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How to use digital textbooks in the K-12 classroom

How to use digital textbooks in the K-12 classroom

Digital textbooks are cost-effective and create equitable, engaging and flexible learning experiences. What’s not to love? There are many advantages to using digital textbooks in the K-12 classroom for schools and districts. But how do you start making the transition to digital and ensure that your learners have high-quality resources? 

To help you begin, we’ve gathered digital textbooks across subjects and grade levels—all are openly-licensed and free-to-use. They come from sources such as the Michigan Open Book Project, Core Knowledge, CK-12, OpenStax and OER Commons. You can use these digital textbooks in your lessons and units or throughout the school year. You can also share specific texts with individual students or small groups to differentiate instruction and personalize learning.

Kindergarten digital textbooks

Kindergarten – “Myself and Others”

The Michigan Open Book Project created this digital textbook for kindergarteners. Learners will read about and discuss rules, decision-making and how to socialize in the classroom. The textbook includes large text, pictures and videos.

Kindergarten language arts – “The Five Senses”

This kindergarten digital textbook has eight 50-minute lessons covering the five senses. It also includes stories about living with sight and hearing disabilities. There’s an accompanying teacher’s guide, several activity books and supplemental reading guides as well. 

“Kindergarten Science” 

This digital textbook covers topics on weather and gravity with a kindergarten reading level and accompanying pictures. 

Math digital textbooks

Sixth grade math – “Unit 1: Area and Surface Area”

This digital math textbook covers finding the area of parallelograms, triangles, polygons and polyhedra. It’s broken into nineteen 45-minute lessons.

“Interactive Middle School Math 7”

This middle school math online textbook aligns to the Common Core State Standards. It includes interactive media, such as videos, and hands-on activities that are also interactive. It also includes feedback for learners when they answer formative assessment questions.

High school math – “Interactive Geometry”

This math digital textbook also aligns to the Common Core State Standards and covers a complete year of geometry. The interactive portion includes adaptive questions, videos and “related modalities” that cover the skill in a variety of learning styles.

High school math – “Precalculus”

Several college educators collaborated on this textbook to use in any pre-calculus course. It includes detailed explanations of functions, trigonometry and an introduction to calculus.

English language arts digital textbooks

Second grade language arts – “Early Asian Civilizations”

Second graders will learn about early India and China with this digital textbook. Learners will study geography and contributions of both civilizations, while also reading poems and folktales.

Third grade language arts – “Native American Stories”

This elementary digital textbook has ten 80-minute lessons, which can be broken up to fit shorter class sessions. Students will learn about Native American groups in different regions of the country. They will also work on grammar, spelling and morphology.

High school language arts – “Writing Guide with Handbook”

With this online textbook focused on writing, high school learners will think critically about a variety of genres of writing. The textbook starts with the digital world and asks learners to analyze social media and rhetoric. 

High school language arts – “Greek and Latin Roots: Part II – Greek”

This open educational resource focuses on Greek roots. Learners will analyze words and identify patterns in the English language, along with its historical connection to ancient Greek.

Science digital textbooks

“Second Grade Science”

Aligned to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), this digital textbook covers natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis. Learners will also study topics such as mountains, volcanoes, the Grand Canyon and erosion.

Seventh or eighth grade science – “Life Science for Middle School”

This middle school science textbook covers the full curriculum for life science. Aligned to NGSS and other state standards, it includes multimedia, interactive features and real-world examples.

“Physics: High School”

This textbook comes in an online or PDF format. High school teachers and physics subject matter experts wrote this digital textbook. It covers motion, mechanics, waves, lights and thermodynamics. Learners will work on real-world examples and hands-on labs.

High school science: “Chemistry”

This high school online textbook covers a full chemistry course. Learners will study topics such as atoms, molecules, ions, chemical solutions, liquids and solids, gases, the periodic table and organic chemistry.

Social studies and history digital textbooks

Fifth grade social studies – Maya, Aztec, and Inca Civilizations

In this elementary social studies textbook, students learn about the ancient Maya civilization, the Aztecs and Tenochtitlan, as well as the Inca and Machu Picchu. Learners will also study the tragic result of the arrival of Spanish conquistadors. 

6th grade social studies – “World Geography”

This textbook comes from the Michigan Open Book Project. Their focus is digital textbooks for the K-12 classroom. To develop this open educational resource for sixth grade, a team of middle school educators collaborated.

Seventh grade social studies – “Ancient World History”

As part of its participation in the #GoOpen movement, the Michigan Open Book Project also wrote this textbook. It covers overarching questions related to the history of the ancient world.

High school – “U.S. History”

This introduction to United States history covers people, politics, events, ideas, economics,  diplomacy, race, class and gender. It also includes primary sources, such as eyewitness accounts.

Electives digital textbooks

Middle school through high school elective – Digital Imaging 1: Digital Photography Basics

You can also use digital textbooks in the K-12 classroom for electives courses. This online textbook introduces digital photography through examples and activities and asks learners to create a digital portfolio.

High school elective – Journalism 101

This journalism resource is aimed at grades 11 and 12. It covers the First Amendment, reporting basics, digital journalism and ethics and law.

High school elective – Creative Writing, Creative Process

If your high school offers a creative writing course, share this free online textbook with students. It offers a range of writing exercises specifically written for high school.

Distributing digital textbooks in the K-12 classroom

Once you find digital textbooks you want to use for K-12, you’ll need to distribute them. While teachers can post individual links, it’s not the most efficient way to share them. Luckily, there are tools available to make distribution seamless and equitable across your school or district.

Hāpara Student Dashboard Digital Backpack gives learners one-click access to digital textbooks and other learning resources. Curriculum leaders can share textbooks across campuses instantly, and learners can access them in school or at home. 

It also formats reading resources for any device so that every learner can use digital textbooks in the K-12 classroom. Digital Backpack even includes an already-built library of openly-licensed and public textbooks that your school or district can distribute.

Explore why educators are reviving the #GoOpen initiative to increase access to free high-quality learning materials.

The GoOpen initiative ebook

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