Ereaders in Education

Library of Congress Ebooks Allow for Historical Documents on Tablets

17 June 2015

From Education World:

New efforts from the Library of Congress have made sources such as scrapbooks from women suffrage activists, political cartoons, and photos from throughout American history available in ebooks for tablets via Student Discovery Sets.

The Library of Congress have released three new interactive ebooks and “will bring together historical artifacts and one-of-a-kind documents on a wide range of topics, from history and science to literature. Interactive tools let students zoom in for close examination, draw to highlight interesting details and make notes about what they discover,” according to the press release.

The ebooks are currently available for download free of charge through iBooks and are in addition to nine already published ebooks that focus “on the U.S. Constitution, Symbols of the United States, Immigration, the Dust Bowl, the Harlem Renaissance, Understanding the Cosmos, the Industrial Revolution, Jim Crow and Segregation, and Children’s Lives at the Turn of the 20th Century,” the release said.

. . . .

The books are completely interactive, meaning students are immersed in the content through primary sources that come alive with “maps, songs, posters, pieces of sheet music and iconic images.”

Link to the rest at Education World

As PG was posting this, he was reminded that the Library of Congress provides both access to and copies of many portions of its visual arts collections. You can download a copy of an image at no charge or you can have the Library of Congress make a high-quality print of photographs or a high-quality copy of other items for a very reasonable fee.

While the description of each photo provides warnings about potential copyright issues, the photos, including some terrific Depression-era works, that were created by photographers under contracts from various government agencies, are generally in the public domain. For images that were not created under government contract, it is likely that asking for a copy for your personal use would fall under fair use.

The following iconic Depression photo of the wife of a migrant worker in California was taken by Dorothea Lange for the U.S. Farm Security Administration:


Here’s a link to more information about this and other prints and photographs available at The Library of Congress


Thinking Different(ly) About University Presses

7 May 2015

From Inside Higher Ed:

Lynn University, to further its tablet-centric curriculum, is establishing its own university press to support textbooks created exclusively for Apple products.

Lynn University Digital Press, which operates out of the institution’s library, in some ways formalizes the authoring process between faculty members, instructional designers, librarians and the general counsel that’s been taking place at the private university in Florida for years. With the university press in place, the effort to create electronic textbooks now has an academic editor, style guides and faculty training programs in place to improve the publishing workflow.

“We’ve felt we really needed infrastructure around our faculty so they could concentrate on the right content and not necessarily on being experts in being an author or editing or rights and permissions,” said Christian G. Boniforti, the university’s chief information officer. He compared Lynn’s decision to create its own university press to the larger push to promote technology in the classroom generally, which he said can sometimes “get in the way of the faculty teaching.” With the electronic textbook initiative, he said, “we found ourselves in that same situation.”

. . . .

Unlike many university presses, which are exploring new business models and products to sustain their scholarly publishing efforts, the Lynn Digital Press does not yet have to worry about financial viability. Its immediate goal, which precedes any expansion plans, is to help faculty members create textbooks to cover the university’s core curriculum, known as the Dialogues.

. . . .

Faculty members receive both a new laptop (the textbook authoring software, iBooks Author, runs only on Macs) and a $2,000 stipend when they volunteer to create a textbook. The first two faculty members are planning to make their books available for purchase through iTunes, which will result in a 30-20-50 revenue split between Apple, Lynn and the author, Ross said.

Link to the rest at Inside Higher Ed and thanks to Victoria for the tip.

“Free” Ebooks Don’t Help Poor Kids

4 May 2015

From BookRiot:

One of the duties I had at the last library for which I worked was helping to get patrons onto computers. For adults, this wasn’t generally a problem: they either presented a library card to me or pulled out some form of photo identification (which ranged from your standard driver’s license or passport to less traditional booking papers following a jail stay).

For teenagers and children, however, it was a different story. In order to get onto a computer to do work, they had to have either their library cards or a photo ID. A school ID would work, as would a driver’s license.

Anyone who has worked with teens or kids knows what this means. Many kids never had the opportunity to get onto the computers and internet, despite needing to do homework or research. Because they didn’t bring their IDs or simply didn’t have one — being that they’re maybe 12 or 13 and don’t HAVE identification like that — they were denied access to something they needed in order to complete assignments for school. Most of these kids, the ones who came to the desk begging me to break policy, were there because they have no internet access at home.

. . . .

The kids most harmed by these policies, which tend to be common in public libraries, are those who are the poorest and most needing of access. And kids who did bring their ID to do work still had barriers through which to plow: computer access is time-restricted in most libraries, as there are an inadequate number of stations to allow for the number of people who need to use them.

Some statistics before going further: in households where the family income is $30,000 or less in the United States, only 54% have access to broadband at home. For those who make under $20,000 a year (which is the rough poverty line for families of three), 1/3 – 33% – do not go online at all.

. . . .

So why is it that, despite these numbers, the publishing industry takes on initiatives meant to reach poor kids and improve their literacy in ways that show a clear lack of understanding about the real problems these kids face? How come publishers and politicians choose to ignore those who work with children and teenagers struggling with access — to books, to reading, to technology, to a host of literacies, including digital?

Recently, Simon & Schuster announced a change in a literacy program they’ve been offering since 2003. “Cheer on Reading,” which put physical books inside cereal boxes, shifted from a print focus to digital one. Now, when kids open up a box of Cheerios, rather than getting a book to read, they’re given a code to access a digital version of a book which they can download (via proprietary software, no less). While this initiative saves the publisher on the cost of printing and distributing a physical book, it in no way allows poorer kids — those who are most in need and most likely to benefit from this kind of access — access to them.

Link to the rest at BookRiot and thanks to Felix for the tip.

Obama Pushes Reading Through Electronic Books

1 May 2015

From US News & World Report:

President Barack Obama announced Thursday that major book publishers will provide more than $250 million in free e-books to low-income students and that he is seeking commitments from local governments and schools nationwide to provide library cards to all students.

. . . .

“We’re going to provide millions of e-books online so that they’re available for young people who maybe don’t have as many books at home or don’t always have access to a full stock of reading materials,” Obama said during a virtual town hall sponsored by Discovery Education.

. . . .

During a question-and-answer session with about 40 students in the room and others participating online, Obama declared his love for turning and marking up the pages of traditional books.

Link to the rest at US News & World Report and thanks to Nirmala for the tip.

Amazon’s Whispercast expands to thousands of schools

28 April 2015

From C/Net:

Amazon’s efforts to grow in education look to be paying off so far.

Since the company in 2012 started offeringWhispercast — a free service for schools to distribute e-textbooks, course material and apps to hundreds or thousands of school-controlled computers — it has expanded into thousands of districts and universities. The e-commerce giant said Tuesday Whispercast is now used in more than 130 of the 250 largest school districts in the US and over 2,400 higher education organizations, including 24 of the 30 largest in the country.

To keep up that momentum, Amazon on Tuesday released an updated version of Whispercast to give teachers and professors more flexibility to purchase and share materials through the service. The company is also now starting to offer free expert guidance for districts to start using Whispercast.

. . . .

Whispercast is an important way for Amazon — which started as a bookseller — to gain exposure in the more than $20 billion market for K-12 and higher-education information-technology products and services, according to the Center for Digital Education. There are many other tech players, including Apple and Google, that are working to provide devices and services to schools, but the more schools Amazon can convert to its system, the more money it can potentially generate from it.

“We have lots of free books in our library, but there are a lot of books out there as well that do cost money,” said Dave Limp, senior vice president of Amazon Devices. “And we hope that by using Whispercast, some of those customers buy those books from us.”

Link to the rest at C/Net

High tech guys want low tech for their kids.

6 October 2014

From the New York Times:

When Steve Jobs was running Apple, he was known to call journalists to either pat them on the back for a recent article or, more often than not, explain how they got it wrong. I was on the receiving end of a few of those calls. But nothing shocked me more than something Mr. Jobs said to me in late 2010 after he had finished chewing me out for something I had written about an iPad shortcoming.

“So, your kids must love the iPad?” I asked Mr. Jobs, trying to change the subject. The company’s first tablet was just hitting the shelves. “They haven’t used it,” he told me. “We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”

I’m sure I responded with a gasp and dumbfounded silence. I had imagined the Jobs’s household was like a nerd’s paradise: that the walls were giant touch screens, the dining table was made from tiles of iPads and that iPods were handed out to guests like chocolates on a pillow.

Nope, Mr. Jobs told me, not even close.

Read the rest right here.

Then check this out. Again from the New York Times:

LOS ALTOS, Calif. — The chief technology officer of eBay sends his children to a nine-classroom school here. So do employees of Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard.

But the school’s chief teaching tools are anything but high-tech: pens and paper, knitting needles and, occasionally, mud. Not a computer to be found. No screens at all. They are not allowed in the classroom, and the school even frowns on their use at home.

Schools nationwide have rushed to supply their classrooms with computers, and many policy makers say it is foolish to do otherwise. But the contrarian point of view can be found at the epicenter of the tech economy, where some parents and educators have a message: computers and schools don’t mix.

Here ya go.  Take a gander. We have a saying in California- All these high tech guys send their kids to Waldorf schools.


Are Tablets the Solution for Latin American Education?

28 August 2014

From Publishing Perspectives:

The past few years have seen global surge in tablet adoption not only among professionals but also in schools throughout the world, particularly in Latin America. The surge has been considerable in underdeveloped countries, driven by rising incomes, high-speed internet connections, digital content consumption and the efforts of education NGOs (one of the most popular example being the One Laptop per Child program), plus some specific government initiatives in markets such as Brazil and Colombia.

. . . .

In Latin America, statistics about internet usage reveal growing interest in online content. According to ComScore’s 2013 Latin America Future in Focus report, the region has the fastest-growing Internet user population in the world. Social media consumption is extremely popular (5 of the top 10 most engaged markets with social content worldwide are Latin American) and online advertising is on the rise, with phones and tablets accounting for a considerable percentage of digital traffic.

. . . .

This growing presence in Latin America is not limited to the professional market. According to a report by Ambient Insight, the rate of growth in the mobile device usage is likely to increase over the next four years. The report argues that apart from rising individual purchases, the surge in spending in mobile devices will be driven by major digitization efforts rolled out across the region by public education systems.

In the meantime, research centers are raising public awareness of this growing trend and starting to analyze it in depth. The Organization of Ibero-American States (OEI) produced a report on the pros and cons of tablet education in schools, pointing out that the use of digital devices in classrooms is indeed becoming a major trend in current government policies on digital inclusion.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

How E-Reading Threatens Learning in the Humanities

17 July 2014

From The Chronicle of Higher Education:

The student was angry. Why hadn’t I mentioned there was a shorter version of the book I assigned for this week’s class? After brashly announcing she had unearthed an earlier article by the author (“Same thing, right?”), she instructed me that anything said in a book could be reduced to an article. The rest is just padding.

For some years, the amount of reading we assign university students has been shrinking. A book a week is now at best four or five for the semester; volumes give way to chapters or articles. Our motivation is often a last-ditch attempt to get students to actually read what’s on the syllabus. Other factors include the spiraling cost of textbooks and copyright limitations on how much we may post digitally.

. . . .

Are students even reading Milton or Thucydides or Wittgenstein these days? More fundamentally, are they studying the humanities, which are based on long-form reading?

There has been much talk of late about the humanities being in crisis. Undergraduates who once flocked to literature courses are now studying economics to prepare themselves for Wall Street. Graduate programs in the humanities are thinning out as students turn to “practical” advanced degrees with more certain employment prospects and, at least initially, higher salaries. The 2011 Freshman Survey from UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute found that the top reason for attending college was “to be able to get a better job” (86 percent of respondents, up from 70 percent just five years earlier).

But there is another essential consideration affecting interest in humanistic inquiry: how we are doing our reading. I contend that the shift from reading in print to reading on digital devices is further reducing students’ pursuit of work in the humanities. Students (and the rest of us) have been reading on computers for many years. Besides searching for web pages, we’ve grown accustomed to reading journal articles online and mining documents in digital archives. However, with the coming of e-readers, tablets, and smartphones, reading styles underwent a sea change.

. . . .

But increasingly, e-books are causing a pedagogical reboot. Administrators and instructors, working with kindergartners through graduate programs, are progressively encouraging students to read on digital screens. Offering the promise of convenience and reduced cost, publishers are the main impetus behind the migration from print to e-books, although academics are buying into the transition with little thought for educational consequences.

What’s the problem? Not all reading works well on digital screens.

For the past five years, I’ve been examining the pros and cons of reading on-screen versus in print. The bottom line is that while digital devices may be fine for reading that we don’t intend to muse over or reread, text that requires what’s been called “deep reading” is nearly always better done in print.

Readers themselves have a keen sense of what kind of reading is best suited for which medium. My survey research with university students in the United States, Germany, and Japan reveals that if cost were the same, about 90 percent (at least in my sample) prefer hard copy for schoolwork. If a text is long, 92 percent would choose hard copy. For shorter texts, it’s a toss-up.

Digital reading also encourages distraction and invites multitasking. Among American and Japanese subjects, 92 percent reported it was easiest to concentrate when reading in hard copy. (The figure for Germany was 98 percent.) In this country, 26 percent indicated they were likely to multitask while reading in print, compared with 85 percent when reading on-screen. Imagine wrestling with Finnegan’s Wake while simultaneously juggling Facebook and booking a vacation flight. You get the point.

Link to the rest at The Chronicle of Higher Education and thanks to Matthew for the tip.

High school reading 2.0

23 June 2014
Comments Off on High school reading 2.0

From TeleRead:

[W]hat contemporary books would you add to the high school reading curriculum to round out the classics-laden choices being taught already?

As a book-lover—and a teacher—I have struggled at times with the question of what the high school English curriculum should do. I was horrified when my then-16-year-old brother told me his class had foregone the original Shakespeare in favour of a graphic novel adaptation. As a supplement, sure, graphic novel away. But instead of?

. . . .

I have been encountering more and more people like the Beloved, who claims he actually liked to read for fun—until school ruined it for him. And the way they ruined it was not so much that they made him read boring, dated stuff. It’s that they didn’t give any value to the things he did care to read about. If they had done more biography, more non-fiction—well-written, literary non-fiction if they must, but still—more stories about sports and adventure—well, maybe high school English wouldn’t have been the last literature he ever read. Maybe they could have covered the classics in perhaps a less comprehensive format and left time for literature which really did engage the students. Maybe they could have validated for these young adults that there was merit in the stuff that actually spoke to them.

So, with that in mind, what contemporary books would I add to a high school English curriculum?

. . . .

The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier: The novel’s intriguing premise is that following a person’s death, they resume their lives in a way-station of a city where they remain as long as there is a person alive who still remembers them. The book is not explicitly a YA novel, but it offers many intriguing discussion points for that demographic, about the connections we make with other people, and the memories we choose to retain of them.

. . . .

Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi: An alien species who happens to be hideously unattractive contacts a Hollywood PR agent for help in ‘coming out’ to Planet Earth. This is a hilarious send-up of the whole Hollywood machine, and offers a gentle way in to exploring notions of beauty, and the whole media spin machine.

Link to the rest at TeleRead

Intel Will Push Into The Education Content Market With Interactive Textbooks

11 November 2013

From TechCrunch:

We had a tip about, and have now confirmed,Intel’s latest acquisition: Kno, the education startup that started life as a hardware business and later pivoted into software — specifically via apps that let students read interactive versions of digitized textbooks.

“I can confirm Intel has purchased Kno,” a spokesperson told us just now.

. . . .

Intel has published a . . . statement . . . on its site, which points to how Kno will fit into Intel’s efforts to build up its business in the education market — an effort it is making both in wider efforts in hardware and software.

. . . .

To date, Kno’s apps can be accessed via its iPad, Android and Windows 7 and Windows 8 apps, and the main idea behind Kno is that the books are not only digitised but also include additional features to help students and teachers assess their progress, share information with others and generally get more engaged in the content.

“They are the same books, only smarter,” the company notes on its site.

Link to the rest at TechCrunch

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