Good morning! So here we are, already in the first week of February. And as time continues to fly so does the the evolution of technology. Thomas Friedman once claimed, “The future is now.” One sign of this future is today’s digital textbooks. Some university librarians, many students, and even the US Dept. of State have endorsed this change due to the digital age. However, some students still enjoy the print version and others of the world are a bit wary of the evolution that is occurring and how it all might come about. Professors are also wary of this future, as bad grammar and spelling seems to be a major downside to this great change.
We start off with an article from The Chronicle of Higher Education exploring the digital object formerly known as the book. These new creatures make multiple promises: tailoring to a student’s learning styles, administering tests, and showing a combination of text and videos (to name a few).
The Object Formerly Known as the Textbook (Chronicle of Higher Ed)
Arab League, U.S. Launch Open Book Project (IIP Digital, U.S. Department of State)
The US Dept. of State has joined forces with the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALECSO) to create e-books focusing on science and technology. ” ‘Our hope is to lower geographic, economic and even gender-based barriers to learning’ ” says (former) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Now anyone with the internet will be able to access these books and use them in education.
For Many Students, Print is Still King (Chronicle of Higher Ed)
However, many students and professors from a wide range of academic disciplines are not ready to celebrate quite yet. Due to the desire of many to stick with the print format, publishers have decided to create accompanying digital features that students and professors can use for a small fee. But professors and students alike are still warning that cost is still their most chief concern.
Pay Nothing? Easier Said Than Done (Chronicle of Higher Ed)
Yes, cost can be a problem but is eliminating the cost of such digital books also a problem? This article from the Chronicle of Higher Ed, speaks of publishing companies and professors who may stand in the way of the digital textbook’s road to freedom.
Reinventing Textbooks: A Hard Course (New York Times)
The New York Times chimes in and agrees that change is never easy. As various digital publishers dive in to the game, students miss things that are still easier in print like thumbing through pages and flipping back to find that perfect quote for the class discussion. Add to that the different proprietary formats and readers, and these early attempts at a digital textbook revolution may ring fear and reservations in the minds of others.
Time to Catch Up (Chronicle of Higher Ed)
But is this evolution of technology really helping our students learn? One professor has cited that poor grammar and cellphone use have been on the rise these days. Citing this change, Prof. Rob Jenkins decided to change his class syllabus and include cellphones and laptops as part of a student’s supply list. But he was also sure to include a warning that students should not let the devices distract them from learning and he has faith this just might work.
Lingua Franca: Moodling (Chronicle of Higher Ed)
Other academics feel that students might improve their spelling skills by NOT transferring their answers from Microsoft Word to course management applications like Blackboard and Moodle. The extra effort to mind one’s own orthography could help prepare students for a world that still cares very much about good spelling and grammar skills in reports, resumes, and cover letters.
Well? Is this future that we are in a good thing? Are free textbooks for every need on the horizon? Can grammar and spelling be saved? Should they be? Let us know what you think! Please feel free to comment below!