Results (a review of e-textbooks)

 

Comment the results of two English Learning Books. Base them on the article below. The main idea is to say that also this books are digitalized and are considered e-books they simply mimic the paper book. There are no any hyperlinks or extra resources that can link the learner to the Internet. The questions that you can find in the excel document are taken from that article. They must be sited.

Teaching English with Technology, 13(1), 29-41, http://www.tewtjournal.org 29
SELECTING AN E-(TEXT)BOOK: EVALUATION CRITERIA
by Mariusz Marczak
Foreign Language Teacher Training College,
Sieradz, Poland
m_marczak @ englishonline.pl
Abstract
This paper aims to propose a repository of pre-use evaluation criteria for language teachers who
wish to introduce e-books or e-textbooks to their own teaching practices. By selectively using a
set of such criteria, they will be able to evaluate to what extent a given e-book/e-textbook lends
itself to utilisation within their own teaching context.
The paper briefly reviews the potential advantages of technology-enhanced language
teaching. Then, it presents a range of manners in which e-books have been defined, outlines
their most essential features, and demonstrates exemplary classifications of e-book types.
The evaluation criteria proposed are informed by an analysis of three independent
studies into the guidelines for e-book and e-textbook design, as well as the types and features of
e-books presented within the paper. The outcome is a list of evaluation criteria pertaining to
three aspects of an e-book: (i) layout and design; (ii) content and functionalities; and (iii) the
reading device, file format and distribution.
1. Introduction
The e-book market is growing rapidly, with sales increasing annually. For example, the value
of consumer e-book sales increased by 366% in 2011. In the first three months of 2012, the
increase amounted to 188% and was expected to reach the level of 376% by the end of the
year (Guardian, 2012).
Comparatively, in the first six months of 2011, digital sales constituted 7.2% of the
total value of book sales, while within the analogical period of 2012, they nearly doubled to
reach the 12.9% mark (CILIP, 2012).
A similar trend, albeit much slower in its growth rate, is observable with the sector of
education. According to the estimates of the 2010 Simba Information report on the use of etextbooks
in higher education (Simba Information, 2010) the sales of e-texts will continue to
grow in the course the year 2013 at the rate of 49%, while e-texts will constitute an estimated
11% of textbook sales.
Teaching English with Technology, 13(1), 29-41, http://www.tewtjournal.org 30
Reynolds (2011) estimates that by the year 2015 e-textbook sales on the higher/career
education markets in the United States will have reached the 26% mark, whereas in 2017 etextbooks
will compose 44% of the United States textbook market.
As Miller et al. (2012) report in a research study, a steady growth in the introduction
of e-textbooks into education is observable, particularly among younger undergraduate
students, and those who take technically-oriented college courses.
Overall, it may be stated that despite the lack of conclusive research findings which
would demonstrate a significant impact on the effectiveness of learning (Murray & Pérez,
2011), an increased implementation of e-textbooks seems imminent. The more that it is likely
to be driven by the support of e-textbooks among students (McFall et al., 2006) and
teaching/academic staff (McFall et al., 2006; Embong et al., 2012).
This paper aims to assist language educators interested in implementing e-books or etextbooks
in evaluating the extent to which particular e-publications lend themselves to
utilisation within a specific teaching context. This paper offers a repository of pre-use
evaluation criteria pertaining to the following aspects of an e-book: (i) layout and design; (ii)
content and functionalities; and (iii) the reading device, file format and distribution.
The greatest emphasis has been placed on the first two aspects, with the third one, as
the most technical of the three, being only signalled here. However, it must be underlined that
evaluation to be conducted by an individual language teacher will only be complete if the
criteria discussed in this paper are supplemented with the generic criteria conventionally used
for the purpose of selecting language teaching materials at large.
2. Background
2.1. The merits of technology-enhanced language education
The use of information and communication technology in language education has a number of
potential advantages, which depending on the actual implementation modes may, or may not,
become a part of the learning experience.
By and large, technology can enhance language learning by motivating learners,
stimulating teacher-student and student-student interaction, increasing the range of learning
resources (Lee, 2000; Warschauer, 2004) and individualising instruction. In addition, it helps
learners develop their ICT skills (Gaible & Burns, 2005).
The individualisation of instruction is brought to the fore by Taylor and Gitsaki
(2003), who maintain that when teachers assess students’ learning progress, they can obtain
Teaching English with Technology, 13(1), 29-41, http://www.tewtjournal.org 31
essential data from computer language learning programs which may enable them to provide
learners with feedback tailored to their learning needs.
Gaible and Burns (2005) discuss a range of benefits that computer technology,
including the Internet, can bring to teacher development. Yet, their suggestions, which are
presented below, simultaneously imply how technology may facilitate learning at large.
For instance, Gaible and Burns (2005) state that ICT may diversify access routes to
learning material by enabling learners to reach content far beyond their immediate classroom
environment, i.e. the books or reference sources which are available to them at school. This
may be facilitated by the utilisation of multimedia materials, including textual, audio and
video cues; a point of view which was also expressed by Felix (1998) and Krajka (2007;
2012).
Another argument shared by Gaible and Burns (2005), Warschauer (2004) and Bélisle
(2007), is that computer technology facilitates collaborative learning, i.e. peer-to-peer
cooperation, as it permits communication.
Moreover, Gaible and Burns (2005), similarly to Carrier (2006) and Bélisle (2007),
cite interactivity as another value which computers offer. It may work on two different levels:
on the one hand, learners can search and select materials from which to learn; on the other
hand, they can engage in constructivist learning, i.e. interact with the material which they are
using, as well as other learners.
Bélisle (2007) adds that modern technology helps learners solve actual problems
rather than learn passively by simply internalising knowledge (Bélisle, 2007). In Bélisle’s
words, technology transforms the nature of cognition into “understanding as doing and
solving problems” (Bélisle, 2007, p. 4). All in all, Gaible and Burns (2005), as well as
(Downes, 2005), maintain that ICT activates learners and shifts learning from teacher-centred
to learner-centred forms.
O’Dowd (2003) points out that computer technology highlights the cultural context of
the target language or raises learners’ cultural awareness. Corbett (2003), Bandura (2007) and
Marczak (2012) demonstrate how ICT may foster the development of intercultural
competence.
Finally, Motteram and Sharma (2009) state that computer technology extends the
language learning environment to contexts both in and outside the classroom through blended
learning, i.e. blending face-to-face and online instruction. This may materialise through the
use of electronic coursebooks, which allow learners to use materials illustrated with
Teaching English with Technology, 13(1), 29-41, http://www.tewtjournal.org 32
multimedia content, as well as e-readers, which permit them to download content while
studying at home.
In conclusion, technology is largely believed to facilitate language instruction.
However, what must be brought to light is the fact that the above advantages of ICT-enhanced
language education are not inherently featured within technology per se; they are rather to be
perceived as a number of potentialities which may be exploited by learners, depending on the
informed decisions taken by their instructors or themselves.
2.2. The e-book as a teaching aid
2.2.1. Definitions
There is a vast range of possible definitions of an e-book. Diaz (2003) defines it as an
interactive system through which information is delivered. However, Magnik (2001) suggests
that the very name is obscure and expresses clearly neither the form nor the function(s) which
it may perform. As he posits, any digitalised document which is available to readers on a
portable storage medium could classify as an e-book.
This obscurity of meaning is illustrated by Lynch (2001), who distinguishes between
three different interpretations of the term e-book:
(i) an e-book as digital content which can be transported on a portable storage
medium or via a computer network;
(ii) an e-book reading device, i.e. an appliance which is capable of displaying digital
content on a high-quality display screen and is not equipped with a keyboard; and
(iii) computer software, i.e. computer applications, which will permit one to read
electronic content, e.g. on the regular desktop computer.
A number of authors have already stressed the fact that an e-book bears resemblance
to its traditional, printed predecessor (Landoni & Gibb, 2000; Chen, 2003; Diaz, 2003;
Crestani et al., 2005; Carden, 2008). Crestani et al. (2005) define an e-book as the integration
of the concept of a conventional paper book with additional useful features provided
electronically. Interestingly enough, they suggest that a good e-book contains electronically
encoded information with a degree of added value.
By contrast, Davy (2007) believes that the very conversion of a paper textbook into
the digital format does not suffice to improve learning. Therefore, he recommends a departure
from the familiar concept of a book by actually decomposing the structure of a paper
textbook, as it is conventionally perceived, into constituent elements and making them
accessible electronically through a variety of search routes. To his mind, that kind of solution
Teaching English with Technology, 13(1), 29-41, http://www.tewtjournal.org 33
can turn an electronic textbook into a really useful learning resource which will effectively
serve particular learning objectives.
2.2.2. Features
An analysis of publications by Crestani et al. (2005), Davy (2007), Carden (2008) and most
recently Hatipoglu and Tosun (2012) yields a range of the most vital characteristics of ebooks,
as presented below.
By definition, e-books come in the digital format, which may involve a variety of
technologies, including e-paper (Davy, 2007). As they constitute a lesser or greater departure
from the conventional paper book, e-books offer an extensive storage capacity, as well as
portability in that their content can be easily downloaded and even printed at the time of need
(Crestani et al., 2005).
Due to electronic delivery, they render course contents easily accessible (Crestani et
al., 2005; Hatipoglu & Tosun, 2012). Interestingly enough, their accessibility does not seem to
be affected by the fact that e-books inadvertently require the use of e-readers, i.e. devices
which permit the reading of digital content, as mobile phones or handhelds are now used
ubiquitously (Davy 2007). What is more, in Carden’s (2008) view, e-reading devices have
now become so attractive that they themselves can encourage potential readers to use e-books.
E-books add to the range of document formats through which content can be delivered
to learners, e.g. text documents (.doc) or Flash animations (.swf) (Carden, 2008; Hatipoglu &
Tosun, 2012). Carden (2008) observes that such a diversity of formats additionally affects the
range of distribution channels available.
Electronic books render content searchable and linkable; they permit the use of
annotation and bookmarking tools (Crestani et al., 2005). They are also a dynamic teaching
aid which can be edited, re-edited and updated, as a result of which they permit the creation of
multiple versions of content (Crestani et al., 2005).
Due to the rapid advancement of technology, they are relatively cheap. Although the
purchase of compatible e-readers may incur costs, once an institution or an individual has
reached beyond this stage, expenditure is limited (Hatipoglu & Tosun, 2012).
They are portable teaching aids in that they can be accessed at the time of convenience
and irrespective of the place (Hatipoglu & Tosun, 2012), which makes them suitable for
learning contexts both in and outside the classroom.
Teaching English with Technology, 13(1), 29-41, http://www.tewtjournal.org 34
They provide textual content enhanced with a selection multimedia, including audio
and visual cues, as well as opportunities for the use of live broadcasts, depending on the
technical functionalities of the e-reader (Davy, 2007; Hatipoglu & Tosun, 2012).
E-books enable the learner to interact with the content through varied routes of his
own choice; in effect, the reader can, as it were, journey through the content without having to
follow the linear structure of a paper book (Davy, 2007). That in turn fosters the
individualisation of the learning process, as it enables learners to make use of their preferred
learning styles (Davy, 2007; Hatipoglu & Tosun, 2012).
2.2.3. Types of e-books
A variety of e-book classifications have been proposed to date. The three major categories
into which e-textbooks fall are: (i) simple e-textbooks; (ii) complex e-textbooks; and (iii)
advanced e-textbooks (Allison, 2003).
(i) Simple e-textbooks are digitalised, downloadable versions of conventional
textbooks. If they are e-books, e.g. electronic versions of the literary classics, they may even
be distributed to readers free of charge, provided that the copyright has already expired.
Occasionally, simple textbooks may be enriched with basic hypertext functionalities.
(ii) Complex e-textbooks are all ameliorated by more sophisticated forms of hypertextbased
functions, and they fall into three sub-categories. The first sub-category comprises etextbooks
which contain hyperlinks to selected external audio-video components, including:
audio clips, animated images and video clips. Within the second sub-category, the e-textbooks
featured offer readers a choice of additional resources which are intended to supplement the
text proper; these resources may take the form of supplementary texts or even complete
websites. It is worth observing that such ancillary components may require readers to pay an
additional fee to the publisher. Finally, the third sub-category refers to e-textbooks which have
hypermedia elements incorporated directly into their content.
(iii) Advanced e-textbooks combine a multitude of audio-video components which
accompany the content with an element of interactivity, whereby the reader is given the
opportunity to search through and use the features available, depending on their individual
needs (Allison, 2003).
A sophisticated extension of the latter category of e-textbooks/e-books or perhaps
even the fourth, freshly emerging category in its own right, could embrace e-books involving
all the multimedia and hypermedia technologies mentioned afore in combination with
functionalities which would permit detailed studies of e-book usage, such as those that have
Teaching English with Technology, 13(1), 29-41, http://www.tewtjournal.org 35
been implemented as part of the SuperBook project (Rowlands et al., 2007). This project is
administered by the Department of Information Studies at University College London in order
to track the use of e-books by academic teachers and students in the United Kingdom’s higher
and further education.
A more detailed classification of e-books has been proposed by Crestani et al. (2005),
who delineate types of e-books according to the technological and learning affordances which
they offer. Thus, they classify e-books as: (i) page turners; (ii) scrolling books; (iii) portable
books; (iv) multimedia books; (v) hypermedia books; and (vi) cyberbooks.
(i) Page-turning e-books fall into a spectrum ranging from electronic copies of paper
books, including the same lay-out and elements of content, to those which imitate the paper
version but offer new interaction patterns to the reader. With these kinds of e-books the reader
may turn the pages while reading, but also annotate, bookmark or highlight the content
(Crestani et al., 2005).
(ii) Scrolling e-books discard the concept of a proper book page and replace it with a
text scroll, i.e. a scrollable space, where irrespective of the screen size large amounts of
content may be published. Such e-books contain both text and graphics and may feature
hyperlinks to the relevant sections. As a result, to some extent they resemble web pages.
However, they do not completely break away with the conventional book metaphor, as they
still include a title section, a table of contents, chapters, indices, or references (Crestani et al.,
2005).
(iii) Portable e-books are either digital versions of paper books which can be read on a
portable computer, or, alternatively, they may be sophisticated publications involving the use
of digital ink and flexible electronic paper pages, to which content can be downloaded
(Crestani et al., 2005).
(iv) Multimedia e-books are diversified in the content through the incorporation of
animations, sound and video materials into content, already composed of text and digital
images. As Crestani et al. (2005) underline, due to the importance of the visual aspect of this
kind of e-books, they require a well thought-out design of the user interface.
(v) Hypermedia e-books may be viewed as a more elaborate version of multimedia ebooks
in that they integrate an array of the afore-mentioned multimedia into the content,
while permitting the reader to access all elements through alternative routes. Crestani et al.
(2005) note that due to the hyperlinking technology involved here, such e-books may cause
navigation problems or overwhelm the reader with the number of media available.
Teaching English with Technology, 13(1), 29-41, http://www.tewtjournal.org 36
(vi) Cyberbooks are publications which exist in electronic format, exclusively. They
are free from the constraints of the book metaphor, and as such function rather as repositories
of information and resources with which the reader can dynamically interact.
The gradual diversion from the conventional paper book metaphor, observable within
the types of e-books presented above, is succinctly illustrated by the third classification. Here,
Carden (2008) exemplifies to what uses modern day e-books may be put and what possible
functions they may perform. Thus, he distinguishes between e-books as: (i) databases; (ii)
learning objects; (iii) viewable resources; (iv) narratives; and (v) imagery.
(i) Databases are electronic reference publications, such as dictionaries or
encyclopaedias. Their content is not accessed by users in a linear fashion, but rather searched
through for specific information (Carden, 2008). It is, therefore, essential that such e-books be
equipped with effective search functionalities.
(ii) The concept of e-books as Learning objects resounds Davy’s (2007) idea that etextbooks
can be deconstructed into separate learning components which learners will use
most effectively when they are empowered to select optimal options. Carden (2008) agrees
with Davy (2007) that such an objective-driven environment will enrich the learning
experience. Thus, e-books functioning as learning objects are computer applications where
assessment tools, homework management and learning environments are added to the content,
while access and learning are facilitated by searching, annotation and highlighting tools.
(iii) Viewable resources stand for academic monographs which are available to users
through online repositories. Readers either scour the content as a reference source, looking for
longer fragments of text relevant to their current interest, or scan the publications in search of
ideas which will inform their further academic work. Carden (2008) highlights that such ebooks
call for effective content listing, search and bookmarking functionalities.
(iv) Narratives are e-books featuring fiction or academic discourse papers delivered
and read electronically through portable devices. Although linear consumption of the content
seems to work against the electronic format, due to screen size or display issues, Carden
(2008) observes that narratives are popular both with fiction readers as well as academics.
(v) Finally, E-books as imagery are publications where textual content is enriched, and
perhaps brought more to life, through the addition of animated graphics and interactive
elements. In this manner the narrative of the e-book can either be provided mostly on the
visual plane, e.g. for young readers, or it may simply be significantly enhanced by graphics.
Teaching English with Technology, 13(1), 29-41, http://www.tewtjournal.org 37
3. E-book evaluation criteria
In the light of the types and characteristics of e-books cited above, as well as the outcomes of
research projects which aimed to devise design guidelines for the authors, publishers of
electronic (text)books and educational hardware and software developers a set of criteria for
the pre-use evaluation (Tomlinson 2003) of e-books can be inferred.
Three such studies were reviewed: the EBONI project (Wilson et al., 2002), the
VisualBook project and the HyperTextBook project (Crestani et al., 2005). While the EBONI
and HyperTextBook projects focused on the development of recommendations for the design
of textbooks, the VisualBook tackled mostly the visual aspects of the production of electronic
books.
In addition, Carden’s (2008) paper on the differences between e-books and their paper
counterparts was analysed with regard to the author’s comments on the devices and file
formats involved in the delivery of e-books to users.
As a result, inferences from the afore-mentioned resources were converted into
questions which could serve as an evaluation checklist for teachers and students to use while
selecting a particular e-book or e-textbook for language education. The emergent list of
criteria has been divided into three basic categories pertaining to three different aspects of ebooks:
(i) layout and design; (ii) content and functionalities; and (iii) device, format and
distribution.
(i) Layout and design
· Does the layout of the e-book mimic the paper book or is it a cyberbook publication?
· Does the e-book contain an informative cover, featuring the name of author, the title,
the date of publication, and the publisher’s details?
· Does it have a clearly defined or user-friendly layout (sections, chapters)?
· Is it accompanied by a table of contents which provides an introduction to the content
as well as the layout?
· Is the content laid out on pages or within scrollable areas?
· Are particular sections of the content (e.g. pages) labelled clearly through page
numbering or any other system?
· Does the interface feature other navigation clues which make particular elements of
content accessible?
· Are colour schemes used to aid searching?
Teaching English with Technology, 13(1), 29-41, http://www.tewtjournal.org 38
· Are the fonts visible?
· Is the content indexed, so that necessary details, e.g. names or terminology, can be
easily accessed?
(ii) Content and functionalities
· Is the content delivered in manageable chunks, given the format of the e-book and the
functionalities of the e-reading device?
· Are related elements of the content hyperlinked?
· Are multimedia/hypermedia part of the e-book?
· Do the multimedia/hypermedia enhance the content and constitute added value?
· Is the e-book equipped with an advanced search tool which permits the reader to take
a variety of search routes and use a range of search queries?
· Can the reader customise elements of the e-book to his own liking/needs?
· Are bookmarking and annotation tools available to the reader?
· Is the content supplemented with extra online materials, e.g. multimedia or companion
websites?
· Does the e-book feature usage data mining functionalities?
· Can the e-book function as: a database, a narrative, a set of learning objects, a package
of viewable resources or as imagery?
(iii) Device, format and distribution
· Does the e-book require an e-reader which is relatively cheap and available?
· Is the e-book file format open, i.e. will it be read by multiple brands of reading devices
or a desktop computer?
· Are reading rights restricted in any way, e.g. through a digital rights management
(DRM) system?
· Is the retail distribution of the format restricted in any way?
4. Conclusions
The above evaluation criteria are by no means exhaustive, and they are supposed to be
approached rather as a repository out of which prospective evaluators can selectively choose
Teaching English with Technology, 13(1), 29-41, http://www.tewtjournal.org 39
the criteria which would best correspond to their language teaching circumstances. To the
mind of a particular evaluator, a good e-book/e-textbook will not necessarily meet all of these
criteria and the relevance of each of them must be subjectively assessed before a final
checklist is compiled.
Consequently, it seems desirable that researchers attempt to particularise the generic
evaluation checklist presented above by identifying sets of criteria which to take into account
in clearly specified language teaching contexts. The results of such studies would ease the
teacher’s job consisting in the adaptation of the generic checklist to their own circumstances.
What is more, in order to verify the validity of the predictive evaluation checklist ebooks
should be further subjected to two types of evaluation advocated by Tomlinson (2003):
whilst-use and post-use evaluation. These evaluation modes would measure the actual
outcomes of the implementation of particular e-books in the middle and at the end of a
language teaching course, respectively. The findings would inform teachers about the actual
benefits as well as possible problems that the use of e-books is likely to entail; particularly, if
such evaluation was complemented by: (i) the results of action research which would
investigate how selected e-book features translate into various learning modes; as well as (ii)
evidence from interviews with teachers and learners involved in e-book-based education.
Last but not least, e-book evaluation should by no means be limited to the content and
software, but it should additionally embrace the hardware, i.e. the e-readers, and the various
digital formats available, which may also exert influence on the efficacy of e-book-enhanced
language instruction.
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