Students can use an iPad to read this textbook. (Photo by Yutaka Tsutano)

Digital textbooks are becoming a routine part of college students’ study habits for their classes. But did you know that this modern technology is gradually gaining ground among middle and high school students?

According to this story on TribLive.com out of Pennsylvania, a trio of eighth-grade social studies teachers at North Hills Junior High School in Ross Township, Pennsylvania recently collaborated to create the school district’s first digital textbook.

The three teachers – Larry Dorenkamp, Joe Welch, and Rich Texter – used Apple’s iBooks Author application to write and design the interactive textbook. They presented the material in the book in a way that aligned to precisely what they feel their students should learn about American history at the eighth-grade level.

“Instead of having material coming from a book from Texas or California, this allows us to adhere to what we need,” Welch, of Scott Township, told the newspaper.

Each student enrolled in the teachers’ classes received an iPad to use at school. Using the iPad to read the textbook, students can highlight text in the book, take interactive quizzes on the material they read, and even have the text in the book read aloud to them via the voice-over feature on the iPad. If students prefer a hard copy of the book, they can print a PDF version of each section. It can also be downloaded onto a regular computer.

“Research stated that when students are more actively involved in their learning, they are more likely to be successful,” Jeff Taylor, the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum, assessment, and special programs, told the paper. Students are only passively involved with traditional paper-based textbooks.”

According to Dorenkamp, the e-book has been an interesting new concept for the students, and they seem to be more interested in reading it because of its digital presentation.

“We think about any learning level can benefit from this because the features really engage them and can really help a struggling reader,” Dorenkamp told the paper. “If they don’t know a word, they can tap on it and get an immediate connection to the dictionary or have it read aloud.”

Zach Hood, a student who is using the textbook, said the e-book is holding his interest.

“The readings are more interactive, and I really don’t get bored when I’m reading sections,” Hood told the paper.

The teachers hope more of their colleagues and fellow educators will implement similar textbooks in their classes. However, they did note that at this point, they said the work involved in creating such an e-book is extremely time-consuming.