Friday, May 23, 2008

Do Interactive Textbooks Enhance Learning?

We all know that textbooks become dated fast, and they have the disadvantage of not being particularly interactive. With new technology, however, the situation is bound to change. To learn more about the future of interactive textbooks and the potential demise of the conventional textbook of yore, click on the hyperlink to read the article, “WikiTexts: Learning Better by Writing the Book.” After you read the article, be sure to post your comments. We want to hear from you? Do you think wikitexts will catch on? What advantages might they have? What might be the drawbacks, if any? How does the concept of wikitexts help you re-envision education, perhaps seeing it differently from the way you were taught?

Image credit and link to article in Linux News: http://www.linuxinsider.com/story/63022.html

4 comments:

Mike said...

Let me first say that i love this idea. I mean I cant imagine a world where the students actually dont have to worry about bringing their textbook home to do neceessary research for class. Recently I have become used to teaching without using the textbook has a guide due to the fact that students ofte dont bring their text to class which then causes a delay in instruction as they are forced to then go to their lockers to obtain their books.

The one question that I felt needed to be answerd was exactly how much money this great idea was going to cost. I understand that ordering new textbooks is a very expensive procedure and it is true as the article points out that more often then not schools just go with the same old texts that they had the previous year and spend their yearly stipend on something they feel is more necessary. If this can be implemented without costing the school that much money then i would like to see all schools switch over to this system.

There is one other problem that i could forese. Some students may not be able to acess this interactrive textbook due to the fact that they do not have a computer at home. Im not exactly sure how this situation could be handeled.

Meg said...

While I love the idea and concept of interactive textbooks, I am concerned that students today will be so glued to their computer screens that they will lack social skills necessary for the future. I teach kindergarten and with today's techology and academic standards chidlren are missing out on how to get along with each.

On the other hand, I can see the benefits it would have for unmotivated students and those who just don't care to carry their text books. In addition, I can see how text books today are out dated.

Therefore, I am torn on this issue.

Like Mike, I found myself wondering how much the cost of this would be. Furthermore, what do you do for the child who is living in poverty who doesn't have clothing or food on the table, let alone access to a computer and internet service?

Sherree said...

I, too, am on the fence. I think that it would be more cost efficient for schools to invest in the online texts because if they are continously updated, students will always be sure to have the most up-to-date information. It is true that science and social studies books are rarely replaced in school systems. They average between five and ten years use when a district invests in a new set. However, the companies producing these online materials will figure that out and probably charge annual subscription fees to take advantage of those districts trying to "save a buck." Since I just defeated my own argument, I'll go on.

Other pro points include the facts raised in the article. The online text has the potential to be an inquiry-based, interactive experience that can greatly benefit a large range of learners. It also provides students with needed exposure to technology which will benefit them as they enter higher education and the job market. Lastly, as a science teacher, I see great benefits with the potential for animated/video demonstrations on everything from the law of motion to body systems to chemical reactions to weather formation. (On the con side, this could lead to fewer lab experiences and therefore less social interaction, which was brought up in Meg's comment.)

Now onto the cons... I think that online texts will be the final doom for books and the hope that reading will be revived as a leisure activity within our youth. It will also force students not to define research skills that we all learned using our libraries, as well as other skills like problem-solving, time management, etc. that come with such tasks. Online texts also continue to encourage our complete dependence on technology, which I don't think is a safe thing for our society. The online text can be a great tool, but it can't be an exclusive tool.

In conclusion, I have to point out the possible mass health effects on your youth if they are so heavily working on computers. We will see a tremendous increase in eye problems as well as ailments like tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. I've already seen it working with middle school students. If they start utilizing online texts too, I fear that our youth will be suffering with the consequences. As my doctor says, we are not made to be on the computer as much as we are. What service are we doing our kids by forcing them into these problems?

Molly said...

Sherree, I had no idea that school systems waited at least five to ten years to change science and social studies text books. If this is the case you are certainly right to say that online texts are a step in the right direction. Although it seems adding additional software or computers to any building is an expensive task, it looks as though online texts would be a cost effective solution to a much larger problem. (not to mention the trees we would save!) I also feel that computer based texts would aid many learners at the same time to do the different stimulations software offers. There is so much to be said when a child can listen, read, interact, and respond all in one learning tool.

However, like Meg and Sherree I am also concerned about the future of our children’s health and socialization process. With the development of these online text books, I feel that children will develop problems with their eyes, arthritis, and carpel tunnel (as Sherree said they already do exist.) In terms of health, I also feel that children will spend more time in front of a computer than running around outside or socializing with friends and family members. For me this is a cause of concern.

In terms of socialization, I feel that with computer devices we sometimes forget the intimacy and effectiveness of face to face communication. When asking a friend for help with schoolwork, via the web, we are losing a vital part of the communication process...interaction. I hope that if these online texts find their way into homes and classrooms, issues of classroom community and teamwork are not lost.

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