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 https://www.flickr.com/photos/darioalvarez/5543591029/

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…

First school visits

In May we had a great chance to visit some of the schools, observe lessons and pilot our research methodology. We visited Tallinna Inglise Kolledz 1st grade math lesson, Tallinna Reaalkool 3rd grade math lesson and Tallinna Kesklinna Vene Gümnaasium 5th grade math lesson.

Inglise kolledz

These lessons were built up in a way that learners had to practice their math skills with iPads and laptops. It was obvious that they were very excited about this option and used technology with great interest. These visits gave us the first impression of how to design a lesson with technology, how is it currently done and what is the overall situation in schools. Thank you very much for learners, teachers and educational technologists for hosting us! We so much hope that we can continue our collaboration in autumn.

Photo by Arman: Ilya and Terje taking notes in Inglise Kolledz while trying to solve 1st grade math problems with iPads.


Mart Laanpere, the head of the Centre for Educational Technology and one of the project members has published a few articles in our local newspaper Õpetajate leht. These articles talk about the vision of e-textbooks and technological solutions in schools. They give a nice hint regarding the direction we are planning to move on with our LEARNMIX project.

Although they are in Estonian I present them here:

Igale õpilasele oma arvuti (Own computer for every learner)

Haridustehnoloogia ja reformpedagoogika (Educational technology and reform pedagogy)

E-õpik (E-textbook)

LEARNMIX project is looking for partners

LEARNMIX project team is currently looking for potential schools as project partners, which are already active users of technology and mobile devices for learning and teaching. As the purpose of the first phase of the project is to understand current artifact ecologies and use patterns of technology in classrooms, we are planning to carry out an ethnographic study in autumn 2013 in 5-6 schools. Our ethnographic study comprises of observing lessons, making photos and notes, interviewing learners, teachers and educational technologists. For designing and developing the next generation e-textbook, it is crucial to understand what technology, how and why is currently used in classrooms, what learning and teaching strategies are implemented. Our first impression is very positive and it seems that teachers are interested in being part of designing and developing e-textbooks.

LEARNMIX project starts

The Centre for Educational Technology at Tallinn University started with a new project called LEARNMIX. It is financed by Archimedes Foundation under  sub-measure ” Supporting the development of R&D of info and communication technology”. Prof. David Lamas and his research group is going to focus on developing the next generation e-textbooks.

Every day we witness how people use various personal devices, such as mobile phones, smart phones, tablets, etc. So do learners. Learners choose their devices, applications and web-based services according to their needs and possibilities. These devices, applications and services are under continuous development. This situation makes it very hard for schools to keep up with modern technology, various applications and services. Under these conditions learning environments can’t focus only on one concrete, universal device and application. We have to consider the fact that one day learners come to the classroom with their own devices to use them for learning. Therefore, the general purpose of the LEARNMIX project is

to find economically sustainable and pedagogically innovative solutions for the next generation e-textbooks, which can be used with various operation systems and devices.

In comparison to other e-textbook development initiatives, the LEARNMIX project  is interdisciplinary. We are going to combine and integrate human computer interaction design and innovative pedagogical approaches to develop and test e-textbooks. We understand the next generation e-textbooks as a mash-up solution, which consists of three different types of content:

(1) professionally developed content,

(2) teacher developed content,

(3) learner developed content.

This challenging, but very interesting project is going to last 2.5 years. So, more information about the project progress will follow.