The Way I See It. . .

by Karen Schmohe
Thomson Business & Educational Publishing

An Interesting Year Coming to a Close

It hardly seems possible that 2006 is quickly coming to a close; how fast the year has gone! Of course, I think all of us are anxious to see how the recent political elections might bring about some changes. Hopefully we will have stronger support for Career and Technical Education so that we can continue to train students for life and work.

State tests and meeting state standards continue to dominate the educational scene, and I have talked with many teachers who are frustrated by the limitations this poses. Everyone is for better educated students who can be productive and successful citizens. However, the time spent “preparing for and passing the test” can detract from covering some of the discipline content. I think everyone is striving to find a more appropriate balance.

Interactive Textbooks

In almost every issue I have been discussing technology, and one thing I have learned is that there are a lot of different definitions for some of the same terms. About two years ago we had our first requests for “electronic books or online books.” Publishers quickly provided pdf files in electronic format to meet that request.

Reading a print text in an electronic format, however, didn’t really prove to be very popular. Yes, pdf files could be provided quickly and free or at low price, but many teachers wanted something more. Technology options were available to create a more media-rich product, but with that functionality came new challenges, and we’re all trying to find the right mix.

Technology enables us to create interactivity that can be more motivating and engaging to students. How much interactivity is needed? How many options should we include? How important is cost to the mix? Those are all questions we are struggling to answer, and we have been conducting some WebEx meetings in order to gauge reactions in various states.

As we develop our prototypes and enrich our electronic product, we have had to look at lesson content in new ways. Should we be making the illustrations, tables, and charts interactive similar to what we can do with PowerPoint and bring one step up at a time? Or, should we be reviewing the paragraph content and try to think of an alternative interactive way to present the same content?

In recent adoption hearings I have attended, I have repeatedly heard the request to provide content that addresses different learning styles and differentiated learners. Technology provides options in a multimedia-rich environment for text to speech, addressing the needs to reading disabled students and non-native English speakers. That same technology also offers options for visually-impaired students. As we explore those opportunities, though, we are finding that most students also want to have control of their learning. Some students want to change color; some want to change font; some want speech; some want essential summaries first; some want music—it is all up for consideration.

In addition to those learning concerns, there are also a myriad of questions that schools and districts must answer. Who hosts the content? If the school wishes to put the material on its district server, then updates are not automatic. Are schools and districts ready for annual subscriptions? Will local school budgets provide funding for every discipline every year?

At many meetings I am asked why textbook costs don’t go down when we go digital since we are not having to print and inventory as many items. In fact, the manufacture of a printed text is a very small portion of the total cost. As we move to digital, there are the increased costs to address: hosting and maintenance on servers; technical support costs to students using the materials at home (24/7); costs required for obtaining worldwide rights and permissions since web-enabled means we have to address global needs instead of just North American needs; and finally, the additional development dollars required to “translate” text to digital.

So what does all this mean? For me, there are 3 levels of electronic product that will be (or already are) available.

• The most inexpensive (and also most limited) will be the eBook version.
• The second level is what I am calling an “iBook or Interactive book.” This option provides engaging interactive content for some of the text copy.
• The third option is the full, multimedia-rich “universal” product, providing text-to-speech and differentiated learning options.

Education will go through some dramatic changes as we find our way to delivering the content for today’s technology-savvy learners. In my 25 years of publishing I have never seen a more challenging—and yet exciting—time. It certainly gives us much “food for thought.”

In This Issue

In this issue you will find an excellent article written by Dr. Susie Van Huss and Dr. Conie Forde on the new Microsoft Office 2007. This software is a dramatic change from previous Microsoft Office versions, and as I’ve listened to our authors working with Beta copies, I’ve seen them come to embrace and appreciate the changes. While it brings a few challenges to us in an educational environment and will require some format updates, it is a very interesting new program.

The second excellent article in this edition relates to Good Customer Service. All employees are ambassadors of the company, so this topic is indeed something for everyone.

And finally, it is so exciting to include the article on the new Warren Clifford Friend of Business Education Award. Warren was a South-Western sales representative in the East, and how rewarding to see his dedication and loyalty to his teachers recognized by Vermont business teachers. I know Warren is honored……..and all of us at South-Western are so proud of him as well as appreciative of the excellent example he set.

Balance Sheet Articles Needed

We continue to need articles for posting. Please consider sharing some of your best practices or curriculum trends with others.

Well……that’s how I see it for this issue. I welcome your comments and thoughts

Karen Schmohe
Thomson Business & Educational Publishing