Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Ebook readers/Ipad for education?

Also published on the Educational Technology and Change Journal

I'm doing a project on Ebook readers at the moment and it's led me to follow closely the advent of the iPad and the ebook reader developments. My interest is the potential impact on education. At the moment, the contest is in the commercial/entertainment market. Once things settle down education will be looked at. From what I've been studying, you can't just give students and educators an ebook reader as it is right now and expect it to transfer across to education successfully. Looking at it just from a book replication point of view it has to, at least, perform the tasks students need from any text well and efficiently. Principle amongst these is taking notes and flicking back and forth through the pages. It seems that, at the moment, Kindle and co. don't do the annotation and navigation well enough for the devices to sell themselves in an educational context. This is crucial because, for learning, you have to be able to personalise the resource in some way and, for the classic textbook, this is done by scribbling in the margin, underlining, highlighting. A recent pilot programme using ebook readers showing these issues is discussed in the article Highlighting E-Readers by Steve Kolowich.

Alongside this, you have the easy sell of the storage saving and long term cost saving together with the environmental plus point. This last issue is a complicated one but I come down on the plus side largely because of the article Ebook readers greener than books, study says by Martin LaMonica. However, I've heard some awful things about the black market that exists around the disposal of old hardware.

When the time comes for educational use, the selling point be with the textbook. The classic ebook reader will not challenge the didactic pedagogy and therefore has a chance of success - as long as it can be seen to do what is done already better. The biggest obstacle in the way of this will be publishers jockeying for position to control this market. It's annoying but inevitable.

Now to the ipad. One impact will be making Kindle look horribly out of date. Even though they are not doing exactly the same things, they look and seem comparable and the ebook reader pales by comparison. I suggest Kindle sorts out it's web browsing and lack of colour pretty damn quickly! Looking out of date shouldn't matter, but this is always a valid bullet point when you approach the whole issue of e-learning and "connecting with the kids." Still this is the important point. What's important is the impact it will have on mobile learning in general. Yes, e-reading can occur, but being a suitable, valid, legitimate devices to house to house mobile learning could be its biggest legacy. It's far too early to say but my instinct tell me so.

When it comes to pedagogy, whereas the ebook reader will reinforced the didactic, the ipad would challenge it by offering such a vast array of features and media options any educator who teaches with one would be foolish not to explore what's available.

Now I know none of this will happen any time soon. But the potential is there. Having said that the potential is there to do a lot of things with technology and it doesn't happen, but you know that right.

2 comments:

  1. My own hunch on this is that the ipad and elearning/reading tablets need to have a more "touch and feel" book element feel to them...the screen literally needs to feel and really have a generic book and paper feel to it. I take ownership of my books and especially learning materials which I like to scribble on to personalise my thoughts etc....if this can be done on a "paper" ebook then yes we will turn a page in my opionion!

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  2. Thanks for the comment Henry. It's certainly true that the touch and feel element is a strong motivator for many readers to continue with the printed book. There's nothing ebooks can do about this in essence. However, I think ipad has it's own attactive touch and feel which could help convert a few people. Annotational requirement are strong when it comes to education. A lot of the research shows that students would need good annotative capabilities on any ebook reading device for it to be of use.

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