Digital Textbooks Will Change the Way Students Learn

Digital Textbooks Will Change the Way Students Learn

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Science can advance quickly, rendering existing textbooks obsolete. Now new digital textbooks are emerging intended to better engage students and keep them up-to-date on the latest research. These e-books will cost (and weigh) less than the average printed tome. In January, Apple announced its iBooks 2 textbook platform for the iPad, and publishers, including McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, have signed on to create content for it. In February, Nature Publishing Group came out with an interactive, multimedia “book” intended for university-level introductory biology classes that is accessible online using tablet computers, laptops, desktops and smartphones.

Marine ecologist David Johnston of Duke University and his colleagues have taken a more Wikipedia-like approach. Their app, Cachalot, is available for free on the iPad and was created with the help of volunteers: marine scientists wrote it without charge from lecture notes, a computer science class designed it, and institutions, including the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, donated images and video. Sharon Lynch, a science education researcher at George Washington University, says e-books such as these may eventually become mainstream but adds that research needs to be done on whether or not they are actually better than traditional textbooks.

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