I have been very quiet with my blog, partly due to having fun in the summer, but also because I am in the process of revising Teaching in a Digital Age. It seems impossible but it is now five years since I started writing the book, and in some ways five years is a very long time in digital learning, and in other respects, not a lot has fundamentally changed. However, in that space, I have learned a great deal about open publishing and have received a lot of feedback. Here are some of the lessons I learned.
Use of the first edition
Since the book was first published in April 2015, it has been downloaded at least 250,000 times. I say at least, because there was a critical period of 18 months or so where downloads were not being tracked by one of the two (known) host sites (BCcampus and Contact North). There are almost certainly other host sites, especially for the foreign language translations. My best guess is around 500,000 downloads but I would be hard pressed to prove that.
There are of course lots of analytics provided by WordPress but they do not really provide the kind of data an author needs. Because clicking on the url is easier than searching on your computer for the downloaded copy, it appears that, quite frequently, every time someone goes to read a new section, they download the full book, even though it’s been already downloaded (check your downloads folder!). It is even possible that the 250,000 downloads were all done by a single obsessive-compulsive reader somewhere in Port Coquitlam, for all I can tell. OK, it’s a bit better than that but we need much better ways to track accurately the use of open textbooks and OER, especially a method that distinguishes accurately between individual users rather than individual downloads. Someone who programs WordPress analytics needs to sit down and ask what information authors need, not what can be easily counted.
In any case whether its multiple downloads by the same person or new people accessing the book, it has been in heavy use since it was published, as measured by traffic on the two web sites that I know host it. Currently it is averaging 1,000 ‘visits’ a day on the BCcampus site, of which about 900 are ‘unique’ visitors.
Another measure of its use is that it is now available in nine languages: English, Vietnamese, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Turkish, Farsi/Persian, Japanese (translation almost ready). Other translations (Arabic, Korean and Hebrew) are under consideration. What is truly gratifying is that all these translations have been done by volunteers in their own countries, a true vindication of open access publishing.
The first edition also received a five-star review from the American Teachers’ Association, and has been adopted as a course textbook on many teacher education courses – even though the book was initially written for the higher education market. The Ministry of Education in France has made it required reading on a compulsory course for (school) teacher qualification that is needed to teach anywhere in France and its territories.
All these factors are being taken into consideration as I am revising the book.
I have tried to keep changes to a minimum. Indeed, I am hoping that both versions of the book will be available so that those instructors who have already heavily embedded it within their courses can continue to use the first edition if they wish. None of the core features are different. This will also avoid a lot of effort in re-translating the book in other languages. The first version is also quite long: the equivalent of 500 printed pages. I am reluctant to make it even longer. Nevertheless, some changes have had to be made.
- New sections added on emerging technologies, particularly:
- serious games and gamification
- augmented/virtual/mixed reality
- artificial intelligence in online learning (including analytics, personalisation, and automated assessment).
Does the book lack discussion of any other significant technology that has rocketed to attention in the last five years that is really essential for teaching today? Suggestions welcomed.
2. A new section added covering Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model for assessing the appropriate use of technology in education.
3. I have strengthened the link between the use of technology/media and the development of ’21st century skills’, and especially the need for a coherent and explicit approach to cognitive skills development. Although I have injected this throughout the book, I have added new research to support this view in Chapter 1, Section 2
4. I will be adding a section on open pedagogy in the chapter ‘Trends in Open Education’, previously Chapter 10 in the first edition, now Chapter 11 in the second edition.
- Appendix 1 on building an effective learning environment has been moved into the main body of the text. It is now Chapter 6 and ends the first part devoted to teaching methods. This is a result of feedback indicating that many users felt this was an important element of the book and should be seen as a key component of teaching in a digital age rather than just an appendix. I have however made few changes to the text of this chapter.
- I have added many more online examples, mainly in the form of online videos, especially for the chapters on the unique affordances/characteristics of different media and for the chapter on emerging technologies. (I should note that since the first edition, there has been a rapid increase in the amount and range of open access material, so for most individual ‘affordances’ I have now been able to find an excellent online example.)
- Almost every section in the second edition will have an activity for readers/students at the end. Some are for the reader’s reflection but other activities require students to answer questions for which I provide feedback. This feedback is usually given as a podcast. This enables instructors using the text as part of a course easily to remove or replace both the activities and/or the podcasts if they wish, and provide their own feedback. Incidentally I tried using the H5P tool in the second edition for testing and feedback, but it just didn’t work for this book – the approach was too behavioural. I needed a more constructivist approach to the activities and a more qualitative approach to feedback.
- In the podcast feedback on activities, I also sometimes give my personal opinions about some of the issues in a section (for example my personal views on the use of social media in education) that would be less appropriate in the main text, which focuses more objectively on what the research says. (Here I am trying to exploit one of the affordances of audio: making the teaching more personal!)
- Updated research: for most chapters I have found current reviews of the literature within the last year or two and new and better references for many sections, resulting in some changes in the text to reflect these more recent research results.
- Many urls have changed since the first edition; all urls in the second are currently active. This has meant replacing a few examples with new and better examples.
- General editing. The graphics are now better aligned and are more consistent (although this has required a lot of wrestling in Pressbooks), and the wording of the text has been improved in a number of chapters. There is more overall consistency in the design of the book.
- All additional material or changes to the first edition are printed in a different colour in the second edition, so instructors using the text can easily see where changes have been made.
It will be seen that I have been trying to apply some of the philosophy of open pedagogy in the second edition, especially making the book more interactive, but I would welcome other suggestions of how better to apply open pedagogy principles in this edition of the book. (There’s not much time, though).
I will be posting on this blog my drafts of the new sections over the rest of this month, as they are ready, starting Monday. I would really welcome your comments and feedback on these new sections.
The second edition will be launched at the Contact North Global Summit on Online Learning in Toronto between October 8-10. Yes, next month!