Tuesday’s Globe announced with great fanfare that textbook publishers had contracted with Apple to load texts on the iPad. The title of the article, The Future is at Hand, implies some sort of learning revolution.
I could not be more underwhelmed.
I find it ironic that Apple is conspiring with publishers to turn back the clock – or at least pause it – on an industry that is headed off a cliff.
Putting an outdated approach to delivering content on a cutting edge device misses the point. Text books are static (The Globe article says that the average life of a text book is five years. Five years?! are you kidding?!) and promote a one size fits all approach to education. We should not be thinking in terms of selecting which textbook to use in teaching a class; rather we should be providing students with multiple sources that are dynamic and often interactive. In the next three or four years I would be surprised if there were any textbooks at Beaver. With so much information and so many different sources to pull from, why choose just one? Now many classes go without them and instead provide far superior resources for students on their classroom websites.
Just as both Cushing Academy and The Globe missed the point about books in the library (see my previous post on that here) Apple and The Globe miss the bigger point here. It’s all about asking the right questions; and the answer to the right questions is not “Let’s digitize textbooks.”