The Digital Makeover of Textbooks
Chelsey Barmore, staff writer | English major
Textbooks as we know it will never be the same with the popularization of computer tablets, which in turn, have begun a virtual revolution with the innovation of digital textbooks.
As the popularity of the iPad increases, so does the trend of going virtual among the field of education. The future of textbooks is changing as technical advances arise year to year. With apps like the new iBooks 2 for the iPad, students can now engage further within their digital text. With it, students are given the opportunity to add and look at 3D objects, videos, photos, diagrams, keynote presentations and more in an interactive way. Say goodbye to expensive, heavy, outdated textbooks and say hello to cost effective, lightweight, and updated computer devices.
Randy Dunston, a senior biochemistry major, bought his iPad when they first were released in 2010. Using it almost four times a week for school purposes, Dunston noted the device can be very useful. “It’s convenient, interactive and easy to use,” said Dunston. He noted that the price played a role with what books to purchase, some cheaper when digital compared to hardback. However, there are still issues with the accessibility factor.
“I’ll buy the smaller books for campus but as far as textbooks go, I either can’t find the ones I need or they are already pretty expensive” said Dunston. With tangible textbooks, Dunston mentioned how he liked the idea of selling them back in order to receive some of the money spent on them. Digital copies on the other hand cannot be sold back. Even though there are several setback factors regarding digital textbook use, Dunston enjoys interacting with his on the iPad. “At first I didn’t think it would work for me as well,” said Dunston. “But it’s so much easier to flip through the pages and do research.”
A January 2012 press release by Apple stated that iBooks 2 for the iPad, which features textbooks, “can be kept up to date, don’t weigh down a backpack and never have to be returned.” Apple also mentioned that education service companies like Houghton Mifflin, Harcourt, and Pearson will supply their publications through the iBookstore with most of them priced $15 dollars or less. Another bonus to iBooks 2 is the iBooks Author app, which is a free authoring tool. It allows any person that owns a Mac a chance to create their own iBooks textbooks.
In addition, Apple unveiled this past year an all-new iTunes U app, which is for the iPad, as well as the iPhone and iPod touch. Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services mentioned the advantages of the app. “The all-new iTunes U app enables students anywhere to tap into entire courses from the world’s most prestigious universities,” said Cue in a 2012 Apple press release. According to Apple, educators are now offered the chance to share their courses to anyone from anywhere around the world. Students will be able to take a course and access materials for that course right on their apple iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch. Cambridge, Duke, Harvard, Oxford, and Stanford universities, as well as K-12 school districts are using this app to their advantage by supplying information and course material through the app. So far, the iTunes U app has received over 700 million downloads.
Dr. Kathleen Fletcher Bacer, a program director and online Master of Arts in Educational Technology at Azusa Pacific University, has students across the nation learning how to infuse technology within their teaching environments. When it comes to technological advancements, Fletcher comments that this generation is experiencing the same factors. “If we think about it, when the textbook was created there was the cost factor, there was the access factor, and there was the ‘not everybody had one’ factor,” said Bacer. “Now with the advent of e-books and the advent of digital technology, we have that same paradigm.”
Bacer notes that digital technologies are changing the phase of the teaching and learning environment by creating and constructing knowledge. Nevertheless, she also mentions how this advancement of technology can create a sense of distraction for students, too. “[Students] have to deal with this overload of all this dynamic information that is coming,” said Bacer.
She mentioned that certain e-readers, like the iPad, Kindle, Nook and Galaxy tablets, provide more than what’s needed for a particular class such as Internet, games and other programs not related to the course. Teachers and professors will have to learn how to manage as well as keep control of the classroom.
City of Angels Virtual Academy (COAVA), which is an online independent study school within the Los Angeles Unified School District provides ninth through twelfth graders a chance for hybrid instruction. Personal teacher assistance, along with a virtual online program, help to create the unique curriculum for this school. The students within the virtual program use online text instead of tangible textbooks.
Paul Guenthner, the technology coordinator and instructor for COAVA, described how teachers at the school are trained in using a digital curriculum within the classroom. “Teachers apply and have to meet a certain criteria to become online teachers,” said Guenthner. “So we look at their resume, references, and see what they’ve done.”
The students of COAVA are more focused with digital learning among laptops and desktop computers instead of tablet devices like the iPad. Nevertheless, Guenthner expects more of a incorporation in the next five years for the school when appropriate funding is available. “We certainly hope to be apart of the deployment of [using these] in the future,” Guenthner said.
Pepperdine University, on the other hand, conducted an iPad research study starting in fall 2010 and ending in fall 2011. The study focused on how students learn using iPads within the classroom. Students used loaned iPads for half of an individual course and then used other computing devices for the second half in order to compare outcomes. Business, math, law, and religion were just some of the classes that students were observed in. However, Pepperdine is not the only university who has researched and embraced the iPad and iBooks app. It’s technological advancements and interactive capabilities found it’s way amongst the students of several other colleges across the U.S. The Huffington Post presented eleven colleges that gave their students the iPad to use for classes. Some included Seton Hill University which gave their class of 2014 free iPads for classwork, while Stanford and Duke university supplied the computer device for selected students. George Fox University gave their students the choice of a MacBook or iPad with the cost included in the tuition.
As more advancements continue to take place within the virtual textbook market one thing is for sure. Digital textbooks have become incorporated in learning environments for both teachers and students, creating just another way of interacting with the text.