Moving From Traditional to Electronic Textbooks – How EPISD did it. (Part 2)

January 30, 2015 | admin

This blog post is the second part of a series of post by our Guest Author: Tim Holt, Instructional Tech Director at El Paso ISD, Texas. It first appeared on Tim’s blog and been republished here with permission. Tim has a Master’s Degree in Curriculum Instruction, and another in Education Leadership. Tim has been in the education field for over 27 years, first as a teacher, then an education facilitator, a researcher, and a Director of Instructional Technology.


In the first part of this series, we looked at how the El Paso Independent School District chose the CK12 Foundation’s Flexbooks as the basis for their new electronic science textbooks. The Flexbooks provided an experience that rivaled the traditional textbooks publishers texts without the publisher’s prices.

The next step was to create a team to work on the district books. Since the books were in essence, already written, the team would be more curators than writers, gathering the already complete material and putting it into the sequence that matched the district’s scope and lesson plans. They also would align the books to the state standards.

Teacher Criteria:
The teachers that we decided to work with had to have several qualities:

They had to be open to new ideas.
We were not necessarily looking for “techies.” We were looking for teachers that could look at something new and not immediately dismiss it. This is harder than it sounds: many teachers are stuck in tradition, or have the “We already tried this” mindset. And while that mindset is a defensive one and at times understandable, we needed teachers that were able to get beyond that way of thinking. We also wanted them to work with the OER list that we had originated to use that material and discussed in Part 2 of this series.

They had to be respected by their peers
We knew that the teachers that we chose would have to end up becoming cheerleaders for the project. We needed teachers that had gravitas with their colleagues. This was important because we needed to have teachers (not central office administrators who are often portrayed as the enemy) leading the charge, not the central office. Teachers that were respected by their peers were more likely to be listened to by peers.

They had to be experts in content and standards

We knew that the books we were using from CK12 were good. We had no doubt that the content was okay. We needed teachers that could look at the content and find holes (if there were any) that they could fill with other content. The teachers also had to be experts in the Texas state standards because we needed to have them align the Flexbooks. The teachers also had to be well versed in our scope and sequence so that they could look at the Flexbooks and put them in the order that we wanted.

Using those criteria of openness, respectability and content knowledge, it was time to get the rest of the team in place.

Trainers up first:
Trainers were needed to teach our curators how to navigate through the CK12 Flexbooks. We chose three technology trainers that would train the teachers, in concert with the CK12 staff, on the ins-and-outs of the CK12 system. Although CK12 Flexbooks are relatively easy to navigate, they are not intuitively obvious. Three trainers would be availalble to also troubleshoot minor technical issues should they arise as well.

CK12 Jumps In:
CK12 then provided their support by providing pretty much their entire team to help with the process. We would be able to access them, and one was assigned as the lead. That person was the one that we would filter issues through.

Final Touch:
The final piece of the creation puzzle was a set of editors that were tasked with going through the created books to make sure not only the basics of grammar and spelling were observed but also the look and feel. We wanted to make sure that the books were consistent from one to another, which if we simply kept the original CK12 Flexbooks would not have been an issue. However, because we were adding materials and aligning to our standards, we were changing the basic formats to match our needs. The editors kept the formats the same throughout.

To create a OER textbook, we needed a team. Our team included:

  • Teacher Writers/Curators
  • Trainers
  • CK12 Facilitators
  • Editors

Once the team was in place, we needed to make sure everyone was on the same page.