Technology enhances new history textbooks

Krystle Wagner • Dec 17, 2018 at 9:00 AM

New world history textbooks will help students learn content, school officials say, but the digital component is aimed at helping remove barriers to learning.

The Grand Haven school board recently approved spending a little more than $44,000 to purchase new world history hardcover and digital textbooks, which will be used by 450 to 500 students each school year as they take the required high school course, according to Mary Jane Evink, instructional services director for Grand Haven Area Public Schools.

The cost covers eight years for the digital license and six class sets of hardcover books from McGraw Hill. Evink noted the cost was price-matched to a publisher that had a lower cost for a similar product.

In addition to being selected because the hardcover books were written at a reading level appropriate for the grade level, the time period of the books matches the class scope. The digital books was a primary reason the book was selected, Evink said.

The digital features will help make the content and text more accessible, Evink said.

“It has learning tools to spark interest and to help them focus on areas specific to the student,” she said. 

Some of the digital features include the ability to change the text to accommodate a range of reading levels, an audio version, Spanish translation, quizzes to check student understanding, and highlight specific parts of text that a student needs to study again. It also includes videos produced by the BBC and other sources.

As students use the LearnSmart feature, educators will receive data, said Kimberly Eikenberry, a teacher and chairperson for the GHHS social studies department.

“We can actually see the status of how our students are performing, which helps to identify the needs of our students and adjust our instruction,” she said.

As the district updates its resources, Evink said they have digital books in most subjects. She said the publisher, McGraw Hill, “seems to have the best customization for students we have seen.” Four years ago, the Grand Haven district purchased earth science textbooks from McGraw Hill, which has some of the features the digital world history book offers.

“To strike the best balance, financially and practically, we have been ordering a digital license for every student in a class and one class set of hardcover books for each teacher who teaches it,” Evink said.

While the books stay at school, students have access to the digital content on their Chromebooks.

Evink said materials can be an expensive part of a school district’s budget, and GHAPS works to stretch resources without putting students behind. The current world history books worked longer than originally planned, and the new resources “will put energy into the class,” she added.

“It is important to note the book is a resource aligned to standards, but the instruction is thoughtfully delivered by teachers to their unique group of students each year,” Evink said.

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