Editor's note: Today’s post comes from Dianne Darlington, a Google Apps Certified Administrator and director of technology at Tullahoma City Schools, a school district in Tennessee that includes four elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school.

Our teachers at Tullahoma City Schools have discovered (and fully embraced) the benefits of incorporating timely, interactive material into the classroom—whether it’s a recent YouTube video or a breaking news article. Recognizing that technology plays a key role in learning, we recently expanded our use of Google Apps and Google Classroom throughout our schools. Now, teachers across the district use Apps and Classroom to assign projects and provide feedback to students, and students in grades three through nine bring home Chromebooks to continue learning outside the classroom walls.

After passing Google’s IT Admin Certification program, I worked with our technology team to think about how we could further use Google Apps in our schools. Our superintendent, Dan Lawson, presented us with the perfect opportunity. The Tennessee Department of Education rolled out new standards for social studies at the beginning of last school year, and we needed to revamp our educational content for each grade level. His vision was to create digital textbooks that were highly shareable, modifiable and cost-effective. We decided the best way to accomplish this was by using Google Docs. Since teachers were already familiar with Google Apps through our 1:1 Chromebook program, the digital textbooks were a huge success.

A digital textbook is a textbook that lives on a desktop, laptop or mobile devices and is easily editable to provide educational content that is as timely and relevant as possible. Creating the textbooks is as simple as editing in Docs. Teachers often tell me they love creating interactive and engaging content by embedding YouTube videos, games, music and links to websites. For example, when the Curiosity rover landed on Mars, we upgraded our social studies textbooks to include a video of the rover landing from NASA and written content from media sources. Students are more engaged when they’re reading content in their textbooks about an event that happened within the past few days.
Digital textbooks are as fun and engaging for the students as they are for the teachers. The easy ability to edit encourages teachers to update the textbooks with pertinent information based on current events and new material. Whether a teacher wants to insert a recent video or make grammatical changes, she can update the digital textbook instantly. The new version is readily available to students via the textbook library on the class website. With Google Docs’ offline mode, teachers can even edit information when they don’t have access to WiFi.

Once other schools in Tennessee heard about our digital textbooks, they wanted to create them for their students, too. Six school districts asked to use our material, mainly to print physical textbooks at a price of $8 instead of paying a publisher $80, but some are also downloading them digitally and using a 1:1 model as well. Open-source digital textbooks reinforce our mission of relating content to the student, rather than teaching for a standardized test. With Docs, we’ve provided students more timely and engaging information, and we’re excited to roll out digital textbooks across all core subjects in the next three years.