The Future of Textbooks: ACU Connected Review, Part II
The human brain doesn’t instinctively understand how to read. Our brains evolved as human interaction progressed, making our brains more naturally wired for socializing. Think about it – when provided with the opportunity to read or socialize, which would you typically choose?
The answer likely is “it depends,” but if you’re like me, I’m willing to bet you’re more inclined to gravitate towards one more often than the other. If you’re more inclined to socialize – it’s okay, we’re wired for it. If you’re more inclined to read, it’s likely because you’ve trained your mind to be that way. Studying, reading, and writing are not innate skills; they are learned. We were not born to read; we invented reading.
Perhaps this example is too simplistic, but I hope it raises awareness as to “why we are the way we are.” Understanding who we are will help us understand one of the tools we need to be the most effective learners: social, digital books. This sets the stage for the terrific ACU Connected Summit sessions related to the future of textbooks in education:
Building for the Next Information Age: Envisioning the Future of Books
by Dr. William Rankin, Director of Educational Innovation at ACU
On Monday, Dr. William Rankin hosted a session outlining the history of books, where books are today, and where books are going. One of the biggest hurdles he discussed was the fact that by the year 2020, the information on the Internet will double every 15 minutes. How can we possibly manage all this information?
Here are some key notes presented by Dr. Bill Rankin:
- The top reason students drop out of schools is because it’s not relevant.
- We need to evaluate the basics of what it is we’re trying to accomplish: shift our initial focus from “what do we do” to “why are we doing it.”
- Digitized text – although more accessible – does not equal digital books
- Characteristics of early textbooks:
- Textbooks were localized – few people had access
- Textbooks were personalized – since authors were literally having to rewrite every copy of their book, content was customized for individuals
- Reading was communal. Context, community, customization, and tradition were very important.
- Access was a major challenge; lectures stemmed from this challenge. One individual knew content well and students in the auditorium would absorb knowledge imparted by the expert.
- Glutenberg gave birth to the modern textbook with his printing press:
- Books became specialized and depersonalized
- Publishers had elite control to the creation of textbooks; mass access was afforded for textbook consumption
- The future of textbooks lies in blending models together and coupling that with principles of social interaction.
- Characteristics of digital reading:
- Authority is social and based on connection
- Characterized by mass access to textual correction and consumption.
- It’s a participatory model that embraces diversity, community, participation, and custodianship.
- The future books will be social, augmented, personalized, customized, communal, commodified, and collaborative.
Dr. Rankin also suggested checking out Dynamicbooks to get an idea of how teachers can create interactive, media enriched, and mobile content.
Your Textbook is a Vinyl Record: Inkling
by Matt MacInnis, founder and CEO of Inkling
Simply stated, Inkling is stunning. This presentation captivated the model of future textbooks that we’ve been anticipating for years. An excerpt from Inkling’s website describes them as follows:
“Inkling brings the world’s best content to iPad with interactivity, social collaboration and simple ease-of-use. No more heavy, expensive textbooks to carry around campus. Inkling textbooks are more interactive, more flexible and cheaper.”
The books are highly engaging, have accessibility options for students with special needs, and are developed by a passionate staff. The title list is a little low right now (relative to the availability of printed textbooks), but the sheer complexity of embedding the level of interaction in these books requires diligent effort.
I downloaded a trial chapter to give it a run and concluded that this model is the future of textbooks. I’d encourage you to check out Inkling’s features to gain a better grasp of what they’re doing to contribute toward the future of textbooks. The video below demonstrates Inkling in action.
OER, Connexions and the Next Textbook
by Sidney Burris, Dean of Engineering and Member of Connexions Boards, Rice University
Open educational resources (OER) are learning resources that may be freely used, modified, and redistributed.
What is Connexions?
- “Connexions is a repository of information available through the web on the Internet.”
- “A set of tools for authoring, maintaining, and using, the content of the repository.”
- “A community of people who share educational interests and information.”
- With Connexions, books can be created on-the-spot based on individual student needs. Books can be bounded, downloaded, and have free interactive content online.
This Slideshare presentation further highlights on Connexions. I’m not sure this particular Slideshare presentation was created by Sidney Burris, but the content of it reflects his message.
Freeing the Textbook: Building a Sustainable 21st-Century Publishing Model
by Jeff Shelstad, Founder and CEO of Flatworld Knowledge
Flatworld Knowledge values quality content and they copy the publisher model. They pass control of the content to the local expert, and their content is openly licensed and customizable.
- Content is free to view online and can be downloaded for offline use for a fee.
- Like Connexions, content is reusable, revisable, remixable, and redistributable.
- One of the concerns of some other open models is the integrity of text. The integrity of text is maintained by leading experts, peer-review, and edited with the highest standards.
It’s exciting to envision the future of textbooks in education! Where will we be in five years? By then, I hope digital textbooks have moved beyond rhetoric and start being widely created and adopted. One factor limiting the adoption of digital textbooks that I’ve heard from education administrators is the suggestion that it’s too expensive and funding isn’t available. I fully understand this stance, but there are creative ways to finance them (and save money in the end). For example:
- Find a way to lump the total costs for five year’s worth of textbook funds into one year (I suppose this is buying on credit).
- With those funds, purchase the digital device along with digital textbooks.
- Pay back dues to the “textbook fund” on an annual basis.
- Repeat the cycle.
Creative financing may get mobile devices in the hands of students, but I think the biggest detractor right now is the low volume of digital textbooks available. When these become abundant, I expect more districts to develop innovative funding mechanisms.
This post’s featured image is from the video featured on Inkling.com