Reinventing Education: eTextbooks

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I was going to wait a bit until I talked more about this topic, but I’m excited to get it out of my brain onto a post! Earlier this week, I talked about how the Khan Academy has the potential to revolutionize education by allowing students to view video lectures at home and focus on mastering the concepts with help from teachers in the classroom. I’ve already watch a handful of videos myself and have found them very helpful and educational.

I’ve been watching videos though the Academy iPad app and have loved how convenient it is. I was able to download videos so that I could watch them during my bus ride (with no internet) back to New Mexico. I felt like could have been in a ‘The Future is NOW’ ad. I can’t help but smile and shake my head in amazement and the products we have available to us.

What’s even more amazing is the dedication that Apple and other companies have to the education system. My friend Cornelius received a refurbished iPad as part of a larger donation to Teach for America. He currently uses it as a teaching tool at …. Hopefully we can convince him to write a guest post in the future!

What I’d really like to share with you today is Apple’s iBook2 announcement from January 2012. I was nerdy enough to watch the keynote speech the day this initiative was announce and was completely blown away and inspired by what they’ve created. I have long complained about the antiquity of textbooks, and it seems like the creative, talented people of the world are trying to insight a paradigm shift.

No heavy backpacks. No expensive, out-of-date texts. No boring walls of text.

Why did this take so long?!

Actually, I’ve already purchased two e-books as required texts for my graduate classes, but this announcement still got me all riled up in a tizzy. After my initial, giddy reaction, I began to spread the good news like it had been passed down from Steve Jobs on high (and he only needed the one tablet). I could see no flaw in the design and expected everyone to be just as excited as I. Most were. But then, gradually different criticisms emerged.

  • eTextbooks are only available though iBooks 2 on the iPad
  • iPads are too expensive for most schools
  • Teachers will be reluctant to adapt new learning platforms
  • Students already have limited contact with print media. Too many ‘gadgets’ will actually prevent advancements in certain areas of their education. 
  • Just a new way for students to be distracted in the classroom. 

I believe many if these issues will be addressed in the years to come. Even just allowing access to the texts on a Mac computer will placate many naysayers. I’ve seen predictions of the Retina Display coming to the next generation of MacBooks, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that jump is announced alongside the new lineup of computers in the Fall. Certainly, there will need to be a transition period and different platforms will most likely attempt similar version (Kindle), however it is important to remember that initially teachers were not assigning schoolwork that required the internet or even word processors, but those are not integral parts of the classroom.

I’m already growing impatient with the current stale, lifeless textbooks I’m using this semester. After watching that first keynote, I turned my focus back to my studies. Assigned reading in my Statistics textbook.

I felt like my brain was moving in molasses in an attempt to learn the concepts.

I had seen the future and now instead of reading and retaining information, all I could think about was how I could transform the text into an entertaining, interactive experience. I eventually got the chapter read, but it was very clear to me that hey, I could do this! And so, it is now that I announce, nay declare, that I, Meridith, will one day author a completely awesome eTextbook.

Until then, I’ll have to manage with the current system.

*        *       *

Perhaps, if selected, I can convince the Hi-SEAS program to compile the joint experiences of the 6 Astro-Nots and 2 alternates into an iBook. I can easily envision a healthy collection of reports, media, and blog entries that would serve as content.

Can’t get to ahead of myself. Still one more week until the first announcements!

Questions of the Day:
Do you think such a radical change can occur in the public school system?
Are you a supporter?
What do you think are the biggest challenges to this idea?
What would you want to see in an end report/book from the 120-day Hi-SEAS food study?


2 thoughts on “Reinventing Education: eTextbooks

  1. I love the idea, but I would want to know a couple of things. First, how do you take notes/highlight in the ebook? I love writing all over stuff. My second concern is pretty much one of the ones you pointed out earlier. My mom teaches 6th grade in a rural public school district. Some of her co-workers aren't even supper proficient in excel (granted that will probably change as the next generation phases in), and something like 80% of her student's don't even have internet access at home. How accessible is this content? All saved to the tablet or is it up in the cloud somewhere?

    I think it's awesome to be sure, but I think I still have lots of questions.


  2. You can touch and pull your finger over the text to highlight. Click upon the highlighted text to either change color, underline, or add note. If you add a note it automatically syncs with your study center and creates a note card with the highlighted text and your note. How baller is that?!

    Your second point is a very good one, and you're right, we may not be able to address this in the current generation of educators. However, I believe that teachers will eventually need to adapt to the advancements in technology. I want to talk more with Corn about technology in the classroom.

    The textbooks are very easily downloaded with a wireless connection. I downloaded three free 'sample' texts (including one by E. O. Wilson!) and it took about half an hour on my slow internet. They don't take up much room. The iPad will also tell you immediately when updates are available. Once you download a book you can remove or add it to your device at your leisure.

    I'm hoping to talk to teachers who teach at schools with iPad programs! I'm waiting for some eager guest posters!


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