Creating Digital Texts

I am thinking about creating a small digital text resource for a course next year. Digital text is an idea I’ve been thinking about over the last few years as I’ve grown disenchanted with traditional textbooks, partly because they are expensive, partly because they include too much trying to be all things to all instructors, and partly because I think the digital environment offers some opportunities for enriching the texts in ways that print cannot. The discrete nature of such texts also appeals to me and I think it will appeal to Net Gen students.

What I want to do is write what is essentially a book chapter, explaining the theories of demand and supply and explaining how economists use them to analyze markets. This small project seems like a good opportunity to make a start at a digital text.

I’m looking for suggestions on what tools to use to do this and what form the product should take. The digital things I’ve worked with in the past: blogs and wikis, for example, have been more process than product-oriented. Even the static web pages I’ve created have been utilitarian; I didn’t take the time to learn how to give them a more finished look.

The digital texts I envision are essentially finished products. They will embody the presentation of established facts and findings. I plan to include text, graphs (ideally, animations) and perhaps some images in the text. What should I know about to complete this project? Any suggestions?

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2 Responses to Creating Digital Texts

  1. rrycroft says:

    Being disenchanted with traditional textbooks is understandable, but I don’t think that writing a chapter on demand and supply is the answer. First off, there are no textbooks out there that do a bad job on demand and supply. The theory is pretty settled. Secondly, I don’t think demand and supply allows you to make best use of the potential of digitial text. What you should write is a macro model chapter or a game theory chapter. Then your text could include simulations and games that illustrate the points you are trying to make.

    I think the general rule should be don’t use digital media unless the media can do a better job than traditional print. To the extent that you can get students actively involved in learning exercises, it can do a better job. But if not then it is not worth the investment of time.

    Also, while animations can be done on the web, they are not easy to do. If you have shied away from developing anything more than static web pages, moving to animations would be a major step up. You would probably have to employ a programmer to work with you.

  2. Steve says:

    The course I’m interested in doing this for is the first year seminar I’m teaching on globalization. I plan to teach a limited set of economic principles, including supply and demand, but don’t want to make the students purchase a principles of economics textbook. It seems that creating my own limited text would be the easiest solution, even if it doesn’t take full advantage of what digital media can do. I figure it will be a reasonable first step towards digital texts for me.

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