Monday, July 4, 2011

Digital Textbooks

I still can't figure out why Apple hasn't jumped on the textbook yet. The iPad seems to me to be the ideal platform for education. You can put all your stuff on it, it's got color, it's got video and audio capability. One device, a dozen textbooks and a boatload of reading books. More and more, colleges and schools are putting materials online. Five colleges calculus, MIT courseware, California Learning Resource Network, all of the Regents Materials you could ever want. When was the last time you actually told a kid to take notes in the book? Now you can. Okay, typing still sucks on tablets and note-takers aren't going to stop using paper anytime soon. Still ...

It's gonna happen.  For me, the only question is "When?"
From Slashdot:
South Korea plans to spend $2.4 billion buying tablets for students and digitizing materials in an effort to go completely digital in the classroom by 2015. From the article: "This move also re-ignites the age-old debate about whether or not students learn better from screens or printed material. Equally important, there's the issue of whether or not devices with smaller form factors are as effective as current textbooks, which tend to have significantly more area on each page."
Apart from the lunatic fringe who want to ban the Kindle from classrooms because blind kids can't use one, this seems like a win. All the stuff, handouts, videos, textbooks, all transferred to each students' machine and portable.
From Jacob Nielson on readability and reading speed:

Results: Books Faster Than Tablets
The iPad measured at 6.2% lower reading speed than the printed book, whereas the Kindle measured at 10.7% slower than print. However, the difference between the two devices was not statistically significant because of the data's fairly high variability.

Thus, the only fair conclusion is that we can't say for sure which device offers the fastest reading speed. In any case, the difference would be so small that it wouldn't be a reason to buy one over the other. But we can say that tablets still haven't beaten the printed book: the difference between Kindle and the book was significant at the p<.01 level, and the difference between iPad and the book was marginally significant at p=.06.

User Satisfaction: iPad Loved, PCs Hated

After using each device, we asked users to rate their satisfaction on a 1–7 scale, with 7 being the best score. iPad, Kindle, and the printed book all scored fairly high at 5.8, 5.7, and 5.6, respectively. The PC, however, scored an abysmal 3.6.
I'm sold.  Yoo-hoo! Principal PJs!
About that "Have you looked at electronic readers for your classes? What do you think of them?" comment that you uttered the last time we talked?

We need to talk.

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