Saturday, January 21, 2012

Apple’s Textbook Plan Feels Like a Blast From the Past

Glenn Fleishman:

Kids are bored. The iPad is fun and engaging, Schiller explained. This is the same contention made for decades, and I challenge readers to find any longitudinal studies tracking students who have used or are using packaged multimedia-enhanced instruction showed measured and consistent improvement over control groups.

This immediately made me think of a quote from Steve Jobs:

I used to think that technology could help education. I’ve probably spearheaded giving away more computer equipment to schools than anybody else on the planet. But I’ve had to come to the inevitable conclusion that the problem is not one that technology can hope to solve. What’s wrong with education cannot be fixed with technology. No amount of technology will make a dent.

Based on my experience with iBooks 2 on an iPad 1, I much prefer paper textbooks. This is not to say that electronic textbooks are a bad idea. The speed and resolution will improve. In the last year, I came to prefer reading non-textbooks on a Kindle. In time, I presume that tablets will catch up to paper textbooks.

But, like Fleishman, I do not see this as a revolution in education. Will this ultimately save money for students and schools? Will it improve educational outcomes? I’m skeptical. A lighter backpack is no small thing, however.

Update: (2012-01-24): Steve McCabe:

As it stands, iBooks textbooks offers very little that hasn’t been on offer for nearly twenty years. Far from reinventing the textbook, Apple have simply taken an existing concept and applied it to a new medium, with, it appears, relatively little in the way of points of difference due to the particular nature of the iPad platform. And so, instead of static text and static images on a page, we are now presented with static text and some moving images on a page. This is a small step forward in terms of paper textbooks, but, in terms of the state of the art with regard to multimedia presentation, it is, absent scripting, possibly even a retrograde step.

It’s not that there’s something wrong with the iBooks textbooks, but rather that Apple’s presentation really oversold them. As John Siracusa says, Apple trotted out the same 20-year-old arguments that we’ve all heard before as if they were new. This gives the impression that Apple is ignorant of history, or thinks this time will magically be different, or perhaps is more focused on selling devices than on the educational results.

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