The Cyberschool Challenge
That's not to say teachers at cyberschools want to write their own materials. Most are doing it by necessity. Cyberschool educators say they would prefer to see more support from traditional textbook publishers, although they don't expect that to happen anytime soon. They also want the electronic versatility that paper-based books can't have.
"I want e-books that teachers can put together, and I want smart e-books with supported text," says Layton of Clarity Innovations. "I want them searchable. I want supported text, so kids who click on a word can get a pronunciation and definition. And I'd like it customizable, so teachers can choose which chapters they want, and not pay for chapters they don't use."
BOOK PUBLISHERS RESPOND
Not all traditional textbook publishers are sitting on the sidelines. Some are getting the religion. At a recent meeting of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), every publisher offered some form of online resource to accompany their books.
"Instead of textbooks with static information, they were, in some cases, multimedia-enriched," says FVS's Lentz.
Harcourt Interactive Technology, a subsidiary of Harcourt Inc., Roslyn Heights, N.Y., is among those offering augmentative electronic products tied to traditional textbooks. The publisher unveiled iLearningOnline Interactive, an Internet-based reading assessment system aligned with state standards.
The Web-based software provides a diagnostic tool that measures students' reading comprehension. Teachers can also assess their educational effectiveness on the site.
Pearson Prentice Hall in Upper Saddle River, N.J., recently launched a pilot program with the state of Florida to help students in grades seven, nine, and 11 improve their reading comprehension. Students used Pearson's iText, a computer-based interactive textbook, to improve their reading comprehension and grammar skills.
Meanwhile, executives of Jones Knowledge Inc., in Englewood, Colo., said they would make the company's online learning platform, dubbed E-Education, available to schools free of charge. The company can afford to offer the free service, as other businesses, such as the Jones International University online college, underwrite it.