.
Content provided by Samsung
Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

BASE Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools
Director of Information Technology
Montpelier, Vermont
Washington Central UUSD
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Director of Athletics
Farmington, Connecticut
Farmington Public Schools

Read Next

Curriculum 6 Ways to Help Students Make Sense of the Capitol Siege
A week after the attack on the U.S. Capitol, teachers are helping students figure out how the country got to this point.
15 min read
Image of the Capitol building shown in a rearview mirror.
Macrocosm Photography/E+
Curriculum Theater Educators Struggle to Keep Shows Going Amid COVID-19
Convinced that the show must go on, high school theater troupes are turning to livestreamed shows, outdoor performances, and radio plays.
8 min read
Wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, students from New Albany (Ind.) High School perform the musical “Bright Star” earlier this year.
Wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, students from New Albany (Ind.) High School perform the musical “Bright Star” earlier this year.
Photo courtesy of Crit Fisher
Curriculum Letter to the Editor Curriculum as a Lever for Racial Equity
To the Editor:
The special report "Big Ideas for Confronting Racism in Education" (Sept. 23, 2020) highlighted essential ingredients for creating anti-racist schools, including better teacher preparation, expanded anti-bias training, and universal internet access, among others.
1 min read
Curriculum What Should Students Learn in Sex Education? In This State, Voters Will Decide
Washington voters will consider a statewide mandate for comprehensive sex education.
6 min read
sex ed SOC 2
iStock/Getty