Entering the World of e-History Textbooks

When I left the classroom last year I was still wedded to the traditional history textbook.  I supplemented my text with a wide range of digital tools and resources, but the text itself had not changed.  My experience with e-textbooks has been very limited until now.  For the next four months I will be working on an exciting e-history project providing supplemental materials for a text focused on the Civil War and Reconstruction.  The text itself is being written by two very well known and talented historians.  Some of the things I will be working on include:

  • Review chapters and suggest themes and content for digital animations (e.g., maps) and video content (e.g., bio of Lincoln).
  • Write copy for videos and animations (up to two 2-3 minute videos and one animation per chapter).
  • Create assignments or “tasks” (we are calling all digital assets tasks that students have to complete before moving on in their textbook) for each of the chapters.
  • Write copy for 1-2 “mini-challenges” (e.g., poll question, 4-6 reading comprehension quiz questions) for each chapter.
  • Write definitions for glossary terms (5-10 per chapter).

Some of what I am doing is geared to connecting the text to a history simulation that allows students to role play real historical characters. I should be able to share more details about this project in the coming months.

For now I am hoping that those of you with more experience in this area might be able to suggest examples of best practices.  What should I look at to get a feel for what’s been done already in the field of e-texts?  What do you want to see as supplemental resources for an e-history textbook?  Thanks.

Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth

“Levin’s study is the first of its kind to blueprint and then debunk the mythology of enslaved African Americans who allegedly served voluntarily in behalf of the Confederacy.”–Journal of Southern History

Purchase your copy today!

6 comments… add one
  • John brogan Aug 5, 2012 @ 17:44

    The school where I work has been incorporating e-texts for the past 5 years. For the most part everyone seems find them easy to use. The hardest transition has been for many of the teachers who grew up with traditional texts and taught with them for many years. Students jumped right in, almost as if it was natural. As far as the history e text….I could not imagine teaching without it. Our text provides access to so many primary sources that could not be included in a traditional text. One aspect students enjoy are the maps which are interactive. The publisher also provides links that allow you to examine topics in more detail.
    I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 6, 2012 @ 2:03

      Thanks, John. I am definitely going to be in touch once I get started with this project. Appreciate the feedback.

  • Doug didier Aug 4, 2012 @ 11:52

    My experience is the trick is what you’ve got.. I.e. the legacy system.. To where you want to go.. The new system.. In a service oriented architecture approach.. Wrap the legacy.. Exposing the interfaces.. Then components can be decomposed and recomposed into new technologies.. I.e. the transistion is incremental ..

    In civil war memory case.. Perhaps somewhat more simple.. Http Compliiers exist and new technology in pipeline to produce ebook from a website..


    In the future , federated ebooks within a classroom, etc.. I.e. higher layers will be implemented.. Hopefully with little impact to the core ebook website..

  • Michaela Aug 3, 2012 @ 3:51

    Just a minor thing, but maybe you can include an aspect from the arts that reflects the time? I remember Martin Luther King’s daughter having to participate in an evening of songs at her school which was only very white traditional songs and didn’t go over well with King. Just saying as music and arts are a great reflection on history and social aspects. Shostakovich’s 5th tells you more about the government under Stalin than one date in Russian history. And Lincoln should not have purchased box tickets for that show; )

    • Kevin Levin Aug 3, 2012 @ 4:14

      That is a wonderful suggestion, though I suggest you leave the Lincoln jokes to me. 🙂

  • James F. Epperson Aug 3, 2012 @ 3:45

    I can’t speak to the notion of *history* e-texts, but so far my math text publisher (Wiley) has eschewed going in that direction. The potential problems of theft-by-hacking are probably the main issue. Personally, I would like to see more e-texts. The value of live videos (in math as well as history) is something that should not be passed up.

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