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Apple Textbooks Repeat the Past

Glenn Fleishman writes in an editorial at Macworld about how Apple’s “new” digital textbook plan reminds him of countless efforts to push multimedia pedagogy without evidence that it improves achievement in any measure. The iPad is remarkable, but interactive textbooks aren’t.favicon follow link


Comments about Apple Textbooks Repeat the Past
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Adam Bell  2012-01-20 17:25
As a retired University professor married to a retired primary school teacher, I think Glen has hit the nail on the head: his key word is pedagogy. Teaching is not about gadgets and gimmics -- it's about helping students over conceptual blocks that are not always easy to recognize.

While teaching subtraction, the teacher writes on the board "5 - 2 = ?" and translates it Five take away 2 leaves what? About half of the tyros will say 5. If you take away the 2, the 5 is left. What's the hurdle? They're thinking of the numbers as objects; not as representing a countable set of real things. Draw five circles on the board, remove two with the eraser, count three. Repeat with other examples. Eventually they all get the connection -- they see that the equation represents unseen objects, the numbers are not the objects being considered.
I agree that flashy technology is not the panacea that many might think it is in the educational space.

I taught physics at high school and I have been in the computing world for most of my life. I am now in a combination of the computing world and education and I'm excited about the possibilities that the iPad introduces. I don't agree with everything that Glen says.

Glen talks about desktops and laptops. I say they are too bulky and too slow. When I'm motivated to read/view material I don't want to wait even 30 seconds for the operating system to load etc. It seems to have taken forever for manufacturers to deliver on "instant on". The device must not get in the way. The iPad is very close to being the answer to this issue.

Many parents, including me, say that math, science, reading and writing are the fundamental educational building blocks needed by our children. Anything that motivates children to improve their skills in these areas is laudable.

As a student, I will tell you that using the multimedia textbooks just MIGHT keep me awake in boring classes.

It Might breathe life into subjects where professors drone on for hours while we sleep with our eyes open.

Its not that you are bad at your job, its that the topics are boring and these new e-textbooks breathe life into a subject to keep us interested. Sorry but this is the future!!!
I agree, not much has changed since I was at University. Very often there was no context for the content professors presented in topics like thermodynamics and maxwells equations etc. They seemed to take pride in making subjects difficult to understand.

Also, my professors would base their lectures on their own books to force us into buying them at very inflated prices. This seems to be acceptable practice at many institutions from what others tell me.

As a grandparent I plan to buy each of my four grandchildren an iPad somehow. I expect that Apple, having embraced education, as they have done in the past, will make sure that content will grow exponentially. I know my children will regulate my grandkids' game playing and music video time.
I see many comments about the impracticality of purchasing and maintaining devices like the iPad in schools. I believe we have to overcome this barrier.

We need to help our teachers to overcome their fear of technology through education. Some teachers embrace it but many do not, for differing reasons.

A device like the iPad, if purchased by a parent for their child, will stand a better chance of being taken care of than hand-outs at the school. It would also mean that it never leaves the student's hands. The local community can help parents with limited means. Maybe Apple and others can help also.

I believe that schools should facilitate devices by improving access. We have embraced the internet. We need to embrace school networks also.

America has lost ground in education. We should be the best and we're not even close. We need to make education accessible and affordable for everyone. That's a basic building block for our country's future. These tools can help by promoting learning
Benita  2012-01-21 05:38
We are in the digital age people!

The most helpful aspect of digital books is the lessening of physical strain or injury to the body.

I remember carrying several volumes to my classes and the strain on my back was terrible, especially in my younger years.

Digital content allows for a more robust delivery to the different learning styles. Just reading does not reach all of the students. Some need demonstrations and interaction to retain knowledge more quickly.

I see digital books as an asset to teaching. Any tool that can help a teacher get through to the class in a productive way is an asset in my book!
Glenn Fleishman  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-01-21 10:52
I'm absolutely in agreement. The issue here is Apple using old arguments, provably across many studies to be ineffective. But digital textbooks are inevitable. I just don't buy Apple's justifications for its particular sales approach.
Tim Stiles  2012-01-21 05:57
Well, the first results are in:

"The results of the implementation were impressive: students using the HMH Fuse app were more motivated, more attentive in class, and more engaged with Algebra content relative to students using textbooks. This change in student behavior also resulted in markedly improved student test scores at the end of the school year."

"Comparing student performance, over 78% of students using HMH Fuse scored Proficient or Advanced on the state test, compared to only 59% of their fellow students at Earhart – a difference of 19% in favor of students using the HMH Fuse app."
Glenn Fleishman  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-01-21 07:39
One study over one year in one subject sponsored by a company that makes the product is not that compelling against the weight of the last 30+ years of research.

It's anomalous against the weight of the research done, so we need to see more and longer-term work to evaluate whether it's significant or not.
uhuznaa  2012-01-21 13:28
One major aspect is that people of all ages just love to use the iPad. It's fun and making learning and reading fun is something that helps enormously. I know this sounds laughably but it really isn't.
Howard Partner  2012-01-24 11:20
If digital textbooks can be sold more cheaply than conventional textbooks, that is reason enough to endorse them. Both public school systems and college students need all the financial help they can get. And young students certainly do not benefit from carrying 35% of their body weight in their backpacks.