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How Will We Read: Textbooks?
“Technology has great potential for improving individual and aggregate performance of the educational system” - Vineet Madan (Photo courtesy of McGraw-Hill Education)
It isn’t my imagination. My children’s backpacks got heavier with the weight of those textbooks over the past few years. And I don’t think the weight of student backpacks are just my concern. I heard a rumor that even tiger moms are advocating for lighter school backpacks.
So what have I tried as a solution to the problem in my home? Purchasing an extra set of textbooks (expensive!). Trying to convince my kids that a rolling backpack is cool and won’t trip up their friends in hallways (no way Mom!). Trying to purchase the superman-strength backpack model available with bottoms that won’t blow out and straps that won’t tear off in one semester (still looking). Trying to understand why we can’t lighten things up a little with some innovative help from technology (I like the sound of this idea).
Three out of four parents with school-age children recognize the McGraw-Hill name in education. How does a leading provider of learning tools plan to help learners worldwide attain the 21st century skills they need to succeed and perhaps lessen their loads in the process? I had the opportunity to discuss this with Vineet Madan, Vice President, McGraw-Hill Higher Education eLabs, where he leads digital strategy across the company.
How will the evolution of technology affect the way students use textbooks in school?
We have been evolving our products and services along with the technology that has been deployed in schools. If we look back at the CD Rom days, we were doing interactive science programs which combined the textbook with media elements such as video and audio clips which came along with the book. That was state of the art in digital education.
Over the past couple of years, as the markets we serve have become equipped with better technology, we have moved a number of those stand-alone resources onto the web. The next steps were to consider what teaching and learning could become, using the tools and content we’d already developed. This meant envisioning experiences that were exclusively web based. We now have science and math products that are completely web delivered. We have personalized learning programs such as The Power of U that can assess each student’s skill level and determine how each can progress through lessons most effectively, i.e. a personalized GPS for a learning experience.
With The Power of U we focused on math instruction. We took our field-tested content, and matched that up against where students are in their learning progression. For example, all students in a third or fourth grade class need to learn the same things by the end of the year, but the reality is that all students don’t learn the same things in the same way and at the same pace. For some students, reading the material and then doing an online tutorial session may be very effective. For another student, a high engagement and retention level may be about working in a teacher facilitated group with four or five students. We are able to track how students are doing in each of these different modalities and understand the skills that they still need to master for a curriculum, which in this case is math. That’s an example of ripping the spine off the book, taking advantage of the data that’s available, and building a new learning experience with what we believe will be significantly better learning outcomes.
“Personalization will help break the performance rut associated with today’s industrial production model of education.” - Vineet Madan
(Photo courtesy of Perry Township Metropolitan School District)
What are you doing to help teachers develop the skills to use these new products effectively?
We are looking at the teacher side of this in a couple of different ways. We’re collaborating with some of the schools of education to ensure that future teachers have access to the new products, tools, and training they’ll need before they start using them in the classrooms. The bigger issue concerns teachers who have been teaching for some time. We’re investing a lot of resources in professional development, product training, and product support. As we move further into software based learning tools in school environments, the onus is on us as well as on the school district to ensure we’re providing fully satisfactory levels of product training and product support. You can’t put online products out in the field where teachers don’t have ways of accessing support in real time.
Can you share an example of how technology can enhance a teacher’s experience in the classroom?
We have a new social studies product that officially comes out in January called Networks. It is a mix of a print and digital offering, and can actually be customized to be more print or digitally centric depending on teacher choice. There are tools built into the digital program that help the teacher with lesson planning. It makes sure that the topics teachers choose track against common core standards and the things that the teacher needs to measure. In an offline world, teachers have to do this manually. We are using software to make that a more efficient and supportive process for them.
“We now have science and math products that are completely web delivered.” - Vineet Madan (Photo courtesy of The Dwight School)
What are your predictions in terms of the shift from the printed textbook to the online textbook in the next 3 to 5 years?
Let me talk about what I think can happen and then what I think will happen. The availability of tablets and computers here and abroad in schools is still very limited. I think the average number of students to a computer in the US is 3 to 1. First of all, you need to have better computers in schools, you need to have greater bandwidth available, and teachers have to be ready to use technology in their teaching process. Those things must be in place first before the instructional model will change significantly. Children are generally comfortable using technology. The K-12 education market has not quite caught up to where consumers and many of these younger learners already are. So I would say that in the next three years, a significant amount of investment needs to be made in technology infrastructure and training. Some school districts in the US are making those investments now, but it isn’t happening universally.
So what is happening now, and will continue to happen, is the use of interactive whiteboards (nearly ubiquitous in UK classrooms now) and projectors to bring a digital experience into the middle of the classroom. The live integration of audio, video and simulations at point of instruction enhance lesson delivery.
As price points for digital devices drop and they become more widely available in classrooms, we’ll see a shift towards more guided and supported learning where individual students will navigate through a personalized content experience with guidance from teachers and from the software itself. Personalization will help break the performance rut associated with today’s industrial production model of education.
Final thoughts on McGraw-Hill Education’s digital focus going forward?
As a company, we believe technology has great potential for improving individual and aggregate performance of the educational system across all of our markets around the world. We are sharply focused on developing the educational technology that will have greatest impact in the teaching and learning experience. We believe that if the teaching and learning experience is facilitated with technology, student performance will be tracked at a finer level, and as a result, we can tailor more of the instruction to individual student needs. We have documented how our individualized learning tools used in education can result in significant student performance improvement levels — close to a full grade improvement. We are focused on refining our technology and making it broadly available to students and teachers at every level, anywhere in the world.
Vineet Madan and C. M. Rubin
C. M. Rubin is the author of the widely read online series, “The Global Search for Education,” and is also the author of three bestselling books, including “The Real Alice in Wonderland.”
Follow C. M. Rubin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@cmrubinworld
South Korea will transition to digital textbooks by 2015
South Korea announced that their schools will make a full transition from paper to digital textbooks by 2015. The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology stated that they will invest W2.2 trillion ($2 billion) to allow development of digital textbooks for all subjects and classes.
TextbookTime.com - Textbook Time
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The Future of Textbooks- Interactive or Digital?
It is no secret that textbook publishers have made slow progress in the movement towards digital publication. But a new resource by Push Pop Press, which was presented at a recent TED conference, would allow publishers to create interactive eBooks on the iPad, iPhone and the iPod Touch. The company has just produced Al Gore’s Our Choice and hopes to entice publishers to use their program.
Would you prefer interactive eBooks over digital textbooks?
For more information, read the source here.
In South Korea, all textbooks will be e-books by 2015
The Asian nation announced that it will replace paper textbooks with electronic tablets in all state-run (public) schools by 2015.
The move will allow students to download digital textbooks on a variety of platforms, including computers, smart phones, and tablets. South Korea’s education ministry hasn’t yet disclosed which e-tablet make or model it will purchase en masse to make the digital switch, but it has revealed the cost of buying tablets and digitizing material for all of the students in its state-run schools: $2.4 billion.
Textbooks Finally Take a Big Leap to Digital
By Christopher F. Schuetze, NY Times, November 23, 2011
PARIS—Amazon, which got its start selling books online, announced this year that, for the first time, its digital books had outsold paper books. This trend of going digital does not hold true for all books: While many popular consumer books have successfully made the switch into the new format, textbooks are still widely read on paper.
Textbooks are gaining, though, as publishers take advantage of the popularity of tablets like the Kindle and iPad, expanding their catalogues and offering products like rental digital books that expire after a semester or two.
The potential for digital growth is leading publishers to experiment with products that stretch the boundaries of traditional textbooks, slowly turning away from static text and images toward a multimedia, intuitive approach, publishers say.
“Textbooks as e-books ought to be seen as a stepping stone to the future,” said Mark Majurey of Taylor & Francis, a textbook publisher in Britain.
Digital textbooks are any books that can be downloaded to an e-reader or computer or those that can be read online using a Web browser. While no one keeps precise numbers of digital textbook sales globally, a number of companies have seen similar growth patterns and nearly identical market share.
According to the Student Monitor, a private student market research company based in New Jersey, about 5 percent of all textbooks acquired in the autumn in the United States were digital textbooks. That is more than double the 2.1 percent of the spring semester.
Simba Information, a research company specializing in publishing, estimates that electronic textbooks will generate $267.3 million this year in sales in the United States. That is a rise of 44.3 percent over last year. The American Association of Publishers estimates that the college textbooks industry generated a total of $4.58 billion in sales last year.
Kathy Micky, a senior analyst at Simba, said digital textbooks were expected “to be the growth driver for the industry in the future.” Her company estimates that by 2013, digital textbooks will make up 11 percent of the textbook market revenue.
Though some textbook publishers made some of their textbooks available in digital formats a decade ago, it is only recently that the market has picked up. Responding to the new demand, many academic publishers have made almost everything they sell available in electronic format.
“All of our books are available as digital,” said Bruce Spatz, head of digital development at John Wiley & Sons, a major academic publisher.
Early textbook digitalization attempts were also focused more on specialized textbooks. But now publishers are looking at wider markets, focusing on broad subjects and students just now entering college.
Perhaps the biggest change could come from the rise of electronic rentals. Digital textbooks can be made to expire—often between six and 18 months after the initial purchase—which means they cannot be resold like traditional books. Most digital textbooks also only license the first owner, and sophisticated software ensures that copies cannot be passed around. These measures help ensure that prices for digital textbooks stay well below the cost of the paper versions, publishers say, even though those who print traditional paper books might take issue with that.
Early this summer, Amazon announced that it was partnering with three major textbook companies to offer rentals of digital textbooks for even shorter terms.
When Amazon announced its program, which lets students rent a book even for 30 days, it said students could save 80 percent off the price of a new printed textbook. Amazon offers a service in which future rentals of the same textbooks will give students access to the electronic notes they stored on their device while reading the rental book.
Students say digital rentals can be good and bad.
“It was cheaper than actually buying the book,” said Rebecca Johnson, a senior at George Mason University, who bought her first electronic textbook during her junior year. She paid about 50 percent less for her digital textbook, which she bought directly from the publisher. But she pointed out that the digital version was not permanent.
“You have it for that class time, but you don’t have it forever,” Ms. Johnson said. Her textbook expired 180 days after she purchased it.
For some students, the limited-time access can represent a real downside to digital books.
“I usually keep the book, it helps me with my other classes,” Ms. Johnson said. If she ever needs her microeconomics book again, she said, she will have to subscribe again to the online digital version.
Some experts question whether textbooks are ready to follow regular books onto tablets, readers, laptops and other devices.
“Electronic textbooks will eventually be the norm, but it’s going to be quite a bit more time than folks anticipate,” said Charlotte P. Lee, a professor at the University of Seattle.
In May, Ms. Lee released the results of a study of graduate students showing that a majority eschewed portable devices after trying them for some months. Students complained that the traditional reading, scanning and note-taking habits—developed and honed by learning from paper textbooks—were not easily applied to tablets.
Ms. Lee explained that while the popularity of digital textbooks was sure to expand, learning from digital devices—especially standard consumer devices like the Kindle or the iPad—presented problems.
While traditional linear narratives, like those contained in a novel, can easily be transferred onto an electronic device, textbooks cannot as easily be transferred because they are rarely read from the first page to the last page. Ms. Lee said cognitive mapping of a textbook—knowing where certain information is contained, on the page or within the book—was needed to help students navigate such large amounts of text.
“We need to design devices that are specifically made to support academic reading,” she said.
Still, there are signs of growing popularity among students. In May, the National Association of College Stores found in a study of 655 students that 39 percent of students surveyed had used a dedicated digital reader, up from 19 percent just five months before. The association, which the represents campus retailing industry in the United States and abroad, said such results showed that a “tipping point” for digital reader technology among college students was fast approaching.
The tipping point seems to be nearing for some traditional sellers. John Lindo, who manages a private student bookstore at Pennsylvania State University, estimated that the store was selling 10 percent fewer paper books this year because digital textbooks had become so popular.
Traditional textbooks vs. Digital Textbooks
With the Ipad and other tablets becoming more popular by the hour it seems like, how long do you think traditional textbooks will become extinct? Some say digital textbooks won’t overtake traditional textbooks and some say they in fact will. Apple released a new program called “Ibooks Textbooks”, which is pushing the movement for digital textbooks to become the norm in the education setting today. This makes total sense, and seems like the timing couldn’t be any better. It doesn’t surprise me one bit that Apple has veared into the education market, especially since it had been one of Steve Job’s goal. Want to hear my take on it?
Replacing traditional textbooks with digital textbooks only makes sense. Just like cassettes being replaced by cds and how mp3’s replaced cds. The music industry has made the transformation and it’s about time the education industry makes the movement. There are a few companies that are already offering a service similar to Ibooks Textbooks (Kno, CourseSmart), but with Apple’s strength and customer loyalty, it seems as if those companies now have a treat to their business. To me this is very exciting not only for me personally, but for my startup as well (VookBag). VookBag will now compliment other services that in the end will be good for both. In a sense, you could say that Ibooks Textbooks and VookBag could be used at the same time, maybe even integrated with one another. This is something that I instantly thought of when hearing the news of Ibooks Textbooks, so we’ll see…time will tell.