Monday, March 10, 2008

Textbooks of the Future

The main emphasis of this panel was to discuss the future of textbooks, and how online and digital technologies can resolve many of the problems that students and schools face in providing this information. The panelists were Melissa Hagemann from the Open Society Institute, Richard Baraniuk of Rice University, Samuel Klein from the One Laptop per Child program that was started by Nicholas Negroponte, and Erik Moeller of the Wikimedia Foundation. When you consider that in some cases the cost of textbooks exceeds the cost of tuition or that in some schools students are forced to share textbooks, you know something is out of whack. Not to mention the difficulty in providing current and updated information in this dynamically changing environment. The panelist discussed the ways that publishing needs to embrace the changes that are currently happening in the music industry regarding digital distribution. Publishers know they have to change, but that change is very slow. Publishers need to channel their expertise and specialization into this area. Klein likened it to the fact that developers can download Linux for free, but many clients choose to pay $99 for Red Hat to get the service and support. That is the suggested model for publishers.

Integration with tools was another important concept. Using the proper technologies, like XML to create "lego block" styles of development and apply a level of customization are trends for the future. Print on demand of books was also discussed.

Another thing that I thought was particularly interesting was the brief discussion on the direction of open access journals. I saw a John Willinsky in October at the Association of Internet Researchers discuss this topic, and I think it is the appropriate direction for the most efficient dissemination of knowledge.

Baraniuk provided a list of considerations:
  1. Roles - should be mixed, not rigid
  2. Blurring of lines between teacher and student
  3. Context - personalization and customization of learning.


M.Bullock said...

I agree and believe that integration between text books and the internet will continue to become a very common trend in the future. Prices are ridiculous and there shouldn’t be any need for students to share, they should have their own. I am a big user of JSTOR. I find that with the innovations being introduced everyday and just reflecting back on New Media, which text books will soon be a thing of the past and that online access to different publication will be the new thing. But I agree with Klein that developers can download Linux for free, but many clients choose to pay a fee whether it is $99 or not for service and support. Now I will go out on a limb and say that will be the suggested model for publishers.

Jamie Ahrens said...

I agree that text books are outrageously prices, and I also believe they will find a digital and electronic way of providing them to students, but I dont think that it will be that way for EVERY stundet unless some BIG changes are made. I think textbook companies just need to figure out how to lower the prices of the printed books. So many students use their books to write in, highlight, and shuffle back and forth in for answeres, that I think an electronic version would just be to much to handle. It would limit what they could do, and what they are able to see at one time. So for me, I dont think it will happen without some major changes in the electronics we use, or in the mindsets of the people.

AdamCLee said...

I believe that someday textbooks will be completely electronic and viewable on a laptop or some other electronic viewing device. I stress the word someday as I can't see the textbook publishing companies doing this anytime soon. They are selling the books at such high prices and the consumers purchase them with the expectation that they can sell them back for a portion of their original investment. If textbooks were made electronic then would the prices be cheaper as they would most likely not be sold back? I agree with Jamie in her comment on having a tangible version of a book allows the user to highlight and take notes and carry the book wherever they please. Having an electronic version forces you to be at the mercy of the electronic device working properly to view it, as opposed to opening a book. I still believe that books will become electronic eventually, just not for some time as people will continue to stick with what they are comfortable with.