Replacing a pile of textbooks with an iPad

A new company called Inkling hopes to break the standard textbook model and help textbooks enter the interactive age by letting students share and comment on the texts and interact with fellow students, reports the New York Times. Matt MacInnis, founder and chief executive of Inkling, said the company wants to offer a textbook experience that moves far beyond simply downloading a PDF document to an iPad. One unique feature the service offers is the ability to discuss passages of a book with other students or professors. By selecting a piece of text, you can leave a note for others to read and develop a conversation around the text. The iPad application also breathes life into textbooks by giving publishers the tools to create interactive graphics within a book. In a demo version of the application, available for downloading from the iTunes store, “The Elements of Style” includes quizzes that help students learn by touching and interacting with the screen. There’s also a biology book that offers the ability to navigate 3-D molecules from any angle. Other features include the ability to search text, change the size of the type, purchase individual chapters of books, highlight text for others to see, and take pop quizzes directly within the app…

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Do kids learn as well on iPads, eBooks?

Compared with traditional textbooks, the iPad and other devices for reading digital books have the potential to save on textbook costs in the long term, provide students with more and better information faster, and lighten the typical college student’s backpack. Yet the track record on campus for eReader devices so far has been bumpy, USA Today reports. Early trials of the Kindle DX, for example, drew complaints from students about clunky highlighting of text and slow refresh rates. Princeton and George Washington universities this spring found the iPad caused network problems. Federal officials in June cautioned colleges to hold off on using eReaders in the classroom unless the technology can accommodate disabled students. Though many of those problems are being or have been addressed, some of the most tech-savvy students aren’t quite ready to endorse the devices for academic use. And some educational psychologists suggest the dizzying array of options and choices offered by the ever-evolving technology might be making it harder to learn, rather than easier. “The challenge for working in the electronic age is that we have so much access to information but we still have the same brain we always had,” says Richard Mayer, psychology professor at the University of California-Santa Barbara. “The problem is not access to information. It is integrating that information and making sense out of it.”

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Stanford to issue new medical students iPads

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that incoming medical students at Stanford University will have fewer textbooks to carry this fall after the university distributes iPads to its 91 first-year students during orientation later this month as part of a trial program. The move by the university represents a growing interest by academic institutions to incorporate the Apple devices into the classroom and provide tech-savvy students with more modern tools. Stanford medical school officials said the pilot program is designed to improve the students’ learning experiences because the device’s portability and search capabilities will redefine the “old-fashioned” teaching practices in use by many medical programs…

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Kindles, iPads could be textbooks in new Georgia state bill

Could Kindles, iPads, and other reading devices soon be as common in Georgia schools as textbooks? Maybe, if a bill passed by the state Senate is approved in the House, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. On Feb. 2, the Georgia Senate voted 45-5 to expand the definition of “textbook” to include computer hardware and technical equipment to support the use of digital content. Sponsored by Sen. Cecil Staton, R-Macon, the bill would give local school districts the flexibility to expand their spending options and seek modern, alternative methods of receiving information. Reading devices, where textbooks could be downloaded into the unit, are one option, he said. Staton said he met with several local education officials who urged him to look at ways that could give them more flexibility in how they spend their already tight dollars. “They said spending is being cut, so give us more flexibility. So this is removing certain state regulations,” said Staton, who chairs the state Senate’s Science and Technology Committee. “And technology is advancing rapidly. The definition of a textbook that is traditional is not going to cut it. My 14-year-old will learn better and faster if information is delivered by electronic means, other than ‘go read this.’”

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‘Intelligent’ tutor aids science students online

High school students soon will be able to get help with their chemistry and physics homework from a new online tutor that uses artificial-intelligence technology.

Starting this fall, Holt, Rinehart and Winston (HRW) will offer a subscription to the Quantum Intelligent Tutor with the purchase of its textbooks. The Quantum Intelligent Tutor, developed by Quantum Simulations Inc., is not specific to one textbook publisher, but through HRW, an intelligent, computer-based science tutor will be available to students and teachers for the first time, according to the company.

“Our market research shows that tutorial programs are the No. 1 supplement requested by teachers,” said Ellen M. Standafer, vice president of science product development at HRW, which is part of the Harcourt Education Group.…Read More