Six Lessons One Campus Learned About E-Textbooks
Is it time to switch to ebooks? Not quite yet, according to Chronicle writer Jeffrey R. Young after he visited with Northwest Missouri State University faculty and students about their venture into the world of e-textbooks. NWMSU has been a leader in student communication technologies since the days of OTPDR (That’s one-terminal-per-dorm-room for those of you who have trouble remembering the great acronyms of the past).
Young shares six lessons he learned about the current state of ebooks in the classroom. Here are my thoughts on each of his points.
- Judge ebooks by their covers – All ebooks reading software is not created equal. Sony’s ebook reader is different than Amazon’s Kindle. There are lots of ebook reader options for laptops. Publishers have even created proprietary readers that work within an LMS (Blackboard, Moodle, etc.) The point here is that with this many options, you will need to do your research, and try before buying where possible.
- Learning curves ahead – Students have had years of practice learning how to learn from paper-based textbooks. Institutions should offer training as part of any e-textbook initiative.
- Professors are eager students – This may be puzzling to some but I’ve always been able to find professors eager to experiment with a new technology IF (and this is an important “if”) they can envision how it might be meaningful to teaching/learning.
- Dead batteries – Hopefully this problem that will go away as better battery technologies are developed. For now, we need to make sure that there enough power outlets in classrooms and learning centers (and hopefully not just on the back wall.)
- Subjects are not equally e-friendly – Some disciplines may be better suited to e-textbooks than others. I’m not sure that I agree with this statement, especially if we leave out Amazon and Sony, and just talk about the use of a laptop or iPhone (both support color) as the ebook reading device. Both would allow students to zoom in and query images for more information. Think about the possibilities with a subject like Geography. Maps within a paper textbook are static while ebook maps can be dynamic, allowing students to ask how borders or populations have changed over time. The result may be customized maps that help students understand current political issues.
- Environmental impact matters – Saving trees is an important consideration but a move to e-textbooks could ultimately reduce the cost (and amount of fuel used) to provide textbooks to students in developing countries. Textbooks are already expensive. Add the cost of shipping overseas and the price may double. Instead, these students could be outfitted with multi-use resources (laptop or smartphone) to access up-to-date content. Easy access to electricity is a major issue but one that can be eased with longer battery life.
While I don’t believe it is time to make wholesale changes to e-textbooks, it is time to begin experimenting with ebooks in individual courses and programs. What do you think?
(delicious tags: Education technology textbook academic college kindle ebooks)
One Laptop Per Child gets new life with India choosing to buy a quarter of a million computers for students throughout the country. It will be interesting to see how they decide to distribute these laptops and what operating system and software they choose to use. India has done an excellent job of training technology workers for the rest of the world. This program should provide early technology-related learning opportunities for those impacted by digital divide issues.
Teacher training is always an issue with laptop programs. Does anyone know how India plans to train their teachers for this program? What are the plans for sustaining the program?
One Laptop Per Child is still working on their goal of producing a $100 laptop to help bridge the digital divide. This article questions whether they should be in the business at all given that existing computer companies are now making a similar product.