Saturday, 2 June 2012

When is a text book not a text book?

I've been having a break from Blogging, mainly because I've been spending a lot of my extra time helping out in the pub my husband runs. This means that I haven't had chance to finish off my last post on ebooks and to be honest I don't really have the energy to do it now. 

What I do want to do is have a think about the nature of the ebook. I started thinking about this a few months ago after seeing an Info Graphic looking at the future of digital textbooks. The idea was that the ebook would evolve from their current flat content into something much more dynamic

There has been murmurings from several corners about developing in house ebooks so I've been thinking about what a digital textbook would look like and how it would differ from the ebooks we already have.

30 years ago textbooks were the main resource available to a student on a course. Now students have the internet, online journals and databases, podcasts, videos, and VLE resource available to them. They have much more choice in where they find their information, how they view it and how they store it. But it also means that there are much more places to look. Wouldn't it be better to  develop something related to but not necessarily recognisable as a traditional textbook that brings together all the different strands of information needed for a course while embedding digital literacy and study skills, thus avoiding spoonfeeding our students. 

We already have plenty of tools that we can utilise, (see below) it's just a matter of bringing the content together in a usable and attractive format that delivers the course content in a way that enhances learning. And while we might continue to call such a resource a textbook in order to make it something the students can relate to, ultimatly it would probably be closer to a webpage or VLE than a traditional textbook.

Some ideas for digital textbook tools/content

itunesU podcasts
Message boards/chat
System to monitor progress and usage)
Text information in easily digestable chunks
Study Skills elements (referencing, digital literacy, essay structure, etc)
Additional content in the form of QR codes/augumented reality
Non linear- allowing student to dip in while also following course content in a logical way.
Unlockable bonus areas
Options to share notes, chat etc while also keeping some elements personal - I envisage each student having a personal copy of a 'class set' that are linked at various points to allow group/chat/sharing

This makes it sounds easy but unless you manage to license existing content you're talking about an awful lot of work to take on: Writing the content, mapping it to the course modules, creating tools and most of all packaging it all in an accessible, usable, student friendly format, probably accessible at least in part through mobile devices.  Whether anyone is doing this I'm not sure but  but I hope someone does. There is so much scope for taking ebooks beyond their current format, I just wish I had the knowledge and skills to have an attempt at it. 

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