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Is there still a need for printed textbooks and ancillaries for Latin for those schools that have made the move to all-tablet or all-laptop? What with sites like Perseus and Latin Library, is there still the desire by "laptop schools" to use traditional textbooks?

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I don't know if there is still a desire, but I do think there is still a need for traditional textbooks, especially at the introductory level. When students use their computers to view a PDF, for example, they can usually see only part of a page if they want the text to be big enough for them to read. For students who tend to be hasty or careless or who have difficulty processing visual information, scrolling up and down the page could lead them to miss important pieces of information. They might scroll too quickly and miss some section of the page. They might lose track of what they've just seen as they scroll from one part of the page to another. With a traditional textbook, the whole page can be seen at one time and students can glance easily from one part to another. If full textbook pages could be displayed on a laptop big enough for the student to read them easily, I think the situation would be a bit different. This is probably possible with the tablets since they can rotate the screen orientation, right? Or does something like a PDF still come out too small to read without zooming in?
hi Anna, your comment here made me think of a factor that is HUGE in doing Greek: font size, especially in order to read the accent marks.

I am a big believer in using books based on what they are good for (just as you point out, books are stable and have all the information organized in a nice, sequential order) and also using digital texts based on what they are good for - and a big advantage of digital texts is that you can make the font size as large as you like!

With Latin that is not such an important issue, but in Greek, where people find it very hard to "disentangle" the combination of breathing marks and accent marks, blowing up the text to a very large font size is a huge advantage. When I taught Greek online, I put all the exercises from the textbook up as webpages, making sure that I used a stylesheet that allowed students to increase the size of the font as much as they wanted, and they could also cut-and-paste from the webpage into a Word document and manipulate the font size prior to printing out the page.

Being able to let students choose what font size works for them is something that will never happen with printed textbooks (it's just feasible to print the textbook in every range of font sizes people might desire!), but being able to let students have access to digital content from the textbook, which in turn they can print out and configure based on their needs, is a great example of how textbook and digital texts can work together to help support student learning.

My experience is that my students do print out most of their language-learning materials rather than attempting to read them online, so the important thing to remember about digital materials is that it does not necessarily mean viewing on-screen; rather, it means students do the printing, rather than having the text in a pre-printed bond form. So it's important to make sure that digital materials which are destined for printing are prepared in a manner that supports printing - PDF is one way to do that, although there are some real disadvantages to offering text instead of PDF, since the text can be manipulated in a word processor to enlarge the font size selectively, whereas PDFs are usually designed to be printed "as-is" rather than being manipulated by the user prior to printing. Again, with Latin this is less of an issue, but font size manipulation for Greek is really critical.

Starting my third year of teaching in a one-to-one classroom with tablets, I find two major reasons to still use textbooks. One, Anna and Laura have already mentioned—the ability to see the complete pages of online texts (though zooming can be done relatively easily with CTRL + using the scroll wheel on your mouse [or the scroll gesture on a laptop's mouse pad]). Teachers around my school find that online versions cannot easily show the entire page, a problem with almost all of the available online texts.

The second reason that I use textbooks still is that the number of online texts is relatively small and most versions seem to only use a couple of the possible interfaces--they are PDF's or static hyperlinked html documents. It is actually OK to look at an entire PDF page on the tablet, but not great—I think people still prefer larger fonts on computers. Designers need to get beyond the idea that an online text needs to look like the original. Computer texts of the future are going to have a very different look and better utilize the size and shape of the computer screen. They must also be more diverse in materials and interfaces and truly use all the functionality of the computer. They need to mix the PDF with the ability to manipulate the text using touch and pens as well as the keyboard and mouse, using java scripts, flash, shockwave and the multitude of other computer languages and web interfaces.

On the other hand, there are some texts though that I much prefer online such as Bennett’s Grammar which is in PDF and is tremendously easy to search—much easier than the hardcover version for students. I also like to use online dictionaries more than hard copies. Have a race to see who finds fore faster in your Latin II class—the one with Whitaker’s Words or the Oxford?

At the moment, the tablet is more like an awesome three ring binder that has tremendous functionality for teaching and learning. Students in my classes use textbooks in conjunction with PowerPoints, PDF worksheets and texts—which the students download and use as a background in OneNote or Journal—and numerous online resources with all kinds of interactive and diverse activities. It is much easier in Latin III and AP to use the text less, but I still enjoy the notes and passages that are in the Wheelock reader and the AP texts I use—and I cannot quite yet see myself getting rid of them in class... unless they come out with a good online or software version...




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