Apple, others challenged to make digital textbooks a reality in five years

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014


Apple along with a number of tech industry leaders, took part in a discussion on Thursday to explore how a joint effort backed by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission and Department of Education can implement digital textbooks in the nation's K-12 public schools.



Hosted by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the meeting fleshed out to transition all U.S. K-12 schools to a fully digital interactive learning environment within the next five years.



Attendees included representatives from tech heavyweights Apple, Samsung, Intel and Kno; publishers Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw-Hill, News Corp. and Pearson; telecoms Sprint and T-Mobile; and governmental bodies the LEAD Commission and the Idaho Department of Education, among others.



Chairman Genachowski and Secreatary Duncan issued the group a challenge to develop a low-cost, high quality solution for interactive digital textbooks consisting of device, content, connectivity, and technical support for use in America's classrooms.



According to an FCC-evaluated Project RED study, schools can save up to $250 per student per year if a digital ecosystem is implemented over the traditional textbook-and-paper used in classrooms today. Besides the initial cost savings, the prospect of upgrading to more current media in the future would be substantially less expensive than the current model which sees $7 billion spent in new textbooks each year. Digital textbooks would also enable a more uniform learning experience as new content can be pushed out nationwide at regular intervals.



A digital learning environment can reduce the amount of time it takes a student to learn a topic by up to 80 percent, said the Department of Education and a recent studies by the National Training and Simulation Association. A separate PBS study found that 93 percent of teachers believe that interactive whiteboards are positive learning tools, with 81 percent feeling the same about tablets.





iBooks textbooks are already available on Apple's iPad. | Source: Apple







While technology in the classroom has been found to be beneficial in the classroom, getting a new ecosystem up and running will take some time. To that end, the Leading Education by Advancing Digital (LEAD) Commission was established earlier in March to facilitate the rapid adoption of new media content in the education sector.



In January, the "Digital Textbook Playbook" was announced to help teachers bring technology to the classroom by taking down the "major barriers to the adoption of digital textbooks, including the challenge of connectivity, both at school, in the community, and at home; the challenge of device procurement; and the challenge of making the transition from paper to digital textbooks."





The Digital Textbook Playbook offers an outline of new media for the classroom. | Source: FCC







Apple has always been active in the education market, going as far as releasing classroom-specific computer models like the eMac and offering student and teacher product discounts. The company's latest education initiative, iBooks textbooks, was announced in January and could be a strong contender for the FCC and DOE plan. Of the major publishers at Thursday's discussion, three already offer content to through the iBooks store.



[ View article on AppleInsider ]

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 54
    sunilramansunilraman Posts: 8,133member
    After farting around for hours this morning on the forums, I think I'll finally get to proper work on an iBook. Will share the research in a dedicated thread in the iPad section of the forum if anyone's interested.
  • Reply 2 of 54
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    The future, by that photo, seems to be a 12? PowerBook...
  • Reply 3 of 54
    moxommoxom Posts: 325member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by nagromme View Post


    The future, by that photo, seems to be a 12? PowerBook...



    Yep!



  • Reply 4 of 54
    scruffyscruffy Posts: 23member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by nagromme View Post


    The future, by that photo, seems to be a 12? PowerBook...



    Excellent! I still have mine.
  • Reply 5 of 54
    a_greera_greer Posts: 4,594member
    am I the only one a little sad about this sort of thing? I look at my book shelf and see a great thing, astheticly brautiful and eligant, and the books are usefull - you can read them without logging in and getting DRM approval, you can rely on them to bne there and not just randomly disappear when tehre is a copyright dispute (a la Orwell's "1984" on Kindle a while back) and most importantly, the right of first sale, that is it is mine, I can let you borrow it, I can give it to you, I can let you borrow it, I could donate it to a library and so on.





    Also, once it is printed, bound and shipped the text cant change, just look at "apps" being continuously updated: whats to stop an author from adding or subtracting something after publication? whats to stop the distribution company, publisher, or government from doing the same thing?
  • Reply 6 of 54
    aaronjaaronj Posts: 1,595member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by a_greer View Post


    am I the only one a little sad about this sort of thing? I look at my book shelf and see a great thing, astheticly brautiful and eligant, and the books are usefull - you can read them without logging in and getting DRM approval, you can rely on them to bne there and not just randomly disappear when tehre is a copyright dispute (a la Orwell's "1984" on Kindle a while back) and most importantly, the right of first sale, that is it is mine, I can let you borrow it, I can give it to you, I can let you borrow it, I could donate it to a library and so on.





    Also, once it is printed, bound and shipped the text cant change, just look at "apps" being continuously updated: whats to stop an author from adding or subtracting something after publication? whats to stop the distribution company, publisher, or government from doing the same thing?



    Here's the problem: Textbooks are just too damned expensive. Also, they aren't updatable, other than by replacing them. This presents a huge problem for school districts with less and less money and funding.



    I mean, I'm sure you know all of this. And I do agree that I love a physical book as well, assuming it's a very nice one. But it it's just sort of your average paperback, I'd rather get the digital version these days (just bought Rachel Maddow's "Drift" and also "Hunger Games" this last week).



    And also, off-topic but sort of connected, if I didn't feel guilty over how well my Local Comics Shop has treated me over the years, I'd have gone totally digital for comics months and months ago. No more bagging and boarding. No more stacks of long boxes. Yeesh. But I can't let my LCS down like that.
  • Reply 7 of 54
    shaun, ukshaun, uk Posts: 1,050member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by a_greer View Post


    am I the only one a little sad about this sort of thing? I look at my book shelf and see a great thing, astheticly brautiful and eligant, and the books are usefull - you can read them without logging in and getting DRM approval, you can rely on them to bne there and not just randomly disappear when tehre is a copyright dispute (a la Orwell's "1984" on Kindle a while back) and most importantly, the right of first sale, that is it is mine, I can let you borrow it, I can give it to you, I can let you borrow it, I could donate it to a library and so on.



    Also, once it is printed, bound and shipped the text cant change, just look at "apps" being continuously updated: whats to stop an author from adding or subtracting something after publication? whats to stop the distribution company, publisher, or government from doing the same thing?



    No you're not the only one. I really enjoy wandering around my local bookstore on a Sunday afternoon. I love the look and the feel of the books. And yes it's nice to switch off my computer and sit and read a good book in the evening. That's why I don't think books with ever disappear.



    However, I can also remember as a student in the 80's being thoroughly bored reading my textbooks. They were just so lifeless and we often ended up with books that were years out of date. They were also very heavy from what I remember lol.



    Kids these days grow up in an interactive world with computers in one form or another all around them. I think eTextBooks are a great idea. Finally you can bring the subject to life, engage the students in a way I never was. All the studies show that if learning is fun the kids enjoy it more and learn more.
  • Reply 8 of 54
    hmo8020hmo8020 Posts: 10member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Shaun, UK View Post


    No you're not the only one. I really enjoy wandering around my local bookstore on a Sunday afternoon.



    All depends on the use case?



    Short-term updatable interactive learning > eBook.



    Long-term static literature > Book.



    The only challenge will be increasing prices of books, as cheaper eBooks will be around. Good news vinyls are still around and produced despite CD & now MP3s ;-) And from a price-perspective what I have seen here in Europe, they aren't really over-the-top. If you love them, you still can afford them.
  • Reply 9 of 54
    I am much less concerned about the look and feel of books. Though I like the tactile nature of books I mind reading digital books.



    What concerns me more is what has already been mentioned about the control of "knowledge" and the updating of history based on who is now in control/in charge.



    What concerns me most is that this digital format is not necessarily the best way to learn. I can definitely say that with anything digital, whether on the screen of my Mac or on my Kindle, I do not have the same type of recall relative to a physical book.



    I don't necessarily agree that just because books have a higher cost and have fixed data sets that that somehow makes them less valuable. We are jumping into all digital way too quick and I don't think we have enough information to know whether we achieve the same type of learning.
  • Reply 10 of 54
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hmo8020 View Post


    All depends on the use case?



    Short-term updatable interactive learning > eBook.



    Long-term static literature > Book.



    The only challenge will be increasing prices of books, as cheaper eBooks will be around. Good news vinyls are still around and produced despite CD & now MP3s ;-) And from a price-perspective what I have seen here in Europe, they aren't really over-the-top. If you love them, you still can afford them.



    I think there's a bigger challenge.



    We already have states in the US forcing textbook manufacturers to leave out controversial topics or discuss them in politically correct ways. When Texas or California takes a stand on how an issue is to be taught, it ends up affecting the entire country - because textbook manufacturers have traditionally refused to produce multiple versions of a book for different states. I hope that eBooks makes it easier for textbook manufacturers to satisfy state requirements without making the rest of the country suffer.



    The simplest example, of course, would be that they could simply remove the evolution chapter from the Kansas biology books if Kansas continues with its silly anti-evolution stance. I would hope that eBooks would make this easier, rather than harder.



    Of course, the best thing would be if petty radical politicians didn't let their political views interfere with properly educating our kids, but I really don't expect our politicians to grow up soon.
  • Reply 11 of 54
    aaronjaaronj Posts: 1,595member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by .:R2theT View Post




    I don't necessarily agree that just because books have a higher cost and have fixed data sets that that somehow makes them less valuable. We are jumping into all digital way too quick and I don't think we have enough information to know whether we achieve the same type of learning.



    Actual books have become priced out of the ability for many districts to buy in the numbers needed.



    Sure, if everyone somehow had unlimited resources, that would be great. But in the real world in which we live, that's not the case.



    And being able to update one section of a history text (say after an election or revolution or what not) without needing to replace the entire thing is a huge cost savings.
  • Reply 12 of 54
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    Imagine if all the schools were private and competing with each other? They would have deployed digital textbooks long ago.
  • Reply 13 of 54
    notscottnotscott Posts: 247member
    Consider our knowledge of archeology, paleontology, physics, and astronomy, for starters. Pretty much gets rewritten every year. eBooks.
  • Reply 14 of 54
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by nagromme View Post


    The future, by that photo, seems to be a 12? PowerBook...



    You see how thick the bottom case is? Urggh!!!
  • Reply 15 of 54
    Quote:

    Attendees included representatives from tech heavyweights Apple, Samsung, Intel and Kno; publishers Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw-Hill, News Corp. and Pearson; telecoms Sprint and T-Mobile; and governmental bodies the LEAD Commission and the Idaho Department of Education, among others.



    Apple under SJ conceived and produced disruptive technology. Apple products and services based on them do not play well with the entrenched industries that "own" their markets. Currently, a few big entities "own" educational publishing ? the disastrous federal Dept of Education and the above mentioned publishers ? who decide how and what all students in this country will be taught.



    I can't quote chapter and verse but SJ had a very low opinion of US education, and by extension those responsible for its current state. So I would be very interested in hearing how Apple could get seriously involved with education and remain on good terms with these guys.
  • Reply 16 of 54
    brutus009brutus009 Posts: 356member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by a_greer View Post


    Also, once it is printed, bound and shipped the text cant change, just look at "apps" being continuously updated: whats to stop an author from adding or subtracting something after publication? whats to stop the distribution company, publisher, or government from doing the same thing?



    This is a very real concern. Educational material should be required to conform to a set of federally regulated design controls, complete with regular federal audits of each company's quality system.



    For those who think I'm proposing that the government should dictate what can and can't be written in textbooks, no. Regulated design controls merely force a company to document their changes and provide proof for their reasoning. Content matter is essentially unaffected.



    Edit:

    The most important reason to do this is the creation of a "change history" that would hopefully be made public.
  • Reply 17 of 54
    Digitally available textbooks is a good idea in theory. Along with appropriate interactive material (not entertainment) such as simulations of processes in the STEM area, it could improve learning in schools, and learning outside of school, in less formal environments.



    Then, if the material can be broken down into appropriate chunks, and learning management and assessment of mastery is included, we may have the making of knowledgeable and skilled population.



    But, I cannot say today that the textbooks and curriculum offered today, nor the extreme pressure by anti-intellectual forces in the US will result in a more educated public. Perhaps instead, the promise of digital textbooks will fail as did the promise of access to knowledge and information via the internet and TV, replaced instead by pseudo-news, opinion and downright propaganda and lies.



    Knowledge is not counted by the number of textbooks and iPads in a school, or the counts of the number of students with access to iPads. The only thing that counts is the content.
  • Reply 18 of 54
    brutus009brutus009 Posts: 356member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by waldobushman View Post


    Knowledge is not counted by the number of textbooks and iPads in a school, or the counts of the number of students with access to iPads. The only thing that counts is the content.



    Tunnel vision FTL!



    Perfect Content + Poor Delivery = FAIL



    Content is just the beginning, and digital content will stand a better chance of improvement due to ease of iteration. Regardless, and against your point, content is only the beginning.
  • Reply 19 of 54
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,449member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AaronJ View Post


    Here's the problem: Textbooks are just too damned expensive. Also, they aren't updatable, other than by replacing them. This presents a huge problem for school districts with less and less money and funding.



    I mean, I'm sure you know all of this. And I do agree that I love a physical book as well, assuming it's a very nice one. But it it's just sort of your average paperback, I'd rather get the digital version these days (just bought Rachel Maddow's "Drift" and also "Hunger Games" this last week).



    And also, off-topic but sort of connected, if I didn't feel guilty over how well my Local Comics Shop has treated me over the years, I'd have gone totally digital for comics months and months ago. No more bagging and boarding. No more stacks of long boxes. Yeesh. But I can't let my LCS down like that.



    Textbooks aren't expensive because of the printing cost. Textbooks are expensive because of the writing, editorial, marketing and rights clearance (photos, etc.) costs. None of those costs go away for eTexts. In fact, producing eTexts can be more expensive because now you've got to have trained people who can add layers of interactivity and the nature of the medium demands more art, photos, videos, animations and mini-apps within the textbook. Someone's going to be paying for that.



    And especially at the college level, publishers want textbooks to be out of date. That's why they issue new editions every two years whether they're actually needed or not - it's to prevent students from buying used books. Publishers cannot survive if all of a sudden, they're selling $15 textbooks instead of $150 textbooks, unless the mass market is now buying those eBooks instead of just students taking the courses.



    And for El-Hi school textbooks in half of the U.S. States, mostly in the west and south, publishers must go through an adoption process, where a highly political State board must approve the textbooks before they can be sold in the state. This process is extremely expensive. And if you lose the adoption, you're basically out of business for the next several years. California, Texas and Florida are the biggest adoption states and the entire country winds up getting what they demand. This is the reason why there has been tremendous consolidation in the El-Hi textbook industry in the last 30 years and there are just a few players left.



    While I have no problem if the publishers themselves elect to publish eTexts, I don't think public money should be used to drive this process. That would be money much better spent teaching kids to read properly. After the initial novelty wears off, a student is no more likely to read an eText than they were to read a textbook. They can both still be incredibly boring.
  • Reply 20 of 54
    hosshoss Posts: 69member
    Almost every reader loves bound books, but very few are actually buying them. I've never had to wait in line at the book register at my local Barnes & Noble, even though there are 40 or 50 people in the store reading at any given time. Aside from the Starbucks sales, which always seem to be doing way better than the book sales, the overhead in the massive, fully staffed store vs. the register activity has to be unsustainable for much longer, I would guess.
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