iPad as a replacement to textbooks? Not yet.
Image via WikipediaLast night, I did some catch up reading on news through the USA Today app (highly recommended) on my iPad, and one of the main articles questioned whether college students can learn as well on iPads using e-books. Although I do love my iPad and find many uses for it, interestingly enough, one of those uses is not to read books. I appreciate the attempt to make purchasing and organizing books simple through iBooks. However, I'm still not sold on the iPad as a replacement to traditional paperbacks and hardcovers.
First, I'll admit to being quite frugal in general and have pleasantly rediscovered my local public library card. Getting books for free beats paying $10-15 for them any day in my opinion. It's one thing to make an impulse buy on an app that costs $0.99, but it's another thing to drop a Hamilton or two on a book that I may or may not like. With textbooks, one could argue for cost savings (I just saw the bill for a high school student's textbooks for the year reach over $500), though then you start getting into the article's main points about distraction and too much information.
Where I have been looser with my purse strings has been with magazines. With Zinio, I have purchased several subscriptions, all for under $10/year. Although I don't get much interactive content, nor tap into what the iPad can truly do with the media, I do essentially receive the entire print magazine for a fraction of the price, and with the convenience of having everything organized and paperless. A similar possibility lies with textbook supplements and workbooks. With early problems of clunky highlighting and slow speeds, a less intensive application such as Zinio (or any other PDF reader - I recommend GoodReader) can transition students from paper to e-reading. Perhaps, this can take a little pressure off of the iPad as being consistently mentioned as the next greatest thing in education.
Considering the above, a joint effort must be made between educators, publishers, and programmers to ensure the best use of the technology. One must play to the strengths of the iPad (multi-touch, large full color display, wireless networking, portability, and mass appeal) and consider how to best make textbook content accessible, engaging, and interactive. At the very minimum, students must be able to highlight text, annotate in margins, navigate with hyperlinks, and manipulate photos. Only then, no matter how many iPads are given away to campuses, will the device begin to make a serious impact in the lives of students.
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