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Tablets, eBooks, and eLearning Make Middle School Less… Awkward

Posted on Feb 7, 2013 in eLearning, Future of eBooks | 0 comments

Last week I toured the middle school that my daughter will be attending next year. One thing that struck me was the school’s decision to issue every student an iPad at the start of the term, as a core teaching device. The operating system was slightly modified to restrict certain applications and features; students can’t download games–the general obsession with Minecraft comes to mind–and after some experimentation this year, they chose to disable messaging as well, due to the (one-could-have-guessed) distractions it causes. The staff at the school cited the weight and heft of textbooks as one factor in their decision to go with eBooks on the iPad. But the advantages I saw went far beyond the tablet as a lightweight alternative to a child lugging a crippling backpack. While observing students in their classrooms, I saw that they were adept not only at note-taking, but in switching applications rapidly and effectively, from reading to research to note-taking. And all of those tasks now embrace interactive multimedia, which makes learning not just more immersive and stimulating, but actually fun. I recall spending hours poring through the World Book Encyclopedia as a child. I don’t miss it; I’d rather use and support Wikipedia. During the tour I had the opportunity to sit down with a 5th grader who had just completed an assignment on her iPad, an extended and thoughtful blog post (“essay” for you old-timers) on “Was Cooking in the 1950’s Fun?” Not only was this bright young lady impressively articulate and engaged, she was eager to share with me the process she used for her research (searching online sources), drafting (first on paper!), and project management (Evernote, which I have now downloaded upon her thoughtful recommendation). Students and teachers admit that the ability to cross-reference and flip back and forth between pages, especially of multiple books, was often awkward. And some of the larger form-factor textbooks might be a bit squashed as compared to their print counterparts. But overall, the students were far more engaged with their eBooks, and increased engagement simply equates to more learning. The middle school’s iPad experiment for the 2012-13 school year has been...

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The Rise of eBook Applications

Posted on Dec 12, 2012 in Future of eBooks | 1 comment

Tomorrow’s eBook will become an interactive platform for third-party applications—software that delights targeted reader audiences. There are already a variety of apps in mobile and tablet marketplaces that would complement many genres: cooking apps, history apps, and Harry Potter apps. But the development of independent software applications that can be plugged directly into an eBook will drive a new type of app marketplace that will make eBooks more compelling, interactive, informative, and fun.  Read the series: “The Miranda Proposal: Tomorrow’s eBook Platform”: Prologue  part 1   part 2   part 3   part 4   part 5   part 6   part 7   Epilogue Books have historically been a static, linear medium: we progress from page one through to the end, and any interruption means a break in the flow. But society has been shifting to more of an interrupt-driven culture where multitasking meets multimedia. While Baby Boomers might have driven their parents crazy by watching TV while doing homework, today’s youngest generation is adept at combining simultaneous phone, text, web surfing, YouTube watching, and music listening (hopefully not while driving). The eBook of the future will be poised to cater to this “ADD Culture” by changing the linear, personal nature of reading into a dynamic, multimedia-enhanced experience. A year ago the EPUB3 standard, one of the most popular and open (non-proprietary) eBook formats, developed definitions for how internal and external links will be handled within an eBook. This is an important first step that will finally let the barbarians through the gates. My guess is, half of you are excited about the possibilities of interactive eBook apps, and half of you are cringing at the prospect of dancing, singing, self-interrupting eBooks. (I’d love to hear comments from both groups.) For the latter, let me reassure you that the nature of reading will not change for everyone. You can always read without apps, and I’ll even offer up that some books are simply meant to be read, period, in that wonderful linear fashion. But many books, and many readers, will be improved with the onset of embedded applications. eBooks will feature companion apps to aid in networking, research, and play, and everything...

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eBooks and the Triple Bottom Line

Posted on Dec 7, 2012 in Future of eBooks | 2 comments

I’ve written about why eBooks are useful, and even inevitable. But I want to take this a step further, and look at why they are important, in the sense of social impact. One useful measure is to see how eBooks serve the Triple Bottom Line (TBL).  Read the series: “The Miranda Proposal: Tomorrow’s eBook Platform”: Prologue  part 1   part 2   part 3   part 4   part 5   part 6   part 7   Epilogue Triple Bottom Line refers to the three pillars for measuring organizational success: People, Planet, and Profit. TBL has been adopted by the UN and various governments for public sector cost accounting and corporate social responsibility initiatives—which of course makes it sound awfully dull. But TBL is actually a progressive and useful way to think about how a technology will transform the organizations and societies it touches. The Effect on People and Society We live in the Information Age, of which the Internet is often described as the key driving force. But the Internet is just a communication vehicle, a vast cloud of information, disinformation, and generally wasted computer space, largely curated by Google. On the other hand, eBooks are catalogued, edited, and critically validated. Whether they deliver wisdom, entertainment, facts, fancy, lies, or opinion, eBooks are part of a global digital library that is far better managed and organized than the hopelessly cluttered and chaotic Web. While eBooks are personal and static today, they will soon become networked. Once we connect them digitally, eBooks will serve as interactive “knowledge nodes” on a vast social network. The cloud-based technology infrastructure is already here; it’s now a matter of building the eReader platform that will connect every eBook to the global community. That’s when things will get really interesting.   Tomorrow’s eBook will have the power to transform society in fundamental ways. It will drive social change in health, education, and literacy. It could even fuel a new global Renaissance. Or at least cure boredom on a global scale. Consider just a few examples, and then think about what will happen when the truly innovative thinkers get going with it: a medical worker in a remote village in Africa checking...

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Prologue: It’s Time for eBooks to Evolve

Posted on Nov 27, 2012 in Future of eBooks | 0 comments

I’m a habitual bedtime reader—especially my daughter’s bedtime. I’ve been reading to her almost every night for what is coming up on 10 years; since she was almost 10 months old. We have gone from Sandra Boynton to Dr. Seuss, from all the Magic Treehouse books to countless American Girl books, from timeless classics like the Little House on the Prairie series to fantasy classics like The Hobbit and of course Harry Potter. I dread the day, and I know it’s coming soon, when she’s too old for bedtime stories. Read the series: “The Miranda Proposal: Tomorrow’s eBook Platform”: Prologue  part 1   part 2   part 3   part 4   part 5   part 6   part 7   Epilogue A few years ago we purchased our first Kindle, and then an iPad. My daughter and I both like paper books, especially hardcovers, but we have grown comfortable with eBooks. I personally find them easier on the eyes, not to mention far more convenient while traveling (some of those Potter books are over 900 pages). A little over two years ago I wrote to a colleague, “Children’s online books need more than a black-and-white Kindle experience. Children need color and imagery, and the e-books of tomorrow will include animation and both sound and video narration. The technology is there; imagine sitting in bed with your child and an iPad, choosing what to read from among thousands of titles. Imagine a child not glued to a TV but to an e-reader. What kids and parents need is a safe and simple medium for discovering both old ‘static’ titles (perhaps enhanced by wonderful narrators with masterful storytelling skills), as well as a new generation of highly interactive books that resonate with the online world of tomorrow’s generations.” Today we are much closer to that reality, but eBooks are still far behind where they should be.  Color and multimedia are making inroads, and there is some rudimentary social networking, although nothing particularly interesting yet: just the ability to express your likes and tweet happily to your social network (which assumes that they care about your reading habits). Some of today’s eBooks offer text-to-speech, and Amazon Audible offers...

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