January 21, 2012 swinney_admin

Textbooks on tablets – Is this the beginning of a revolution or a revelation in the publishing business?

Apple unveiled a new textbook iPad app yesterday that is expected have a huge impact on the education industry. The question is will this new product revolutionize education or is it just a revelation that will help the struggling education publisher business?

The Internet has already changed education by putting content at the student’s fingertips and providing them with the ability to search for it in many amazingly efficient ways. In the past a book was the search result for student’s looking for content. Its design allows it to neatly fit into a space on a shelf in a library laminated with an ISBN destination so searchers can find it. “Old School” information searching bound to books is, a time-involved process with lots of reading and piles of paper. It’s a physical exercise that is slowly being replaced by a virtual landscape that has no physical boundaries.

Students no longer have the patience to scour books. They expect to be taken to content instantly via a search engine. I’m sure iBook2 has great search features that takes the user to their information of interest much like Google, but why do we need to confine that search to a traditional “Old School” organizational unit?

I believe textbooks are a thing of the past. The creation of a virtual textbook is really just a great business idea that has a huge monetary upside for a company like Apple and for the struggling educational publishing business. Apple’s new iPad app is a revelation for the publisher, a great idea that could help to prop up a dying business model. It’s certainly not a revolution.

If we want to revolutionize the educational system we need get rid of the textbook and introduce the concept of an information directory. Instead restricting students to set curriculums built around textbooks, educational subject matter needs to contain information blocks put together to form the foundation of an educational unit. For those who like to think traditionally these blocks might be considered chapters in a book. The big difference is the educator selects the block based on its relevance, currency and quality. Blocks are not confined to the opinion of one author or publisher. They can evolve along with the educational process.

An information directory could be student-managed and teacher governed.  Acting as a hub for information. It would change the learning process by introducing collaboration, information sharing and idea generation. A change of this magnitude could fundamentally alter our educational system by encouraging collective thought as opposed to elevating individual performance. That’s a revolution and it’s already well underway. What’s missing is the realization that it’s happening and the transformation of “Old School” secondary systems into “New School” learning hubs is imminent.

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