Digital textbooks turn schools…

On Friday, September 18th, we are going to organise our next event "Digital textbooks turn schools…".

The purpose of the event is to present the final results of our Learnmix project, talk about the program of digital learning materials run by Ministry of Education and Research, discuss in a panel session about digital textbooks and their influence on school innovations, explore some business models, technical solutions and changing pedagogical strategies related to digital textbooks, introduce a Finnish educational cloud and demonstrate the ongoing development of eKoolikott.

The title of the conference is left open on purpose. Our idea is to encourage participants to think of digital textbooks and their influence on schools.

The agenda of the conference:

Tallinn University Astra building room A-543

10.00 Opening: Rector of Tallinn University

10.10 Learnmix project's results (M.Laanpere, T.Väljataga)

10.40 Program of digital learning materials (representative of Ministry of Education and Research)

11.00 Panel discussion: Whether/why/how digital turn in schools should be started with digital textbooks?

12.00 Lunch


Rooms A-440, A-447, T-409

13.00 3 parallel workshops: Business models of digital textbooks, technical solutions of digital textbooks, digital textbooks and changing pedagogy

14.30 Coffee break


Room A-543

15.00 How publishers and teachers can make use of Finnish Educational Cloud? (EduCloud RY)

15.30 Demonstration of eKoolikott (platform for digital learning materials) (Net Group)

16.00 End


Participation in the conference is free of charge, however, lunch is expected to be paid by the participants themselves.

See you at the conference!

Learnmix workshop: business models of e-textbooks

Learnmix project team is organising its next workshop on business models in the context of e-textbooks. The goal of the workshop is to discuss about potential business models in collaboration with publishers, ministry, content providers, HITSA etc.

The tentative plan for the day is the following:

10:00 Welcome and introduction round

10.10 Marketing, billing, distribution and delivery of e-textbook: Learnmix perspective – Mart Laanpere

10.40 Business model development: introduction to Lean Canvas method – Harri Tallinn

11.00 Group work

11.30 Coffee break, free discussions

12.00 Group work continues

12.30 Group result presentations

13.00 Discussion: how to continue


Learnmix at HITSA conference

Learnmix team is organising the next e-textbook workshop at HITSA educational conference, on April 17th.

Workshop title: E-textbook, it is not a textbook?

The purpose of this workshop is to gather research groups and publishers who are interested in developing the next generation of e-textbooks. The workshop will explore

what would be the future e-textbook? what happens to a textbook, if it is published entirely electronically? Is an e-textbook similar to an e-book, is it a software application, a collection of learning objects bundled together by an user or something else?

Invited guests: Kaido Reivelt (Tartu Ülikooli koolifüüsika keskus),  Kaarel Oja (Kirjastus Maurus)Hendrik Väli (Kirjastus Avita)Karen Kärtmann (Tartu Erakool), Tõnis Kusmin (Silmaring MTÜ)

See you at the conference!

E-textbook workshop at Tallinn University

On February 6th Learnmix team organised an e-textbook workshop. We had several guests from different fields: teachers, publishers and educational content providers, representatives from Ministry of Education and Research, Estonian Teachers Association, Koolitööde AS, eKool etc. The event was planned as the first one of a series of e-textbook related workshops and it aimed at sharing ideas and experiences; and initiating a community and network of people who are interested in developing the next generation e-textbooks. As we consider pedagogical aspects the most important ones, the focus of the first workshop was innovative pedagogical scenarios within the context  of e-textbook development. After Mart’s presentation about the next generation of e-textbooks and their potential impact on learning and teaching the whole group carried out a hands-on activity to create examples of innovative pedagogical scenarios. An example of the result of the activities is found below.









Thanks to the participants and we hope that our first event gave some “food for thought”.



Searching for a descriptive framework

For quite some time we were searching for descriptive frameworks that would support us documenting key differences between the teaching and learning practices observed during our ethnographic field research and during our first intervention study. A targeted literature review produced no appropriate results. None of the descriptive frameworks we reviewed allowed, for example, for mapping the diversity of instruments used for learning and teaching; the shifting roles of students and teachers; various digital, material and mental artefacts; interactions and the artefact collections students and teachers utilise and/or create themselves.

Thus, we started to work on a descriptive framework ourselves to be able to describe the core ideas of our intervention. The following example is an extraction of a lesson we observed and the elements we considered important in our framework. The scenario represents an inquiry-based learning scenario.

Learnmix inquiry scenario 02 part 1










In our framework we definitely wanted to define:

1. Actors – a teacher, a student, or students. Here it is also necessary to specify whether the activity was done in groups, with a peer, or individually.
2. Actions – any kind of action performed by a teacher or student(s) as part of the observed teaching-learning activity. To fully grasp what students are doing while constructing their own knowledge through artefact manipulation, it is necessary to specify what kind of actions are carried out, by whom, and how they are mediated.
3. Displays – physical objects in, or outside of, the classroom (for instance computer, projector, screen) that function as a “display” for content and that provide an interface for “conveyors” (see below) that support the manipulation of content. Displays are seen as carriers for other (digital) artefacts. The affordances of a display define the general range of purpose of it, but do not determine classroom activity. Their affordances impact participants’ expectations and afford greater ease of use for some functions over others. For example, overhead projectors allow for presenting something to a wider audience, but they don’t determine what this “something” is.
4. Conveyors – applications that explicitly support the mediation or creation of content items (for instance, iBooks, Prezi, WordPress, etc.) as knowledge representations in a wider sense. The perceived affordances and the level of individual and collective appropriation of conveyors limit the range of potential actions and interactions. In our specific observational context displays are generally hardware used in and outside of the classroom and conveyors are various software applications that run on tablets, computers or smartphones.
5. Micro-content collections – to steer away from pre-conceived ideas of content being generally packaged and delivered as “textbooks” within School environments, we treat all elaborate, compound content items as micro-content collections. While in traditional textbook use micro-content (see below) tends to come from the same source and authors, in the midst of the digital transformation teachers and students can now more easily integrate micro-contents from a wide range of sources or self-author items.
6. Micro-contents – digitisation enables content compartmentalisation. Micro-content are items that can meaningfully stand on their own, such as images, paragraphs, photos, tables, and so forth. They are generally mediated and produced by configurations of displays and conveyors.
7. Authors – the aforementioned scenarios emphasise the importance and growing complexity of using various micro-contents and micro-content collections developed and designed by a (potentially wide) range of authors (professional textbook authors, teachers, students, other content producers outside of the formal educational system).

This is a starting point for our search, however, we have experienced already some advantages of it.

Workshop at ICWL2014: The future of e-Textbooks

The Learnmix team organised a half-day workshop titled  “The Future of e-Textbooks” (FeT2014) as part of the 13th International Conference on Web-based Learning (ICWL2014) in August to share and discuss work that is currently carried out on concepts, standards and technologies for the creation and application of next generation e-Textbooks.

The following contributions were presented at the workshop:

  • MatchMySound: Introducing Feedback to Online Music Education

Kristo Käo, Margus Niitsoo

  • e-textbooks: towards the new socio-technical regime

Kai Pata, Maka Eradze, Mart Laanpere

  • Designing interactive Scratch content for future e-books

Mario Mäeots, Leo Siiman, and Margus Pedaste

  • Slovenian “E-school bag”

Andrej Flogie, Vladimir Milekšič, Andreja Čuk, Sonja Jelen

  • Observing the use of e-textbooks in the classroom: towards “Offline” Learning Analytics

Maka Eradze, Terje Väljataga, Mart Laanpere

  • Re-conceptualising e-textbooks: in search for a descriptive framework

Terje Väljataga, Sebastian H.D. Fiedler

  • Incorporating values into the design process: the case of e-textbook development for Estonia

Arman Arakelyan, Ilya Shmorgun, and Sonia Sousa

The workshop contributions will be available soon via Springer's Lecture Notes in Computer Science.

Learnmix intervening into current teaching and learning practices

As our ethnographic study showed that current teaching approaches leave very little room for students to be active creators, our next step was to make some “experiments” to change this practice.

In March we carried out our first intervention study with a purpose to intervene into current teaching and learning practices in a way that enables learners to become actively engaged constructors of their own experience and knowledge, which means learners take partial control and responsibility over instructional components; learners as active participants and as creators.

Our intervention was built around the following potential scenarios:

  • Flipped classroom (textbook used at home to acquire a new topic)
  • Inquiry-based learning (textbook used as a handbook in the inquiry process)
  • Project-based learning (textbook as one possible information source)
  • Problem-solving activity (textbook as a source of problems and information)
  • Game-based learning (creating a game scenario) (textbook as a source of inspiration)

Every participating teacher could select one of the scenarios and build his/her lesson accordingly. It must be noted here that this is not an ultimate list of scenarios, which allow more control and creativity for students. This is a selection of scenarios we want to concentrate on at this point of time and also test them out in the context of our redefined “e-textbook”. As the term e-textbook carries a certain, strongly rooted understanding, we have started to call our vision of future e-textbooks as Learnmix.

But coming back to our intervention study, we managed to visit and observe 12 lessons in the following schools:

  • Tallinn English College
  • Tallinn Secondary Science School
  • Gustav Adolf Gymnasium
  • Tartu Private School
  • Central Russian Gymnasium
  • Tallinn European School

For our data collection we used LessonNote app for making notes and video recorded all the lessons. Currently we are in the process of analysing the collected data and comparing it with our ethnographic study.

Thanks to all the teachers and students who agreed to take part in our intervention!

E-textbook as a pizza making process

While talking about complicated and innovative visions in education, we very often need to find ways to express our ideas in an understandable way. One option is to make use of metaphors, a figure of speech. In one of the Learnmix project meetings we run a brainstorm session to find the most suitable metaphor, which describes our vision of the future e-textbook. As a result of our brainstorming session we came up with many different metaphors, which actually very nicely convey our message.

So, what do you think of baking a pizza?

Imagine you want to make a pizza, but you are not very keen on making everything yourself. So, you go to a supermarket, find a pizza dough and bring it home. This is a dough what professionals have made it for you. It has all the right ingredients, it is easy to handle and ready to use. And the most exciting part starts now. You are watching the dough in front of you and thinking what kind of topping it should have. And here you most likely want to be creative, make your own pizza topping exactly according to your taste. Perhaps come up even with some crazy ideas and run some experiments.

Haven’t you noticed in pizza restaurants that sometimes you want to have more cheese on your pizza or you don’t like olives, which are always on your favourite pizza? But now you can make exactly the pizza top you like. You might even want to search in Internet for some interesting ideas for toppings or open some cooking books to get inspiration and acquire understanding of whether you have to put all your favourite ingredients at the same time on your pizza dough or is it smart to add some of them later after a few minutes baking. Anyway, this is the time for exploring, trying out, testing, experimenting… And the outcome is really yours, done your way, it might not turn out the most delicious one first time, but you would still feel satisfied, because you tried and learned what to do better next time…


Foto: Dario Alvarez

Doesn’t it sound like an interesting learning process? You have professionally created material, which is evaluated, checked, with good quality…and then you as a learner step in and start to build your own knowledge on it. You create your additional content and it is unique…

Learnmix project in the conference of “Turning point in education”

On April 10th we introduced the main ideas of our Learnmix project in the conference of “Turning point in education” organised by HITSA Innovation centre. Again and again we had to deal with questions regarding quality issues of the material developed by teachers and students. In the Learnmix project we see this aspect from a different perspective. It is not the purpose to assess every material which is designed by a teacher or a student, instead we should focus on developing students’ critical thinking and working further on other’s ideas. More information about the conference can be found here.