Digital Textbooks Will Change the Way Students Learn
Science can advance quickly, rendering existing textbooks obsolete. Now new digital textbooks are emerging intended to better engage students and keep them up-to-date on the latest research. These e-books will cost (and weigh) less than the average printed tome. In January, Apple announced its iBooks 2 textbook platform for the iPad, and publishers, including McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, have signed on to create content for it. In February, Nature Publishing Group came out with an interactive, multimedia “book” intended for university-level introductory biology classes that is accessible online using tablet computers, laptops, desktops and smartphones.
Marine ecologist David Johnston of Duke University and his colleagues have taken a more Wikipedia-like approach. Their app, Cachalot, is available for free on the iPad and was created with the help of volunteers: marine scientists wrote it without charge from lecture notes, a computer science class designed it, and institutions, including the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, donated images and video. Sharon Lynch, a science education researcher at George Washington University, says e-books such as these may eventually become mainstream but adds that research needs to be done on whether or not they are actually better than traditional textbooks.