One of the worst parts of grade school that I can recall was lecture. (Am I right?) In the case of many of the classes at my old schools, "lecture" meant the class was in for roughly an hour of the teacher reading almost word for word from the textbook. For me, that usually turned into time that I would spend doodling in my notebook, sleeping, derailing the teacher's train of thought, asking random, irrelevant questions and finding any other way I could keep the teacher from reading another word (since our homework from the previous night usually involved reading the exact pages the teacher was reading through).
I remember my eyes glazing over as soon as the teacher started to talk. And staring down at a overly drab textbook – full of too much text describing things I could not care less about and intermittent pictures – made my eyes literally lose focus and my brain would slip into a deep, hypothetical trance where I would imagine all sorts of ludicrous things. I guess you could say I was uninterested, bored and I had a slight case of ADD. And it only got worse with time. I never brought home poor report cards or anything, but for the life of me, there wasn't a single class that interested me enough (aside from my electronics class, of course) to keep my attention for more than a few minutes.
Surely, I'm not the only one who went through this. I'm not the first, nor will I be the last to have a history of painstakingly boring teachers who read straight from the textbook. But Apple's iBooks 2 announcement from earlier today could certainly do wonders for kids who suffer from attention deficit disorders and simply bored kids alike. And it might make "lecture" time a little more bearable.
Let's be clear here, though. Apple did not invent e-textbooks, nor are they the first to make them interactive. A local news station here in the Winston-Salem area, WXII 12, touched on Apple's announcements on the evening news. They also mentioned a local institution, Wake Forest University, that has also developed an interactive textbook called the Bio-Book. Much like Apple's iBooks 2, the Bio-Book offers many in-depth videos, tutorials and other interactive media that extends far beyond the capabilities of the average textbook.
Sarah Kessler of Mashable does a pretty good job of listing the hurdles that Apple's vision – reinventing the textbook and altering the way students around the world learn – still faces. Apple has a lot of ground to cover if they want to become a mainstream textbook source. Only about 1.5 million iPads are being used by schools, a small number in comparison to the 55.5 million students enrolled in 130,000 schools across the nation, says Kessler. Also, there is the question of textbook availability and pricing, Internet access within classrooms, among other things. In short, it could be a while before any students actually get to use iBooks 2 in the classroom.
Nonetheless, it makes me wonder what life would have been like had I had iBooks or Bio-Book as a kid going through grade school.
I've been using electronic textbooks since my first day in college. Either by tablet or laptop, I would load up a PDF or eBook version of my textbooks and read along with the class. By all means, this worked and was far more convenient than carrying around four or five heavy textbooks in my backpack. But, in use, it was hardly any easier than flipping through the pages of an actual bound book. In fact, a lot of times it was more trouble than it was worth.
Apple has simply made e-textbooks a more viable textbook replacement by focusing on ease of use: integrated definitions, notes, highlighting and glossary. And, by offering a catalog in which to buy them from and a relatively straightforward development platform, they have made electronic textbooks more plausible for textbook makers and teachers alike.
With iBooks, I imagine I probably would have been a more bearable student and I likely would have paid a little more attention. It's amazing what interactive media can do for a person with a hamster attention span disorder – it can turn even the most boring information into an intriguing topic. For example, I spent a lot of my time in biology and chemistry classes trying to fathom what all of the tiny molecules, atoms, bacteria and other difficult-to-picture particles might look like in different states. Being told how and why something happens and being shown a hastily, poorly drawn diagram on a whiteboard only explains so much. Watching a video clip or slideshow that further explains the same process, by actually showing it happen, makes it both easier to wrap your head around and more interesting.
Throughout and after today's announcements, my Twitter timeline was filled with people wishing they were either back in school or that they had an iPad when they were going through grade school. While I would never wish I were back in grade school, I can definitely agree with the latter statement. I'm jealous of what future generations will get to experience throughout their schooling careers – all of the gadgets, new and advanced learning materials and different knowledge-inducing technology. Education of the future might actually be, dare I say ... fun.
Do you ladies and gents also wish you could have grown up learning on an iPad with iBooks 2? Like myself, do you imagine you would have been a better student? Do you think you might have learned more?
Image via The Verge