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Time for ebooks in the classroom?

June 14, 2009 2 comments

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.)
  5. 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.
  6. 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)

Should OLPC get out of the netbook business?

February 16, 2009 Leave a comment
  • 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.
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TurningPoint Launches Web-based Response Service for Smartphones and Laptops

September 5, 2008 1 comment
TurningPoint clicker and USB controller
TurningPoint clicker and USB controller

I’m not a huge fan of clicker technology. I guess this is because I see it as an interim technology and I’m anxious to get on to the next thing. However, I have to admit that I have had positive experiences with TurningPoint clickers. Their software integrates well with PowerPoint and the clickers are not as bulky as others I’ve used.

I am excited to hear that TurningPoint is looking to extend their technology to cell phones and laptops. I believe it is only a matter of time before all vendors move to a model of providing software that works with multi-purpose smart devices. Students don’t need another portable electronic device to haul around when they are already toting a smart phone or laptop.

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